With the push for a 350-ship Navy as a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, many wonder how the U.S. can expand its surface fleet quickly and without breaking the bank.
The Coast Guard may have an answer — or at least a starting point for the answer — with its Bertholf Class National Security Cutters. A Dec. 30, 2016, release from Huntington Ingalls noted that a ninth cutter of what was originally planned as an eight-ship class had been ordered.
However, at the SeaAirSpace 2017 Expo, Huntington Ingalls displayed a model of the FF4923, also known as the Patrol Frigate. Using the same basic hull and propulsion plant as the Bertholf-class cutters, the FF4923 adds a lot more teeth to the design.
According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” a Bertholf Class cutter carries a Mk 110 57mm main gun, a single Phalanx Close-In Weapons System, and some .50-caliber machine guns. Not bad for a patrol ship — and roughly comparable to the armament suite on a littoral combat ship.
The FF4923, though, offers a 76mm gun, a 16-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch System, two triple Mk 32 torpedo tubes, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, two Mk 141 quad mounts for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, and a half-dozen machine guns. In this ship, the Mk 41 VLS would only use RIM-66 SM-2 missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs.
The 76mm gun, incidentally, offers the option of using guided rounds like the OTO Melara’s Vulcano for surface targets and the DART round against aircraft and missiles.
This is not the only offering that Huntington Ingalls has made. According to an April 2012 report from DefenseMediaNetwork.com, in the past, HII offered the FF4921, which used a Mk 56 Vertical-Launch System for the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile that is best known for its use on Canada’s Halifax-class frigates, and the PF4501, a minimal-change version of the Bertholf.
Even if the United States Navy doesn’t order some of these Bertholfs with teeth, export orders could find American workers very busy – even after the larger-than-planned Bertholf Class order for the Coast Guard is fulfilled.
Inter-service rivalry is very common in the military. But one Navy SEAL Team 6 vet with a long service record is openly admiring an Army hero.
According to the blog of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Interior, applauding the values former President Theodore Roosevelt brought to conservation and land management.
“I am an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt and believe he had it right when he placed under federal protection millions of acres of federal lands and set aside much of it as National forests,” Zinke said during his confirmation hearing.
Zinke, who spent 23 years in the Navy, was the first SEAL to win a seat in the House of Representatives according to law360.com. The San Diego Union-Tribune noted when his nomination was announced that he would also be the first SEAL to hold a Cabinet position. According to his official biography on his congressional web page, Zinke’s decorations include two awards of the Bronze Star for service during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which included a stint as acting commander of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula. Among the SEALs who served under him were Marcus Luttrell (of “Lone Survivor” fame), Rob O’Neill (who claims to have killed Osama bin Laden), and Brandon Webb (founder of SOFREP.com).
Roosevelt, though, also had a keen interest in naval affairs before serving with the Army. Prior to becoming Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley, the Theodore Roosevelt Association noted that he wrote a history of the War of 1812, publishing it at age 24. Roosevelt would help turn the United States Navy into the global instrument of power projection it is today.
So, yeah, while inter-service rivalry has its place, in this case, we can understand – and approve – of a SEAL admiring a soldier like Teddy Roosevelt.
When British General William Howe landed 20,000 Redcoats on Long Island, the situation looked grim for the young Continental Army. General George Washington’s Continentals seemed to be pinned down as Howe simultaneously attacked the Americans head-on while he moved his troops behind Washington’s position.
In his book, “Washington’s Immortals,” Patrick O’Donnell describes how their only way out was a small gap in the British line, somehow being held open by a handful of Marylanders.
Well before the signing of the Declaration of Independence put the nascent United States on a war footing with the world’s largest, most powerful empire, Col. William Smallwood started forming a regiment of men for the coming conflict.
Smallwood formed nine companies of infantry from the north and west counties of the Maryland Colony. Though they would be reassigned multiple times, the 400 men of the 1st Maryland Regiment took part in many major battles of the American Revolution, most notably covering the American retreat out of Long Island through a series of brave infantry charges.
British forces occupied “The Old Stone House” with a force that outnumbered the aforementioned Marylanders. While the rest of the Americans retreated in an orderly fashion, the few hundred Maryland troops repeatedly charged the fortified position with fixed bayonets.
