The U.S. offered to send its “most advanced warship” to the Korean Peninsula to curb threats from North Korea, South Korean defense officials revealed.
Admiral Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, suggested stationing the stealth destroyer USS Zumwalt at a South Korean naval base at either Jeju Island or Jinhae to deter North Korea, Ministry of Defense spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said at a press conference Monday.
The $4 billion multipurpose destroyer is armed with SM-6 ship-to-air missiles, Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles, and anti-submarine weapons.
Responding to North Korean provocations, South Korea has been calling on the U.S. to deploy strategic assets to the peninsula on a permanent basis. Pyongyang conducted two nuclear tests and around two dozen ballistic missile tests last year, and 2017 began with multiple threats of an impending intercontinental ballistic missile test.
“A deployment of strategic assets is something that we can certainly consider as a deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and military threats,” Moon explained, “We haven’t received any official offer in regard to the deployment of the Zumwalt, but if the U.S. officially makes such a suggestion, we will give serious consideration.”
“If the U.S. officially makes such a suggestion, we will give serious consideration,” he further said.
Some observers believe Harris’ proposal should not be taken literally and should, instead, be treated as a sign that the U.S. is committed to defending South Korea.
Given some of the Zumwalt’s issues, it is questionable whether the U.S. would actually deploy the Zumwalt to the Korean Peninsula.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis assured South Korea this weekend that the U.S. will stand by it against North Korea. “The United States stands by its commitments, and we stand with our allies, the South Korean people,” he explained.
“We stand with our peace-loving Republic of Korea ally to maintain stability on the peninsula and in the region, Mattis added, “America’s commitments to defending our allies and to upholding our extended deterrence guarantees remain ironclad. Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming.”
Mattis reportedly agreed to send strategic assets to the peninsula.
The U.S. is expected to send the Nimitz-class supercarrier USS Carl Vinson and its accompanying carrier strike group, as well as strategic bombers, to South Korea to take part in the Key Resolve military exercise.
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But the reality of Patton’s genius is quite the opposite; he produced more results in less time with fewer casualties than any other general in any army during World War II, according to Patton biographer Alan Axelrod in the American Heroes Channel video below.
“He wanted his officers who he trained to know what they were going to expect in battle,” said Axelrod. “He [Patton] said to them, ‘you’re going to be up to your neck in blood and guts.’ This made quite an impression, and it stuck and from that point on, he was known as ‘Old Blood and Guts.'”
Still, high operational tempo and strict adherence to the rules pushed his men to the breaking point and hurt morale in the ranks. A common GI saying about Patton was, “our blood, his guts.”
The general’s low point came in August 1943 when he slapped two shell-shocked soldiers under his command for crying. For this, Gen. Eisenhower deemed him too undisciplined to lead the Normandy invasion, so he placed Patton in charge of a “ghost army” at Pas de Calais, France.
He was a decoy, and the Nazis took the bait; after all, they considered Patton the Allies’ best commander. Even weeks after D-Day, the Germans continued to wait for Patton’s crossing at Pas de Calais amassing troops for the fight.
This American Heroes Channel video demystifies Patton’s “Old Blood and Guts” nickname and shows the genius behind his relentless war tactics.
It’s the most famous aircraft in the world, a highly-visible symbol of the United States wherever it travels.
Known as Air Force One, and popularly nicknamed ‘the Flying White House’, this massive jumbo jet, decked out in a special blue, white and silver livery, ferries U.S. presidents, their families, members of the press and various staffers and Secret Service protective agents across the globe on official trips to foreign and domestic destinations.
While Air Force One itself is incredibly famous, it turns out that not a heck of a lot about this unique aircraft seems to be known in public circles. So the next time you find yourself at a party and you feel like impressing a few folks with Air Force One facts they probably didn’t know, today’s your lucky day! Here are 6 things about the President’s personal aircraft that you more than likely didn’t know:
1. “Air Force One” is technically a callsign and not the aircraft’s actual designation.
