That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter - We Are The Mighty
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That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

Back in the 1980s, when it still existed, the Soviet Union maintained a number of “friendly” relationships with a variety of African and Asian nations, mostly for the purposes of selling military hardware to counter the West.


One such nation was Libya, which opted to arm and equip its military with a variety of Soviet products, including MiG and Sukhoi fighters for its air force.

At the time, the USSR was also in the process of shopping around its Mil Mi-25 Hind-D, the export variant of the Mi-24 Hind helicopter. The Hind was a fairly unique vehicle at the time, as it was built from the ground up as a heavily-armed attack gunship with the ability to accommodate a maximum of eight fully-armed soldiers in an extremely cramped bay directly behind the cockpit. The Hind could therefore deliver special forces teams to the battlefield and remain in the area of operations for air support, or function solely as a very well-armed gunship, akin to the role the two-seater AH-1 Cobra played for American ground forces during the Vietnam conflict.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
The abandoned Hind.

In contrast, the U.S. primarily used helicopters like the UH-1 Huey to deliver (and extract) troops from the battlefield, and they were moderately armed at best (in comparison to the Hind) with door-mounted machine guns serving as defensive weaponry more so than in the offensive role.

Now, around the time of the Hind’s introduction into service in the late 70s, the Central Intelligence Agency, along with British intelligence services, sought to learn more about this big Soviet helicopter. Interest heightened when word broke that Ethiopia pressed an export Hind into combat successfully. The Hind then quickly made an appearance in Afghanistan during the Soviet Union’s controversial involvement there, operating to great effect against mujaheddin fighters towards the beginning of the conflict.

Western intelligence needed to get a better look at the Hind and its heavily-armored airframe, especially for the purposes of determining whether or not an American equivalent needed to be designed, built, and fielded as a counter to the Hind’s capabilities.

An opportunity for such a look finally presented itself in the form of the discovery of a Libyan Mi-25 left behind in Chadian territory in 1987.

Historically, Libya and Chad weren’t exactly on the best of terms. Their strained relationship was mostly the result of repeated attempts from Libyan-backed rebel groups to usurp the Chadian government. Constant Libyan attempts to occupy sovereign territory belonging to the Republic of Chad didn’t do much to help their situation either.

Also Read: This deadly Russian attack helicopter is known as ‘the flying tank’

When Chadian troops were finally able to fully expel Libyan forces from their borders in 1987, the retreating Libyans abandoned a considerable amount military hardware that would have otherwise bogged down and hindered their egress. Among the treasure trove of armored vehicles, guns, and light artillery stranded in the desert was a Hind-D in relatively good condition, parked on an old airfield ramp at Ouadi Doum.

The CIA, after confirming that such a helicopter did indeed exist at that particular location, quickly set its sights on recovering the helicopter, or at least as much of it as possible, before the Libyans knew about their missing gunship.

All this would have to be done through a covert operation. After negotiating with (and eventually gaining permission from) the Chadian government through diplomatic channels, the CIA enlisted the Department of Defense’s help, and both began planning the extraction of the abandoned helicopter to American-controlled facilities, where it would be taken apart and analyzed in details.

There’s a saying in the military that goes along the lines of: “Gear adrift is a gift”. Christmas was about to come very early for a bunch of CIA analysts and military technical experts.

Mount Hope III was the name bestowed upon the operation. The very first order of business was wrangling up a group of pilots skilled (and crazy) enough to perform the mission to perfection.

Who better to ask than the aviators of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group, the legendary Night Stalkers?

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
A crew member from the C/4-160th SOAR (Night Stalkers) collects a rappel rope used by the Airmen of the 142nd Fighter Wing, 125th Special Tactics Squadron in Alternate Insertion Extraction training from a UH-60 Blackhawk, March 19, 2017, Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore. US Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel.

The preparation phase, creatively code-named Mount Hope II, began in April of 1987 in New Mexico. The dry, desert conditions would add a layer of realism to the training. CH-47 Chinooks from the 160th’s Echo Company were modified to bear the weight of the Hind-D, judged to be somewhere in the ballpark range of 17,000 to 18,000 pounds.

Chinooks are already able to sling-load different pieces of military equipment, including the Humvee utility vehicle. But there’s a huge difference between a four-wheeled Humvee and an oversized Mil-25. Load-bearing hooks needed to be reinforced, the engines and transmissions needed to be checked and tuned, and the relatively ideal placement of the carcass of the Hind underneath the Chinook needed to be determined.

Practice commenced in dark, low-light conditions. Six large blivets of water weighing roughly the same as the Hind were strapped to the underside of a Chinook. The Night Stalkers flying the Chinook were then supposed to fly to a “Forward Support Base” (or FSB for short) after stopping twice to refuel.

Also Read: The definitive guide to US special ops

The first dry run went off without a hitch, so the next test was to strap an actual airframe similar to that of the Hind in terms of size and weight and perform the test run once again under the same conditions. The Night Stalkers once again proved themselves and their aircraft and in good time, Mount Hope II was completed, meeting or exceeding the expectations of the CIA and Department of Defense’s overseeing officers.

They were now ready for the real thing.

On May 21, the order to execute Mount Hope III was handed down from the Oval Office, and the Night Stalkers immediately geared up, loading two Chinooks aboard a C-5 Galaxy heavy airlift jet, departing for Germany first, and later on to the Ndjamena airfield in southern Chad.

The Army was to temporarily deploy an ADVON (advanced echelon) scouting and reconnaissance team to the location for around two weeks to keep an eye out for enemy forces, who weren’t all that far away from the airfield.

The French government added their support to the mission by sending over a contingent of soldiers to cover the operation on the ground and a set of Mirage F.1 fighter jets to provide top cover for all aircraft involved. A C-130 Hercules tactical airlifter would land at one of the Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs) to provide fuel for the Chinooks on their way back to the FSB during the mission.

After arriving at Ndjamena on June 10, Night Stalker pilots and crew unloaded their Chinooks from the gargantuan Galaxy.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeff Sherman)

On June 11th, they proceeded with the mission as they had previously planned. The mission would see the Night Stalkers fly over 500 nautical miles under the cover of darkness, and would then pick up the abandoned Hind right at daybreak. An advance team (Chalk 1) flew to Ouadi Doum to ensure that the site was relatively secured for the incoming Chalk 2 Chinook and to prep the Hind for removal.

As I mentioned earlier, a large element of Libyan military forces were still highly active in the area, even after most had been expelled from Chad’s borders during the previous year’s conflict.

