The top 15 military stories of 2015 - We Are The Mighty
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The top 15 military stories of 2015

It was a dynamic, often turbulent, year around the military community. 2015 saw domestic terrorism, growing aggression from former Cold War adversaries, and the Pentagon dealing with unprecedented budgetary and cultural challenges. Here are WATM’s picks for the top 15 stories of the year:


1. The “American Sniper” controversy

The Clint Eastwood-helmed biopic from real-life American sniper Chris Kyle divided the U.S. like a red Starbucks cup. The film earned a whopping $100 million during its opening weekend, but inconsistencies from the book and the depictions of certain onscreen combat actions (like taking aim at a child in Iraq, for example) sparked a few anti-war tweets from actor Seth Rogen and filmmaker Michael Moore. The movie also caused  a backlash about how much of a hero Kyle really was, bringing into question whether the all of the events Kyle wrote about really happened.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
That baby though.

As much as military experts lauded the film for “getting it right” in terms of technical detail and overall atmospherics (including the challenges of reintegration) “American Sniper” also exposed that the civilian-military divide is alive and well.

2. Troops deployed to fight Ebola outbreak return from West Africa

In 2014, President Obama ordered 2,800 U.S. troops and Department of Defense personnel to West Africa to help combat the Ebola epidemic there. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea were the hardest hit, with more than 22,000 reported cases and more than 8,000 confirmed deaths from the virus. U.S. troops were vital to the mission to contain the victims and maintain the quarantines. In February 2015, all but 100 of those troops deployed returned home, not a single one infected by the virus.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
A local worker walks past rows of boots and aprons drying in the sun after being decontaminated at an active Ebola treatment unit built as part of Operation United Assistance in Suakoko, Liberia. United Assistance is a Department of Defense operation to provide command and control, logistics, training and engineering support to U.S. Agency for International Development-led efforts to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brien Vorhees)

“Military engineers oversaw the building of new Ebola Treatment Units; military logisticians directed the deployment of life-saving resources from across the globe; and military doctors supported the brave men and women who treated patients every day,” said Rajiv Shah, then-head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

3. Bowe Bergdahl faces general court martial

The Army, for more than a year, deliberated on just how to deal with the aftermath of the Bowe Bergdahl incident. Though it is clear Bergdahl walked away from his post during his last deployment to Afghanistan in June 2009 and was held until his release in a prisoner exchange with the Taliban in 2014, the Army stated its belief that there is no evidence Bergdahl engaged in any misconduct while held captive by the Taliban and Haqqani Network. The matter was sent before a four-star general to review the facts for a possible court martial.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
A clip from a video released during Bergdahl’s captivity.

See Also: Where are they now? An update on the ‘Taliban 5’ exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

In March, the Army charged Bergdahl with “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty” and one count of “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.” Sgt. Bergdahl’s story is now the subject of the wildly popular “Serial” podcast, featuring interviews with those for Bergdahl’s unit, as well as his Taliban captors.

4. Donald Trump blasts Sen. John McCain’s service record

Trump was speaking at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa in July when moderator Frank Luntz asked the Presidential candidate about an incident where McCain referred to Trump’s supporters as “the crazies.” Luntz referred to the Arizona Senator as a “war hero.”

“He’s a war hero because he was captured… I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump replied and then told the audience that McCain “graduated last in his class at Annapolis (Naval Academy).” After the event, Trump released a statement:

“I am not a fan John McCain because he has done so little for our veterans… I have great respect for all those who serve in our military including those that weren’t captured and are also heroes.”

The top 15 military stories of 2015

See Also: John McCain learned two big things as a prisoner of war

The statement was condemned by the Republican Party, other GOP hopefuls, and much of the American media. Sen. McCain did not immediately comment. McCain, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, spent the next six years being beaten and tortured as a POW in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” He appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe shortly after Trump’s remarks, but did not demand an apology.

“I’m not a hero,” the 78-year-old senator said. “But those who were my senior ranking officers … those that inspired us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t be capable of doing, those are the people I think he owes an apology to.”

The top 15 military stories of 2015
McCain in Vietnam (Library of Congress photo)

“I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country,” McCain added. “When Mr. Trump says he prefers to be with people who are not captured, the great honor of my life was to be in the company of heroes.”

5. Marines who lowered the American Flag in Havana raise it again

In January 1961, three U.S. Marines in Havana, Cuba lowered the U.S. embassy  flag for the last time. The day before, President Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba after a coup brought dictator Fidel Castro to power. Castro ordered all but 11 U.S. diplomats to leave Cuba.