“Air Force One” is the callsign attached to any USAF aircraft the president is physically present on. The famous Boeing 747 decked out in the presidential scheme is officially designated “VC-25.” The Air Force One callsign originated in 1953 after air traffic controllers mistakenly put an aircraft carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the same airspace as a civilian airliner over New York City, after confusing the presidential transport’s name and code for a commercial flight.
Ever since, every military vehicle carrying America’s head honcho is temporarily relabeled with the name of the service the vehicle belongs to, followed by “One” (e.g. Marine One).
2. Each VC-25 has its own medical suite aboard the aircraft.
You read that correctly; whenever the president is aboard, Air Force One carries a qualified military surgeon/physician along for the ride. A small medical center aboard the aircraft, fully stocked and equipped, can be converted into an operating room should the need arise. While no sitting president has had to avail of the on-board doctor’s abilities and talents, it’s still helpful to always have one nearby, just in case.
3. Both VC-25s are equipped with extensive countermeasures and defensive systems.
On any given day, the threats to the president’s life number in the hundreds, though the Secret Service does everything it can to make sure the risks are largely negligible.
The Air Force also does its part by outfitting each VC-25 with the very best in defensive systems available at the moment. It’s unknown what exactly these systems consist of, but it could be safely assumed that the VC-25 comes standard with missile jammers, flare dispensers and more. On top of that, each Air Force One flight carries a small army of well-armed Secret Service agents and Air Force security specialists to provide security for the President and the aircraft on the ground.
4. It is one of the most expensive aircraft the US Air Force has ever operated.
Not only is the VC-25 one of the largest jets flown by the USAF, it’s also one of the most expensive the service has ever flown in its entire history. At an operating cost of approximately $200,000 per hour, Air Force One flights dwarf the expenses incurred by every other military-crewed and flown aircraft like the E-4B Nightwatch, the C-5 Galaxy and the B-2 Spirit. The security measures, passenger support (for members of the press, Secret Service and White House Staff), and communications systems operations all come together to account for this sky high figure.
5. The President can seamlessly interface with the military and government while airborne.
Each VC-25 possesses a highly integrated communications suite, staffed by a team of Air Force communication systems operators. These CSOs constantly monitor the aircraft’s satellite data-links, intranets and phone lines, ensuring that all incoming and outgoing calls on each flight are secured and highly encrypted.
In the event of national emergencies, the President can interact with military units from the aircraft, or direct the government and stay appraised of the situation at hand, thanks to the communications center and its CSOs.
6. It always parks with its left side facing the crowds gathered to see its arrivals.
Though it seems almost arbitrary, Air Force One does indeed park with its left side facing onlookers crowding behind the security cordon at airports. While the exact reasons for this are unknown, as both sides of the aircraft seem identical, it could be reasonably assumed that this is done for security purposes and practicality.
Positioning the big jet in such a way masks the President’s office from sight on the right side, while it also enables the use of air stairs built into the aircraft on the left side should an external stair unit be unavailable. Air Force One never parks at an airport terminal, nor does it accept a jet bridge connection.
Two US Navy warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Feb. 25, 2019, sending a message to Beijing, which has warned the US to “tread lightly” in the closely watched waterway.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem and the supply ship USNS Cesar Chavez navigated a “routine” Taiwan Strait transit Feb. 25, 2019, the US Pacific Fleet told Business Insider in an emailed statement.
“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” the Pacific Fleet said.
The two US Navy vessels that passed through the Taiwan Strait were apparently shadowed by People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships.
The passage is the fourth since October 2018 and the fifth since the US Navy restarted the practice of sending surface combatants through the strait July 2018.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Marcus D. Mince)
The Taiwan Strait is a roughly 80-mile international waterway that separates the democratic island from the communist mainland, and China regularly bristles when US Navy vessels sail through. When a US destroyer and a fleet oiler transited the strait in January 2019, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the passage “provocative behavior,” accusing the US of “threatening the safety” of those nearby.