The slightest hint of military action nearby would have likely sparked a firefight and a subsequent international incident if it was discovered that the United States was actively trying to remove Libyan military hardware from the desert, even though the Hind was abandoned in Chadian sovereign territory.

The ADVON team had reported back with a detailed threat analysis, highlighting the fact that the Libyans were definitely still in the region.

Chalk 1, having been inserted at Ouadi Doum, cleared the location and quickly rigged the Hind for extraction while the Chalk 2 Chinook hovered close above, allowing for the team to sling-load the airframe to the waiting helicopter. Chalk 2 then left the area to return to Ndjamena. After covering Chalk 2’s extraction, Chalk 1 loaded up and got the hell out of Dodge.

The Libyans were totally clueless of what was happening just miles away from their positions.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
A Chinook helicopter unloading from a C-5 Galaxy. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Chalk 2 stopped twice to refuel, at one point on a French Foreign Legion airfield, rendezvousing with the Air Force C-130s at each location.

However, not long after stopping at FARP 2, the mission hit a slight snag in the form of an unanticipated 3000 ft sand storm. The Chinook bearing the weight of the Hind was now only 45 minutes out of home base.

Hauling ass, Chalk 2 reached Ndjamena just ahead of the storm, flying through near-zero visibility and setting down with little time to spare. Waiting a little over 20 minutes in their helicopters for the storm to move onward, the Night Stalkers finally loaded their aircraft and their newly-acquired prize into the Galaxy they arrived in, and within 36 hours were back on American soil.

After 67 hours in-country, the mission was completed; an unmitigated success. Mount Hope III was also the very first major operation where the Night Stalkers used their CH-47s.

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How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Growing up on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, Chester Nez endured many indignities at the hands of the U.S. government.


During the Great Depression, the federal government slaughtered his family’s sheep herd, destroying their livelihood. Shipped off to Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools at the age of eight, he wasn’t even allowed to keep his Navajo name — administrators assigned him the name Chester in honor of President Chester A. Arthur. If teachers caught him speaking his native language, they beat him or washed his mouth out with a bar of soap.

Yet when U.S. Marine Corps recruiters arrived in Tuba City, Arizona in the spring of 1942, looking for young men fluent in Navajo and English, Nez volunteered for duty. It was less than six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Navy had suffered a string of defeats in the South Pacific.

“I thought about how my people were mistreated,” he later said. “But then I thought this would be my chance to do something for my country.”
That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

Chester Nez during World War II

Nez’s amazing sense of patriotic duty was a perfect fit for the secret program he was about to enter. The program was the brainchild of Philip Johnston, a 50-year-old civil engineer and World War I veteran who had read about the military’s need for a fast and secure means of encoding battlefield communications. As a member of the American Expeditionary Force in France during WWI, Johnston knew that Native American soldiers had transmitted messages in their tribal languages by telephone. The dialects, including Choctaw, Comanche, and Cherokee, were completely unknown to any Germans who might be listening in, giving the army a crucial advantage. Choctaw soldiers even developed a code based on their language for extra security, although it was never used in battle.

Johnston believed that Navajo represented an even greater opportunity to develop an indecipherable code — especially since the Germans had studied Choctaw in the interwar period. The son of missionaries, Johnston had grown up on the Navajo reservation and was fluent in the language, whose syntax and tonality make it incredibly complex. Depending on inflection and pronunciation, a single word can have as many as four distinct meanings. At the time, there was no Navajo alphabet — it remained an unwritten language spoken only on the reservation. While German anthropologists and journalists, including the Nazi propagandist Dr. Colin Ross, had studied other Native American tribes in the years after WWI, they did not make a subject of the Navajo. Johnston estimated that less than thirty people outside of the tribe had any familiarity with the dialect.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

A group of code talkers who took part in 1943’s Bougainville campaign

(USMC)

In February 1942, Johnston traveled to Camp Elliott in San Diego, California to present his idea to Lieutenant Colonel James E. Jones of the Signal Corps. Initially Jones was skeptical, but he gave Johnston the go-ahead to stage a demonstration for Major General Clayton B. Vogel, commander of the First Marine Division, Amphibious Corps of the Pacific Fleet. Johnston recruited four Navajos from the Los Angeles shipyards and brought them to San Diego for the test. They were divided into teams of two, sent to opposite ends of the building, and given six messages to encode and transmit via field telephones. After some quick word substitutions — “dive bomber” became “chicken hawk” (gini) — the Navajos were able to accurately translate the messages from English into Navajo and back again within seconds. Using standard cryptographic equipment of the day, the same task would have taken 30 minutes to complete.

Impressed by the demonstration, Vogel submitted a request to the Commandant of the Marine Corps to recruit and train 200 Navajos as communications specialists. The first 29 enlistees, Chester Nez among them, arrived at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot in May, 1942. Most had never been off the reservation before, and some had never even taken a bus or a train. Many had lied about their ages in order to sign up. After completing basic training, the members of 382nd Platoon, nicknamed “The Navajo School,” were sent to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California, and tasked with developing a code that was simple, fast, and reliable enough to be used in battlefield conditions.

The code they developed with the help of Signal Corps officers had two parts. First, hundreds of common military terms were assigned Navajo synonyms. “Submarine” became “iron fish” (besh-lo). “Colonel” became “silver eagle” (atsah-besh-le-gai). “Battleship” was “whale” (lo-tso); “fighter plane” was “hummingbird” (da-he-tih-hi); “America” was “our mother” (ne-he-mah); and so on. Next, each letter of the Roman alphabet was given up to three corresponding Navajo words. For example, “A” could be encoded as wol-la-chee (“ant”), be-la-sana (“apple”), or tse-nill (“axe”). “N” was tsah (“needle”) or a-chin (“nose”). Using this system, the Navajos could spell any English word while minimizing the repetitions that might allow enemy listeners to break the code.

In August 1942, the first group of Navajo code talkers completed their training and reported for duty at Guadalcanal. They were assigned to combat units and given field telephones and radios to transmit bombing coordinates, tactical orders, troop movements, etc. Messages written in English were encrypted by a code talker and radioed to a compatriot who had committed the entire code to memory. He would render the message back into English and pass it along; the written copies were destroyed immediately. In his memoir, Code Talker, Chester Nez recounted his first transmission: Beh-na-ali-tsosie a-knah-as-donih ah-toh nish-na-jih-goh dah-di-kad ah-deel-tahi (“Enemy machine gun nest on your right flank. Destroy”).

