The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers - We Are The Mighty
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The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers

ABOARD THE COAST GUARD CUTTER STRATTON, in the eastern Pacific Ocean — The drone is loaded onto a catapult on the flight deck. From a control room, a technician revs the motor until the go-ahead is given to press the red button. Then the ScanEagle lifts off with a whoosh and, true to its lofty name, soars majestically over the wide blue sea.


The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Stratton is steaming more than 500 miles south of the Guatemala-El Salvador border, along the biggest narcotics smuggling corridor in the world.

Its mission: intercept vessels hauling cocaine bound for America’s cities.

It is a monumental task that has grown even larger in the past few years because of a boom in coca production in Colombia. But the Coast Guard is bringing more intelligence and technology to bear.

Deep within the 418-foot Stratton, which is based in Alameda, California, specialists crunch data from radar, infrared video, helicopter sorties and now the Boeing-made ScanEagle, which was deployed aboard the Coast Guard cutter for the first time during this three-month mission.

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers
PACIFIC OCEAN — Petty Officer 3rd Class John Cartwright, a Coast Guard Cutter Stratton crewmember, releases the Unmanned Aerial Surveillance aircraft Scan Eagle during a demonstration approximately 150 miles off the Pacific Coast, Aug. 12, 2012. The Scan Eagle is being tested for capabilities that will create a reliable reconnaissance system for all 11 Coast Guard missions. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Clayton.

“In the earlier days, when you wouldn’t see or catch anything, we used to pat ourselves on our back and say we must’ve deterred them,” said Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, with more than four decades at sea. “Now rarely 72 hours go by when you don’t have an event or we send a ship down there that doesn’t come back with multiple interdictions.”

The Associated Press spent two weeks in February and March aboard the Stratton, the most advanced ship in the Coast Guard fleet, as 100-plus crew members patrolled the eastern Pacific, through which about 70 percent of the cocaine consumed in the U.S. passes.

With three to five Coast Guard cutters covering 6 million square miles — from the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to the eastern Pacific Ocean — it’s like having a few police cars watch over the entire lower 48 states.

Just after lunch on the second day of deployment, the Stratton’s PA system starts piping out acronyms. A TOI, or target of interest, has been detected by the ScanEagle with the support of aircraft radar, and a go-fast boat slides down a rear ramp into the blue waters to begin the chase.

In just a few minutes it catches up with a fishing boat, called a panga, with two outboard motors.

Sometimes smugglers frantically dump their cargo over the side or try to make a run for it, forcing their pursuers to fire warning shots or shoot out their engines. But this time, the boat’s crewmen, some of them barefoot, offer no resistance.

The four suspected smugglers sit handcuffed as a Coast Guardsman takes out some vials to conduct a chemical test. The results come back positive for cocaine, and the two Colombians and two Ecuadoreans are put aboard the cutter.

Hidden in the bales of cocaine is a GPS tracking device in a condom, a sure sign the drug bosses behind the shipment knew right away it didn’t reach its destination.

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers
PACIFIC OCEAN — The Unmanned Aerial Surveillance aircraft Scan Eagle watches the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton from afar during a demonstration approximately 150 miles off the Pacific Coast, Aug. 12, 2012. The Scan Eagle is being tested for capabilities that will create a reliable reconnaissance system for all 11 Coast Guard missions. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

At sunset, the Stratton’s crew proudly poses for a picture with the haul while a black plume rises above the sea where the boat was set ablaze by the Coast Guard. A few hours later, the Stratton fires its cannon and sinks the vessel.

The next morning the ever-rising Narcometer in the on-board newsletter reflects the size of the bust: 700 kilograms (over 1,500 pounds) of pure cocaine with a wholesale value of $21 million. On the streets in the U.S., it could be worth more than five times that.

The Stratton’s biggest bust — a Coast Guard record — came in 2015, when it found more than 16,000 pounds of cocaine worth $225 million before the smuggling craft, a hard-to-detect semi-submersible vessel, sank with some of its cargo still aboard.

As good as the Coast Guard gets, its victories seem doomed to be short-lived. That’s because hundreds of miles to the south, in the jungles of Colombia, there’s a bumper harvest taking place. And Colombia is virtually the only source of cocaine smuggled by sea in small vessels.

That, along with better technology, may help explain why the Coast Guard has been coming back with ever-larger hauls. It set a record in 2016, seizing more than 240 tons of cocaine with a wholesale value of $5.9 billion and arresting 585 smugglers.

Last year, the amount of land devoted to coca cultivation in Colombia climbed 18 percent to an estimated 188,000 hectares (465,000 acres), according to a White House report. That is more coca production than at any time since the U.S. in 1999 began investing billions in an anti-narcotics strategy known as Plan Colombia.

“What we know here out at sea is that the business has been really good in the last couple of years,” said Capt. Nathan Moore, the Stratton’s skipper.

