The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

American planners looking at contending with North Korea, ISIS remnants and copycats, and fighting in megacities against near-peer enemies have identified a shortfall of current U.S. training and focus: our enemies are turning to tunnels more and more, but modern U.S. forces have no idea how to best fight there.


An Army infantryman is lowered into Vietnamese tunnels during a search-and-destroy mission in Vietnam, 1967.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Howard C. Breedlove)

This has triggered a look at new technology and old tactics that could make the difference in fighting underground. The Defense Intelligence Agency has even floated the idea of a new warfighting domain: subterranean.

First, to define the problem. Insurgent and terrorist cells — notably ISIS, but also many others — have turned to tunneling to hide their activities from the militaries sent to stop them. Some of this is to allow fighters and supplies to flow across the battlefield undetected and unchallenged, but some of it is to hide intelligence and weapons or to force security forces to move through dangerous tunnels during last-ditch fighting.

Meanwhile, North Korea has been tunneling for decades just like communist forces did in Vietnam. Their military assets, including ballistic missiles and warheads, have been stored and moved through tunnels for years, making it harder to ensure an aerial first strike gets them all in one go. Iran has entire missile factories underground.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
An Iranian missile is fired during testing. Iran has built three underground missile factories. In a potential war with the country, expect that someone will have to secure all the subterranean sites.
(Tasnim News Agency)

Modern infrastructure is increasingly built underground, from cable networks and natural gas systems to, increasingly, power lines. This leaves both America and its enemies vulnerable to disruptions of modern water supplies, information sharing, and power supply of multiple types due to underground attacks.

But Americans haven’t fought underground on a large scale since Vietnam, and even the exploits of the heroic tunnel rats pale in comparison to what would be required to take and hold underground territory, especially under the cities and megacities that the bulk of human population will live in within a few decades.

So, the military has turned to DARPA and to long-term planners to figure out how American warfighters will maintain an advantage.

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DARPA announced a new grand challenge last year called the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. The agency opened two research tracks: one for teams that wanted to compete in a physical challenge and one for those who would compete in a virtual challenge.

No matter the course selected, teams have to develop systems that will give American forces and first responders an advantage in human-made tunnel systems, the urban underground (think subways), and natural cave networks. The final event won’t happen until 2021, but the winner of the physical challenge will get million while the virtual track winner will get 0,000.

Meanwhile, the Army has invested 2 million in training soldiers to fight in subterranean networks with a focus on the sewers and other networks constructed either under large cities or as standalone bases. A 2017 assessment estimated that there are 10,000 military facilities constructed partially or entirely underground. Almost 5,000 of them are in North Korea.

“We did recognize, in a megacity that has underground facilities — sewers and subways and some of the things we would encounter … we have to look at ourselves and say ‘okay, how does our current set of equipment and our tactics stack up?'” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, told Military.com in an interview. “What are the aspects of megacities that we have paid the least attention to lately, and every megacity has got sewers and subways and stuff that you can encounter.”

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Daron Bush roleplays a simulated casualty at Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa, Japan, Feb. 16, 2018. Imagine having to get injured Marines through miles of caves to medevac within the golden hour.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jamin M. Powell)

The military has been asking for new tunnel hardware for years. A 2016 wishlist from the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office asked for technology that would detect and possibly intrude into tunnels. In 2017, the Army got a new piece of equipment that allows them to map underground tunnels to an unknown extent from the surface.

Still, there’s a lot to be done. Troops will need less cumbersome armor or will be forced to fight bare in cramped quarters. Batteries will need to be light and compact, but even then it will be impossible to carry enough power to use many of the modern gadgets soldiers are used to. Many current technologies, like most radios and GPS, are useless with a few feet of rock disrupting signals, so special guidance and comms are essential.

Even with new gadgets and tactics, subterranean fighting will be horrible. Cramped quarters limit maneuverability, favoring a defender that can set up an ambush against an attacker who doesn’t have room to maneuver. Front-line medics will take on increased responsibility as it will be essentially impossible to evacuate patients from complex cave systems within the golden hour.

So, expect a call for modern tunnel rats within the next few years. But, good news for the infantrymen who will inevitably get this job: You’ll be equipped with a lot more than just a pistol and flashlight, and you might even have enough room to walk upright.