Beijing considers Taiwan, a self-ruled territory, to be a renegade province, and it firmly opposes US military support for the island, be that arms sales, protection assurances, or even just the US military operating in the area. China fears that US actions will embolden pro-independence forces in Taiwan that want to declare it a sovereign state separate from China.
China has repeatedly urged the US to keep its distance from Taiwan, but the US Navy has continued its “routine” trips through the strait. “We see the Taiwan Strait as another (stretch of) international waters, so that’s why we do the transits,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in January 2019.
The rhetoric used by the Navy to characterize the Taiwan Strait transits is almost identical to that used to describe US freedom-of-navigation operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea.
The Navy has already conducted two FONOPs this year, angering Beijing both times.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. military forces in Iraq are standing by to help evacuate the U.S. consulate in the southern city of Basra after the State Department’s recent decision to temporarily close the facility because of threats made by Iranian forces.
“If American lives are at risk, then the [Defense Department] will take prudent steps to relocate the personnel from harm,” Army Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters at the Pentagon on Oct. 2, 2018.
Basra, one of three U.S. diplomatic missions in Iraq, has been plagued by violent protests recently over government corruption and poor public services.
In mid-September 2018, three Katyusha rockets were fired at Basra’s airport, which houses the U.S. consulate, by a Shiite militia after it vowed revenge against Iraq protesters for setting fire to the Iranian consulate, the AP reported.
There were no casualties in the rocket attack, but U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman decided not to take chances and temporarily close the consulate.
“Ambassador Silliman is a great leader, and he determined that risk is not worth the reward,” Ryan said. “They are just not willing to put up with that. They are diplomats; they are not warfighters, so that is the route that we are going.”
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Antonio Perez and Pvt. Michael Miller, from 2nd Platoon, Bravo Battery, 1-377 Field Artillery Regiment, attached to the 17th Fires Brigade pull security during a joint foot patrol in Basra, Iraq.
He did not have a timeline for the evacuation or how many U.S. military personnel would be involved. “Like I said, American lives are at risk … when asked, we will definitely support,” he said, adding, “It’s still very early in this process.”
But the rocket attack near the U.S. consulate isn’t the only incident involving Iran that has threatened American lives in the region.
Iran launched several ballistic missiles Oct. 1, 2018, toward eastern Syria, targeting militants it blamed for an attack on a military parade in September 2018, the AP reported. The missiles flew over Iraq and impacted at undisclosed locations inside Syria.
The strike came as a surprise to U.S. and coalition forces conducting operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Ryan said.
“These strikes potentially jeopardized the forces on the ground that are actually fighting ISIS and put them in danger,” he said, adding that Iran made no attempt to coordinate or de-conflict with U.S. or coalition forces. “I can tell you that Iran took no such measures, and professional militaries like the coalition and the Russian confederation de-conflict their operations for maximum safety.”
While U.S. forces were not near any of the missile impacts, “anytime anyone just fires missiles through uncoordinated airspace, it’s a threat,” he said.
In the past, Ryan has said that Iran is not known for being accurate with its missile attacks.
“I did say two weeks ago that they have bad aim,” he said. “That hasn’t changed, and that is actually one of the problems with Basra as well. You have folks out there shooting weapons that they may not know how to use.”
The incident is under investigation, he said, stressing that U.S. and coalition forces have no interest in having Iran conduct future strikes for any reason.
“The coalition is not requesting any support,” he said. “We can handle things ourselves; we don’t need anyone else firing into [the] region.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Model Kate Upton, born in 1992 and in 2011 voted as “Rookie of the Year” for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, took to Instagram to share a special photograph! “Feeling pretty lucky to be able to experience a P-51 Mustang flying over Wrigley field! #chicago #wrigleyfield #bucketlist #selfie,” she captioned the photo.
Not only did she take a beautiful selfie, she also recorded a video of the three other escorting P-51 Mustangs for you to enjoy. “Thank you to all those that have served! #veterans #p51mustang #wrigleyfield @WWIImuseum,” Kate Upton wrote.