The surge is being driven in part by Colombia’s decision in 2015 to suspend aerial spraying of crop-destroying herbicides because of health concerns.

At the same time, there was a rush among peasant farmers to start growing coca so they could take advantage of generous payments to switch to legal crops being offered as part of a peace deal between the government and Colombia’s rebels.

Thus far, 55,000 families have signed pledges to rip up 48,000 hectares of coca in exchange for as much as $12,000 over two years. The government is also expanding manual eradication of coca, a slower and far more dangerous task, with the goal of destroying 50,000 hectares this year alone.

But many experts are skeptical that poor farmers will renounce coca growing, especially as criminal gangs fill the void left by the retreating rebels. Also, a successful drug run can net each smuggler a small fortune that makes it well worth the risk of a long prison sentence for many.

Such dynamics help explain why, despite the Coast Guard’s technological superiority, four drug-running boats are thought to get through for every one caught, Zukunft said.

Those taken into custody for smuggling are put in white hazmat suits, given health exams and then led into a converted helicopter hangar aboard the Stratton, where they are shackled to the floor and issued a wool blanket, toiletries and a cot or a foam mat. Eventually they are flown to the U.S. and prosecuted at American expense.

The alternative would be to seek prosecution in Central American countries such as Honduras, where the vast majority of crimes go unpunished.

More than a dozen nations in Central and South America have essentially outsourced their drug-interdiction efforts to the U.S.

“Imagine you’re out at Ocean City, Maryland, and then out of nowhere comes this foreign helicopter and it starts peppering a U.S. recreational boat with automatic machine gun fire and sniper fire. We would say it’s an act of war,” Zukunft said.

“But that’s the faith and confidence these countries have in the U.S. and our Coast Guard.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bellingcat alleges new evidence that Russian suspects are spies

The independent Bellingcat research organization claims to have more information that the two men suspected in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal have links to Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU.

Bellingcat said on Sept. 20, 2018, that a joint investigation with Business Insider “can confirm definitively” that the two suspects, Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov, have links to the GRU, “based on objective data and on discussions with confidential Russian sources familiar with the identity of at least one of the two persons.”

On Sept. 14, 2018, Bellingcat said it had reviewed Russian documents that indicated the two men had no records in the Russian resident database prior to 2009, a sign they may be working as operatives for the government.


“Crucially,” Bellingcat added at the time, “at least one man’s passport files contain various ‘top-secret’ markings which, according to at least two sources consulted by Bellingcat, are typically reserved for members of secret services or top state operatives.”

In its latest report, Bellingcat said it and Business Insider obtained Petrov’s and Boshirov’s border-crossing data for several European and Asian countries. It said the men’s names are believed to be aliases.

“Their globe-trotting, unpredictably meandering itinerary is at times reminiscent of characters out of [film series and television program] Mission Impossible, yet a focus on the countries of Western Europe is clearly visible,” it said.

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers

A handout picture taken in Salisbury of two Russian men who have been identified as Aleksandr Petrov (right) and Ruslan Boshirov.

Bellingcat said a source in a Western European law enforcement agency informed it that the suspects had been previously arrested in the Netherlands, but “no information has been provided as to the time and context” of the arrests.

Passport numbers

Bellingcat said it discovered there were just 26 intervening passport numbers between Petrov’s document and the cover passport issued for Eduard Shishmakov, aka Shirokov, a former Russian military attache in Warsaw expelled by Poland in 2014 for espionage.

Shishmakov’s passport was issued in August 2016, the report said.

The finding suggests that the special authority that issued the passports had only granted 26 passports between April and August 2016, Bellingcat said.

It has been previously reported that the passport numbers of Boshirov and Petrov differed only three digits and that they held “Top Secret” and “Do Not Provide Information” markings.

The documents were allegedly issued by an authority normally reserved for intelligence officers and important government officials, it said.

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on March 4, 2018, on a bench in the southern English town of Salisbury. They were seriously ill but later made a full recovery after spending several weeks in a hospital.

British officials said the two were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon that was developed in the Soviet Union, and blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government for the attack.

In June 2018, a British citizen, Dawn Sturgess, died and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, fell ill when they stumbled across remnants of the poison in a town near Salisbury.

Britain on Sept. 5, 2018, announced charges against the two Russian men as police issued photographs of the suspects.

The men acknowledged they were in Salisbury at the time, but claimed they were there as tourists.

Russia has denied any involvement in the poisoning.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

In early July, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center became the first VA facility to participate in an international clinical trial evaluating the therapeutic benefit of an immunomodulator drug, Tocilizumab (TCZ), as a treatment for Veterans with COVID-19 severe pneumonia.

“COVID-19 is known to cause extensive damage in the lungs,” said Dr. Lavannya Pandit, a Houston VA pulmonologist and critical care physician who is a co-investigator in the study. “This often leads to difficulty breathing and, eventually, pneumonia. Pneumonia triggers a hyperimmune response that we are seeing can be more detrimental to some patients than the original infection.”