Articles

Army round triggers problems in Marine M27 auto rifle

Preliminary results of an Army test to see how the service’s M855A1 5.56mm round performs in Marine Corps weapons show that the enhanced performance round causes reliability and durability problems in the Marine M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, service officials say.


The Marine Corps in March added the M27 and the M16A4 rifles to the Army’s ongoing testing of M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland after lawmakers questioned why the Army and the Marines use two different types of 5.56mm ammunition.

Also read: Special operators want a new sniper rifle in this rare caliber

“One of the reasons we were doing that test was because of congressional language from last year that said ‘you two services need to look at getting to a common round,’ so we heard Congress loud and clear last year,” Col. Michael Manning, program manager for the Marine Corps Infantry Weapon Systems, told Military.com in a Dec. 15 Interview.

Lawmakers again expressed concern this year in the final joint version of the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Appropriations Act, which 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.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
A Navy corpsman performs immediate action on the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palm, Calif. | US Marine Corps photo

Congress has approved the provision, but the bill is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature. The report must be submitted within 180 days after enactment of the legislation, which includes the entire defense budget for the coming year.

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.

“The 2017 NDAA language doesn’t surprise us; we kind of figured they were going to say that,” Manning said.

Lead-free round

The Army replaced the Cold War-era M855 5.56mm round in 2010 with its new M855A1 EPR, the 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 said. It delivers consistent performance at all distances and penetrates 3/8s-inch-thick steel at ranges approaching 400 meters, tripling the performance of the M855, Army officials maintain.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
The US Army’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round. | US Army photo

The Marine Corps still uses the M855 but since 2009 has also relied heavily upon the MK 318, a 5.56mm round that’s popular in the special operations community.

The Army’s M855A1 test, which involves the service’s M4 and M4A1 carbines and the Marine M16A4 and M27, is still ongoing and Marine officials are expecting a final test report in the April-May 2017 timeframe, Manning said.

Preliminary findings of the test show that the Army’s M855A1 round meets all the requirements for a 5.56mm general purpose round in Army weapon systems, “but does not meet the system reliability requirement when fired from the USMC M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jesse Stalder said in a Dec. 16 email.

The Marine Corps began fielding the M27 in 2010 to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry squads.

The M27, made by Heckler Koch, is a version of the German gun-maker’s HK 416, an M4-style weapon that used a piston gas system instead of the direct gas impingement system found on the M4 and M16A4.

The Marines like it so much that the service is considering making it the next service rifle for infantry battalions in the Corps.

“In testing the Army states there was a reliability issue; that is true,” Chris Woodburn, deputy branch chief for the Marine Corps’ Maneuver Branch that deals with requirements, told Military.com in a Dec. 20 telephone interview.

Reliability refers to mean rounds between stoppages, Woodburn said.

“In this case, it appears the stoppages that we were seeing were primarily magazine-related in terms of how the magazine was feeding the round into the weapon,” he said. “We don’t know that for sure, but it looks that way.”

New magazine

After further testing, Woodburn said the Marines have found a solution in the Magpul PMAG, a highly-reliable polymer magazine that has seen extensive combat use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It appears we have found a magazine that takes care of the reliability issues,” Woodburn said.

Marine Corps Systems Command on Monday released a message which authorizes the PMAG magazine for use in the M27, the M16A4 and M4 carbines, Woodburn said.

“The reason they did that is because when Marines are deploying forward, they are sometimes receiving M855A1, and we need to ensure they have the ability to shoot that round,” Woodburn said.

“In terms of the cause analysis and failure analysis, that has not been done, but what we do know is that the PMAG works,” he said.

Preliminary tests also show that the M855A1 also causes durability problems in the M27, Woodburn said.

“Where it still appears that we still have an issue with it is it appears to degrade the durability,” Woodburn said. “Durability is mean rounds between essential function failures, so you are talking bolt-part failures, barrel failures and the like.

“It is a hotter round and we think, that may be contributing to it, but we won’t know for sure until the testing is complete,” he said.

Previous setback

In 2008, the Marine Corps came out with a requirement for a new 5.56mm round that would penetrate battlefield barriers such as car windshields with our losing performance better than the older M855 round, Marine officials maintain.

The service 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 earlier, bismuth-tin slug design proved to be sensitive to heat which affected the trajectory or intended flight path.