One of the Marines, then-Master Gunnery Sergeant James Tracy told CNN he thought the freeze would last only three years. It lasted for 54. In August 2015, Tracy and the two other Marines, then Gunnery Sgt. Francis East and Cpl. Larry Morris, who lowered Old Glory from its Havana post, returned to the site to raise it up again after a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations saw the two nations exchange diplomats again for the first time in decades.

6. U.S. troops Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos prevent terror attacks on a Paris train

In August 2015, a heavily armed Moroccan national was set to shoot up a Paris-bound train, killing as many people as possible. As he exited the bathroom, two Frenchmen attempted to wrest the would-be shooter’s AKM rifle away. One was shot through the neck, the other fell to the floor. At that point three Americans — a civilian named Anthony Sadler, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and U.S. Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos — jumped the gunman. Stone put the man in a choke hold, taking repeated stab wounds from a box cutter, while Skarlatos took the attacker’s rifle, beating him in the head until the man lost consciousness.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Defense Secretary Ash Carter awards the Soldier’s Medal to Spc. Alek Skarlatos, Oregon National Guard, the Airman’s Medal to Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and the Defense Department Medal for Valor to Anthony Sadler, at a ceremony in the Pentagon courtyard Sept. 17, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez)

As others restrained the attacker, Stone (who is an Air Force medic) tended to the wounds of the first passenger, pushing his finger on the neck artery to stop the bleeding. All survived. Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone were named Knights of the Legion d’Honneur by French President Francois Hollande. Sadler received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor (civilian equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross). Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal (the highest non-combat award). And Stone was awarded the Airman’s Medal, and Purple Heart. Stone also received a STEP promotion to staff sergeant after his regular promotion to senior airman.

7. First female soldiers earn Ranger Tabs

The two female officers, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, became the first women to complete the U.S. Army’s grueling Ranger school at Fort Benning, Georgia amid the ongoing debate about the roles of women fighting in combat. Griest is a military police officer and Haver is an Apache helicopter pilot. Both are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The two were among 19 women who started the course. A third woman graduated in October.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Cpt. Kristen Griest and U.S. Army Ranger School Class 08-15 render a salute during their graduation at Fort Benning, GA, Aug. 21, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

8. Russia enters the Syrian Civil War

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Pew Pew! (Photo from Russian Presidential Press and Information Office)

In September, Russian military aircraft carried out the country’s first airstrikes in support of President Bashar al-Asad’s regime in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin maintained his forces were attacking ISIS positions, but there were many reports of Russian forces attacking anti-regime positions. Russia’s support for Syria goes back to the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s support for Asad’s father, Hafez al-Asad who ruled Syria for almost 30 years before his death in 2000. The issue was made even more complicated after Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft for violating Turkish airspace.

9. Marine Corps publishes a study about gender-integrated units

The Marine Corps released a summary of results in September 2015 based on a nine-month study of gender-integrated units in combat situations. Called “Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force,” the four-page summary described how all-male units performed significantly better on 69 percent of tactical tasks and how female Marines were injured at twice the rate of men. The study also claimed that all-male units were faster, stronger, had less body fat, and were more accurate with every standard individual weapon like M4 carbines and M203 grenade launchers.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Sgt. Julie Nicholson, Female Engagement Team leader, Marine Headquarters Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, works with infantry units and coalitions forces to work with Afghan women throughout Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Nicholson is on her second combat tour here and searches women and children for contraband during missions. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

See Also: The Marine Corps says it’s not trying to keep female Marines out of combat

The study’s summary did note the performance of female Marines in individual combat situations and in current overall combat operations, saying: “Female Marines have performed superbly in the combat environments of Iraq and Afghanistan and are fully part of the fabric of a combat-hardened Marine Corps after the longest period of continuous combat operations in the Corps’ history.”

10. Training “Moderate” Syrian rebels falls apart

The first round of American-trained “moderate” Syrian fighters made their way into Syria in September 2015. They were quickly routed by or defected to the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra Front, a Sunni Islamist group. Al-Nusra stormed the rebel headquarters and took some of the fighters hostage. Later the same month, 75 more American-trained Syrian rebels entered the country via Turkey, where the majority of the training takes place. Almost immediately, those U.S.-backed fighters surrendered to the al-Nusra front. The “vetted” U.S.-backed leader, Anas Obaid, told al-Nusra he intentionally deceived the U.S. to get the weapons.

