This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

During my first couple days at Fort Bliss, I had heard smatterings from Soldiers about a non-indigenous species of African antelope population that somehow inhabited the training grounds.


But no one really quite knew how the animals, known as the oryx, got there.

Many of the Soldiers told me different theories that they’d heard. Some told me that they didn’t even believe these antelope-looking animals were out there.

Also read: This is how close we came to killing off our national bird

But on my last day at the post, as I was hanging out with a bunch of artillerymen waiting to see an M109 Paladin test fire, one of the creatures appeared before us.

Here’s the true story about how the animal arrived in the US, and what I saw that day:

The artillerymen, combat photographers, and I were waiting to watch the Paladin fire, when, suddenly…

An oryx appeared out of nowhere — like something out of an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss
An Orynx Gazella at Etosha National Park, Namibia.

For about 15-20 minutes, the oryx stood about 20 yards away, periodically nibbling on foliage and curiously looking at us.

The oryx is an African antelope that is non-indigenous to the US. On average, oryx weigh about 450 pounds and stand about 4 feet tall (not including their 34-inch horns).

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss
An Oryx near Wolfsnes, western Etosha National Park, Namibia. (Photo by Hans Hillewaert)

The Soldiers told me a number of different theories that they’d heard about how the animals arrived in the US.

More: Medieval knights used to fight giant snails and no one knows why

One Soldier said that a film crew brought the oryx there to shoot a movie many years ago and simply left them out in the desert. Another Soldier said that he heard that an African king had gifted them to the US. But in reality, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish introduced 95 oryx to the area in the 1950s for large game hunters. Thousands now populate the region.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss
An Orynx Gazella drinking alongside six Helmeted guineafowl at Chudop waterhole in Etosha, Namibia.

But, being an non-indigenous species, the National Park Service is concerned about how the animals are affecting the local ecosystem, especially the nearby White Sands National Park. At one point, being a curious fellow, I crept up to the animal to get a better shot — but it wasn’t having any of that. It stomped its hoof and took a couple charging steps towards me, which sent me running in the other direction, much to the Soldiers’ amusement. Nor was the oryx scared of the Paladin. Even after the howitzer fired, sending a massive shockwave throughout the surrounding area, I saw it still hanging around.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss
M109A6 ‘Paladin’ howitzer. (Photo by Capt. Alex Aquino)

Eventually, it meandered away, slowly fading into the sprawling desert landscape — and we never saw it again.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What it was like to land behind enemy lines in a glider on D-Day

D-Day, June 6, 1944, the largest amphibious invasion in history. Over 150,000 American, British, and Canadian troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, but over 15,000 airborne soldiers dropped in behind enemy lines on D-Day. Most parachuted in, but over a thousand landed in Normandy inside gliders made of plywood.

Ninety-seven-year-old Millcreek, Utah, resident John “Jack” Whipple piloted one of the hundreds of gliders to set down in the fields of France on that June morning.


Tow planes delivered Jack and hundreds of other fearless flyers to the air over Northern France. Whipple was behind the controls of an Airspeed Horsa the day of the invasion.

“When we came over Utah Beach we received some ground fire,” said Whipple. “Then we flew over the Germans, and received a lot more fire.”

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss
Horsa Glider

Allied forces used two gliders in the invasion: the Waco CG-4A and the Airspeed Horsa. These were not the modern sail planes of today, but cargo and troop carriers. The CG-4 carried a pilot and co-pilot, 13 soldiers and their equipment, or a jeep and two or three soldiers.

Whipple’s Horsa carried him and co-pilot, a jeep, an anti-tank gun, four soldiers that morning, but the Horsa could also be configured to carry 30 soldiers and their gear. The total weight of a loaded Horsa hovered around 15,000 pounds.

After the tow planes cut the gliders loose, pilots had just moments to find their landing zone.

“The quicker the better,” said Whipple. “They were shooting at us – probably 3 to 4 minutes.”

To make matters worse, reconnaissance photos given to pilots were months old.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss
Jack Whipple, 1944

“The photos had been taken in January or February and the trees had no leaves,” Whipple recalled. When we got there, the trees were in full leaves and we missed our main check point.”

Losing altitude, Whipple picked a field to land in, but quickly realized it wasn’t big enough. He slammed the glider in to the ground, ripping off the landing gear. He then performed an intentional ground loop, digging one wing into the ground, thus slowing the glider and protecting the fuselage. A maneuver, which all these years later, Whipple points out, was authorized.

“We landed, didn’t hurt anybody or the major equipment,” he said.

At this point, his role shifted.