Editorial Note: Don’t blame me.. It’s all candy to the eye!
Magpul officials are challenging a recent Army safety message that states that the Gen M3 PMAG polymer magazine breaks in extreme cold weather conditions.
U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command Maintenance Information Message 17-045 states that “tests demonstrate PMAG magazines crack/break in cold (below 0 degrees Fahrenheit) environments when dropped and units should use Army-standard aluminum magazines in basic to severe cold environments.”
But Magpul Vice President Duane Liptak argues that the Gen M3 – the latest version of the PMAG that has been adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps and the Air Force – will continue to function more reliably than the Army’s new aluminum Enhanced Performance Magazine after drop tests at minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We strongly feel that there is either an error in their test methodology or their criteria for what they are considering pass/fail,” Liptak told Military.com recently.
“We have absolutely seen nothing from an extensive body of cold weather testing laboratory testing as well as extensive field use in arctic conditions to suggest any lack of suitability. In fact we have significant input from both fronts that it is superior to the USGI in those environments.”
The Marine Corps, U.S. Special Operations Command and the Air Force have selected the Magpul Gen M3 PMAG over the Army’s Enhanced Performance Magazine, or EPM.
But the Army has been reluctant to follow the other services and is sticking with its EPM.
Since its 2016 adoption, the Army has fielded more than 400,000 EPMs despite a 2015 U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center report that shows the Gen M3 outperformed the EMP along with nine other commercial polymer magazines.
When developing the Gen M3, Magpul officials said one of the main goals was to pass a drop test at minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the U.S. Army standard for extreme cold weather.
“Negative 60 was the goal for the Gen M3,” Liptak said.
Magpul used test criteria of the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, Liptak said.
The test involves an M4A1 loaded with a full Gen M3 PMAG after it is kept in a special chamber at minus 60 F for 72 hours, Liptak said.
“The most violent drop is the full weapon drop test; it is five feet in various orientations onto a polished concrete surface, in free-fall” Liptak said.
“It’s dropped in normal orientation which is magazine directly down, and that is the most damaging one to every magazine because that back corner hits. There are also sideways drops, a drop on the top of the rifle, a butt first drop and a nose first drop”
Liptak acknowledges that the Gen M3 PMAG will show minor cracking after the test, but it will continue to function reliably.
Apparently, Picatinny’s criteria only tests for cracking and breakages, not functioning, Liptak said.
“There was no live-fire performance qualification required so an aluminum mag bends all to Hell, binds the follower or spring, but it doesn’t crack so therefore it’s a pass,” Liptak said.
The PMAG will suffer tiny cracks, without spreading, in the floorplate, the over-travel stop and the mag catch – “all those things combined are to some extent sacrificial surfaces where they take some damage but the magazine is completely functional and that is our biggest criteria. Our thing is no matter what happens it needs to function.”
Liptack maintains that the Army’s EPM in many will be unable to function after the same drop tests.
“So what you will see is the base of the magazine will bend to a degree that impinges on the spring or the follower; sometimes the body itself will buckle sideways and that will impinge on the spring or the follower,” Liptak said.
Military.com reached out to the Army about this story but did not receive comment by deadline.
Magpul maintains that there are surfaces on the Gen M3 that are expected to have “small cracks when you drop it at minus 60, which is brutal,” Liptak said. “It’s a tough test. Like I said ‘the USGI doesn’t fair very well nor does anything else.
“Our criteria is function; the only thing we care about is function, so if the magazine fires 30 rounds after the drop it is considered a pass.”
Keeping the troops well fed is a big part of how the military works. Navy veteran and pop-up chef August Dannehl knows this better than most. In the WATM series “Thank You For Your Service” August cooks a four-course meal for his fellow vets, and each course is inspired by a veteran’s story from his or her time in uniform.
When he came home from Afghanistan, Max’s mom prepared the classic Nicaraguan Carne Asada dish with fried plantains. It was a symbol of prosperity and transition into good times from his childhood. When he was young, his mother was a new immigrant to the U.S. and as a single mother, it was sometimes hard for her to put food the table. This dish always served as an embodiment of her love and stayed with Max from his home to overseas.