Medical personnel have used TCZ successfully to treat hyperimmune responses in cancer patients. The trial results will help determine if TCZ has a similar effect in patients who are diagnosed with severe COVID-19 pneumonia.

The clinical trial is a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Both the investigator and participant are blinded to who is receiving the TCZ treatment. Eligible participants are patients who are in the hospital and who chest imaging has confirmed has severe COVID-19 pneumonia.

Veterans at Houston VA very willing to step up

Medical personnel will monitor Veterans in a clinical environment for their responses to the treatment. Responses may include disease progression, the duration of hospitalization and the need for critical care and other supportive treatments.

“VA offers cutting-edge treatments and top quality care for Veterans with COVID-19,” said Dr. Barbara Trautner. Trautner is a faculty member at the Behavioral Health Program, Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.

“Participating in this clinical trial allows our Veterans the opportunity to contribute to scientific progress,” she said. “So far, Veterans at the Houston VA have been very willing to step up and volunteer. We enrolled eight Veterans in the first three days of the study.”

Trial taking place in more than 50 locations

“The treatments we offer for COVID-19 three months from now will be very different than what we offer today because of scientific trials like this,” said Trautner.

In addition to Houston VA, the trial is taking place in more than 50 locations across the United States, Europe and Canada, including at the Baylor College of Medicine.

“I always find it an honor and privilege to care for our Veterans who have served our country,” Trautner said. “The Veterans we are enrolling in this study are eager to join the fight against COVID-19, and we are happy to provide them this opportunity and do our part.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

That time when nuclear weapons were at your local airport

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers
Photo: US Air Force


When America’s Strategic Air Command is ordered to Defense Condition 3 (DEFCON 3) or above, it disperses its nuclear bombers fully-armed across the U.S. and certain allied countries so that the bombers are harder to target. This keeps America’s second strike capability intact and hopefully deters an enemy from launching its own nuclear weapons.

The dispersal plan generally calls for the planes to go to Air Force bases rather than civilian airports, but it hinges on a few factors. First, there have to be enough Air Force bases ready to receive the planes and the bases can’t be needed for other missions.

During the Cuban missile crisis, SAC was ordered to DEFCON 3 and carried out its dispersal plan Oct. 22, 1962. Bases in and near Florida were mostly blocked off because they were needed to host troops for a potential invasion of Cuba. Also, they would have been destroyed too quickly in an attack for a crew to attempt to take off. So 183 nuclear-armed aircraft were sent to 33 military bases and civilian airports in the U.S., including the four civilian airports below.

Mitchell Field in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Local pop. in 1960: 741,324

Four bombers were sent to Mitchell Field. One of the co-pilots on the flight told a reporter years later that the crew was ordered to fly for at least four hours to ensure their flight pay would be protected in case they couldn’t get training flights for a while. Since they arrived at Mitchell Field in under four hours, the pilots flew a holding pattern for a few hours over Milwaukee in inclement weather at a lower altitude than their planes were designed to optimally fly while fully armed with nuclear weapons.

Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts

Local pop. in 1960: 697,197

When the B-47s arrived at Logan Airport, they found that the fuel plan wasn’t ready to go. A lieutenant colonel had to buy fuel from a local Mobil station with his personal credit card. When the pilots went to check on their planes in the morning, they found that the jets had sunk into the soft concrete and had to be pulled out with a tow truck, according to Michael Dobbs in his book, “One Minute to Midnight.”

Memphis Airport in Memphis, Tennessee

Local pop. in 1960: 497,524

Planes at the airport were filmed on the tarmac on Oct. 26, 1962. SAC had been upgraded to DEFCON 2 at this point, meaning they expected nuclear war to pop off at any moment and they had to be prepared to get all of the bombers into the air within 15 minutes of an alert.

Duluth Municipal Airport in Duluth, Minnesota

Local pop. in 1960: 106,884

Duluth Municipal Airport hosted eight bombers during the crisis.

NOW: The 7 weirdest nuclear weapons ever developed

OR: 33 of America’s most terrifying nuclear mishaps

MIGHTY TRENDING

With new weapons, F-15s will now fly into the 2040s

The Air Force is arming the F-15 with new weapons to better prepare the decades-old fighter for modern combat challenges and near-peer rivals — giving the jet an ability to fly into the 2040s and track and destroy enemy targets at further ranges under a wide range of combat conditions.


“The Air Force plans to integrate improvements for the AIM-9X and Small Diameter Bomb II on the F-15 over the next several years,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

Air Force officials say the F-15 could be fully armed and operational with the SBD II as soon as this year.

The SDB II, now nearing operational readiness, is a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.

While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions.

The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variants – and plans to keep the aircraft flying into the 2040s.

The new weapons are part of a larger F-15 sustainment and modernization overhaul which is integrating new sensors, targeting, electronic warfare systems and radar as well.