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

Three of the original code talkers being honored by President George Bush in 2001

All told, more than 400 Navajo code talkers served in WWII. They played key roles in every major Marine engagement in the Pacific, including Okinawa, Tarawa, Bougainville, Saipan, Guam, and Peleliu. At Iwo Jima, six code talkers worked round the clock for the first two days of the battle, relaying more than 800 messages without error. According to Major Howard Connor, a signal officer in the 5th Marine Division, “were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

The Japanese were skilled code breakers, yet they never managed to decipher the Navajo code. Even a Navajo soldier captured at Bataan (who was untrained as a code talker) could make neither heads nor tails of the encrypted messages he was forced to listen to–the strings of unrelated words sounded like gibberish to him. After the war, he told his Navajo comrades, “I never figured out what you guys who got me into all that trouble were saying.”

In addition to storming beaches, hunkering down in foxholes, and enduring the stifling heat and humidity of jungle combat, the code talkers faced an unexpected danger: U.S. soldiers who mistook them for the enemy. At Guadalcanal, a Navajo named William McCabe was in a chow line when someone yelled, “Halt, or I’m gonna shoot!” and dragged him off to be interrogated. Chester Nez was “captured” by US troops on the island of Anguar. They put a .45 pistol to his head and accused him of being a Japanese soldier impersonating a Marine. A superior officer had to step in to defuse the situation.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton hosts a commemoration ceremony for the Navajo Code Talkers at 1st Marine Division Headquarters, Sept. 28, 2015.

(USMC photo by Cpl. Asia J. Sorenson)

After the war, Nez and his fellow code talkers returned to face the hardships of life on the reservation. New Mexico did not grant Navajos the right to vote until 1948. Jobs were scarce, and although the G.I. Bill provided veterans with financing for a home loan, many banks refused to grant loans to Navajos because they held reservation land parcels in trust and had no proof of title. When he went to a federal building in his USMC uniform to register for an identity card, Nez was told that he wasn’t a “full citizen” of the United States. To make matters even more difficult, the Navajo code was so valuable that the program remained classified for more than two decades after the war. The code talkers weren’t allowed to discuss the details of their service, and their incredible skill and bravery went unrecognized.

Thankfully, all that changed in 1968, when the code program was finally declassified. In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon presented the code talkers with a certificate of appreciation for their “patriotism, courage, and resourcefulness.” In 2001, the original members of The Navajo School were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush. Theirs is one of the most incredible stories of WWII: As boys, they were forbidden to speak their native language. As young men, they used that same language to save thousands of American lives, help to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific, and create one of the only unbroken codes in the history of modern warfare.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is injecting millions into WHO as the US cuts funds. Experts say Beijing is trying to boost its influence over the agency and its ‘deeply compromised’ chief.

China is pumping millions of dollars into the World Health Organization, an action one expert describes as a political move meant “to boost its superficial credentials” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic as the US pulls its own WHO funding.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, told a Thursday news briefing that the country would be injecting an extra $30 million into the agency “in support of global efforts to fight COVID-19 and the construction of public health systems in developing countries.”


China also lapped praise on WHO and its leadership, saying the agency “had actively fulfilled its duties with objective, science-based and fair position.”

Last month, China already pledged million to the organization, a move it said was meant to “help small and medium-sized countries with weak public health systems in particular to bolster their epidemic preparedness.”

China’s latest cash injection comes a week after the US announced plans to freeze 0 million in payments to WHO. Until then, the US was the largest financial contributor to WHO.

According to publicly available data, as of the end of 2019, China contributed million to WHO — .8 million in assessed contributions and .2 million in voluntary contributions — while the US gave 3 million — 6 million in assessed contributions and 6 million in voluntary contributions.

It’s not clear whether the US will cut from the assessed or voluntary contributions. Other nongovernmental groups, like the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, gave WHO 1 million in voluntary contributions in 2019.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

President Donald Trump told a coronavirus press briefing last week that the organization had “failed to adequately obtain and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.”

Trump and other critics have accused WHO of assisting China in efforts to suppress information on the coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

In particular, the Trump administration has criticized WHO’s claim in mid-January that there was no known human-to-human transmission of the virus.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

According to The Guardian, the tweet was posted because an official worried that a WHO expert was issuing warnings that deviated from China’s messaging. (A WHO source told Business Insider the message was posted to “balance the science out,” rather than for political reasons.)

Japan’s deputy prime minister and finance minister, Taro Aso, also referred to WHO last month as the “Chinese Health Organization,” referencing its close ties to Beijing.

‘Chinese officials and their propaganda machinery are in high gear worldwide’

Experts told Business Insider that China’s contributions to WHO were not goodwill gestures but rather a series of political power moves to boost its global image.

“Beijing sees an opportunity to boost its superficial credentials as a global contributor to the pandemic following the US decision to halt funding to WHO,” said John Lee, who served as a national security adviser to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop from 2016 to 2018.

Lee now works as a senior fellow at the United States Studies Center in Sydney and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.

He said China’s other altruistic measures, like sending medical teams and protective equipment to countries battling the coronavirus, were also tools meant to give China a political boost in the global arena.

Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, previously told Business Insider’s Alexandra Ma that China was trying to craft an image for itself as a global leader in the coronavirus fight rather than the country from which the virus originated.

“Chinese officials and their propaganda machinery are in high gear worldwide trying to paint the Chinese government as the solution to the problem, rather than one of the sources of it,” Richardson said.

WHO leaders ‘captured’ by China

Lee said that while science and health experts at WHO “do wonderful work on the ground in all parts of the world,” the agency’s leadership had become “captured by countries such as China,” putting its credibility to the test.

“When [WHO] leadership is called to make decisions of global health concern such as with the current pandemic, such decisions tend to be overly influenced by political rather than health priorities,” Lee said.

“In this context, Dr. Tedros is deeply compromised and his credibility is heavily damaged,” he added.

WHO officials have hit back at accusations of the organization being “China-centric,” saying its close relationship with China is “essential” in understanding the origins of the outbreak.

“It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible, to get on the ground and work with the Chinese to understand this,” Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to Tedros, told reporters earlier this month.

Tedros has also dismissed accusations of associating too closely with China, saying the agency was “close to every nation.” “We are color-blind,” he told reporters on April 8.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first African-American regiment to serve in the US military earned their ‘glory’

In 1989, Denzel Washington won his first Academy Award for his portrayal of Private Silas Tripp, a runaway slave-turned-freedom fighter, in Glory. Although Private Tripp was not a real person, the movie took its inspiration from a real-life volunteer unit in the Civil War — the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

The first African American regiment to serve in the United States military, the 54th Massachusetts was led by a 25-year-old abolitionist. The men were a pivotal part of the frontal assault of the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, one of the Civil War’s most memorable battles. Made up of hundreds of volunteers, the 54th Massachusetts regiment achieved incredible things — easily meriting their nickname, the “Glory” regiment.