Short Rib Carne Asada w/ Bacon Jam, Apricot Mojo and Platanos
Inspired by Max’s Mother’s Nicaraguan Carne Asada
8 beef short ribs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 thin slices bacon, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 carrots, diced
2 jalapeno, finely minced
1 medium onion, diced
Splash of red wine
4 cups Cola
4 cups beef broth (low sodium)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tbs apricot jam
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 1/2 teaspoons ground
2 Green Plantains
Corn Oil for Frying
Salt and Pepper to taste
Season short rib liberally with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and bacon in heavy, oven-proof pan on medium heat. Once bacon starts rendering fat into the pan, add carrots, garlic, onion and jalapeño. Sweat for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
Sear short ribs in pan, working in batches to not crowd pan. If pan starts to look dry, add olive oil. Once all sides of every short rib are browned, deglaze pan with red wine and add cola. Let simmer for 10 minutes on stove to reduce.
Meanwhile, prepare the mojo by adding all ingredients but the olive oil in a blender. Slowly increase blend speed to reach about 4 out of 10. Slowly add olive oil through the top until the sauce becomes the consistency of smooth salsa.
Once cola is reduced by half add beef broth, thyme, rosemary and place entire pan (with top) into a 325° oven and braise for 4 hours. Remove short ribs and add flour to braising components to make jam. Stir ingredients for 4-5 minutes or until ingredients bind together.
Prepare platanos by slicing plantain, frying in 350° oil until light brown, smashing with side of a knife and then frying again until crispy (about 2 mins).
Grill short rib for 2-3 mins just to add final touch of smoke and fire to the meat. Then plate by adding platano and mojo to plate topped with meat and bacon jam.
On a summer morning in a desolate corner of Iraq’s western desert, Jim Mattis learned he’d narrowly evaded an assassination attempt.
A Sunni Arab man had been caught planting a bomb on a road shortly before Mattis and his small team of Marines passed by. Told the captured insurgent spoke English, Mattis decided to talk to him.
After Mattis offered a cigarette and coffee, the man said he tried to kill the general and his fellow Marines because he resented the foreigner soldiers in his land. Mattis said he understood the sentiment but assured the insurgent he was headed for Abu Ghraib, the infamous U.S.-run prison. What happened next explains the point of the story.
“General,” the man asked Mattis, “if I am a model prisoner, do you think someday I could emigrate to America?”
In Mattis’ telling, this insurgent’s question showed he felt “the power of America’s inspiration.” It was a reminder of the value of national unity.
Mattis, now the Pentagon boss and perhaps the most admired member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, is a storyteller. And at no time do the tales flow more easily than when he’s among the breed he identifies with most closely — the men and women of the military.
The anecdote about the Iraqi insurgent, and other stories he recounted during a series of troop visits shortly before Christmas, are told with purpose.
“I bring this up to you, my fine young sailors, because I want you to remember that on our worst day we’re still the best going, and we’re counting on you to take us to the next level,” he said. “We’ve never been satisfied with where America’s at. We’re always prone to looking at the bad things, the things that aren’t working right. That’s good. It’s healthy, so long as we then roll up our sleeves and work together, together, together, to make it better.”
The stories tend to be snippets of Mattis’ personal history, including moments he believes illustrate the deeper meaning of military service.
On a trip last month to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and three domestic military installations, Mattis revealed himself in ways rarely seen in Washington, where he has studiously maintained a low public profile. With no news media in attendance except one Associated Press reporter, Mattis made clear during his troop visits that he had not come to lecture or to trade on his status as a retired four-star general.
“Let’s just shoot the breeze for a few minutes,” he said at one point.
Another time he opened with, “My name is Mattis, and I work at the Department of Defense.”
Mattis used stories to emphasize that today’s uncertain world means every military member needs to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice.