“Glider pilots did the flying, and right after we landed we became infantry men. Most glider pilots were trained as infantry men, but we couldn’t wear the infantry badge because we weren’t in their unit. We were still in the air corps.” Whipple said.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss
Troops aboard a Horsa glider

“We landed behind enemy lines. We had about perhaps five or six Horsa gliders. We got together after landing and helped those who were injured. We got attacked that night, but we were able to keep the group together and able to keep the enemy away.”

The airborne assault on German forces was a key part of the allied invasion.

“It made it easier because the Germans then had to fight both sides of a squeeze,” said Whipple, squeezing his hands together. “The people coming on the beach—and the airborne.”

And while hundreds of gliders may not sound like a lot, the gliders provided the airborne units equipment to combat heavy and mechanized infantry, and needed supplies to operate behind enemy lines. Whipple flew two additional combat glider missions—one in Holland and the final one as part of the Rhine Crossing.

After returning from the war, he earned his private pilot license, and flew all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s venerable Kiowa helicopter is taking flight again

The distinctive and venerable OH-58 Kiowa helicopter, mothballed and grounded in the dry desert of Arizona, after being retired from US Army service with almost 50 years of service, is finding its wings again in Greece.

For an Army aviator, this was also a chance to get back into the seat of a historic platform and to share his knowledge and flying skills to a new generation of Hellenic pilots.

“I lucked out with this (foreign military sales) case as I was an instructor pilot in the Kiowa prior to switching to the Apache,” Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Meadows, a military aviation trainer from the US Army Security Assistance Command, said of his selection.


Chief Meadows is assigned to USASAC’s Security Assistance Training Management Organization at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and is the team lead for the initial Greek OH-58D training program as well as the first OH-58D Technical Assistance Fielding Team deployed to Greece.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

Thirty-six aircraft wait to be loaded onto the transport ship at the port in Jacksonville, Florida.

(John Zimmerman/Army Futures Command)

A total of 70 Kiowa Warrior aircraft were granted to Greece in early 2018 under the foreign military sales program administered by USASAC.

The helicopters were unloaded at the Greek port of Volos on May 16, and then flown by US and Greek crews to the Hellenic Army Aviation air base at Stefanovikio where pilot and maintainer training is being conducted.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

Loading of one of the six flyable aircraft into the transport ship at the port in Jacksonville, Florida.

(John Zimmerman/Army Futures Command)

“The procurement of the Kiowa Warrior helicopters by Greece helps build partner capacity by covering an immediate gap in Greece’s attack or observation helicopter requirement,” said Andrew Neushaefer, USASAC’s country program manager for Greece.

The Kiowa helicopters had been invaluable to the Army as a light observation and reconnaissance aircraft since it was first received in 1969 and saw immediate action supporting the US war efforts in Vietnam.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

Five OH-58D aircraft sit on Greek military ramp ready for training at the Hellenic Army Aviation air base at Stefanovikio, Greece.

(John Zimmerman/Army Futures Command)

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

(US Army)

In 2013 almost 350 aircraft were retired under an Army-centric effort to modernize their aviation fleet. The newer and more complicated AH-64 Apache was chosen to fulfill the Kiowa’s role until a future vertical lift aircraft could be fielded.

According to Bell Helicopter, as of 2013, the OH-58 airframe had more than 820,000 combat hours in its decades of service. During the wars following 9/11, the OH-58D version, known as the Kiowa Warrior, accounted for nearly 50% of all Army reconnaissance and attack missions flown in Iraq and Afghanistan, the highest usage rate of any Army aircraft.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

(US Army)

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

(US Army)

Greece saw an opportunity to upgrade its defensive capabilities and acquired the helicopters at a reduced cost as it was only required to pay for packing, crating, handling and transportation, as well as any refurbishments, if necessary.

But bringing any new aircraft into a military’s service, even as seemingly uncomplicated as a 60’s-era helicopter, requires a well-trained and highly qualified team of aviators and maintainers to fly and manage the aircraft.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

After serving faithfully for more than 40 years, the OH-58 Kiowa Warriors assigned to 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, took to the skies for the last time at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, April 15.

(US Army/Sgt. Daniel Schroeder)

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Meadows, left, stands with the battalion commander of the Greek Army helicopter training unit at the Greek port of Volos, before flying the newly arrived helicopters to the Hellenic Army Aviation air base at Stefanovikio, Greece.

(US Army Security Assistance Command)

Chief Meadows was involved with the Greek’s OH-58D case from the early stages and has had many challenges to overcome in bringing the program together.

“I made frequent drives to Fort Eustis in Virginia to assist in the regeneration of the Kiowas and began flying them again in order to support the training mission,” Meadows said.

Although assigned initially as a Contracting Officer Representative and the government flight representative, Meadows had the skills and experience to do much more and was selected to be an instructor as well.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

An OH-58D Kiowa flies off at Fort Polk, Louisiana, November 9, 2015.