Established in February 1863, just one month after the Emancipation Proclamation officially authorized the recruitment of African American soldiers, the 54th Massachusetts regiment spent the next three months recruiting and training their soldiers before going on to become one of the most iconic units ever to serve in the U.S. military.

The 54th was comprised of 1,100 soldiers, the majority of whom were recruited by local abolitionists — white and black alike. The likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frederick Douglass boosted morale, helping recruit black Americans into military service for the first time. Douglass even contributed two of his own sons to the cause, both of whom enlisted in the 54th.

The Northern states knew that strong African American enlistment could help turn the course of the war, as both a symbol and as additional manpower for the bloody conflict. President Lincoln’s Secretary of War personally charged John Andrew, governor of Massachusetts, with staffing the officer corps of the 54th regiment. Andrew selected a bright-eyed, 25-year-old man, the son of abolitionists, to lead the 54th. His name was Robert Gould Shaw. Although Shaw was only a captain at the time, he was quickly promoted to colonel, and his second-in-command, Norwood Penrose “Pen” Hallowell was promoted from captain to lieutenant colonel–just a few days after his 24th birthday.

At first, the all-white officers were controversial. Both white and black citizens were dismayed that a black regiment would have to be led by white men. But the recruiting efforts of men like Douglass soon turned the tide, and volunteers began showing up in larger and larger numbers.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

Frederick Douglass.

Morale was strong during enlistment, and the 54th received an influx of hopeful recruits — so much so that the unit implemented a “rigid and thorough” medical exam, with the aim of enlisting only the most physically and mentally fit into its ranks. The company trained at Camp Meigs just outside of Boston, for a period that lasted only several weeks.

On May 28th, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts regiment marched out of Boston on its way to Beaufort, South Carolina. They did so despite a December 1862 proclamation by President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, which stated that any captured African American soldier or white officer in charge of an African American company would be put to death.

As portrayed in Glory, the 54th Massachusetts’s first action was the looting and burning of a small town in Georgia. The action came on the orders of Colonel James Montgomery, a rabid abolitionist and controversial officer in the Northern Army who often implemented extreme tactics when dealing with pro-slavery populations.

Montgomery had been charged with raising an African American regiment around the same time as Colonel Shaw. His 2nd South Carolina unit rampaged through the South with their most famous battle, the Raid at Combahee Ferry, coming just before they linked up with the 54th Regiment Massachusetts. With the help of Harriet Tubman’s underground railroad, Montgomery and his men freed nearly 800 slaves at Combahee Ferry.

But Colonel Shaw wasn’t impressed with Montgomery’s tactics. He wrote a sternly-worded letter to the military higher-ups, complaining of Montgomery’s rampant destruction of Confederate towns and wanton cruelty towards their civilians. As a result, the 54th was shipped off to fight in a skirmish on James Island, South Carolina, in which they repelled a Confederate assault.

It was then that the 54th entered into its most famous battle: the raid on Fort Wagner, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

The climactic scene of Glory, depicting the Battle of Fort Wagner.

(TriStar Pictures)

Charleston was considered a prize by many in the North, having been the birthplace of the Confederate rebellion. Charleston’s Fort Sumter was where the Confederacy fired its first shots, overtaking a Union garrison and precipitating the Civil War.

Colonel Shaw was tasked with leading the 54th Regiment on a dangerous frontal assault of Fort Wagner, with the aim of keeping the 6,000 men garrisoned inside occupied long enough for a rear-guard attack to penetrate the fort’s walls. It was a bold proposition, and the 54th was a mere 48 hours removed from their battle at James Island. Yet on July 18, 1863, the men of the first African American regiment bravely charged the battlefield and made history in the process.

The raid on Fort Wagner was ultimately a failure and led to the loss of many lives. No unit was more decimated than the 54th Massachusetts. 270 of its 600 men who charged the fort were killed, wounded, or captured. Colonel Shaw was among the dead, having been shot three times through the chest just outside the fort’s parapet.

Despite the heavy losses, the 54th Massachusetts regiment was commended for its valor. Tales of the unit’s bravery spread far and wide, prompting many African Americans to enlist in the Union army. President Lincoln ultimately cited the mobilization of African American troops as a key ingredient in the North’s victory over the South.

Many decades later, in 1900, Sergeant William Harvey Carney, then 60 years old, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery at the Battle of Fort Wagner. Carney had spotted the flag bearer fall during battle, and quickly rushed over to raise the American flag. Carney then led troops to the parapet, waving the flag high to boost morale despite receiving multiple gunshot and shrapnel wounds in the process. Upon the Union’s call to retreat, Carney somehow escaped with the flag intact, and crawled back to his encampment. As he handed the flag off to fellow soldiers, he famously told them, “Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground.”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

The 4th United States Colored Infantry, mustered in Baltimore, Maryland

Although numerous African American soldiers received the Medal of Honor prior to Carney, his actions at the Battle of Fort Wagner preceded theirs. As such, he is considered the first African American to be granted the military’s highest honor.

Despite the bravery of the many men amongst their ranks, the 54th Regiment had still often been treated as second-class soldiers. Upon enlisting, the men who joined the 54th Massachusetts regiment were promised the same wages as white men who enlisted: a month, with food and clothing included. But as soon as the regiment arrived in South Carolina, they discovered that they would only be paid — and three of those hard-earned dollars would be taken by the Department of the South to pay for their clothing. Rather than accept this, the men of the 54th refused all pay. It would not be until late September 1864 that equal pay for the regiment was issued. Most of the men had served 18 months at this point.

After the Battle at Fort Wagner, the 54th Massachusetts continued to fight in several more battles and skirmishes, with and without pay, right up until the end of the war. The regiment gained international fame after the war, and was immortalized by poets and artists both in America and Europe. A memorial to Colonel Shaw and the 54th was erected on the Boston Common as part of its Black Heritage Trail. The bust serves as the closing shot of Glory, over which the final credits roll.