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers

“Active Electronically Scanned Array radars are currently being installed on F-15C and F-15E aircraft at a rate of about 20 per year. Both AESA radars have met initial operational capability. Installs will continue at a similar rate until each platform has met full operational capability, projected to be 2022 for the F-15C and 2025 for the F-15E,” Grabowski said.

Improved radar is a key component to the weapons upgrades, as it enables improved threat detection and targeting against technologically advanced adversaries – such as a Chinese J-10.

All of these adjustments are part of the Air Force’s F-15service life extension effort now underway.

“Full-scale fatigue tests for both the F-15C/D and F-15E are in progress. Final results are still pending, expected to be completed in the 2020 timeframe and will be one of many data points used to assess the size and scope of a possible F-15 service life extension program,” Grabowski said.

Also Read: Watch F-15s make insane turns through the UK’s ‘Mach Loop’

The SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight, Raytheon developers have told Warrior Maven.

Engineers are also working on plans to integrate the bomb onto the F-35, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-16 as well, Raytheon officials said. The Air Force is already testing the F-35 with the SDB II.

A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology, according to Raytheon information.

A tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system, Raytheon weapons developers explain.

Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers
An F-15E Strike Eagle flies with a Lockheed Martin Paveway II Plus GBU-12 (500-lb) LGB (left) in flight exercises. (Photo from USAF)

Also, the SBD II brings a new ability to track targets in flight through use of a two-way Link 16 and UHF data link, Raytheon officials said.

The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air-dropped bombs so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.

If weapons are kept in an internal weapons bay and not rested on an external weapons pod, then an aircraft can succeed in retaining its stealth properties because the shapes or contours of the weapons will not be visible to enemy radar.

About 105 pound of the SDB II is an explosive warhead which encompasses a “blast-frag” capability and a “plasma-jet” technology designed to pierce enemy armor, Raytheon officials explained.

The SDB II also has the ability to classify targets, meaning it could, for example, be programmed to hit only tanks in a convoy as opposed to other moving vehicles. The weapon can classify tanks, boats or wheeled targets, Raytheon officials added.

Articles

9 amazing facts about General George Custer

Most Americans don’t know much about General George Custer beyond the fact that he was killed — along with all of his troops — by Native American warriors at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Here are 9 other facts that illustrate there was a lot more to the man beyond the bad tactical decisions he made that day:


1. He didn’t graduate with the rest of his West Point class because he got in trouble

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers
Cadet Custer at West Point.

The night before he was supposed to graduate with the Class of 1861, he was the cadet duty officer. During his watch he came across two junior cadets having a heated discussion, and instead of breaking it up he suggested they settle it by fighting it out. He was punished by the officers on the staff for his lack of judgment and kept from getting his diploma and commission until a few months later.

2. His future father-in-law wasn’t a big fan at first

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers
Custer with his wife Libbie (seated).

Custer had a romantic interest in Libbie Bacon, who was from a prominent Michigan family, but her father was concerned about his working class roots and excessive drinking.

3. He was given sick leave following the Battle of Antietam

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers
Custer (right) with rebel prisoner.

Custer distinguished himself at the bloody Battle of Antietam near Maryland’s border with West Virginia on the Potomac River, but the campaign took a physical and emotional toll. He was given sick leave, which he used to return to Michigan and pursue his relationship with Libbie.

4. He pinned on his first general’s star at age 23

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers

Custer remains the youngest general officer in U.S. military history.

5. He became a national hero after the Battle of Gettysburg (and his future father-in-law started to like him)

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers
Custer hanging with the boys (and a dog) at Gettysburg.

Custer led several charges at Gettysburg, including one where his horse was shot out from under him. On his final charge (mounted once again), Custer raised his saber and shouted, “come on, you Wolverines!” as he drove off the dismounted Rebels. His glory came at a great cost, however: 50 percent of the soldiers in his company were killed during the battle. The tales of his heroism spread far and wide, and his name was soon synonymous with victory in the war.  His notoriety also shifted the attitude of Libby’s dad, and in time he was able to successfully ask for her hand in marriage.

6. He considered being a coal baron or a politician after the Civil War

Because of his celebrity Custer was well-connected, and as the military grew smaller and his sense of purpose after the war faded, he considered working in both the coal industry and politics. But before he could move on either option, Gen. Sherman summoned him to help move the country westward.

7.  He was demoted to colonel for a while

As tends to happen after every major war, the U.S. Army downsized following the Civil War, which reduced the number of general officer billets. In order to remain on active duty Custer had to accept being reduced to the rank of colonel for a while.

8. While he was popular with troops during the Civil War, his men hated him while he blazed across the wild west

From his first days establishing a more permanent U.S. military presence in Texas until that fateful day on the plains of Montana he was constrained by an unresponsive military bureaucracy and limited resources, and those things contributed to a draconian, self-centered, and often hypocritical leadership style that tended to trash morale.