(US Army/Capt. Joe Bush)

Once Meadows and his team got the program on the ground in Greece they faced a number of challenges, mostly associated with maintenance and logistics.

“The Greek system of maintenance and logistic support, although effective, is very different than the US systems,” Meadows said. “If we had something break, and it wasn’t a common issue, any parts needed had to be shipped from the US to Greece, which adds substantial time from parts demand to replacement. That being said, the Greek maintainers are excellent. They are doing a superb job at learning this aircraft and maintaining it.”

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

An OH-58D Kiowa flies off at dusk over an AH-64 Apache at Fort Polk, Louisiana, November 9, 2015.

(US Army/Capt. Joe Bush)

Meadows also knew that providing this aircraft to Greece would greatly contribute to their national security interests.

“Seeing Greece gain this capability and being part of it is amazing,” said Meadows. “The mission set of the Kiowa and the pilots it produces will greatly complement the already robust Hellenic Army.”

To date, under the FMS program, at least 10 countries have OH-58s in their inventory with Croatia, Tunisia and Greece being the latest.

Editor’s Note: The OH-58 is a single-engine, single-rotor military helicopter used primarily for observation, utility, and direct fire support. The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior version is primarily used as a light attack and armed reconnaissance helicopter to support troops fighting on the ground.

MIGHTY TRENDING

USS John S. McCain leaves drydock after crash damage

USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) achieved a major milestone this week as it successfully launched from dry dock and moored pierside at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Nov. 27.

This milestone is an important step in the ongoing effort to repair and restore one of the U.S. Navy’s most capable platforms, and reflects nearly a year’s worth of wide-reaching and successful coordination across multiple organizations. The ship entered dry dock at the Navy’s Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) Yokosuka in February.


This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) prepares to depart from a dry dock at Fleet Activities Yokosuka. McCain is departing the dock after an extensive maintenance period in order to sustain the ship’s ability to serve as a forward-deployed asset in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tyra Watson)

“After the initial repair assessments were conducted, we had to quickly mobilize and determine the most critical steps to develop an executable repair and modernization plan,” explained Deputy Commander for Surface Warfare and Commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center (CNRMC), Rear Adm. Jim Downey. “As we began the restoration process, we assembled cohesive teams capable of delivering both materially ready and more modernized ships to the fleet.”

To begin the repair and restoration effort, the Navy immediately reached out to personnel at Bath Iron Works (BIW) in Bath, Maine. BIW is the company that originally constructed the ship and currently serves as the planning yard for work on in-service Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The BIW employees worked alongside representatives from Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) Supervisor of Shipbuilding, also in Bath, Maine, to conduct a material assessment of the ship. That information was then used by SRF-JRMC and the local Japanese repair contractor, Sumitomo Heavy Industries, to plan and swiftly execute the work ahead.

The McCain crew has been involved in every aspect of the availability.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) is pulled towards a pier after departing from a dry dock at Fleet Activities Yokosuka. McCain is departing the dock after an extensive maintenance period in order to sustain the ship’s ability to serve as a forward-deployed asset in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeremy Graham)

“I’m proud of and thankful for every person who has worked together to move USS John S. McCain another step closer to both normalcy and sailing again with U.S. 7th Fleet,” said Cmdr. Micah Murphy, commanding officer, USS John S. McCain. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but I remain impressed by the incredible teamwork, determination and flexibility shown daily by this crew as well as the SRF Project Team to return a better, more lethal warship to the fleet.”

Today, McCain has a fully restored hull, a new port thrust shaft, and newly constructed berthing spaces.

The ongoing availability also includes completing maintenance work that had previously been deferred, which reflects the Navy’s commitment to ensuring that required maintenance on ships is no longer deferred. Additionally, the U.S. Pacific Fleet implemented a new force generation model to protect maintenance, training, and certification requirements prior to operational tasking for ships forward-deployed to Japan, like John S. McCain.

The ship’s crew worked alongside personnel from NAVSEA’s Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Philadelphia and Port Hueneme divisions who were challenged to develop a test plan concurrent with repair efforts.

“All key players and industry partners continue to execute the McCain effort with maximum intensity in an environment built on trust and shared goals,” said Capt. Garrett Farman, SRF-JRMC commanding officer. “Our mission is to keep the 7th Fleet operationally ready, and everyone on the team recognizes the immense value that this mission brings to U.S. and Japan mutual interests in keeping our waters safe.”