The top 15 military stories of 2015

The U.S.’ $500 million dollar plan to arm and train “moderate” Syrian rebels was a disaster. CENTCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, reported of the 5,400 rebels planned to be in Syria fighting ISIS this year, there were only “four or five” active fighters in country. The CENTCOM spokesman went on to say there is no way the goal could be reached in 2015. The Obama Administration nixed the plan to train rebels by October 9th.

11. Congress saves A-10 from the Air Force

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is the only aircraft built specifically for a close-air support mission. The signature feature is its 30mm gatling gun, the GAU-8 Avenger. The distinctive sound made by the weapon (the BRRRRRT – created as rounds fire faster than the speed of sound), has been music to the ears of the troops on the ground, so much so that the plane has earned the nickname of “the grunt in the air.” The Air Force wanted to retire the slow-moving but stout plane to make room in their budget for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III says is “designed for the whole battlespace.” But critics claim the F-35 ill-suited for the close air support mission.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
Capt. Richard Olson gets off an A-10 Warthog at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, (U.S. Air Force photo)

In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress ordered the Air Force to produce a reliable, independent study on how they will replace the A-10’s CAS mission while providing the necessary funds to keep the Warthog flying.

12. President Obama extended U.S. military’s Afghan mission into 2017

They won’t have a direct combat role, but U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2017.  When President Obama leaves office in 2017, 5,500 troops will remain in Afghanistan. A resurgent Taliban and a growing ISIS threat will keep the U.S. forces busy as they work to keep the Afghan government in power.

The Obama Administration announced the extension in October. The War in Afghanistan is almost 15 years old and claimed the lives of 2,230 service members and cost more than $1 trillion. The new yearly plan costs upwards of $15 billion per year.

13. ISIS and China hack DoD computers, stealing troops’ personal data

In mid-October, a native of Kosovo was detained in Malaysia and alleged to be the hacker who had forced his way into the U.S. government software that held the personal information of U.S. troops and federal workers. The Kosovar, said to have ties to ISIS, stole data belonging to 1,300 people and gave it to the terror group’s hacking division.

One month prior, Chinese hackers forced their way into the systems of the Office of Personnel Management, and stole 5.6 million fingerprints, which, in turn, affected the compromised the records of 21.5 million Federal employees and applicants. The personal data also potentially contained information about intelligence agents posted overseas. The data included the employees’ biographical forms used when applying for sensitive or classified jobs.

14. All Combat Jobs are opened to women

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the Pentagon to open all military combat roles to women, rejecting limitations on the most dangerous military jobs. The secretary’s orders gave the branches until January 1st to plan their changes and force those combat roles open to women by April 1st, including infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations forces.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Women already have access to most front-line roles in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Earlier in 2015, women were integrated into the Navy’s Submarine Service. Women have been serving as fighter pilots in the Air Force and Navy since 1993, and the Army has been fighting to open its infantry positions to women since September 2015. The defense secretary’s rationale was simply that any qualified candidate should be allowed to compete for the jobs.

15. U.S. deploys special forces ground troops to fight ISIS

In a departure from the U.S. military’s policy of providing air support and “advisors” to support Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces fighting ISIS (Daesh) in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter authorized the deployment of additional special operations forces in Iraq to conduct raids to free hostages, capture Daesh leaders, and gather intelligence.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
It’s really weird that they pose like this.

Earlier in the year, the U.S. deployed 3,300 troops to Iraq in training and advisory capacities, as well as support for air operations. The new standing force will be based in Iraq but conduct operations in Iraq and in Syria. The total special force could number up in the hundreds. In October, U.S. special forces and Iraqi troops conducted a raid on an ISIS compound to free 70 Iraqi prisoners, resulting in the first U.S. castualty in the war against ISIS.

See Also: Pentagon releases name of Delta Force soldier killed by ISIS in Iraq

MIGHTY TRENDING

Irreverent Warriors combat PTSD with comedy and community

If you’ve had difficulty recovering from combat trauma, Captain Danny Maher, USMC (Ret), and best friend, Sergeant Ryan Loya, USMC have a prescription: camping, karaoke, and going on a 22-mile hike in your underwear.


Really? Let’s back up.

Ryan’s comrade in arms Sgt. Jeremy Sears committed suicide on Oct. 6, 2014 and six months later, Danny’s good friend L.Cpl. Artem Lazukin took his own life on March 29, 2015. Both men suffered from combat PTSD.