9. He was killed at Little Bighorn only 15 years after leaving West Point

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers
Custer with a group of scouts, including Bloody Knife (kneeling left), who warned him about the number of Sioux braves waiting at Little Bighorn.

Custer miscalculated his enemy on June 25, 1876.  When his scout Bloody Knife told him there were more Sioux waiting for the Seventh Cavalry than they had bullets, he simply responded, “Well, I guess we’ll go through them in one day.” Somewhere Sitting Bull was saying the same thing, and his prediction proved to be the accurate one.

Here’s the Battle of Little Bighorn as portrayed in the movie classic “Little Big Man,” starring Dustin Hoffman as Custer’s scout and Richard Mulligan as Custer:

Articles

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

So it doesn’t seem that the Army or the Marine Corps are in any hurry to explain to Congress why they don’t use a common 5.56mm round.


The final joint version of the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Appropriations Act includes a provision requiring the secretary of defense to submit a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees explaining why the two services are using different types of 5.56 mm ammunition for their M16A4 rifles and M4 carbines.

The bill has already passed the House and is expected to be voted on and approved by the Senate this week before going to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

This is not the first time Congress has gotten its dander up over this subject. Lawmakers asked both services to explain the same thing last year, but Marine Corps leaders said they need to do more testing of the Army’s M855A1 enhanced 5.56mm round.

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers
U.S. Marines and U.S. Army soldiers do not use a common 5.56mm round. Congress wants to know why. (Photo: DoD)

I reached out to the Marine Corps yesterday and the Army today to ask about how they planned to deal with the request. I could almost hear the head-scratching as if neither service had heard anything about it.

According to the provision, the report must be submitted within 180 days after the bill, which includes the entire defense budget for the coming year, is enacted.

If the secretary of defense does not determine that an “emergency” requires the Army and Marine Corps to use the two different types of rifle ammo, they must begin using a common 5.56mm round within a year after the bill is passed, it states.

OK so here is the back story for those you out there who don’t know it.

The Army replaced the Cold-War era M855 5.56mm round in 2010 with its new M855A1 enhanced performance round, the end result of more than a decade of work to develop a lead-free round.

The M855A1 features a steel penetrator on top of a solid copper slug, making it is more dependable than the current M855, Army officials have maintained. It delivers consistent performance at all distances and performed better than the current-issue 7.62mm round against hardened steel targets in testing, Army officials maintain. It penetrates 3/8s-inch-thick steel at ranges approaching 400 meters, tripling the performance of the M855.

The Marine Corps had planned to field an earlier version of the Army’s M855A1 until the program suffered a major setback in August 2009, when testing revealed that the bismuth-tin slug proved to be sensitive to heat which affected the trajectory or intended flight path.

The setback prompted Marine officials to stay with the current M855 round as well as start using the MK 318 Special Operations Science and Technology round developed by U.S. Special Operations Command instead. Commonly known as SOST ammo, the bullet isn’t environmentally friendly, but it offered the Corps a better bullet after the Army’s M855A1 round failed.

Since then the Marine Corps has purchased millions of MK 318 rounds.

The MK 318 bullet weighs 62 grains and has a lead core with a solid copper shank. It uses an open-tip match round design common with sniper ammunition. It stays on target through windshields and car doors better than conventional M855 ammo.

The Army quickly replaced the bismuth-tin slug in its new round with a copper one, solving the bullet’s problems in 2010, Army officials said.

The new Army round also weighs 62 grains and has a 19-grain steel penetrator tip, 9 grains heavier than the tip on old M855 ammo. Seated behind the penetrator is a solid copper slug. The M855A1 consistently penetrates battlefield barriers such as windshields more effectively than the M855, Army officials contend.

What is interesting is that the Corps was supposed to run tests on the current M855A1 round back in 2010. In 2015, Marine Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, then commanding general of Marine Corps Systems Command, told a congressional panel there were plans to test the M855A1 rounds again.

Military.com would really like to know what those tests show. We are going to continue to follow this story with great interest.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Elite Japanese marines headed to disputed islands for exercise

Just a few months after activating its elite Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade for the first time since World War II, Japan plans to send the crisis-response force modeled off the US Marine Corps on its first naval exercise before the end of 2018.

Japan disbanded its military after World War II, but it has grown its armed forces in recent years and established the ARDB in late March 2018 as part of an effort to counter increasing Chinese activity in the East China Sea and around the region.


The new unit — tasked with defending Japan’s remote islands — carried out its first training exercise in early April 2018.

Tokyo has not said where the naval exercise will take place, but analysts have said that the Senkaku Islands — which Japan administers but are claimed by China as the Diaoyu Islands and by Taiwan as the Diaoyutai Islands — may be an area of operations for the new, roughly 2,100-member ARDB, according to Taiwan News.