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) prepares to undock as a dry dock is flooded in order to test the ship’s integrity. McCain is departing the dock after an extensive maintenance period in order to sustain the ship’s ability to serve as a forward-deployed asset in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeremy Graham)

The complex repair and restoration required support and collaboration from all aspects of the U.S. Navy maintenance enterprise, including NSWC Philadelphia and NSWC Port Hueneme; Engineering Directorate (SEA 05); Deputy Commander for Surface Warfare (SEA 21); Commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center (CNRMC); Southwest Regional Maintenance Center (SWRMC); Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC); Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC); Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS); and Forward Deployed Regional Maintenance Center (FDRMC) Naples and Rota detachment.

Over the next few months, efforts will focus on testing the repaired ship’s systems in preparation for a return to operational tasking.

The Navy’s enterprise leadership continues to make improvements with routine, close oversight provided by the fleet commanders and the Navy staff to generate ready ships and aircraft on-time and on-plan. Improved ship-class maintenance plans are capturing a more robust understanding of fleet maintenance requirements, and the elimination of work deferrals are improving the material condition of the fleet.

This summer, Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer inducted Sen. John S. McCain III into the ship’s official namesake alongside his father and grandfather in a ceremony on board, July 12. The crew’s messdecks, known as the Maverick Café, re-opened for business on Nov. 19, the late Senator’s birthday.

John S. McCain is forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan as part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. The ship is expected to complete repairs in late 2019.

Articles

Mattis threatens ‘overwhelming’ response if North Korea ever uses nukes

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis threatened an “effective and overwhelming” response by the US and its allies if North Korea ever uses nuclear weapons.


His remarks came on his first overseas trip to South Korea, where he met with his counterpart in the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Defense and other government officials.

“North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop its nuclear weapons program and engage in threatening rhetoric and behavior,” Mattis said. “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.”

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis answers questions from the press during a flight to South Korea., Feb. 1, 2017. | US Army photo by Sgt. Amber I. Smith

He also praised South Korea — which has nearly 30,000 US troops stationed there — as a “lynchpin of peace and stability” in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mattis’ stern warning to the North is likely to be taken seriously, since Pyongyang often responds to the slightest provocation. For example, North Korea regularly threatens total war against its southern neighbor whenever the US and South Korean forces train together during annual exercises, which are regularly scheduled and known well ahead of time.

The secretary’s overseas trip was also another chance to push the South to continue with its deployment of the US’s powerful THAAD missile defense system, which would blanket the country with protection from conventional or nuclear-tipped missiles fired from the north.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Weblo’s final flight: A special operations military working dog receives hero’s goodbye

“Our working dogs are selfless in everything they do simply to please their handlers and those who work with them,” said Sergeant Major (retired) Jeremy Knabenshue, a veteran who worked as a K9 handler in the U.S. Army. “They give everything they have — to include their lives — without question to protect their pack.”

During a recent interview with Coffee or Die, Knabenshue spoke about his relationship with Weblo, his Military Working Dog (MWD). After a stint as an MP, Knabenshue became a K9 handler for a Special Missions Unit working alongside some of the most elite operators in the world. His work there, particularly his relationship with Weblo, had a profound impact on him. He served with that unit until retirement.


“When I was first assigned Weblo, he was a beatdown dog from Holland that flinched at every sudden move,” Knabenshue said. “I spent every single day for a year going to work to spend time with him and build our relationship until we deployed.”

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)

On Knabenshue’s first deployment, Weblo was shot. They were working with a squad from 3rd Ranger Battalion, and Knabenshue credits the dog’s actions for saving his life. He treated Weblo, and “that night of saving one another’s lives solidified our bond to one another.”

“Personality-wise he was one of the guys.” Knabenshue said. “He was more than just a dog or a tool. He lived with us and was part of the team.” That relationship extended onto the battlefield as well — they had reached such a strong point of mutual understanding that few words had to be spoken. They moved together, fought together, and hit objectives together — all as one.

One night in Afghanistan, Knabenshue, Weblo, and an assault force of American operators boarded a helicopter and flew toward an enemy position. They expected to make their way to the target building when they landed, but chaos erupted as soon as the wheels touched the ground. People were running erratically, weapons were being fired, and they had to fight just to get to the objective — which should have been a simple 10 minute walk.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)

As they made it to the target compound, they began to move along one of the exterior walls. The next step would have been to hit the front door and assault the compound as usual; Knabenshue sent Weblo up front to check for booby traps before breaching.

When Weblo turned left instead of right, Knabenshue said that his first instinct was to become frustrated — now instead of breaching, he had to grab another assaulter and go get this dog who appeared to be distracted or disobedient. However, when they discovered Weblo, his jaws were clenched on a man clutching an AK47, who was lying in wait for an unsuspecting soldier to enter the breach.