The Army quickly redesigned the M855A1 with its current solid copper slug, but 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, or SOST, round developed by U.S. Special Operations Command instead.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Sgt. Jeremy T. Wellenreiter, a primary marksmanship instructor with Weapons Training Battalion, fires an M-4 Carbine at Robotic Moving Targets at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel

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, Marine officials maintain.

The MK 318 and the Army’s M855A1 “were developed years ago; they both were developed for a specific requirement capability separate and aside from each other,” Manning said. “The bottom line is both of these rounds are very good rounds.”

Both the Army and the Marine Corps “would like to get to a common round,” Manning added.

The Army, however, maintains that it is “committed to the M855A1” round and so far has produced more than one billion rounds of the ammunition, Stalder said.

“It provides vastly superior performance across each target set at an extremely affordable cost and eliminates up to 2,000 tons of lead that would otherwise be deposited annually onto our training bases,” Stalder said. “More than 1.6B rounds have been produced and reports on combat effectiveness have been overwhelmingly positive.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Female veterans pose on same ship that carried WW2 troops

Award-winning nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets is releasing its 13th annual fundraising calendar to raise money for VA hospitals; ill, injured, and homeless veterans; deployed troops; and military families. The 2019 calendar, photographed on the iconic Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, features 19 female veterans decked out in World War II inspired fashion.

“Fans of Art Deco will appreciate the look of the upcoming calendar that reflects the vintage glamour of this 1936 cruise liner, now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a floating hotel,” said Pin-Ups For Vets Founder, Gina Elise, who established Pin-Ups For Vets in 2006, as a way to honor the WWII service of her grandfather.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

Gina Elise, Founder

Gina has devoted her life to giving back to the military community. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over ,000 to help hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans’ healthcare program expansion across the United States.

The 2019 calendar is officially ready for pre-order at www.PinUpsForVets.com. All 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar pictures were taken by Shane Karns Photography — and let me just tell you…he really nailed it.


The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

Kirstie Ennis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran

From a linguist, to a Human Intelligence Collector, to a combat photographer, to a combat medic, to a motor transportation operator, to a heavy equipment transporter driver leading convoys in Iraq, to a helicopter door gunner in Afghanistan, these ladies also include an above-the-knee amputee veteran (Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis — who, by the way, at the time of this publishing was climbing Mount Denali in support of Service to Summit to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds or modifies homes and gives them to veterans in need).

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

Julie Noyes, Army veteran

Army veteran Julie Noyes says, “It can be so difficult as a female service member to feel empowered in her beauty without feeling like she may betray the professionalism of her uniform when we only seek to be treated like our male counterparts. I feel that Pin-Ups for Vets does a superb job at raising money and awareness for our elderly, wounded vets and our currently deployed troops while also showcasing the class and beauty of female veterans without objectifying them. What Pin-Ups Vets Founder Gina Elise has done with this publication and non-profit is nothing short of empowering and inspiring.”

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

Naumika Kumar, Navy Veteran

“I will always be thankful to the Navy. I met my husband in the Navy who is also a veteran now and I graduated from National University with Master’s Degree in 2012 as well. I am happy to see there are organization such as Pin-Ups For Vets who are doing so much to support the military and Veterans. I am happy that I got an opportunity to be part of the organization.”

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

Patti Gomez, Army veteran

Patti is a veteran of the United States Army, where she proudly served in the New York Army National Guard as a 35M (Human Intelligence Collector) of the 42nd Infantry Division, located in Glenville, New York. She volunteered to attend JRTC in Fort Polk, Louisiana, alongside the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in July 2016. She also trained at Warfighter at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with her unit in October 2017. Patti attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and attended Advanced Individual Training at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

“Pin-Ups for Vets is an incredible organization with an important mission. Being a part of a nonprofit that helps veterans and empowers women at the same time is truly an honor and one that I couldn’t pass up when I was asked to be a part of the 2019 calendar. As the reigning Mrs. New York America, my platform is veteran organizations — and Pin-Ups for Vets is truly among the best of them!”

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

Check out that cover image!

The 2019 calendar can be purchased at: www.PinUpsForVets.com or by check to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US and Taliban agree to the ‘framework’ of a peace deal

U.S. and Taliban officials have agreed in principle to the “framework” of a peace deal, The New York Times quotes U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad as saying after five days of talks between the militant group and the United States in Qatar.

Both sides have said “progress” had been made in the talks aimed at ending the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.