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers

Service members with the Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade show their capabilities during the ARDB’s unit-activation ceremony at Camp Ainoura, Japan, April 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Amy Phan)

It’s also not yet known what the exercise will entail, though it may include approaching and securing an island or islands.

The unit, which is based in southwest Japan, specializes in operations involving AAV-7 amphibious vehicles, MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and Chinook helicopters.

The unit was reportedly modeled after US Marine Corps Marine Expeditionary Units, which are deployed abroad for extended periods for training and for rapid response to crises, whether it’s a natural disaster or a conflict. Japanese officials received advice from US advisers about the ARDB’s formation.

“The Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade will show to the international society our firm resolve to defend our islands,” a senior Japanese Defense Ministry official said in April 2018.

The expanding role and capabilities of Japan’s military are controversial subjects. The country adopted a pacifist constitution after World War II, eschewing offensive military operations. Recent years have seen a push to strengthen the military, led by the hawkish government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The decision to reactivate the ARDB was a contentious one, as it gave Japan’s Self-Defense Force the ability to land in enemy territory. Such concerns are balanced against worries over China’s increasingly assertive actions in the region.

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers

Japan’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade takes part in a drill at Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, on the southwest island of Kyushu, April 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Amy Phan)

The ARDB’s first naval exercise appears to be a response to Beijing’s recent naval exercises around Taiwan, including drills in the Yellow Sea between August 10 and 13, 2018, a window that overlapped with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s departure for a trip to the US and Latin America.

The latter region is home to 10 of Taiwan’s remaining 18 formal allies — China has lured away two of Taipei’s Latin American allies over the past year.

The Chinese naval drills included air-defense and anti-missile live-fire exercises — meant to counter the capabilities of the US, Japan, and other militaries active in the region.

The formation of the ARDB is not the only move Japan has made to bolster its military or to counter China. The country has pursued external alliances and partnerships as part of that effort, but much of its focus has been on internal reforms.

It lifted a ban on military exports in 2014, and in 2015 the Japanese parliament approved a law allowing the country’s military to mobilize overseas under certain conditions. Japan’s 2017 military budget was its largest ever.

In March 2018, Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force carried out its largest reorganization since 1954, creating unified commands and launching the ARDB.

More recently, the government said it would raise the maximum age for military recruits from 26 to 32, hoping to expand the pool of potential soldiers that has shrunk due to low birth rates and an aging population.

“Other countries, like Japan, are really … reinvigorating their own military capability or reforming the constitution, like Abe has tried to do,” Hervé Lemahieu, a research fellow at Australian think tank the Lowy Institute, told Business Insider in May 2018. “That’s also been called internal rebalancing by the Japanese.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Army is training to fight in Megacities

In one city block, future soldiers could find themselves in an intense gunfight with enemy militants. In another, soldiers might crawl through debris to rescue trapped residents or deliver needed supplies. At the city’s opposite end, U.S. troops could be attempting to quell a civilian riot.

As urban populations worldwide continue to rise, the probability of these scenarios increases.


From the metropolitan sprawl of Tokyo with its 36 million inhabitants, to the massive clutter of rush hour traffic in Seoul, mega cities present a jarringly daunting obstacle to the future of world combat operations, Army senior leaders said at the 2018 LANPAC conference.

“The complexities that go on in this scale almost are unimaginable,” said retired Lt. Gen. James Dubik, former commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq.

Additionally, if current trends continue, two thirds of the world’s population will reside in large, metropolitan areas, according to United Nations projections. Threats to megacities take increased importance in the Asia-Pacific, where a majority of the world’s megacities are concentrated.

Making matters worse, many of the cities sit inside the Ring of Fire, a 25,000-mile chain in the Pacific basin rampant with volcanic eruptions and unpredictable seismic activity. Some nations, such as Japan, sit on one of the most active tectonic plates in the world. Densely populated cities that include Bangkok and urban centers in Bangladesh are prone to natural disasters.

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers
Paratroopers assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment provides security on a hallway during a nighttime air assault of a simulated enemy compound during urban warfare training at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.
(Photo by Spc. John Lytle)


U.S. forces scarcely encountered operations in megacities in World War II, or the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

“The challenge of megacities is unlike (anything) we’ve had to deal with in history,” said Dr. Russell Glenn, G-2 director of plans and policy at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.


With so much of a nation’s population contained in a compact, urban space, megacities pose a vastly different challenge from the deserts of the Middle East soldiers have grown accustomed to.

“Every act you do in a city reverberates,” said Gen. Stephen Townsend, TRADOC commander, who spoke via video teleconference at LANPAC.

Military units in rural areas, deserts and small villages can contain the aftereffects of combat. In a large urban environment, skyscrapers, large structures and traffic can cause a domino effect that spread throughout a city.

Glenn added that smaller subsystems comprise a megacity that in turn is part of a much larger system that can extend worldwide.