American forces survived mostly intact — except for the Marylanders. Only nine of them made it back to the Continental Army.
Their rearguard actions against superior British troops in New York City earned them the nickname “The Immortal 400.” Their stand against 2,000 British regulars allowed Washington’s orderly retreat to succeed so he could fight another day.
The Immortal Regiment went on to fight at the pivotal battles of Trenton, Princeton, Camden, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, and Yorktown. The unit continued its service long after the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War.
Maryland earned one of its nicknames, “The Old Line State,” because Washington referred to Maryland units as his “Old Line.” The U.S. Army National Guard’s 115th Infantry Regiment could trace its origins back to the Immortal 400, but the 115th is now merged with the 175th Infantry Regiment.
Russia, China, and other nations that have launched cyber attacks against the United States do not fear retribution and see no reason to change their behavior, the nominee to head the U.S. Cyber Command said.
Army Lieutenant General Paul Nakasone told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 1, 2018, that cyber threats against the country have grown significantly, and the United States must impose costs on online “adversaries” to make them stop.
“They don’t fear us,” said Nakasone, 54. “It is not good.”
“I think that our adversaries have not seen our response in sufficient detail to change the behavior,” he said. “They don’t think much will happen.”
His comments echoed statements by the current cyber commander, Admiral Mike Rogers, in testimony before the same committee on Feb. 27, 2018.
“I believe that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin has clearly come to the conclusion that there’s little price to pay and that therefore, ‘I can continue this activity’,” Rogers said.
“Clearly, what we have done hasn’t been enough” to deter Russia, he said. “They have not paid a price that is sufficient to change their behavior.”
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign by hacking internal Democratic party e-mails and waging an online disinformation campaign on social-media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Intelligence chiefs recently warned that Russia is using the same tactics to try to influence the midterm congressional elections in November 2018.
China, Iran, and other nations have also been accused of staging cyber attacks on U.S. facilities and government targets, although they have not been accused like Russia of attempting to interfere in the U.S. political system.
Several senators asked Nakasone what the United States should do to combat nations that infiltrate government networks, steal data from contractors, or try to influence American elections.
“We seem to be the, you know, cyber punching bag of the world,” said Senator Dan Sullivan. “Should we start cranking up the costs of the cyberattacks on our nation?”
Nakasone, who currently leads U.S. Army Cyber Command and is expected to win confirmation in the Senate, was cautious when asked what to do.
He said he would provide a series of options to U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, including alternatives that would involve actions other than retaliatory cyber attacks.
America’s aircraft carriers are the heart of the US Navy and serve as American territory floating around the world, allowing the US to project massive air and sea military might.
During flight operations, an aircraft carrier’s deck is an extremely dangerous place with expensive fighter jets and helicopters landing and taking off on a short runway. However, sailors and airmen mitigate risks by fine tuning the chaos with coordination and precision.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the panic that ensued during a false alarm warning of an imminent missile attack wasn’t addressed sooner because he forgot his Twitter password and couldn’t notify the public.
During a press conference on Jan. 22, Ige took some of the blame the mix-up that caused panic throughout Hawaii and made headlines worldwide, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
Ige responded to the incident at the time, saying the triggering of the alert system was an “error” and was being investigated to avoid the incident from “ever happening again.”
Hawaii began testing its nuclear warning system in December, CNN reported. It is the first time since the Cold War that Hawaii brought back the system and comes amid North Korea’s increased missile testing.
Nearly two-thirds of women said they would not have the same opportunities for advancement as men if they joined the military, a major hurdle for recruiters seeking to increase the number of women in their ranks.
According to Gallup, 63 percent of women said men would have an easier time earning promotions and advancements in the military than they would. Overall, 52 percent of Americans agreed with that notion.
Part of that sentiment could be the lingering impression that women are prohibited from combat roles and other jobs, despite a 2015 Pentagon order prohibiting gender from consideration for all military jobs, including combat positions. The order opened some 220,000 combat positions, including elite fighting forces like the Navy SEALs and Army Rangers, to female enlistees.
The lingering sentiment otherwise presents a challenge for military recruiters seeking to expand the number of women in the ranks. And while the survey showed the public widely regards the military favorably, many respondents were less enthusiastic about the prospect of a loved one enlisting. Fewer than half of respondents said they would recommend a loved one join the Army, Marines, or Coast Guard.