He recalled the words of a Marine sergeant major when Mattis was just two years into his career:
“Every week in the fleet Marine force is your last week of peace,” the sergeant major said. “If you don’t go into every week thinking like this, you’re going to have a sick feeling in the bottom of your stomach when your NCOs (non-commissioned officers) knock on your door and say, ‘Get up. Get your gear on. We’re leaving.'”
By leaving, Mattis meant departing for war.
A recurring Mattis theme is that the military operates in a fundamentally unpredictable world. He recalled how he was hiking with his Marines in the Sierra Nevadas in August 1990 when he got word to report with his men to the nearest civilian airport. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had just invaded Kuwait, and the Marines were needed to hold the line in Saudi Arabia.
In an exchange with Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Mattis recalled sitting in the back of a room at the Pentagon in June 2001 while senior political appointees of the new George W. Bush administration fired questions at a military briefer about where they should expect to see the most worrisome security threats. At one point, Mattis said, the briefer said confidently that amid all the uncertainty, the one place the U.S. definitely would not be fighting was Afghanistan.
“Five and a half months later, I was shivering in Afghanistan,” Mattis said, referring to his role as commander of Task Force 58, a special group that landed in southern Afghanistan aboard helicopters flown from Navy ships in the Arabian Sea to attack the Taliban in and around Kandahar.
Regardless how much they resonate with his young audience, Mattis’ stories illustrate how he sees his military experience as a way to connect with troops who often feel distant from their political leaders. They also are a reminder Mattis’ boss is one of the most politically divisive figures in recent history.
Speaking to troops and family members at an outdoor movie theater at Guantanamo, Mattis pointed directly to the political battles.
“I’m so happy to be in Guantanamo that I could cry right now, to be out of Washington,” he said, adding jokingly that he wouldn’t mind spending the rest of his tenure away from the capital. He said as soon as he gets back in the company of uniformed troops, he is reminded of why the military can set a standard for civility.
“Our country needs you,” he said, and not just because of the military’s firepower. “It’s also the example you set for the country at a time it needs good role models; it needs to look at an organization that doesn’t care what gender you are, it doesn’t care what religion you are, it doesn’t care what ethnic group you are. It’s an organization that can work together.”
The suspect behind several suspicious letters that were sent to the White House and the Pentagon in early October 2018 has reportedly been taken into custody.
Authorities took the suspect, previously identified as a former Navy sailor, into custody Oct. 3, 2018, CNN first reported, adding that a crew has started clearing the suspect’s residence.
The envelopes, which were intercepted by the Secret Service and the Pentagon’s mail room staff, reportedly tested positive for ricin, a potentially deadly substance, especially in a pure, powdered form. The letters sent to the Department of Defense were addressed to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. The letter sent to the White House was addressed to President Donald Trump.
The White House.
(Photo by Daniel Schwen)
The suspect was identified by a return address on one of the letters sent to the Pentagon, Fox News reported on Oct. 3, 2018.
While the FBI has been spearheading the investigation, the Pentagon has been providing regular updates to reporters.
On Oct. 1, 2018, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency detected a suspicious substance during mail screening at the Pentagon’s remote screening facility,” DoD spokesman Col. Rob Manning told Business Insider in an emailed statement, further explaining that “all USPS mail received at the Pentagon mail screening facility yesterday is currently under quarantine and poses no threat to Pentagon personnel.”
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White provided additional information on Oct. 3, 2018, revealing that at least one of the letters sent to the DoD contained castor seeds, from which ricin is derived.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Pentagon office in charge of outfitting America’s secret warriors is asking industry for new technologies that will allow commandos to target and track bad guys through goggles or a head’s up display in their weapon sights, see colors at night and fly small surveillance drones that are nearly undetectable.
The new technologies sound like something from science fiction, but the spec ops gear buyers want to see what industry has in the works that could get to troops behind enemy lines in places like Syria, Iraq and Libya.