A new kind of war

To prepare for the complexities of urban warfare, TRADOC has created simulations for soldiers to prepare for urban terrain. Weeks of coordination and planning must be implemented for a few hours of training, but Army leaders believe it will prepare soldiers for future conflicts. Townsend said the Army has considered increasing the scale and size of their urban-simulated training centers. He added facilities can never match the scale needed to truly simulate warfighting in a megacity environment.

“Our simulations have not kept up with changes in our formations — changes in warfare,” Townsend said. “So we’ve got to advance our simulations.”

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Lt. Gen. Michael Bills, 8th Army commanding general, discusses warfighting in a large city environment during the 2018 AUSA Conference.
(Photo by Joe Lacdan)


In March 2018, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division spent close to a month training for combat in underground tunnels and structures at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. They simulated chemical attacks. Soldiers learned to spontaneously alter current operating procedures to adapt to a city environment.

The Army has been working on a synthetic training environment to bolster its capabilities, while also incorporating space and cyber capabilities more than before. Multi-domain operations will be crucial, commanders said.

Urban ‘flow’

No amount of planning, study or preparation can prepare a military unit for the unique rhythm of a major city or what Townsend labeled the “flow.” The city’s flow can’t be clearly defined but its impact can never be understated, the general said. It can be felt during rush hour traffic or by careful observation over time. A city’s social infrastructure carries more importance than its physical infrastructure, noted Glenn. But understanding how a megacity’s population moves and lives can provide valuable insight for learning a city’s unique intricacies.

To better understand a city’s flow, Townsend said the Army must consult with a city’s police force, fire department and its citizens. In April 2018, the Army held a panel discussion in New York City to discuss logistics and how through interagency cooperation a force might handle the environment’s unique challenges. Gen. Robert Brown, U.S. Army Pacific commanding general, Townsend and New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill joined the panel.

“The point that came through … more clearly emphasized more than any other was the need to understand our partnership,” Glenn said. “Take advantage of those military and civilian (relationships), only then can we fully understand the environment that we’re working in.”

Glenn said that if wartime conditions necessitate it, a military unit can impose or alter flow, so long as it benefits the friendly population and minimizes friction.

Mosul opened the door

The July 2017 re-capture of Mosul from ISIS forces presented perhaps a blueprint for the future of urban warfare.

As the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force in Iraq, Townsend said he observed firsthand strategies deployed by the Iraqi army to regain control of the city.

Townsend believes potential adversaries noticed too.

“I think the enemy has watched Mosul,” the general said. “I think they will deliberately go to the cities and dig in there to fight because they know it takes away a lot of our technological advantages … the range of our weapons is degraded — the effects of our weapons are degraded.

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers
(Photo by Joe Lacdan)



“So I think we’re going to see battle in megacities and there’s little way to avoid it.”

Townsend saw the difficulties of urban warfare in the northern Iraqi city which has a population of less than one million. His unit’s command control systems lagged and struggled to keep pace with the conflict. He said digital maps and imagery were impacted.

“The urban landscape changes so rapidly,” Townsend said. “Our C2 systems, our targeting systems … became outdated quickly because the urban landscape was changing faster than we could update our imagery.”

Growing threat

By 2030, the UN predicts the world’s 30 mega cities will also double to 60. Large-scale cities will increase from 45 to 88. America’s potential enemies, China, Russia and North Korea will take advantage of this trend.

“Wars are basically won or lost where the people are — where the population is,” Townsend said.

The Army’s solution: better training, preparation and greater trust. At TRADOC, more soldiers are receiving training in an urban environment. Soldiers must also learn to trust, not only first-responding agencies but accepting greater responsibility, Townsend said.

“As powerful as our mission command systems are, they are all challenged by the environment — the complex terrain that is a city … modern city,” Townsend said.

“You can’t go more than one floor deep without losing (communication) with everybody who’s up on the surface.

“So this whole notion of conveying commanders’ intent, and empowering subordinates … to achieve that commanders’ intent, and trusting them to do that is exactly how we’ll have to fight in even small cities.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The new Army Football uniforms will be in honor of the Big Red One

Every second Saturday of December, the soldiers of West Point settle their differences with the sailors and Marines of Annapolis in a good, old-fashioned football game. It’s a fiercely heated contest — and not just for the players on the field, but between entire branches.

Remember, when it comes to the troops, any little thing that can be used as bragging rights will be — even the uniforms are a type of competition. Traditionally, each team dons a new military history-inspired uniform for the Army-Navy game. Bringing the best threads to the gridiron isn’t officially a contest, but if it were, hot damn the Army would be winning.


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It’s unclear at this time if all Cadets on the field will be wearing the Black Lion or just the ones wearing the 28th Infantry Regiment on their lapel.

(West Point Athletics)

This year, the soldiers are honoring the First Infantry Division by sporting a uniform inspired by the Big Red One. It was chosen because 2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. While there were many American units that fought, several of whom are still around, the 1st ID is often heralded for their decisive victory at the Battle of Cantigny.