This man had not been spotted by anyone on the assault force nor by the air assets circling in the sky — but he was spotted by Weblo.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)

This was how it went for six deployments — two to Iraq and four to Afghanistan. When they weren’t in a combat zone, training took them deep into the jungle, over rigorous mountain terrain, and helocasting into the water.

When Weblo came to the end of his military service, he went to live with Knabenshue. No longer under threat of death or permanent injury, their friendship continued to grow. And then Weblo was diagnosed with cancer.

As the dog’s health steadily declined, Knabenshue knew it was time to have him put down comfortably. He contacted a trusted veterinarian to set the date. But one day he took special notice of the airfield near his house, and an idea came to him. Knabenshue knew a truck wouldn’t suffice for Weblo’s last ride — he deserved more.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)

On March 8, 2016, everything fell into place. When Weblo and Knabenshue stepped onto the airfield and heard the thundering of the helicopter rotors, the dog’s chest swelled. Knabenshue swears that, for a moment, Weblo once again looked like a young working dog barreling across the Afghan countryside.

Also on the helicopter was the veterinarian. As they circled in the sky, Weblo felt the wind in his fur as he had so many times before among his fellow warriors. Following a painless injection, Weblo quietly, comfortably passed on.

After they landed, Knabenshue carried Weblo back to his truck to say goodbye.

“There will never be another Weblo for me,” Knabenshue later wrote on his blog. “I miss him daily and wish that somehow he could still be here. His death hit me far harder than any of the deaths of friends I’ve lost over the years. He was more than a pet or partner, he was an extension of myself as I was a part of him. His ashes are now placed on a shelf over my bar so that he can still look over and protect us.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines get Russian helicopters for ‘a more realistic OPFOR’

A report in the Marine Corps Times from Friday, April 27, 2018, by journalist Kyle Rempfer revealed that the U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force Training Command has filed a solicitation for contractors to provide Russian-built Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter or an Mi-17 Hip transport helicopter to serve as accurate opposing forces threat simulation aircraft.

The aircraft would be equipped with electronic tracking pods for integration into simulated combat exercises at the MCAS Yuma Range and Training Area, a large training facility in the Arizona desert. The Yuma Range and Training Area accurately replicates current and potential threat environments throughout the Middle East and North Africa.


According to Rempfer’s report for the Marine Corps Times, the solicitation read in part,
“The [Mi-24] attack helicopter, due to its size, flight profile, firepower and defensive maneuvering capabilities, constitutes a unique threat creating a realistic, dissimilar and credible opposing force.”

In their potential role as a technically realistic opposing force flying against U.S. Marine ground forces in training the helicopters would accurately replicate the threat capabilities of many potential adversary forces. While the Mi-24 attack helicopter is primarily an air-to-ground attack helicopter the report also mentioned a potential role for any Russian helicopters acquired or contracted as providing a simulated opposing force capability against U.S. Marine Helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft to possibly include the UH-1Y Venom, AH-1Z Super Cobra and MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor.

The U.S. Marine Training Command’s request went on to read, “The scope of this effort is to provide familiarization of flight characteristics, capabilities and limitations of the foreign adversary rotary-wing and propeller driven aircraft,” according to the solicitation. “This will be accomplished by having accessibility to two foreign adversary contractor-provided aircraft that shall participate in certain exercise events as part of a realistic opposing force.”

The request for the opposing forces helicopters will include up to five annual training operations and a maximum of 40 total hours of flight time in VFR (daylight, fair weather Visual Flight Rules) conditions. Of further interest is a notation indicating interest in fixed wing aircraft. Russian fixed wing aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su-27 have already been observed and photographed flying over the Nellis Training Range in Nevada.

In the combined air/ground combat role most commonly performed by the U.S. Marine Corps one relevant adversary aircraft for threat simulation may include the Sukhoi Su-25 (NATO codename “Frogfoot”), although no specific information indicates an interest in the Su-25 from the U.S. Marines.

A remarkable 57 countries currently use the Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter, built at the Mil Helicopter Plant in Moscow, Russia. The aircraft is infamous in western nations for its rugged survivability and significant combat capability. The request for actual Mi-24 Hind helicopters seems to acknowledge the type’s unique and significant capabilities as a potential adversary.

There are currently at least two Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters privately owned in the U.S. by the Lancaster Air Museum in Lancaster, Texas. The aircraft fly frequently at events and airshows around the country.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the West’s new plan to counter Chinese influence

The US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand want to use economic initiatives and other elements of soft power to counter growing Chinese influence in Asia and Oceania, according to an Asia Times report.

Leaders from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada — which, along with the US, make up the Five Eyes defense partnership — have reportedly agreed to expand aid, trade, and diplomatic relationships in the region in response to Beijing’s inroads there, which includes aid and investment in infrastructure projects.