“We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” The New York Times quoted Khalilzad as saying on Jan. 28, 2019, in an interview in Kabul.


In the framework, the militants agree to prevent Afghan territory from being used by groups such as Al-Qaeda to stage terrorist attacks.

That could lead to a full pullout of U.S. combat troops, but only in return for the Taliban entering talks with the Afghan government and agreeing to a lasting cease-fire.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

Zalmay Khalilzad.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The Taliban “committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals,” Khalilzad was quoted as saying.

“We felt enough confidence that we said we need to get this fleshed out, and details need to be worked out,” he added, according to The New York Times.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has struggled to fend off a resurgent Taliban and other militant groups.

The Taliban has so far refused to hold direct negotiations with Afghan government officials, whom they dismiss as “puppets.”

In separate comments made at a meeting with the Afghan media in Kabul on Jan. 28, 2019, Khalilzad said, “I have encouraged the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government. It is our policy to get to intra-Afghan talks.”

The militants have said they will only begin talks with the government once a firm date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops has been agreed.

In a televised address on Jan. 28, 2019, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called on the Taliban to enter “serious” negotiations with the government in Kabul and “accept Afghans’ demand for peace.”

“Either they join the great nation of Afghanistan with a united voice, or be the tool of foreign objectives,” he told the militant group.

Ghani spoke after Khalilzad briefed him and other Afghan officials in Kabul on the six-day talks he held with Taliban representatives in the Qatari capital, Doha, January 2019.

The president’s office quoted Khalilzad as saying he had held talks about the withdrawal of foreign troops and a possible cease-fire, but nothing was agreed upon.

“The U.S. insisted in their talks with the Taliban that the only solution for lasting peace in Afghanistan is intra-Afghan talks,” Khalilzad said, according to a statement.

“My role is to facilitate” such talks between the insurgents and Kabul, Khalilzad was quoted as saying.

The U.S. envoy said on Jan. 26, 2019, that the United States and the Taliban had made “significant progress,” adding that the Doha talks were “more productive than they have been in the past.”

He also emphasized that the sides “have a number of issues left to work out,” and that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that while there was “progress” at the meetings, reports of an agreement on a cease-fire were “not true.”

Mujahid also said in a statement that talks about “unresolved matters” will continue.

Until the withdrawal of international troops was hammered out, “progress in other issues is impossible,” he insisted.

Another round of peace talks between the Taliban and the United States was tentatively set for Feb. 25, 2019, the Reuters news agency quoted a Qatari Foreign Ministry official as saying on Jan. 28, 2019.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Soldier killed in Afghanistan was mayor in Utah

U.S. politicians and media are reporting that the service member killed in an apparent insider attack in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, was the 39-year-old mayor of a city in the state of Utah.

The Salt Lake Tribune and other media reported on Nov. 3, 2018, that North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor was serving with the National Guard when he was killed earlier in the day.

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and the state’s lieutenant governor, Spencer Cox, confirmed Taylor’s death.


“Devastating news. North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor was killed today while serving in Afghanistan,” Cox wrote on his Facebook page.

“I hate this. I’m struggling for words….This war has once again cost us the best blood of a generation. We must rally around his family,” he added.

North Ogden is a city of 17,000 people north of Salt Lake City.

Taylor was deployed to Afghanistan in January 2018 with the Utah National Guard. At the time, he told local media he would serve as an adviser to an Afghan commando battalion.

A statement from the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan said another U.S. service member was wounded in the attack.

The assailant was a member of the Afghan security forces who was immediately killed by other Afghan forces, the statement said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the “green-on-blue” attack — in which Afghan forces turn their weapons on international soldiers with whom they are working.

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

Articles

This British sniper took out six insurgents by detonating a Taliban suicide vest

A 20-year-old Lance Cpl. of Britain’s Coldstream Guards was right on target in December 2013. His quick shooting prevented a major offensive by Taliban fighters when he hit the trigger of an enemy suicide vest – with a round from his L115A3 rifle.


The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
The L115A3 is the primary weapon of British military snipers. (MoD photo)

The UK’s Telegraph reported that his unit was hundreds strong during a joint patrol with Afghan counterparts in Helmand Province, near Karakan. They came under heavy fire from a Taliban ambush. The commanding officer of the 9/12 Royal Lancers, Lt. Col. Richard Slack, did not give the name of the sniper, but acknowledged his decisive action.