Gallup surveyed 1,026 people from April 24 to May 2. The poll carries a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
On a summer morning in a desolate corner of Iraq’s western desert, Jim Mattis learned he’d narrowly evaded an assassination attempt.
A Sunni Arab man had been caught planting a bomb on a road shortly before Mattis and his small team of Marines passed by. Told the captured insurgent spoke English, Mattis decided to talk to him.
After Mattis offered a cigarette and coffee, the man said he tried to kill the general and his fellow Marines because he resented the foreigner soldiers in his land. Mattis said he understood the sentiment but assured the insurgent he was headed for Abu Ghraib, the infamous U.S.-run prison. What happened next explains the point of the story.
“General,” the man asked Mattis, “if I am a model prisoner, do you think someday I could emigrate to America?”
In Mattis’ telling, this insurgent’s question showed he felt “the power of America’s inspiration.” It was a reminder of the value of national unity.
Mattis, now the Pentagon boss and perhaps the most admired member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, is a storyteller. And at no time do the tales flow more easily than when he’s among the breed he identifies with most closely — the men and women of the military.
The anecdote about the Iraqi insurgent, and other stories he recounted during a series of troop visits shortly before Christmas, are told with purpose.
“I bring this up to you, my fine young sailors, because I want you to remember that on our worst day we’re still the best going, and we’re counting on you to take us to the next level,” he said. “We’ve never been satisfied with where America’s at. We’re always prone to looking at the bad things, the things that aren’t working right. That’s good. It’s healthy, so long as we then roll up our sleeves and work together, together, together, to make it better.”
The stories tend to be snippets of Mattis’ personal history, including moments he believes illustrate the deeper meaning of military service.
On a trip last month to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and three domestic military installations, Mattis revealed himself in ways rarely seen in Washington, where he has studiously maintained a low public profile. With no news media in attendance except one Associated Press reporter, Mattis made clear during his troop visits that he had not come to lecture or to trade on his status as a retired four-star general.
“Let’s just shoot the breeze for a few minutes,” he said at one point.
Another time he opened with, “My name is Mattis, and I work at the Department of Defense.”
Mattis used stories to emphasize that today’s uncertain world means every military member needs to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice.
He recalled the words of a Marine sergeant major when Mattis was just two years into his career:
“Every week in the fleet Marine force is your last week of peace,” the sergeant major said. “If you don’t go into every week thinking like this, you’re going to have a sick feeling in the bottom of your stomach when your NCOs (non-commissioned officers) knock on your door and say, ‘Get up. Get your gear on. We’re leaving.'”
By leaving, Mattis meant departing for war.
A recurring Mattis theme is that the military operates in a fundamentally unpredictable world. He recalled how he was hiking with his Marines in the Sierra Nevadas in August 1990 when he got word to report with his men to the nearest civilian airport. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had just invaded Kuwait, and the Marines were needed to hold the line in Saudi Arabia.
In an exchange with Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Mattis recalled sitting in the back of a room at the Pentagon in June 2001 while senior political appointees of the new George W. Bush administration fired questions at a military briefer about where they should expect to see the most worrisome security threats. At one point, Mattis said, the briefer said confidently that amid all the uncertainty, the one place the U.S. definitely would not be fighting was Afghanistan.
“Five and a half months later, I was shivering in Afghanistan,” Mattis said, referring to his role as commander of Task Force 58, a special group that landed in southern Afghanistan aboard helicopters flown from Navy ships in the Arabian Sea to attack the Taliban in and around Kandahar.
Regardless how much they resonate with his young audience, Mattis’ stories illustrate how he sees his military experience as a way to connect with troops who often feel distant from their political leaders. They also are a reminder Mattis’ boss is one of the most politically divisive figures in recent history.
Speaking to troops and family members at an outdoor movie theater at Guantanamo, Mattis pointed directly to the political battles.
“I’m so happy to be in Guantanamo that I could cry right now, to be out of Washington,” he said, adding jokingly that he wouldn’t mind spending the rest of his tenure away from the capital. He said as soon as he gets back in the company of uniformed troops, he is reminded of why the military can set a standard for civility.