On Nov. 21, 2008, the 54th Massachusetts regiment was reactivated as part of the Massachusetts National Guard. Today, the unit conducts military honors at funerals and state functions.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How America trained its first super-secret frogmen

1st Marine Raider Support Battalion held an event giving U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command personnel the opportunity to learn about the involvement of World War II Raiders in the war and their legacy that lives on at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept. 29, 2017. World War II Marine Raiders played a large role in the success of World War II, on and off the battlefields.


Many in attendance know of the World War II Raiders’ victories on the battlefield, but their aid off the battlefield is less known. With the establishment of the Office of Strategic Services came the creation of the OSS Special Maritime Unit Operational Swimmers, also known as the country’s “first frogmen.” The Raiders’ facilities and training methods became the foundation of the operatives’ training and preparation for the war.

The assistant operations officer for 1st MRSB introduced Erick Simmel, the battalion’s guest speaker who would lecture on the history of the OSS Maritime Unit. Accompanying Simmel at the lecture was the last living OSS Special Maritime Unit operative, Henry “Hank” Weldon.

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt reorganized the Office of the Coordinator of Information into the Office of Strategic Services, after U.S. entry into World War II. OSS founder Maj. Gen. William J. Donovan, a World War I hero and Wall Street lawyer, restructured the organization to similarly match the British Special Operations Executive and Secret Intelligence Service operations.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

“The intent was to create an elite agency with units created for conducting guerrilla warfare as well as collecting and sabotaging intelligence behind enemy lines,” said Simmel, an OSS Maritime Unit descendant and historical expert of World War II special operations forces.

One of the many units created were the frogmen. These men received an extraordinary waterman-operative skillset to use during World War II operations. The men who made it into the unit were the first swimmers sent to attend the Marine Raider Training Course at Camp Pendleton in the fall and winter of 1943-1944. These men were trained in both Marine Raider skills and underwater demolition techniques.

The purpose for both training courses was to prepare the operatives for reconnaissance, underwater demolition, infiltration and exfiltration by sea and intelligence gathering. Though equipment, tactics and techniques have changed over the last 70 years, today’s Raiders and the OSS frogmen emphasize the same skillsets in training.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
MARSOC Raiders conduct swim training. Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Donovan Lee

After the lecture, the Raiders were introduced to weapons and equipment used during that time period at a series of static displays. Amongst those displays were images of the frogmen and Raiders collaborating with allied British forces.

British special operators also participated in the frogman training pipeline, developing their skills under the tutelage of Raider instructors. Along with attaining new training, British and U.S. forces exchanged information on warfare tactics, technology and logistical concepts to use against German forces. The training consisted mainly of techniques needed for infiltration by sea.

Instructors for this course consisted of World War II Raider officers and enlisted personnel, who trained the frogmen in mock attacks designed to test harbor defenses. In one exercise scenario, combat swimmers were tasked with successfully breaching America’s maritime harbor defenses.

“They gave us a bunch of dummy TNT at high tide, dropped us off about a half-mile offshore and told us to plant it all along the coast while our commanding officers kept watch,” said Weldon. “One of the commanding officers said he thought he saw something, but they didn’t see us. When daylight came, the tide went out and all you could see was the dummy TNT all along the shore.”

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U.S. Marine Corps Raiders hit the island of Makin in World War II. (Photo: Public Domain)

This ability to get in and out without detection, allowed the World War II Raiders and Navy frogmen to be two of the most effective fighting forces of World War II. The skills learned from the World War II Raiders and used by the OSS Special Maritime Unit A swimmers proved the value of their direct action operations behind enemy lines during World War II.

As World War II came to a close, President Harry S. Truman dissolved the OSS and its Special Maritime Units. The lineage and legacy of the first frogmen carries on today in elements of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command’s SEAL community and the modern Raiders of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Iran is training to swarm the US Navy with speedboats

Iran has dispatched its elite Islamic Republican Guard Corps navy to the Strait of Hormuz, a massively valuable waterway that Tehran has threatened to close as retaliation against the US — and despite their small size and dated ships, these commandoes could do real damage to the US Navy.

The US Navy stands unmatched on earth in terms of size and ability, but Iran’s IRGC ships are small, fast, deadly, and designed specifically to present an asymmetrical threat to the toughest ships on earth.


The IRGC doesn’t have any interest going toe to toe with the US Navy by building its own destroyers or carriers, instead, it’s formed a “guerrilla army at sea” of vicious speedboats with guns, explosives, and some anti-ship missiles, Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider.

“They understand full well that there’s a decisive qualitative disadvantage against the US and its allies,” Lamrani said of the IRGC. “They know they can’t win, so they plan to attack in a very fast way with many, many small ships swarming the US vessels to overwhelm them.”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

Iran’s fast attack craft, the type repeatedly used to harass US Navy ships.

(Fars News Agency photo)

Currently, that situation is exactly what the IRGC is training for. US officials said that more than 50 small boats are now practicing “swarming” attacks to potentially shut down the strait which sees about 30% of the world’s oil pass through, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson .

For the Iranians, it’s a suicide mission. But in Iran’s struggle to oppose the US at any cost, something it sees as a spiritual matter, they could employ these little ships and irregular warfare to cripple the US Navy.

How the US would fight back

If the US knew a hostile group of IRGC fast attack craft were swarming around the Gulf trying to close down the Strait of Hormuz, there’s no question its destroyers and other aircraft carrying ships could unleash their helicopters to strafe the ships to the bottom of the sea. With enough notice, nearby US Air Force planes like the A-10 Warthog could even step in.

“The biggest weapon [US Navy ships] have against these swarm boats is the helicopter. Helicopters equipped with mini guns have the ability to fire very fast and create standoff distance to engage them,” said Lamrani.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Levi Horn observes as Operations Specialist 3rd Class Monica Ruiz fires a 50-caliber machine gun during a live-fire qualification aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Caracci)

If some swarming ships did break through, the Navy has automated close-in weapons systems and missiles it can fire to pick the ships off. But, “the problem is, with these swarm boats, there’s only so much they can engage before the vessels get in range and cause damage.”

But Iran holds the first mover advantage

Iran holds the first mover advantage. The US Navy regularly transits the Persian Gulf, and it does so peacefully. The US and Iran are not at war, so when Iranian ships have harassed the US Navy in the past , they’ve come within a hundred yards of the billion-plus dollar ships before being warded off by warning shots .

That means the ideal scenario for the US, where it sees the enemy a ways out and can call in devastating air power, likely won’t happen. Iran knows it can only win with a sneak attack, so Lamrani thinks that’s how they’ll do it.

“If they decide to do this, they’re going to go as fast as possible, in as many numbers as possible before they get wrecked,” said Lamrani.