China’s growing economic relationships — many of which come as part of its expansive One Belt One Road initiative — are a source of concern for Western countries and others in the Asia-Pacific region.

India, for example, has expressed concern with Chinese partnerships with countries like Pakistan, the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.

China has lavished aid on the town of Gwadar, Pakistan, the site of a commercial deep-water port that the US and India worry could one day host Chinese naval ships. Early 2018 tensions between New Delhi and Beijing briefly rose over the Maldives, where the pro-China government’s declaration of emergency spurred calls from the opposition for Indian intervention.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modiu00a0with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Sri Lanka has taken on huge debts to China but is struggling to pay them back. The government’s decision to lease the port of Hambantota and land around it to Beijing in December 2017, raised ire in India, which fears it could be used by China to establish a military presence in the Indian Ocean. In what may have been a counter to China’s Hambantota lease, India signed a 40-year lease for a virtually unused airport nearby.

Similar dynamics have played out in the Pacific. While many of the countries there are tiny and sparsely populated, their vast exclusive economic zones cover much of the Pacific.

After a 2006 coup in Fiji, which prompted sanctions from Australia and New Zealand, Beijing became a key source of aid for Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. China also funded a fish-canning facility in Papua New Guinea, Australia’s closest neighbor in the region, on the condition Chinese companies did the construction. A Chinese firm also got permission and concessions to set up a fish farm in French Polynesia, after Beijing gave aid and subsidies to the government there. (Chinese fishing vessels trawling the region are also suspected of gathering intelligence.)

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss
People’s Republic of China Maritime Safety Administration ship Haixun 31.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler)

More recently, Australian media reported that the governments of China and Vanuatu had discussed establishing a Chinese military presence in the latter country, an island nation northeast of Australia.

While China has made investments in Vanuatu, Australian media said there had been no formal agreements, and both governments denied such talks had taken place. (Other observers suggested Vanuatu and others in the region may be trying to play the West and China off each other.)

At present, China has only one military base abroad, located in Djibouti. While Beijing refers to it as a “logistics facility,” it is still cause for concern. A senior US military official said it posed “very significant operational security concerns.”

The Vanuatu report, and others like it, fuel concerns China is trying to leverage financial ties for more advantageous positions in the region.

This effort has been called “debt-trap diplomacy.” US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer has described it as “weaponizing capital.” IMF chief Christine Legarde has cautionedChina and countries doing business with it about the potential for mounting debts.

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss
US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Armando Gonzales)

Between 2006 and mid-2016, Beijing committed more than $1.7 billion in aid to projects in the Pacific.

That is less than the $9 billion committed by Western countries, led by Australia, over the same period, but aid from Beijing often comes without the transparency and accountability stipulations that accompany Western aid.

The Five Eyes countries’ efforts to counter China in the Pacific will include military surveillance and intelligence gathering operations, according to Asia Times. But it will include soft-power elements, like British Crown Prince Charles’ visit to Vanuatu in early April 2018. UK officials have also said their government would ramp up aid, trade, and diplomatic relations with countries in the region.

Japan has increased efforts counter China’s financial outreach by increasing its own international partnerships and investments — including in both Sri Lanka and Vanuatu. Australia and New Zealand have both expressed interest in doing the same, but, according to Asia Times, their decisions to reduce aid commitments may hinder efforts to curry favor with their neighbors.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 101st Airborne now has the Army’s new modular handgun

U.S. Army weapons officials have begun fielding the new Modular Handgun System under a plan to issue the service’s new sidearm all the way down to the team-leader level.


Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky. began receiving the new XM17 MHS on Nov. 27 and spent time shooting the new pistol Nov. 29, according to Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for the 101st Airborne.

The 101st received more than 2,000 MHS on Nov. 17 and plan to field the new pistols over the next year, O’Donnell said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, attended the initial MHS fielding to about 25 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, O’Donnell said.

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The M17 and M18 use the same polymer grip module and trigger group, with new slides and barrels for full-sized or compact models. (WATM Photo)

The Army awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth up to $580 million Jan. 19. Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America, and Beretta USA, maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol, in the competition for the Modular Handgun System, or MHS, program.

The 10-year agreement calls for Sig to supply the Army with full-size XM17 and compact XM18 versions of its 9mm pistol. MHS comes with Tritium sights as well as 17 and 21-round magazines.

One of the challenges of fielding the MHS will be to develop a new training program since the current plan calls for issuing the XM17 to squad leaders and team leaders, a significant change to a policy that excluded junior leaders from carrying M9s.

“The 101st has realized that this weapon is going into a lot more hands than … what we are authorized to have as equipment,” said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Flynn, the master gunner for the 101st Airborne.