Also read: 13 ways vets with PTSD can get some freakin’ sleep

The loss of these two brave souls was profound, but in typical military style, Ryan and Danny decided to go to work. The conclusion that they came to: hanging out with guys who have experienced war and having a good belly laugh in the face of adversity is damn fine medicine.

What started as the “Silkies Hike, 22, with 22, for the 22”, a 22-mile hike for vets on July 25, 2015, has become a nationwide community 20,000 strong. The number 22 is significant because it is estimated that 22 vets commit suicide each day in the US.

Sporting official Irreverent Warriors “ranger panties”, these guys go on excursions that take them out into nature (or sometimes right through the city) where they can goof off, bond, and get a little respite from the demands of civilian life.

To get a sense of just how outrageous these guys are, check out this video:

Irreverent Warriors “Silkies Hike” from fredgraver on Vimeo.

While the event is high-spirited, the goal is a serious one: to let other vets know that they are not alone, that help is available, and that suicide is not the answer. It also helps spread awareness among the civilian population to ensure these brave men and women get the support they need.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD affects 31% of veterans and there is a substantial link between combat injuries, PTSD and suicide.

There are many things you can do if you experience PTSD symptoms, which include:

  • Uncontrolled aggression
  • Reliving the trauma
  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Impulsivity
  • Substance dependence
As one vet put it, “You forget how to have fun.”

The first step in conquering PTSD is knowing that there is no way to think your way out of it. It’s actually your body’s sophisticated method of protecting you, a response known as “fight, flight, or freeze”. It’s got nothing to do with bravery and everything to do with having a fully functioning parasympathetic nervous system.

Related: Why did these vets ride their motorcycles wearing silkies?

Though we have made remarkable headway as a nation in understanding the threat of PTSD and its relationship to suicide, often, family members do not grasp the effects combat has on our minds and bodies. What starts off as a legitimate medical condition can spiral out and destabilize the dynamics of our homes.

The Irreverent Warriors are not just a good group of guys willing to help and have fun, they also partner with other military-friendly organizations that supply vets with much-needed services, everything from buying a home to starting a business.

Brotherly love and humor is not the cure-all for PTSD, but it can go a long way in speeding up the healing process and preventing tragedy. If you or a veteran family member is exhibiting symptoms of PTSD, reach out to the big-hearted guys at Irreverent Warriors.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out what Stars and Stripes reporters go through to bring the news

The newspaper Stars and Stripes has an interesting little niche in its place in American journalism. Wherever the Armed Forces of the United States may go, Stars and Stripes reporters might just go along with them. The idea of such a paper can be traced back to the Civil War, the reporting as we know it dates back to World War I. While the paper is a government-funded entity reporting on military operations, you might find it full of the hardest-working most objective staff in the world.

And if their movie is to be believed, maybe the craziest staff in the world to boot.


The documentary film The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route is the story of the unsung heroes who deliver the news to the front lines of Iraq, Afghanistan, and anywhere else the U.S. military gets the newspaper – and everywhere they’ve been for the past 100 years. The film includes never-before-seen imagery from the Stars and Stripes archive of photographers and writers who were in the war zones with the fighting men and women from Verdun to Saigon.

The list of correspondents and contributors to the legendary newspaper include Andy Rooney, Bill Maudlin, Steve Kroft, Shel Silverstein, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Pete Arnett, to name just a few. Even the civilians working on the staff used to see combat – one civilian in Vietnam even saw action with every major combat unit to go through the country during the war.

The top 15 military stories of 2015

How does one news outlet get so much access to the United States military while still retaining their credibility, you might ask. The answer is that even though Stars and Stripes is funded by the Department of Defense, its creative and editorial direction are protected from the Pentagon by Congress. It is something that the readership of the paper looked forward to receiving every time they could, so says Gen. David Petraeus, interviewed for The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route.

“It is, in a way, the hometown newspaper of the U.S. military,” Petraeus says.

This is an organization that not only knew what was happening back home, as a matter of course, but also was embedded with the troops on the ground, and knew what was going on in-country. The reporters at Stars and Stripes put their lives on the line to produce a newspaper for the troops – and anyone who might pick up a copy.

The top 15 military stories of 2015

In The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route, the viewer goes on a journey downrange to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to see what it’s like to cover the United States military and its operations in today’s Global War on Terror. In places like Afghanistan, picking up the computer and getting a wifi signal isn’t as easy as it may be anywhere else in the world. Here, physical newspapers that provide unquestioned reporting are all American forces have to read and understand the world around them and the world which continues to go on without them back home.