“Our country needs you,” he said, and not just because of the military’s firepower. “It’s also the example you set for the country at a time it needs good role models; it needs to look at an organization that doesn’t care what gender you are, it doesn’t care what religion you are, it doesn’t care what ethnic group you are. It’s an organization that can work together.”
Military medical providers must first diagnose airmen, proving transition surgery is a medical necessity, just like any other treatment. In the Air Force, the airman’s closest unit commander holds all keys to transitioning while in the USAF, including requests for surgery, uniform and PT exemptions, and deployment needs.
The gender used in the airman’s personnel record will determine which gender regulations and facilities to use, meaning until the transition is complete, transgender airmen will continue to use their gender from birth.
They are still deployable as long as they are medically qualified.
After receiving a diagnosis of medical need, the airman will inform their unit commander.The commander has 90 days to respond to the request. The commanding officer, airman, and medical staff will set out a timeline for a transition plan that takes operational needs, morale, and readiness into account.
The transition is complete (in the eyes of the Air Force) when the medical staff informs the airman’s unit commander and the airman provides legal documentation (such an updated birth certificate and passport) reflecting the change.
Uniform dress and appearance requirements will adhere to the gender reflected in their personnel record. Any exceptions to policy requests regarding uniform wear during the transition should be in writing to their immediate commander.
Transgender applicants who want to join the military will still have to meet all the physical conditioning standards for their branch, gender, age, and MOS. They will use the facilities for the gender marker in their personnel record. They may be exempt from fitness assessments during the transition plan period but are still expected to participate in unit PT.
A history of gender dysphoria, transition surgery, or hormone therapy is still a disqualifying factor for joining the military unless the recruit has been stable in their new gender for at least 18 months. A doctor must confirm the recruit’s gender stability.
The Marine Corps has unveiled a new badge for its elite Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command operators, an eagle with outstretched wings clutching a Raider stiletto with a constellation that represents the Marines who served in the Pacific in World War II.
“The individual MARSOC operator must be trained and educated to think critically and function in an increasingly complex operating environment — to understand and interact in dynamic, dangerous and politically-sensitive battlefields,” Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, said in a press release. “Our rigorous training pipeline ensures that a newly minted critical skills operator has developed the skills required for full spectrum special operations. This badge serves as a visual certification that they have trained and prepared to accept their new responsibilities.”
The same press release details the badge’s symbols:
The center of the 2-inch x 2.75-inch insignia consists of the bald eagle, representing the United States, with outstretched wings to symbolize the global reach of the U.S. Marine Corps. A dagger clutched by the eagle reflects the emblem of Marine Raider Battalions and the Marine Special Operations School. The Southern Cross constellation superimposed on the dagger represents the historic achievements of the Marines serving during the Pacific campaign of WWII, specifically those actions on Guadalcanal. The Southern Cross remains a part of the legacy of modern-day Marine Corps Raider units.
MARSOC is the newest of the major special operations commands and was officially formed in 2006 so the Marine Corps would have a headquarters which could work directly with U.S. Special Operations Command.
The unit’s lineage is traced back to Marine Raiders of World War II who conducted vital operations against Japanese defenders in the Pacific Theater of that war.
Three Raider battalions make up the primary fighting force of MARSOC. The first Raiders of this modern unit were recruited out of top-tier units like Marine Reconnaissance and Force Reconnaissance battalions.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has its own “dream team” of special operators trained to save the lives of hostages and respond to terror attacks.
It’s called the Hostage Rescue Team. With the memory of a terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and Los Angeles selected to host the games in 1984, U.S. officials realized they had no dedicated counterterrorism force that could respond to such an event.
Out of this planning, HRT was born. While initially trained to respond to hostage situations, the team has evolved to support high-risk arrests, protect dignitaries, and assist the military in foreign war zones.
But before agents can join the team which — not surprisingly — often attracts ex-Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces, they need two years of experience as a field agent. After this, they can volunteer for HRT, but it’s not easy.
First, agents need to go through a two-week selection process at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. They are evaluated by senior HRT personnel on whether they would be able to mesh with the team — not on how good they are as operators.
At selection, they are tested in physical fitness, shooting, making arrests, teamwork, and how they react during stressful situations.
On average, less than 33 percent of candidates make it through selection, according to the book “To Be An FBI Special Agent” by Henry Holden.