“This weapon is going to go down to the team leader, which is not what we typically have in the 101st or across most light divisions.”

Also Read: Here’s a detailed look at the Army’s new M17 and M18 handgun — and how it shoots

The expanded policy will apply to all Army units receiving the MHS, Debra Dawson, spokeswoman for Program Executive Office Soldier told Military.com.

In addition to a standard operator’s course, “we are going to do an additional course which is basically teaching that soldier how to transition from that pistol to his M4 and the M4 to his pistol,” Flynn said, adding that the 101st is also planning to increase pistol marksmanship training.

“We are putting this weapon into the hands of a lot of younger soldiers who have never fired it,” he said.

First Lt. Andrew Borer said “today is a pretty awesome day” after shooting the new MHS.

“The weapon itself is a very simple handgun; it’s a very easy handgun to shoot,” Borer said. “There is little to no resistance on the trigger. … It’s a very easy weapon to regain our sight picture with and to aim and fire the weapon once we have put a round down range.”

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The new M17 is lighter and simpler to use than the Beretta M9. (WATM Photo)

Cpl. Jory Herrmann, a team leader in C Company, said it was a great experience being of the first units to fire the MHS.

“It handled really well, very reliable,” he said. “We slung a lot of rounds down range today had little to no problems out of them. … I think it is going to be a great side arm.”

Herrmann said he was excited about the plan to issue the MHS to team leaders, like himself.

“In the heat of the fight it will give you an opportunity to maybe change up your tactics,” Herrmann said. “It will give us more choices, more options … which is great for a team leader.”

As far as the current M9 pistols, “the Army has decided that in order to maintain that lethality and ensure that everybody has what they need, we are going to maintain the 9mm Berettas until all units have qualified on MHS, Flynn said.

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This fundraiser for the widow of a soldier who died in a suicide bombing attack is going viral

When a Taliban murder-suicide bomber killed two American troops with the 82nd Airborne Division, it particularly hit hard for one family. According to an Army Times report, the solider, Specialist Chris Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina, left behind a wife, Britt, who was expecting their first child.


The Defense Department reported that the August 2 attack that killed Spc. Harris also killed Sgt. Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana ,and wounded four other troops. Both Harris and Hunter were with the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment based at Fort Bragg.

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Specialist Chris Harris and his wife Britt in happier times. (GoFundMe.com)

An online fund-raiser was launched on Aug. 3 on the crowd-funding site GoFundMe.com to help Britt keep a handle on bills and other expenses. As of 9:53 AM Eastern time on Aug. 4, the online fundraiser for Mrs. Harris had raised $35,570 from 782 donors.

The online fundraiser is not the only fundraiser on the way for Britt and her unborn child. According to the VA website, Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance offers a $400,000 death benefit for a monthly premium of $29.00.

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Waves of paratroopers fill the skies during a combat exercise. (U.S. Army)

The pentagon also offers a death gratuity benefit of $100,000. Military.com notes that numerous other benefits are available for the surviving family members of a serviceman (or woman) killed in action, including continued eligibility for Tricare, Basic Housing Allowance, and the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

While those benefits will kick in, words from the GoFundMe page still apply: “During this time, money should be the absolute least important thing on [Britt’s] mind. If you feel it in your heart to donate to this cause, it would be kindly appreciated.”

 

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This ‘Air Tractor’ could be America’s next A-10

Another aircraft will fly at the Air Force’s OA-X light attack competition next week.


Air Tractor and L3 announced August 1 they will offer the AT-802L Longsword to participate in the fly-off at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, on August 8 and 9, according to a release.

Together, the companies developed the L variant off its predecessor, the AT-802U, the release said. The Longsword is a light attack and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft.

“We are proud of the Longsword and the opportunity to participate in OA-X. We are looking forward to flying at Holloman AFB and showcasing our capabilities to the Air Force and to our partner nations,” said Jim Hirsch, president of Air Tractor.

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The AT-802L Longsword at Paris Air Show 2017. Wikimedia Commons photo by Mark Lacoste.

“The AT-802L Longsword provides a highly effective capability based on a rugged, proven platform that adds class-leading technologies integrated by L3 for a simple, yet powerful solution,” added Jim Gibson, president of L3 Platform Integration and the L3 Aircraft Systems sector.

L3 developed a “certified, state-of-the-art glass cockpit and the L3 Wescam MX-15 EO/IR Sensor,” ideal for medium-altitude ISR and search-and-rescue missions, according to the New York-based company.

Air Tractor, based in Texas, and L3 in March showed the aircraft during the Avalon Airshow in Australia, rebranding it the OA-8 with hopes of securing Asia-Pacific partners. Variants are operated by countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, and Kenya.

The Air Force distributed formal invitations to the fly-off in March.