Find out how important the newspaper has been to American troops, see the unparalleled access and legendary images captured by the Stars and Stripes staff, and feel the nerve-wracking stress of seeing an unarmed camera operator out in combat, carrying only a camera.

The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route can be watched free with an Amazon Prime subscription.

Articles

The real defenders of Benghazi want you to know “13 Hours” is the truth

The top 15 military stories of 2015
(Paramount Pictures)


We Are The Mighty recently had the opportunity to sit down with the principals behind “13 Hours” and chat with them about the film, including their sense of how accurate it is. And while the past three years have been full of rumor and innuendo around what happened that fateful night in 2012 in Benghazi, the CIA security contractors who rescued the the Americans and defended the annex want the world to know what’s in the movie “13 Hours” is what really happened on the ground.

Watch:

Director Michael Bay has always been more than a vocal supporter of the military. No matter what his detractors might say, on his film sets, he always makes a concerted effort to get the reality of modern-day U.S. military personnel right. He believes this might be his most realistic movie ever.

Watch:

The film stars John Krasinski as Jack Silva, a CIA contractor and former Navy SEAL who joins a security team already based in Benghazi.

Watch:

Other members of the team include James Badge Dale (“Rone”), Pablo Schreiber (“Tanto”), David Denman (“Boon”), Max Martini (“Oz”), and Dominic Fumusa (“Tig”). To a man, each one told We Are The Mighty how important the realism of the movie was to their performance.

Dale, who has portrayed military personnel before in HBO’s World War II epic miniseries The Pacific, found his preparation for this film different than anything he’s done before. (This time he’s also portraying a former Navy SEAL.)

Watch:

Pablo Schreiber and David Denman play a Marine veteran and Army Ranger veteran who assist with the rescue. Their experiences getting to know the real operators they play onscreen gave them a deep appreciation of the men and what happened there.

Watch:

Max Martini and Dominic Fumusa trained with former Navy SEALs and contractors throughout the filming of the movie. The real defenders of Benghazi watched them as they brought the events of that day back to life.

Watch:

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is in theaters Friday. Follow the film on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Russians just buzzed the US Navy – again

A United States Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was buzzed by a Russian Air Force Su-30 Flanker over the Black Sea earlier today. This is the latest in a series of incidents this year in the Black Sea.


The top 15 military stories of 2015
A Su-30 makes a low-level pass at Zhangjiajie Hehua Airport. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to a report by FoxNews.com, the two-seat multi-role fighter harassed the Navy plane for 24 minutes, including a pass at full afterburner that was roughly 50 feet away. The P-8 was in international airspace at the time of the incident.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
A P-8A Poseidon assigned to commander, Task Force 67 participates in a photo exercise during Exercise Dynamic Manta 2017. The annual multilateral Allied Maritime Command exercise meant to develop interoperability and proficiency in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

The last time such a close encounter took place was this past June. In that incident, an Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane was buzzed by a Su-27 Flanker over the Baltic Sea. The Flanker came within five feet of the American plane, the closest of about three dozen close encounters that took place that month.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
A U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker June 19, 2017. Due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept, this interaction was determined to be unsafe. (Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

Russian planes also buzzed the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) in the Black Sea earlier this year. The United States Navy released video of the incident, showing Su-24 Flankers making close passes over the vessel. In all of these close encounters, the American ships and planes were in international waters or airspace.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
A Su-24 Fencer buzzes USS Porter (DDG 78) in the Black Sea on Feb. 10, 2017. (YouTube Screenshot)

The incident came over three weeks after U.S. Navy fighters intercepted a pair of Russian Tu-95 Bears 80 miles from the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) as it operated in the Sea of Japan. The Bears were well within range of being able to fire powerful anti-ship weapons like the AS-4 Kitchen.

The top 15 military stories of 2015
A Russian Air Force Tu-95 launching from an airport in 2006 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Russia hasn’t been the only country involved in buzzing American forces. Iranian and Chinese forces have also operated near American forces, in some cases unsafely. In the Persian Gulf, an Iranian drone flew into an aircraft carrier’s landing pattern, nearly causing a mid-air collision with a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet. Chinese J-10 Flounder fighters buzzed a Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft operating in international airspace off Hong Kong earlier this year.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy eyes new missile modules for stealthiest submarines

The US Navy is getting creative with the weapons payloads of the Virginia-class submarines, one of the deadliest and most technologically advanced subs in the world.