“The guy was wearing a vest. He was identified by the sniper moving down a tree line and coming up over a ditch,” said Slack. “He had a shawl on. It rose up and the sniper saw he had a machine gun. … They were in contact and he was moving to a firing position. The sniper engaged him and the guy exploded.”

It was the lance corporal’s second shot of his tour. When he hit the vest’s trigger, the man exploded, taking out five more of his fellow fighters. He was 930 yards away.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
An Afghan Taliban suicide vest. (Khaama Press)

The sniper’s first shot killed an enemy machine gunner during the same engagement. That shot was from more than 1,400 yards away.

When the smoke cleared, British forces found a second vest containing 44 pounds of explosives.

Holly Watt of the Telegraph called it “one of the dwindling number of gun battles between British forces and the insurgents.”

Articles

North Korea: Missile tests were practice runs to hit US military in Japan

North Korea’s state-run media announced its latest missile launches were conducted to practice hitting US military bases in Japan, according to The Washington Post on Tuesday.


“If the United States or South Korea fires even a single flame inside North Korean territory, we will demolish the origin of the invasion and provocation with a nuclear tipped missile,” a Korean Central News Agency statement read.

Related: US sets up ballistic missile defense system in South Korea

Three of the four ballistic missiles fired Monday morning flew 600 miles and landed in the sea in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The other missile landed outside the zone.

Studying the photos provided by North Korea, analysts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies deduced that the missiles were extended-range Scuds. Having tested these missiles in the past, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute, said that North Korea’s test was not to see whether they could operate but to assess how fast units could deploy them.

“They want to know if they can get these missiles out into the field rapidly and deploy them all at once,” Lewis told The Post. “They are practicing launching a nuclear-armed missile and hitting targets in Japan as if this was a real war.”

The extended-range Scud missiles could be produced more cheaply than other medium-range missiles in the Hermit Kingdom’s arsenal, according to Lewis. This could be disastrous for allied nations, such as Japan and South Korea, not only because North Korea could release a barrage of these missiles, but the rate at which they could be fired can be difficult to counter, even with the US’s defensive systems.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Lockheed Martin

One of these defensive systems, the antimissile battery system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), was in the process of being deployed on Monday night in Osan Air Base, less than 300 miles from the missile launch location.

“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” said Adm. Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, in a news release.

Designed to shoot incoming missiles, THAAD has been compared to shooting a bullet with another bullet. However, analysts say that the system would have difficulty in intercepting missiles launched simultaneously — as in Monday’s test.

Also read: 4 things you need to know about North Korea’s missile program

According to a KCNA statement translated by KCNA Watch, Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, supervised the launches from the Hwasong artillery units, who are “tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency.”

The launches came shortly after an annual series of US-South Korea military exercises that kicked off earlier this month. The ground, air, naval, and special-operations exercises, which consist of 17,000 US troops and THAAD systems, was predicted by scholars to be met with some retaliatory measures by North Korea.

“In spite of the repeated warnings from [North Korea], the United States kicked off this month the largest-ever joint military exercise with South Korea,” said North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Choi during a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva on Tuesday, according to Reuters. “The annual, joint military exercise is a typical expression of US hostile policy towards the DPRK, and a major cause of escalation of the tension, that might turn into actual war.”

Articles

3 at defense firm admit defrauding US by $6M on Humvee parts

Two brothers who formerly owned a Pennsylvania defense contractor and their former chief financial officer have pleaded guilty in a $6 million scheme to overcharge the U.S. Defense Department for Humvee window kits.


The Butler-based contractor, Ibis Tek LLC, removed the former co-owners, Thomas Buckner, 68, of Gibsonia, and John Buckner, 66, of Lyndora, in January along with former CFO Harry Kramer, 52, of Pittsburgh.

The three pleaded guilty on May 31st in Pittsburgh to charges of major fraud against the government and income tax evasion for filing returns that didn’t include the illegal income, and other irregularities. The Buckners will be sentenced Oct. 10 and each faces a likely prison sentence of 41 to 51 months, while Kramer will be sentenced Oct. 18 and faces a likely sentence of 24 to 30 months, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson Cohen told the judge.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Teresa Cleveland

“Ibis Tek was not and will not be charged” in the scheme, Cohen said. The company released a statement when the criminal charges were announced in March, saying, “Our company was cleared in the related investigation which dates back to activities eight years ago and we, the over 250 employees of the new Ibis Tek, continue forward on our mission, which is to proudly serve the warfighter and our various government customers.”