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Image courtesy of L3 Technologies.

Sierra Nevada in May announced the Super Tucano will participate in the event, pitching it as “A-29 for America.”

Textron and AirLand LLC will showcase the Scorpion jet, as well as the AT-6B Wolverine, an armed version of the T-6 Texan II made by Textron’s Beechcraft Corp. unit and Raytheon Co., according to an April release from Textron.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and other leaders have said the light attack plane will not replace the service’s beloved A-10 Warthog.

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“We need to look and see if there are ways to save costs and do this in an efficient and effective manner … [and] it could create a building partnership capacity. Not every nation we want to build a partnership with needs an F-16 or an F-35,” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, said at the time of the invite announcement.

Bunch reiterated the light-attack concept — should the “experiment” prevail and the Air Force choose to fund it — is a needed platform for current manpower levels.

“Why are we even exploring this concept? The need is, we need to be able to absorb fighter pilots,” he said. “Another reason is we want to look at a concept so we could have a lower operating cost, a lower unit cost, for something to be able to operate in a permissive … environment than what I would require a fourth- or a fifth-gen aircraft to be able to operate in.”

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This heroic Marine saved a man from a burning car

Sgt. Kevin Peach, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, was awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal during a battalion formation at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug 8, 2017.


Peach earned the award for rescuing a man from an overturned and burning vehicle on his way back to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in 2015.

“We were driving down I-5 in California heading back to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and a car pulled out in front of us, swerved, hit a wall going about 65 mph and then rolled a couple of times,” said Peach.

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Sgt. Kevin Peach delivers the battalion safety brief after being awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal during a battalion formation at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Aug. 8, 2017. USMC photo by Sgt. Brandon Thomas.

Peach then pulled in front of the vehicle and rushed to the man’s aid.

“I was scared the entire time but I saw a lifeless body sitting in the car and I wasn’t just going to turn my head and do nothing about it,” said Peach. “Then I saw the smoke and knew I only had a certain amount of time before the car caught on fire.”

Peach then tried, without success, to break the windows of the car.

“One of my best friends and I ripped off the back hatch and I just barreled right in there,” said Peach. “The whole time I was feeling around for other people because I couldn’t see anything. Once I found him he was tangled up in his seat belt and I couldn’t get him loose.”

Peach then left the car and grabbed a flare from another driver who had pulled over to help. He then went back into the vehicle, cut the seat belt and fireman-carried the man out. He attended to the injured man until paramedics arrived.

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Sgt. Kevin Peach, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, is awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal by Lt. Col. Reginald McClam. USMC photo by Sgt. Brandon Thomas.

Following the incident, Peach was hospitalized for smoke inhalation.

“Sgt. Peach is the embodiment of what we look for in our [non-commissioned officers],” said Lt. Col. Reginald McClam, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. “I’m proud of him and I know the family that he brought into the Marine Corps by saving their family, is happy he was there.”

After putting his life on the line Peach found himself gaining more than a new medal.

“I talk to the family every other day,” said Peach. “It feels good being able to help somebody out. It’s not about the awards. I never thought when this happened that I’d get this [award]. I’m just glad I was there and able to help.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Economic warfare is taking its toll on the Iranian people

Iranians got accustomed to the miniscule increases in their every day quality of life since U.S. and UN sanctions lifted. In 2016, the first year after the Iran Nuclear Deal was signed, the Islamic Republic’s economy experienced more than 12 percent growth after the five percent contraction it had the year prior. Along with that growth came a huge drop in inflation rates, increases in luxury goods, and a dip in the poverty rate.

But that’s all gone now, wiped away by the reimposition of UN/U.S. economic sanctions – and Iranians are not happy.

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You can’t buy an iPhone when you can’t feed your family.

Many Iranians, however, saw little improvement in their lives, as many economic sanctions weren’t actually lifted before President Donald Trump reimposed them after withdrawing from the nuclear agreement. Iranians say they can feel themselves breaking under the economic pressure, but they aren’t blaming Trump or the United States; they blame the regime. Little about Iran’s economy has changed in the last 40 years. Its inflation rate is now 37 percent and its unemployment rate hovers around 12 percent.

Oil revenues are a full third of Iran’s economy and President Trump has blocked it from being sold on world markets while promising to sanction any country who buys it. Still, the Iranians blame the government and its leadership.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Citizens of the Islamic Republic believe many in their government are corrupt, citing reports of former officials who embezzled millions of dollars and then fled the country before it could be recovered.

“The economic war is not from outside of our borders but within the country,” Jafar Mousavi, who runs a dry-goods store in Tehran, told the Associated Press. “If there was integrity among our government, producers and people, we could have overcome the pressures.”

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