The Virginia Payload Module (VPM), a weapons system intended to give the late-block Virginia-class attack submarines (SSNs) a bit more punch, was initially viewed solely in the context of giving these submarines the kind of firepower seen on the aging Ohio-class guided-missile submarines (SSGNs).


“We were only really allowed to talk about it as a replacement for SSGN strike,” Program Executive Office for Submarines Executive Director George Drakeley said at November 2018’s Naval Submarine League symposium, USNI News reported Nov. 15, 2018. “The handcuffs are off now, and lately we’ve been talking about other capabilities,” he said at the event.

The US Navy awarded BAE Systems a contract in 2018 to develop new payload tubes — the new VPMs — for two Block V Virginia-class submarines, Defense News reported in June 2018. One of the four VPM tubes reportedly has the ability to carry and launch up to seven Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles (TLAMs). This technology can triple the sub’s payload capacity, significantly boosting its firepower.

The top 15 military stories of 2015

Rendering of Virginia-class attack submarine.

(US Department of Defense graphic by Ron Stern)

There are also opportunities to innovate and apply this technology to new missions, a necessity as the US refocuses its efforts on preparation for high-end conflict with rival powers. “We’re in a great power competition now, and so we need to be focusing on other potential capabilities,” Drakeley told those in attendance.

Both Russia and China are increasingly advancing their undersea warfighting capabilities. “In the undersea domain, the margins to victory are razor thin,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, told Pentagon reporters in October 2018.

A new report evaluating the National Defense Strategy, which also highlights the threat posed by great power competition, recommended the US bolster its submarine force. But numbers are not everything, as capability is also key.

“We have to get past the days of just ADCAP (advanced capability Mk 48 heavyweight torpedo) and TLAM (Tomahawk land-attack missile) as being our two principle weapons,” Rear Adm. John Tammen, the director of undersea warfare on the staff of the chief of naval operations, explained to attendees.

Tammen told USNI News that the surface warfare community is looking into a next-generation land-attack weapon, and the undersea warfare directorate would then look at ways to adapt it to the VPM, giving the Virginia-class subs an alternative to the Tomahawks.

At the same time, the Navy is also interested in VPM-launched unmanned undersea vehicles, but the pairing process has proven something of a challenge.

This new technology, as long with new torpedo systems, could potentially be seen on the Block VI and VII Virginia-class SSNs.

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

Articles

The 17 coolest DARPA projects

Since its founding in 1958, DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has kept the United States as a technological leader in robotics, electronics, communications, and combat. President Eisenhower first authorized what was then known as ARPA as a response to the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957, and the Agency quickly became known for its far-fetched research,  its startling advances, and its secrecy.


Inventions by DARPA have changed the way we communicate, work, and travel – both in peace and war. Our list of DARPA projects includes concepts crucial to the internet, GPS, interactive maps, advanced computing, and transportation. And DARPA researchers are currently working on an astounding array of projects, everything from robotic dogs to healing microchips. Much of it won’t work, and some of it won’t ever see the light of day – but everything DARPA does keeps the US on the forefront of technological dominance.

This DARPA projects list features some of the coolest, most attention-getting innovations DARPA has been involved with. Which inventions and breakthroughs do you think are the coolest in DARPA history? Vote them up below!

The Coolest DARPA Projects

Articles

See the dramatic footage of an ISIS attack on Iraqi tanks

On Oct. 17 an Iraqi-led coalition began the long battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and an important hub for ISIS.


And the Internet is already getting flooded with videos and photos from the fighting.

The Twitter feed Conflict News (@conflicts) released footage of the Iraqi Army’s 9th Armored Division rolling towards the fighting near the outskirts of Mosul:

About an hour later, Kurdistan24, a Kurdish news channel, released this footage of Iraqi Army tanks suffering a vehicle-borne IED attack by ISIS fighters:

The fight for Mosul has been expected for some time and the U.S. military has built up logistics and command and control capabilities at nearby bases to assist the Iraqis in their fight. Army Col. Brett G. Sylvia commands some of the soldiers operating in Northern Iraq. He sent a Facebook update to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team “STRIKE,” 101st Airborne Division’s families on Oct. 3 to prepare them for the Battle of Mosul:

The tireless work of STRIKE Soldiers has set the conditions for the final push against Daesh in Iraq. In the coming months, your Soldiers will advise and assist the Iraqi army from disparate locations, working together as one team towards the final objective: the liberation of Mosul, defeat of this cowardly enemy, and the establishment of a stable environment for the peace loving citizens of Iraq.