The Buckners have agreed to repay more than $6 million to the government, and have already repaid nearly $900,000 in income tax losses, according to their attorneys who spoke in court, but declined comment after May 31st’s proceedings. Thomas Buckner has agreed to forfeit $5,085,709 to cover his share of the losses and has already paid $1 million of that debt, defense attorney Alexander Lindsay Jr. said. John Buckner will repay the government $1 million.

Additionally, Thomas Buckner has already repaid more than $423,000 in federal income tax losses, and John Buckner has repaid nearly $457,000, their attorneys said.

The target of the fraud was the Warren, Michigan-based U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, or TACOM, an arm of the Defense Department which procures military vehicles from contractors.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
DoD Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Natalia Murillo

The brothers scammed the government by purchasing emergency escape window kits for $20 each from a Chinese firm, but selling them to TACOM through a shell company they created called Alloy America, Cohen said. Alloy America was located at Ibis Tek’s address and “served little purpose other than to commit this fraud,” Cohen said. Kramer kept the books for Ibis Tek and Alloy America, Cohen said.

The Buckners and Kramer not only passed on the bogus $70-per-frame cost to TACOM, they also sold scrap aluminum relating to the manufacture of the frames, but kept the money. The Buckners and Kramer were supposed to credit the scrap revenue to TACOM as a way of helping the government agency control costs, Cohen said.

Kramer was charged because he helped the Buckners by filing false tax returns that understated Ibis Tek’s income in 2009 and 2010. The Buckner brothers’ personal tax returns for those years also understated their income because they owned the company 50-50 at the time, Cohen said.

Ibis Tek was sold in February to investors who say the new company had nothing to do with the scam.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy needs help fixing its $13 billion supercarriers

The Navy is struggling to fix its new Ford-class supercarriers, so the service has called in outside experts to help find a solution amid delivery delays and rising costs.

The advanced weapons elevators, critical systems that the secretary of the Navy bet his job on, are one of the biggest problems. Only two of the 11 electromagnetic lifts on the USS Gerald R. Ford are currently operational.

The advanced weapons elevators on the Ford-class carriers are designed to move 20,000 pounds of munitions up to the flight deck at a rate of 150 feet per minute, a significant improvement over elevators on the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers able to lift only 10,500 pounds at 100 feet per minute. These lifts are crucial to increasing the aircraft sortie rate, thus increasingly the lethality of the new carriers over their predecessors.


But that requires they work, and right now, they don’t.

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer told President Donald Trump in December 2018 that “the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me.” He told reporters earlier this year that “we’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done. I haven’t been fired yet by anyone. Being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

The secretary assured the president that problems with the elevators would be resolved by the end of the post-shakedown availability (PSA), a maintenance period following initial sea trials. The PSA was expected to wrap up in July 2019, but it has since been delayed to October 2019.

Trump has fixated on the Ford-class’s electromagnetic catapults that launch planes into the air, and said the future carriers would return to steam-powered catapults.

Even with the delays, the Navy doubted it could solve the elevator problem by the end of the PSA. “The elevators are going to require more work after the PSA,” a Navy official previously told Business Insider. “The elevators are the long pole in the tent,” he said, clarifying that integration remains the greatest challenge.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni.

So, the Navy has decided to bring in outside help, Breaking Defense reported July 1, 2019.

“We’ve gathered a team of experts on the carrier right now, which will work with the shipbuilder to get Ford’s weapons elevators completed in the most efficient timeline possible,” Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James Geurts told the defense media outlet in a statement. “We have a full court press on the advanced weapons elevators.”

The team of experts called into work with Huntington Ingalls at the Newport News shipyard in Virginia has experience with electromagnetic systems, electrical engineering, and systems integration. This group will “recommend new design changes that can improve elevator activities for the rest of the Ford class,” Guerts said.

While the Navy has yet to get the Ford working as intended, the service has already committed billions of dollars to the development of three additional Ford-class carriers.

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

Articles

These 3 active duty officers served as National Security Advisor before McMaster

With the news that Army Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster has been chosen to serve as National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump, this marks the fourth time an active-duty military officer has filled this position.