The iconic Black Lions of Cantigny have been incorporated into the shoulders of the uniforms. The rest of the uniform is a flat black with red trimmings. It features, of course, the Nike logo (the team’s sponsor) and the unit insignia. On the collars are insignias that represent the various regiments of the 1st Infantry Division that fought in World War I.

On the back of the helmet, if you look closely, you’ll spot a subtle American flag. Sharp football fans will notice that the flag only has 48 stars on it. Keeping with WWI legacy, this was the flag that the soldiers of WWI fought under, long before Alaska and Hawaii became part of the Union in 1959.

Check out the announcement video below that was posted to the official Army West Point Athletics Facebook page.

Go Army! Beat Navy!

Articles

Donald Trump just got an endorsement from a bunch of generals and admirals

In the 2016 election, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has struggled to get solid backing from some influential groups that many believe are part of the typical GOP constituency.


But on Tuesday, he received an endorsement he didn’t seem to have to fight to earn.

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Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by George Skidmore)

Retired general-grade officers, some 88 in all, wrote in support of a Trump presidency in an open letter that was published on his campaign website. The letter was organized by Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow and Rear Adm. Charles Williams and includes four four-star and 14 three-star generals and admirals.

They argue that Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is the wrong choice for a strong military and that a Trump White House would restore American ranks.

“As retired senior leaders of America’s military, we believe that such a change can only be made by someone who has not been deeply involved with, and substantially responsible for, the hollowing out of our military and the burgeoning threats facing our country around the world,” the letter reads, arguing against supporting Clinton.

And Trump was happy to have the senior former military leaders’ backing.

“It is a great honor to have such amazing support from so many distinguished retired military leaders,” Trump said in a statement on his website. “Keeping our nation safe and leading our armed forces is the most important responsibility of the presidency.”

Clinton has received some endorsements from former general officers, including former Marine Gen. John Allen, who was instrumental in helping bring down al Qaeda in Iraq in Anbar Province.

But the letter comes at a time when former flag officers are coming under fire for their overt political support. In a letter to the Washington Post, retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said retired officers made a “mistake” by speaking at political conventions.

The former top military leader criticized retired Gens. John Allen and Michael Flynn for breaking the tradition of retired generals remaining apolitical.

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey answers a reporter’s question during press briefing with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

“Politicians should take the advice of senior military leaders but keep them off the stage,” Dempsey wrote. “The American people should not wonder where their military leaders draw the line between military advice and political preference. … And our nation’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines should not wonder about the political leanings and motivations of their leaders.”

It’s not yet known what effect general officers backing Donald Trump in such force will have. With Election Day just nine weeks away, Trump pulled ahead of Clinton by 2 percent in the latest CNN/ORC poll.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was challenged to a shoot-off by a civilian- and lost

U.S. Navy SEAL and author of Lone Survivor was challenged to a shoot off by a civilian during SHOT SHOW in Las Vegas while promoting Team Never Quit ammo and products.


Judging from the video title we were expecting an embarrassment but to our surprise, the civilian won. They both had a practice shot with an Axelson Tactical 5.56 SPR Combat Series rifle before the qualifying shot and Luttrell’s shot was the furthest from the target. Luttrell took his defeat like a champ and they guy walked away with a fond memory.

Now let’s try that under enemy fire, guy.

Watch:

 

Articles

Today in military history: USS George Washington is launched

On June 9, 1959, America launched the first ballistic missile submarine, forever changing nuclear deterrence.

Following the Korean War, the Cold War increased in intensity as America and the Soviet Union looked for ways to project their power in the event of a nuclear war.

America leapt ahead of its rival with the creation of the Polaris missile, a solid fueled nuclear-armed missile that could be launched from a submarine. The U.S. Navy altered two submarines already under construction to carry 13 Polaris missiles each. The Navy also authorized the construction of three more custom-built subs.

The USS George Washington (SSBN-598) was the first one to be completed. SSBN-598 was the third United States Navy ship to be named in honor of President George Washington — and the first of that name to be purpose-built as a warship. It was launched on June 9, 1959, before taking its first patrol, carrying 13 Polaris missiles with one-megaton warheads that could fly 1,400 miles, on November 15, 1960. 

On April 9, 1981, USS George Washington was broadsided by the Japanese commercial cargo ship Nissho Maru in the East China Sea. The USS George Washington immediately surfaced to search for the other vessel, but due to heavy fog conditions, failed to identify the damage on the Nissho Maru as it headed away in the fog. George Washington headed to port for repairs but sadly the Nissho Maru sank within the half hour.

It was decommissioned in 1985, having never used its lethal payload.

Featured Image: The U.S. Navy ballistic missile submarine USS George Washington (SSBN-598) underway, circa in the 1970s. (U.S. Navy image)

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