The US Navy’s lack of training against low-end threats like speedboats further exacerbates the problem. Navy watchers frequently point out the force is stretched thin across a wide spectrum of missions, and that surface warfare, especially against a guerilla force, hasn’t been a priority.

Ultimately, no serious military analyst thinks 50 or so Iranian speedboats could hold off the US Navy for long , but caught unawares, the first round could deal a devastating loss to the US.

“Given the constraints, this is a very, very effective tactic, very cost effective,” said Lamrani. “Even if they lost an entire fleet of speedboats and they managed to sink an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, a destroyer,” the effect would be devastating.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

If you’ve ever wanted to be a space shuttle door gunner, pay attention: the weapon you might be operating could look something like this monster – the only projectile weapon designed for and fired in orbit around the Earth. Of course, it was the Soviet Union during the Cold War, who else would do that?


That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

These are the people who taught terrorists to hijack planes just to be dicks to the West.

Despite some initial successes, the Soviet Union ended up losing the Space Race in a big way. Their loss is exemplified by the fact that the same day the Americans put men on the moon, the Soviets failed to land a probe there. So after a while, the disparity in technology irked the Soviet Union.

Most important to the USSR was the idea of American spacecraft being able to literally get their hands on Soviet satellites. Anti-satellite operations were something both powers prepared for, but the idea that the satellite itself would need protection up there all alone prompted the Soviets to arm one of theirs, just to see how that would go.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

This is how that would go.

The Soviets built a station code-named “Almaz,” a space station that held spy equipment, radar, and the R-23M, a 37-pound 14.5mm automatic cannon that could fire up to 5,000 rounds per minute that was accurate up to a mile away. There was just one problem: aiming the cannon. The cosmonauts in the station would have to rotate the entire space station to point the weapon.

It was supposed to be the first manned space station in orbit, but the Russians were more concerned with developing the weapon than they were other aspects of the capsule, like sensors and life support. So instead of building their grand space station, they slapped together what they had with the R-23M and a Soyuz capsule, called it the Salyut before launching it into space in 1971.

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All this space station and not one Death Star joke.

The CIA knew about every iteration of the Soviet Salyut spy stations, but what they – and much of the world – didn’t know is that they actually fired the R-23M while in orbit. On Jan. 24, 1975, Salyut 3 test fired its weapon before the station was supposed to de-orbit. The crew had not been aboard for around six months at this point. While the Soviets never released what happened during the test, the shots and the station were all destroyed when they re-entered the atmosphere.

Firing a gun in space would be very different from firing on Earth. First, there is no sound in the vacuum of space, so it would not go bang. Secondly, the Soviets would have had to fire some kind of thruster to balance out the force exerted on the capsule by the weapon’s recoil; otherwise the Salyut would have been pushed in the opposite direction. The weight of the projectile fired would determine how fast you would fly in the opposite direction.

Not to mention that shooting the weapon into Earth’s orbit could cause the bullets to hit the station itself from the opposite direction.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Arlington National Cemetery needs to become more exclusive

Arlington National Cemetery will reach full capacity by the early 2040s if changes aren’t implemented soon, according to the Army National Military Cemeteries executive director.


“Arlington National Cemetery is an iconic place devoted to honoring the memory of individuals in the armed services who made a significant commitment of service to the defense of our nation,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, during a House Armed Services Committee briefing about Arlington’s current and future plans, March 8, 2018.

Also read: Who is buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?

“The Army recognizes that the cemetery is at a critical point in its history … changes to eligibility combined with expansion will ensure Arlington continues to be an active cemetery well into the future,” Durham-Aguilera said.

In February 2017, Army officials engaged with Congress to explain how the current space constraints limit the amount of time Arlington National Cemetery will be able to continue to serve veterans.

Current eligibility requirements for in-ground burial at ANC are the most stringent of all U.S. national cemeteries. Nevertheless, most veterans who have at least one day of active service other than training, and who have been honorably discharged, are eligible for above-ground inurnment at the cemetery, officials say.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

“It’s a tough reality. The current veteran population is over 20 million. The retiree population is over two million. The total force, both active and reserve, is over 2 million right now. Today we have around 100,000 available burial spaces. We cannot serve that population,” Durham-Aguilera said.

During that 2017 meeting with Congress, Army officials outlined considerations for additional expansion opportunities beyond current boundaries, and evaluated alternative ideas for maximizing the space within the cemetery’s geographic footprint, Durham-Aguilera said.

“With no changes, we would be out of space in the early 2040s. If (Arlington) were to get a southern expansion, that can push us for another ten years,” said Katharine Kelley, Arlington National Cemetery superintendent. Still, she characterized the value of that possible expansion as not providing a significant gain for the cemetery.

Related: Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?

In addition to the physical expansion, Arlington officials have considered increasing the amount of niche wall inurnment sites. However, that option would only serve as a temporary solution and could change Arlington’s “iconic look and feel,” Kelly said.

Moving forward, Army officials have determined a need to redefine Arlington’s eligibility criteria for interment and inurnment. The last significant change to Arlington’s eligibility criteria was in the late 1960s, Durham-Aguilera added. Another, more recent change occurred in 2016 when active duty designees were added to the above-ground eligible population at ANC. These groups consist of about 200,000 active duty designees, or nearly double the current capacity at the cemetery.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Timothy Tamargo)

To help make a better-informed decision about the cemetery’s future, officials conducted an initial public survey about burial options in November 2017.

Out of the 28,000 people polled, 94 percent agreed that the cemetery should remain active well into the future. Additionally, over 50 percent of those who were in favor of expansion also recognized the need to modify eligibility policy. Further, if no expansion is possible, a full 70 percent were in support of restricting eligibility in some manner to extend the life of the cemetery.

Based off the survey results, officials are now considering restricting Arlington’s eligibility requirement to service members killed in action, Medal of Honor and high award recipients, former prisoners of war, and military members that were killed while on active duty during operations or training, Kelley said.

More: Mattis spent Veterans Day with fallen warriors in Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington officials are slated to conduct another survey in the coming weeks. At the conclusion of the study, results and recommendations will be compiled by cemetery officials and released to the secretary of the Army. From there, information from the study will be shared with the other armed forces secretaries and the secretary of defense, and eventually released to Congress, Durham-Aguilera said.