Here is a look at the previous three.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Air Force Lt. Gen Brent Scowcroft meeting with Vice President Nelson Rockefeller during his tenure as Deputy National Security Advisor. Scowcroft would later become the National Security Advisor – serving 28 days until retiring from the Air Force. He later served under George H. W. Bush. (White House photo)

1. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft

Brent Scowcroft was active-duty for less than a month while serving as National Security Advisor to President Gerald Ford, taking the job on Nov. 3, 1975, and retiring on Dec. 1, 1975. Still, he is technically the first active-duty military officer to serve in this position.

Scowcroft served for the remainder of the Ford administration, then was tapped to serve as National Security Advisor for a second stint under George H. W. Bush – holding that post for the entirety of that presidency. During his second run as NSA, Scowcroft’s tenure saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, Operation Desert Storm, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
(Official U.S. Navy biography photo)

2. Navy Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter

Perhaps the most notorious active-duty officer to hold the position due to his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, Poindexter was National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan during the 1986 Freedom of Navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra that turned violent, Operation El Dorado Canyon, and the Reykjavik Summit in October, 1986.

Poindexter was initially convicted on five charges connected with Iran-Contra, but the convictions were tossed out on appeal. In 1987, he retired at the rank of Rear Admiral (Upper Half).

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Colin Powell briefing President Ronald Reagan in 1988. (Photo from Reagan Presidential Library)

3. Army Lt. Gen. Colin L. Powell

Probably the most notable active-duty officer to serve in the post, Colin Powell served as National Security Advisor from November 1987 to the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term. While he was in that position, the U.S. and Iran had a series of clashes culminating in Operation Praying Mantis and the downing of an Iranian Airbus by the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes (CG 49).

After his tenure as National Security Advisor, Powell went on to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – then was Secretary of State during George W. Bush’s first term as president.

As a note for the fashion-watchers, while all three predecessors wore suits, We Are The Mighty has learned from a source close to senior Trump staffers that incoming Nationals Security Advisor McMaster has been given the option to wear his uniform while holding the post.

A spokesperson for Scowcroft noted, “It is not against the law but it is not usually done.”

Neither Powell nor the White House Press Office responded to a WATM request for comment by post time.

MIGHTY TRENDING

25 killed in Afghan helicopter crash

An Afghan National Army helicopter carrying senior officials has crashed in bad weather in the western province of Farah, killing all 25 on board, a local official says.

Naser Mehri, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the helicopter crashed shortly after taking off from the mountainous Anar Dara district in the morning of Oct. 31, 2018, heading toward the nearby province of Herat.

He said the copter crashed in bad weather. A Taliban spokesman said the militants shot it down.


Mehri said the passengers included the deputy corps commander of Afghanistan’s western zone and the head of the Farah provincial council.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi claimed the militants had downed the helicopter but failed to provide evidence. Defense Ministry spokesman Ghafor Ahmad Jawed rejected the Taliban claim of responsibility as “totally wrong.”

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber struck outside Afghanistan’s largest prison on the eastern edge of Kabul, killing at least seven people, including prison workers and security personnel, officials said.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

Afghan Col. Mahmoud Shah oversees the transfer of more than 30 detainees from Parwan Detention Facility to the Afghan National Detention Facility in October 2008.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said that the attacker targeted a bus carrying prison workers early on Oct. 31, 2018. The sprawling Pul-e Charkhi prison houses hundreds of inmates, including scores of Taliban militants.

According to Abadullah Karimi, a prison official, the attack occurred near the prison gate where a number of visitors were waiting to pass a rigorous security check before entering.

Another five were wounded in the blast, the officials said.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy just rescued two Americans lost at sea (and their dogs)

The Sasebo-based amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) rendered assistance to two distressed mariners, Oct. 25, whose sailboat had strayed well off its original course.


The mariners, Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, both from Honolulu, and their two dogs had set sail from Hawaii to Tahiti this spring. They had an engine casualty May 30 during bad weather but continued on, believing they could make it to land by sail.

Two months into their journey and long past when they originally estimated they would reach Tahiti, they began to issue distress calls. The two continued the calls daily, but they were not close enough to other vessels or shore stations to receive them.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Tasha Fuiaba, an American mariner who had been sailing for five months on a damaged sailboat, climbs the accommodation ladder to board the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48). Ashland, operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a routine deployment, rescued two American mariners who had been in distress for several months after their sailboat had a motor failure and had strayed well off its original course while traversing the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay/Released)

On Oct. 24, they were discovered 900 miles southeast of Japan by a Taiwanese fishing vessel. The fishing vessel contacted Coast Guard Sector Guam who then coordinated with Taipei Rescue Coordination Center, the Japan Coordination Center, and the Joint Coordination Center in Honolulu to render assistance.