According to an official industry solicitation, U.S. Special Operations Command will hold a so-called “Military Utility Assessment” at Camp Blanding, Florida, in mid-November to see what capabilities are out there to enhance special operators’ ability to see the enemy in adverse conditions, surveil bad guy positions at great distances and tag and track targets without detection.
Current night vision equipment either enhances available light like stars or the moon or uses thermal imaging to see heat. Both technologies can be digitally modified to present the images in limited color, but the detail is usually poor.
The special operations community wants to see if there are options out there that help commandos identify objects and people in the dark with better resolution.
The command is looking for night optics “that aid in target discrimination, mobility, combat identification, identify friend or foe, or situational awareness via a natural appearing manner.”
“The need is from clear sky no moon to daylight conditions,” USSOCOM says. “A capability that allows true color at higher illumination and switch or transition to black and white at the lowest illumination is of interest.”
The special operators will consider systems that either attach to existing goggles, scopes or optics or entire new night vision equipment that can replace them. The key is keeping down the weight and increasing battery life, the command says.
SOCOM also wants to see if there are options out there for passive targeting scopes that will allow commandos to move a cursor to their target and share that data with other assaulters and snipers. They even want to be able to call in air strikes using the embedded targeting capability.
Clearly, unmanned aerial vehicles have become an important part of warfighting these days, and SOCOM wants to see how it can take advantage of the bleeding edge of technology for unmanned systems. The command has asked industry if it can field drones that are unseen and unheard above a target and can see details like vehicle license plates or the types of bombs loaded on a parked plane.
The special operators want “technologies that can be programmed to orbit or perch and stare at an area or object of interest,” it said. “Technology should be visually and acoustically undetectable by persons or systems resident at an observed area or object of interest, while providing users VNIIRS 9 or better video quality in real time.”
SOCOM is asking for technology proposals that are either on the drawing board or have prototypes ready for field testing.
Many troops enlist with hopes of finding something bigger than themselves. After their contract is up, it’s not uncommon for the battle-hardened grunt to feel lost in a world now unfamiliar. All the while, they’re told that there’s nothing out there for them but flipping burgers or greeting customers at some supermarket.
Then, there’s the world of law enforcement. The police force is, and always will be, trying to scoop up as many of these former-military badasses as possible. In terms of transitions, going from the armed forces into law enforcement isn’t that much of a stretch: you’ll face similar hours, do similar tasks, and be surrounded by similar camaraderie all in attempts to promote greater good.
With the utmost respect to law enforcement officers, however, many infantrymen aren’t interested in waiting at the local doughnut shop until it’s time to write parking tickets and toss the same village drunk into the lockup — again. They want something bigger, something badass, something that rewards their ability to kick in doors. This is where the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team comes in.
For many, the only real change between the infantry and SWAT is the uniform. Here’s why:
You’ll even do the exact same training. Being an infantryman just gets you ready for the same ol’ ride.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower)
The job description is nearly identical
Heavy ballistic armor? Check. Assigned weapon? Check. Breaking down doors to catch bad guys? Oh, yeah — check.
The SWAT team’s objective is to keep the peace at a level higher than is expected of the average cop. While every police officer should be trained and ready to fight at a moment’s notice should the situation arise, the SWAT team provides that extra oomph needed in intense situations, like bank robberies, hostage negotiations, and high-level drug cartel activities.
Instead of infiltrating a compound in Kandahar to catch an HVT bomb maker, SWAT officers are infiltrate compounds back home to catch drug kingpins.
Did I mention that you’ll spend a lot of time training at the range?
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower)
The requirements are basically the same
Potential applicants must be physically fit, hard working, excellent shots, mentally and emotionally strong, decisive under stress, and able to communicate under hazardous conditions.
The help-wanted ad reads almost exactly like a description of a post-deployment infantryman.
The only thing holding an infantryman back from immediately joining the SWAT team is that, typically, membership requires three years of prior experience in law enforcement. I can’t speak for every police department, but that requirement can be lessened for exceptionally badass applicants.
You really will be training… a lot. Which shouldn’t be too far off from infantry life.