Those who make the cut are then assigned to New Operator Training School, which is also at Quantico.
HRT training is similar to military special operations units, with the caveat that agents also train to arrest suspects whenever possible.
Over the six month training course at NOTS, agents learn skills such as fast-roping out of helicopters and SCUBA diving.
But according to the FBI, the skill they focus on that is most critical is close-quarters battle, or CQB. “How quickly we can secure a house with a credible threat inside might mean the difference between a hostage living or dying,” said Special Agent John Piser, in a story on the FBI’s website.
The HRT has special “shoot houses” where operators can train in the art of clearing rooms, as instructors watch and critique them on catwalks above.
If they graduate NOTS, operators join their individual teams at HRT. But they still have another year of training in basic assault skills, along with specialty training in communications, emergency medicine, or breaching.
Some go on to get even more specialized training, like HRT snipers.
Members earn their HRT patch, which bears the Latin motto “Servare Vitas,” which means “to save lives.”
HRT’s numbers are low: Less than 300, according to Business Insider. But that doesn’t make them any less capable. The team can respond to any number of threats within the U.S. in just four hours.
“As an elite counterterrorism tactical team for law enforcement, the HRT is one of the best — if not the best — in the United States,” said Sean Joyce, deputy director of the FBI and former HRT operator. “They are elite because of their training.”
With modern technology, US soldiers can learn the essentials of operating everything from grenade launchers to .50-caliber machine guns before they ever set foot on a firing range.
Soldiers with the New Jersey National Guard’s D Company, 1-114th Infantry Regiment recently conducted virtual-reality training on a number heavy weapons at the Observer Coach/Trainer Operations Group Regional Battle Simulation Training Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.
Capt. James Ruane, the company’s commander, explained the virtual-reality system to Insider, introducing how it works and how it helps the warfighter.
This virtual-reality system, known as the Unstabilized Gunnery Trainer (UGT), gives users the ability to operate mounted M240B machine guns, Mk 19 grenade launchers, and .50-caliber machine guns — all heavy weapons — in a virtual world.
“When the gunner has the goggles on, he’s able to look around, and it is almost like he’s in an actual mission environment,” Ruane told Insider.
The virtual-reality system is designed to mimic a heavy weapon mounted on a vehicle. In the simulated training environment, users can engage dismounted and mounted targets, as well as moving vehicles and stationary targets.
“It’s the same type of targets they would engage on a live-fire range,” Ruane said.
The “weapon” is designed to feel and function much like an actual machine gun or grenade launcher.
“When you pull the trigger and actually fire this thing, it moves,” the captain said. “It has the same recoil as a weapon system would. So it gives the gunner as real of an experience as you could have in a virtual environment.”
In addition to the single gunner training system, there is also a convoy trainer for three vehicle crew members and a dismount.
“In this setup, you have a driver, you have a vehicle commander, and you have a gunner,” Ruane told Insider. “You also have the ability to have a dismount, and all members of that crew are plugged into the same virtual system.”
“They are all wearing the goggles,” Ruane added. “They all have weapons systems attached to the [VR] system, including a dismount who would have an attached M4.”
“They operate like a crew,” he said, telling Insider that while the training, usually carried out over the course of a weekend, is focused on taking troops through the gunnery tables, the simulator can also be used to train forces for convoy protection missions and other more complex mission sets.
The training normally involves two vehicle crews, but it could be connected to other systems for training with a platoon-sized element.
The company commander said he has seen marked improvements in performance since the introduction of the virtual reality trainer a few years back.
“I’ve definitely seen a dramatic improvement over the last five years,” the captain said.
“In the beginning, crews would have to go two or three times through gunnery,” Ruane, who has been with his company for five years now, told Insider, explaining that soldiers would make “simple mistakes.”
“Now,” he said, “crews are able to get through their engagements and get qualified as a crew” with some of “the highest scores that we’ve seen in the scoring cycle over the last five years.”
Ruane says virtual reality has enhanced their training in a big way.
“A lot of people think, especially some old-school military people, think that the virtual-reality stuff takes away from the actual live-fire ranges, when in fact this is actually an enhancer,” he explained, adding that “when you get out to the live-fire ranges, it is going to be muscle memory at that point, and it’s going to go flawlessly.”