Operating near the area on a routine deployment, Ashland made best speed to the location of the vessel in the early morning on Oct. 25 and arrived on scene at 10:30 a.m that morning. After assessing the sailboat unseaworthy, Ashland crew members brought the distressed mariners and their two dogs aboard the ship at 1:18 p.m.

“I’m grateful for their service to our country. They saved our lives. The pride and smiles we had when we saw [U.S. Navy] on the horizon was pure relief,” said Appel.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
USS Ashland (LSD 48) Command Master Chief Gary Wise welcomes aboard Jennifer Appel, an American mariner who had received assistance from Ashland crew members. Ashland, operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a routine deployment, rescued two American mariners who had been in distress for several months after their sailboat had a motor failure and had strayed well off its original course while traversing the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay/Released)

Appel said they survived the situation by bringing water purifiers and over a year’s worth of food on board, primarily in the form of dry goods such as oatmeal, pasta and rice.

Once on Ashland, the mariners were provided with medical assessments, food and berthing arrangements. The mariners will remain on board until Ashland’s next port of call.

“The U.S. Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation,” said Cmdr. Steven Wasson, Ashland commanding officer.

Part of U.S. 7th Fleet’s forward deployed naval forces out of Sasebo, Japan, Ashland has been on a routine deployment for the past five months as a ready-response asset for any of contingency.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army astronaut follows historic Apollo footsteps

U.S. Army Col. Andrew R. Morgan, M.D., will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, aboard a Soyuz (Union) MS-13 spacecraft on July 20, 2019, at 12:28 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time for a nine-month mission aboard the International Space Station.

“Twenty-five years ago I made the decision to serve my country as a military officer. I view my nine-month mission to the space station as a continuation of that service, not just to my country, but the entire international community.” Morgan said. “Service to others will keep me focused and motivated while I’m away from my family, living and working on board the International Space Station to successfully complete our mission.”


Morgan, who will be the first Army physician in space, is a board-certified Army emergency physician with a sub-specialty certification in primary care sports medicine. During his time aboard the space station Morgan will participate with his crew mates and others to facilitate numerous medical and technological experiments and tasks, as well as a number of planned high-profile space walks.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

U.S. Army Col. Andrew R. Morgan, M.D.

(Photo by Ronald Bailey)

His mission, Expeditions 60, 61 and 62, would make the longest single-mission spaceflight for an Army astronaut and be among the longest ever for an American astronaut when complete.

Morgan will launch with his crew mates from Baikonur Cosmodrome’s famous “Gagarin’s Start” launch pad. Known as LC-1/5, the pad is the same location where the world’s first artificial satellite “Sputnik 1” launched in 1957 as well as the first human in space, Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, in 1961.

Morgan’s crew is also launching on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo XI lunar landing which he considers a significant and meaningful way to commemorate the accomplishment for all humanity.

“An international crew launching to an International Space Station on the 50th anniversary of what was the apex of the space race — it’s an interesting contrast.” Morgan said. “The Expedition 60 crew is honored to commemorate Apollo XI’s historic accomplishment for the world with our launch, and proudly bear the torch for the next generation of space exploration.”

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

U.S. Army Col. Andrew R. Morgan, M.D.

(Photo by Ronald Bailey)

Still serving as an active duty Army officer, Morgan was selected as an astronaut candidate in June 2013, completing the training in July 2015. Prior to his selection as an astronaut candidate he served as a commissioned Army medical corps officer with the U.S. Special Operations Command, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Morgan considers New Castle, Pennsylvania, his hometown. He earned a Bachelor of Science in environmental engineering at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, in 1998, and received his Doctorate in Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, in 2002.

“I am a soldier, a military physician, and a NASA astronaut, in that order. I’m a soldier first, and the military trained me to be a leader of character, dedicated to taking care of people,” Morgan said. “Every quality that’s made me a successful astronaut is a product of my military training: from my academic degrees to my operational skills. While I regularly draw on the technical skills and specialized training I learned in the military, it’s my leadership experiences that I rely on the most.”

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

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