American, Iraqi, Kurdish, and other forces are expected to slowly push ISIS from the city in the coming weeks.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Coast Guard’s icebreaking tugs are on the job in New York City

Coast Guard crews have been busy freeing up tugs stuck in the icy Hudson River.


The Coast Guard used an ice-breaking vessel to free a tug the morning of Jan. 2 that had been stuck in the ice overnight near Kingston. The ice-breaking tug freed another vessel Dec. 31 near Saugerties.

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Coast Guard Cutter Penobscot Bay helps break free tug Brooklyn from the ice on the Hudson River near Saugerties, New York, December, 31 2017. Coast Guard ice-breaking tugs from New Jersey and New York are positioned along the river and are assisting vessels transiting areas where thick ice is present. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter Penobscot Bay)

Temperatures have dropped below zero along the river recently, complicating commercial shipping between New York City and Albany. Of the heating oil used in the U.S., 85% is consumed in the Northeast, and 90% of that is delivered by barge, the Coast Guard said in a release announcing the start of ice-breaking season in mid-December.

Also Read: 27 amazing photos of the Coast Guard in 2017

Operation Reliable Energy for Northeast Winters is the region-wide effort launched by the Coast Guard to ensure communities in the area have supplies and resources throughout the winter.

The Coast Guard has ice-breaking tugs — including 140-foot seagoing icebreaking tugs and 65-foot small harbor tugs — positioned along the river to help vessels where the river ice is thick. Coast Guard crews also have the service’s aircraft and buoy tenders on hand for operations.

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Nov. 24

There’s a lot happening this week.


But everything is on hold til we all come out of our leftovers food coma.

In the mean time, let these military memes brighten up your Black Friday.

1. We aren’t above a little “sky dick.”

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No one is.

2. The Navy proves it’s the master of multi-tasking.

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For the record, no one should be texting pics of their genitals.

3. Okay, last one. Promise. (via Decelerate Your Life)

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The Army one actually kinda stings. I mean, maybe. I dunno, I was in the Air Force.

Read Now: 6 reasons the Air Force wants to buy Russian DNA

4. “What does Azimuth stand for again?” (via Pop Smoke)

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Are those regulation sunglasses, person who is clearly a Lieutenant?

5. I didn’t know the Navy wanted to go to a PX. (via People of the PX)

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Shiver me timbers.

6. Not all heroes wear capes. (via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

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Unrelated: Vietnam vet returns base library book after 52 years

7. The Air Force PT belt equivalent. (via Maintainer Nation)

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All that protective gear weighs at least 50 pounds.

8. Remember when I said no more sky dick memes?

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The lie detector says that was a lie.

9. “Too bad Spongebob isn’t here to enjoy Spongebob not being here.” (via Maintainer Humor)

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Squidward is the walking definition of swing shift.

Now: 7 more phrases old school veterans can’t stop saying — and we love it

10. “4 minutes to First Sergeant. Gotta see First Sergeant.”

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11. No one does this much on leave for Thanksgiving. (via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

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12. Must go faster. Must go faster. (via Decelerate Your Life)

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Life found a way.

13. “POOF! Whaddya need?” (via Pop Smoke)

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I never had a friend like my 214.

Read This: 6 memes that immortalize the now-grounded ‘sky dick’ aircrew

Articles

Friendly fire kills 18 US allies

At least 18 members of the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces were killed in a U.S.-led coalition air strike that mistakenly targeted them in Syria’s Raqqa province.


In a statement released on April 13, U.S. Central Command said 18 SDF fighters died in the air raid south of the city of Tabqa on April 11. The attack was believed to be hitting members of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ( ISIL, also known as ISIS).

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Syrian girls, carrying school bags provided by UNICEF, walk past the rubble of destroyed buildings on their way home from school on March 7 in al-Shaar neighborhood, in the rebel-held side of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. (IZEIN ALRIFAI/AFP/GImages)

SDF was founded in Syria’s mainly Kurdish northeastern region in October 2015, and is made up of at least 15 armed factions, mostly fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and the Free Syrian Army.

“The strike was requested by the partnered forces, who had identified the target location as an ISIS fighting position. The target location was actually a forward Syrian Democratic Forces fighting position,” CENTCOM said.

“The coalition’s deepest condolences go out to the members of the SDF and their families. The coalition is in close contact with our SDF partners who have expressed a strong desire to remain focused on the fight against ISIS despite this tragic incident.”