Finding ways to keep Arlington National Cemetery open well into the future, while at the same time honoring all who served, will be a challenge, Durham-Aguilera said. “These hard choices are on our minds every single day, as we go out and lay our veterans and patriots to rest.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Everything to know about Italy’s homegrown attack helicopter

When you think about the best attack helicopters out there, the Boeing AH-64 Apache, the Bell AH-1 Cobra, the Westland Lynx, the Mil Mi-24 Hind, and the Kamov Ka-50/52 Hokum all come to mind. But one of the world’s best attack helicopters comes from a surprising place: Italy.


Yep, that’s right, the land of pasta, romance, and Roman legions is also the birthplace of one of the world’s best tank-killing helicopters. That helicopter is the Agusta A129 Mangusta (Italian for ‘mongoose’). The project was ambitious, but would never reach its full potential thanks to the end of the Cold War.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
An Italian Army Agusta A129A Mangusta. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Aldo Bidini)

This was a very capable attack helicopter. It had a top speed of 174 miles per hour, a maximum range of 317 miles, and a crew of two. The firepower it could bring was impressive: A M197 20mm Gatling gun (that gave it a bite just like the AH-1 Cobra’s), eight BGM-71 TOW or AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles, FIM-92 Stinger or Mistral anti-aircraft missiles, not to mention rocket pods and gun pods with .50-caliber machine guns. Yeah, this chopper would definitely ruin some armored column’s day.

Italy planned to build 100 of these helicopters. It first flew in 1983, but the research and development process took a while, and West Germany eventually bailed on the program, leaving Italy to for ahead alone. The first production examples didn’t arrive until 1990. The planned purchase of 100 was then slashed to 60. Another version of this chopper capable of hauling eight troops in addition to the firepower, the A139, never got off the ground.

Still, the A129 has served Italy well. In fact, the Italians are converting two dozen of their existing choppers into armed reconnaissance helicopters to join two dozen newly build helicopters. Plus, Turkey has acquired a production license to build a local version of this lethal helicopter.

Learn more about Italy’s deadly helicopter in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11Qf3B3FwsQ
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

At the U.S. Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, students undergo some of the most grueling training the force offers.


“Sniper school is one of the hardest schools in the military, not physically, but mentally,” Staff Sgt. Brian Moran, one of the 11 instructors who oversees the training, told the Army News Service.

Army snipers face demanding missions and often operate with little or no support, and the training at Fort Benning tests their ability to work in isolation and under pressure.

Below, you can see some of the rigorous and, for many, overwhelming training that Army sniper candidates endure:

12. Over 300 candidates start the seven-week Sniper School course at Fort Benning each year. In early August, 46 soldiers were on hand for the first day. Each had already met demanding criteria, including navigation and marksmanship evaluations, physical-fitness tests, and psychological examinations.

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Students listen to their instructor at the US Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

11. “Snipers are often deployed in small two-man teams, which requires a great deal of mental fortitude to remain focused on the task at hand,” said Moran, the Sniper School instructor. “If individuals have difficulty being isolated, there is a potential for mission failure.”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
During the first week of training, sniper students at the U.S. Army School at Fort Benning, Georgia, are given demanding physical training tests. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

10. After a battery of physical-fitness tests on the first day, candidates are taught to make a ghillie suit — a camouflage suit that uses foliage to break up the outline of the soldier’s body.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
A sniper school instructor at Fort Benning, Georgia, inspects camouflage after students prepared the top of their ghillie suits. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

9. The first test of their new concealment comes hours later, crawling hundreds of feet through tall grass and a ditch filled with water, mud, rocks, and vegetation.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Students are taught camouflage and concealment techniques at the U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. They learned to weather a ghillie suit by crawling through ditches filled with water, mud, rocks, vegetation and fallen tree branches. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

8. Part of the exercise requires students to carry and drag one another — testing their ability to help their comrades if one is wounded or incapacitated in the field. “The object of this training is to teach students that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job,” Moran said. “These are the conditions that snipers will often find themselves in.”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Students learn that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job during training at the U.S. Army Sniper School, Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

7. The second week of training sends them into the field to stalk a target, putting students’ patience and camouflage to the test. The Georgia heat and a variety of critters combine with instructors using high-powered optics to suss out prospective snipers. Stalking requires close attention to detail and “a high tolerance for discomfort,” Moran said. “Most of the students who are dropped from the sniper course have failed because of their lack of discipline.”

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Students at the U.S. Army Sniper School endure a constant supply of stressors; some physical, but mostly mental stressors. Students must pay attention to the smallest details in every subject of the sniper course. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

6. Also during the second week, sniper candidates are taught to do reconnaissance, which is part of their secondary mission to collect and report battlefield information. Snipers who can operate with little support and carry out those missions, Moran said, can aid commanders at every level. “Snipers are force multipliers,” he told Army News Service.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Sniper instructor Staff Sgt. Brian Moran explains the importance of proper camouflage techniques at the U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

5. The third week mixes classroom work with firing on a range. Students are taught how to communicate with spotters, and they fire 80 to 120 rounds a day at targets ranging from 300 meters to 800 meters away. Starting in week three, students are paired up and alternate turns as sniper and as spotter. The duos are trained to work in tandem to track targets and defend themselves.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Specialist Adrian Leatherman, a sniper team leader with 1-23 Infantry, waits to proceed through a stalking lane during the International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army)

4. After the soldier’s third week, the trials turn from physical to mental. The fourth week adds night-fire and limited-visibility firing scenarios. Record-fire tests see snipers paired with spotters and given five targets and a seven-minute time limit. The pressure becomes too much for some, and three students were sent home.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shelman Spencer)

3. Week five challenges sniper candidates to hit targets at unknown distances, as well as moving targets. “Students must learn how to properly lead their target so the round will impact a given position when the target will be there,” Moran said. Two more students were sent home.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
U.S. Soldiers with 2nd Cavalry Regiment master the Rough Terrain Run task during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

2. The demands do not slack in week six. They are taught to use new weapons, like the M9 pistol or the M107 .50-caliber sniper rifle, and to fire from unstable platforms or other positions. The seventh week, known as the “employment phase,” challenges students to plan and carry out a mission after receiving an operational order.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
A U.S. Army Paratrooper, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a recon and sniper break contact live fire exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Feb. 6, 2017. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army’s Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapid forces to the United States European, Africa and Central Commands areas of responsibilities. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gerhard Seuffert)

1. The course culminates in week seven with time-limited road march to a range for a “final shot.” Given two bullets and one target, students must calculate range and engage, with their scores determining honor graduate and “top gun” status for graduation. At graduation on September 22, just four of the 46 students remained. “The training in sniper school is hands down the best I’ve received in the Army,” said Sgt. Stephen Ray, a member of the 1st Armored Brigade who graduated No. 1 in the class — Top Gun.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Sgt. Ian Rivera-Aponte, a U.S. Army Reserve sniper and infantryman with the 100th Infantry Battalion, Honolulu, Hawaii, poses for a promotional photo shoot for Army Reserve recruiting at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, July 26, 2017. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why it’s so crazy that Russia is inviting China to huge war games

Russia’s armed forces are gearing up for Vostok-18, or East-18, a massive military exercise in the country’s far east from Sept. 11-15, 2018.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in August 2018 that about 300,000 troops and 1,000 aircraft would participate, using all of the training ranges in the country’s central and eastern military districts. Russia’s Pacific and Northern fleets and its airborne forces are also expected to join.