(Photo by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt)
The structure almost mirrors the military
Between SWAT teams and military life, the chain of command is identical and the organizational structure is the same.
Being selected for SWAT isn’t easy. Potential recruits go through a grueling process and only the best of the best can make it through to the end. But if you do, you’re basically in the military again.
You’ve still got a battle buddy (you’ll call them “partner” instead), you still work in four-man teams (squads) and there’ll be, on average, 15 teams per district. Since high-stakes situations aren’t happening every day, you’re going to be training and continually honing your skills with your team.
Officers got each other’s back, literally and figuratively.
(Photo by Sgt. John Crosby)
The brotherhood is just as tight
If there’s one thing that damn-near every veteran misses about the military, it’s the camaraderie. Knowing that the people to your left and right would die for you without a second thought is hard to come by at some desk job.
SWAT is not a place to go if you’re looking to make a name for yourself at the expense of others. Real SWAT teams live as a unit, work as a team, and train until everyone becomes as close as family.
This level of trust in another human can only be formed in groups like the military and SWAT.
Military service is very common among law enforcement officers — especially in SWAT. You’ll fit right in.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower)
The good you do is in your community
As a SWAT officer, you’re not deploying for 12 months at a time and leaving your family behind. You’re still going to come home and sleep in your own bed most nights.
Now, don’t get that twisted: There will be bad nights. There will be moments that go horribly wrong. There will be missions that require you to be gone for extended periods of time. SWAT officers, like infantrymen, are over-worked and under-appreciated.
But doing the difficult thing to promote the greater good is exactly what you’re signing up for — again.
Snipers from Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain attended the International Special Training Centre’s Desert Sniper Course in July 2018 at the Chinchilla Training Area here.
ISTC is a multinational education and training facility for tactical-level, advanced and specialized training of multinational special operations forces and similar units, employing the skills of multinational instructors and subject matter experts.
The Desert Sniper Course is designed to teach experienced sniper teams skills for operating in desert environments.
“The students that come to this course all have prior experience,” said a U.S. Army sniper instructor assigned to ISTC. “We help them build upon what they already know in order to operate in a desert environment. During the course we teach them concealment techniques and stalking in desert terrain. This culminates with students conducting missions where they put their newly learned skills to the test.”
A sniper team from the Netherlands collects ballistic data during a nighttime range session during the International Special Training Centre Desert Sniper Course at Chinchilla Training Area, Spain, July 9, 2018.
(Army photo by 1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek)
Because of the nature of their work, the snipers’ names are not used in this article.
Snipers operating in dry or barren environments must take extra measures to alleviate the effects of heat that can increase the challenges when constructing concealed positions, known as hide sites.
Unique camouflage requirements
“The biggest challenges snipers will encounter during most desert operations are the unique camouflage requirements, the heat and exposure to the harsh environment, and having to engage targets at extreme distances,” the U.S. instructor said.
The first week of the course gave students the opportunity to acclimate to the environment.
“We ease into operations by conducting ranges where they collect data for their rifles and learn about environmental considerations such as heat mirage and strong winds that affect their ability to make long shots,” the instructor said. “From there, they practice building hide sites and stalking to refine the skills they’ll need when conducting missions during week two.”
ISTC’s ability to conduct and train across various countries in Europe provides NATO and partner nations the opportunity to participate in cost effective training close to home.
“Spain is the perfect place to conduct this type of training,” a Spanish sniper instructor. “We have the right kind of climate and terrain to replicate the conditions that a sniper team will encounter when deployed in a desert. We also have the space needed to conduct ranges for long-distance shooting, something that is not easy to find in Europe.”
With snipers from multiple countries, the opportunity to share knowledge helped all those who attended.
“One of the greatest benefits is that our courses bring together knowledge and resources from so many places,” the ISTC operations and plans officer said. “By combining efforts and sharing knowledge, the nations that participate in course like Desert Sniper are able to reinforce alliances and strengthen their capability to work together.”