Shoigu said 2018’s iteration of the Vostok exercise would be “unprecedented in scale, both in terms of area of operations and numbers of military command structure, troops, and forces involved.”


But the size of the forces involved is not the only feature that has turned heads.

Forces from China and Mongolia also plan to take part. Beijing has said it will send about 3,200 troops, 30 helicopters, and more than 900 other pieces of military hardware.

China’s Defense Ministry said the drills were meant to strengthen the two countries’ strategic military partnership and increase their ability to respond to threats and ensure stability in the region.

The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said China’s participation “speaks about the expansion of interaction of the two allies in all the spheres.”

Chinese forces have already joined their Russian counterparts in some military exercises.

Chinese warships have drilled with their Russian counterparts in the Pacific Ocean and the Baltic Sea. In summer 2018 Chinese warplanes were in Russia for International Army Games 2018, a multinational event.

August 2018, Chinese forces are taking part in Peace Mission 2018, an exercise organized by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional bloc led by Russia and China. (It’s the first exercise to include all eight SCO members.)

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

China’s Jian-10 fighter jet

But including China in the Vostok exercise hints at a significant geopolitical shift.

“China was seen as the potential threat or target in exercises like Vostok,” Alexander Gabuev, an expert on China at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told The New York Times.

“But it is now being invited to join as a friend and even a quasi-ally,” Gabuev added. “This is really unprecedented.”

The Soviet Union clashed with China along their shared border several times in the 1960s — once in a deadly Chinese raid on a Soviet border outpost that almost kicked off a full-scale war in early 1969.

The Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev normalized relations with China in 1989, and some 6 million Russians in Siberia now live alongside roughly 100 million Chinese in northern China, where trade relations have grown.

But eastern Russia’s vast expanse and sparse population make it a vulnerable area, and Russians there have expressed frustration with the growing Chinese presence and with concessions to Chinese commercial interests.

Amid heightened tensions with the West, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a concerted effort to build ties with China. Beijing, for its part, has also embraced Russia. Both have done so with an eye on the West.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter

United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Valdimir Putin.

The two have said they are building a “strategic partnership” and expressed shared opposition to what they describe as a “unipolar” world dominated by the US.

China’s defense minister, Gen. Wei Fenghe, went to Moscow early 2018 on his first trip abroad, saying the visit was meant to “let the Americans know about the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia.”

“I am visiting Russia as a new defense minister of China to show the world a high level of development of our bilateral relations and firm determination of our armed forces to strengthen strategic cooperation,” Wei said.

That rhetoric and statements about close ties don’t mean that Russia has dropped its guard, Gabuev said, noting that Chinese troops at Vostok-18 may be limited to training areas near the countries’ shared border with Mongolia, allowing Russian forces deployed elsewhere to carry out exercises designed with China in mind.

The Russian military “is not so naive that it is not preparing a contingency plan,” Gabuev told The Times.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump issued a stern warning to North Korea’s dictator

President Donald Trump said he was going to “remain flexible” and left open the possibility of shelving highly anticipated talks between the US and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We’ve never been in a position like this with that regime,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on April 18, 2018. “I hope to have a very successful meeting. If we don’t think that it’s going to be successful … we won’t have it. We won’t have it.”


Trump went further, and floated the possibility of leaving Kim during the summit.

“If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting,” he said.

The exact location and date of the proposed Trump-Kim summit is not yet clear, but Trump reportedly said it could happen by early June 2018. The president said five locations were being considered, but added that the US is not one of them

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
Kim Jong Un

US officials confirmed that CIA director Mike Pompeo made a secret trip to North Korea during Easter weekend 2018, to meet with Kim. Pompeo visited the country as part of Trump’s advance envoy to lay the groundwork for the proposed summit, during which the two leaders are expected to discuss the regime’s nuclear weapons program.

“I like always remaining flexible,” Trump said. “And we’ll remain flexible here. I’ve gotten it to this point.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia now claims the US is interfering in their elections

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says that Moscow believes a hotly anticipated U.S. list of rich Russians seen as close to President Vladimir Putin is an attempt to meddle in the country’s March 18 2017 election.


Peskov made the remarks on Jan. 29, 2018, ahead of the expected release by the U.S. Treasury Department of what is known as the “Kremlin Report.”

“We really do believe that this is a direct and obvious attempt to time some steps to coincide with the election in order to exert influence on it,” Peskov told journalists.

The report was mandated by Congress in a law aimed to increase pressure on Russia after the U.S. intelligence community said that Putin ordered a concerted hacking-and-propaganda campaign aimed to influence the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

That time Army Night Stalkers stole an advanced Russian helicopter
The Kremlin in Russia. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

President Donald Trump, who called for warmer ties with Russia during the campaign, reluctantly signed the bill into law in August 2017.

It gave the Treasury Department, the State Department, and intelligence agencies 180 days to identify people by “their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth.”

Also read: Trump’s strategy to prepare the US for power war with Russia and China

Russian business leaders and others named on the list — part of which may be kept classified — will not immediately be hit with sanctions but could face them in the future.

The expected release of the report has caused concern in the Russian elite, according to U.S. officials and U.S. advisers to Russian business leaders.

Peskov shrugged it off, however, saying that “we are convinced that it will have no influence” on the Russian election.

With the Kremlin controlling the levers of political power nationwide after years of steps to suppress dissent and marginalize political opponents, the election is virtually certain to hand Putin a new six-year term.

Related: Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

Political commentators say Putin, 65, is eager for a high turnout to strengthen his mandate in what could be his last stint in the Kremlin, as he would be constitutionally barred from seeking a third straight term in 2024.

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller and three congressional panels are separately investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and any potential ties between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

Trump denies there was any collusion, and Putin has denied that Russia interfered in the U.S. election process, despite what U.S. officials say is substantial evidence.