The coalition added it is assessing the cause of the friendly fire attack.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on April 13 at least 25 other SDF fighters were killed in clashes against ISIL in the suburbs of Tabqa.

The incident occurred as U.S.-backed Syrian forces prepare to retake Raqqa, ISIL’s stronghold in Syria, as they move in from the city’s north.

SDF captured the strategic Tabqa airbase from ISIL in March. The airbase is 28 miles west of Raqqa,

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

Researchers at the University of Buffalo, working on research grants from the Army Research Office, have discovered a way of layering plastics that results in a material 14 times stronger than steel and eight times lighter. The layering technique is inspired by the way clams make pearls, and the final result is strong, light, but still slightly flexible armor.


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A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.

(Courtesy University of Buffalo)

The outer coatings of pearl are nacre, a structure of calcium carbonate that resembles interlocking bricks when viewed under a microscope. The researchers took ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, a souped-up plastic used in orthopedic devices, and layered it in a way similar to nacre.

The results are outstanding. Current body armor can contain up to 28 pounds of small arms protective inserts. The Kevlar plates used are about 80 percent of the weight of a steel plate of similar size. A UHMWPE plate of the same size would be about 12-13 percent the weight of a steel plate. That would put the plates needed for a large set of UHMWPE body armor at about 4 pounds instead of the 28 pounds for ceramic Kevlar armor.

Anyone who has worn 30 pounds of body armor and 50 pounds of additional gear while carrying an 8-pound weapon can tell you that shaving 24 pounds off the total load makes a huge difference. (Even though, in mortar sections, they’ll probably just make troops carry more ammo to make up the difference.)

And the inner layers of the armor deform to absorb the impact suffered by the outer layers, better protecting the target from the impact of the enemy’s shot.

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82nd Airborne Division paratroopers work their way up a short slope while patrolling in Southern Afghanistan in 2012.

(U.S. Army)

The total protection provided by the UHMWPE is so great that the researchers are considering its use in applications beyond body armor.

“The material is stiff, strong and tough,” said Dr. Shenqiang Ren, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a member of University at Buffalo’s RENEW Institute. “It could be applicable to vests, helmets and other types of body armor, as well as protective armor for ships, helicopters, and other vehicles.”

The wide range of potential applications is partially thanks to the strength to weight ratio. But it’s also more flexible than other materials. This makes it easier to form the material into a variety of shapes for different uses.

“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for Soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom of the ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for Soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”

And, with the addition of boron nitride, the material becomes a little stronger and much better at shedding heat. This would allow it to more rapidly cool off after being hit by enemy fire, giving it better protection against a second or third hit.

So it’s much lighter, stronger, and more adaptable than any armor you’re currently wearing.

But before you throw your SAPI plates off the roof in celebration, be aware that it will take time to create suitable manufacturing methods and products. The researchers used a 10-step process to create the small samples for their experiments and testing. It will be years before you and your vehicle are rocking this super-light armor.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Deadly crash raises questions about Marine Corps aviation

One Marine is dead, another is injured, and five are missing after an F/A-18 Hornet collided with a KC-130J refueling tanker during a night-time training mission off the coast of Japan on Dec. 5, 2018.

Capt. Jahmar F. Resilard, the pilot of the F/A-18, was rescued after crash but died on Dec. 6, 2018. The other Marine aboard the Hornet was rescued and is in stable conditions, but all five Marines aboard the KC-130J remain missing.


The deadly incident is the latest in series of fatal and costly accidents among Marine Corps aircraft that have raised concerns about the condition of aircraft and quality of training in the Corps and across the US military.

On July 10, 2017, a Marine Corps KC-130T tanker aircraft crashed in Mississippi, killing 15 Marines and a sailor.

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A Marine Corps KC-130T deploys a high-speed drogue during an aerial refueling mission at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, June 16, 2018.

The KC-130T was introduced in the early 1980s. The aircraft in that incident, one of the last ones still flying, was set for retirement within a few years.

The proximate cause of the accident, however, was a corroded propeller blade that went unfixed when it entered an Air Force maintenance depot in 2011, according to an investigation released in December 2018. The corrosion became a crack that allowed the blade to shear off in flight and rip through the fuselage, causing the plane to break up.

Data compiled by Breaking Defense in September 2017 — after a summer in which deadly accidents led Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller to order rolling stand-downs across aviation units — showed that over the previous six years, 62 Marines had been killed in aircraft accidents, compared to just 10 personnel from the Navy, which has more people and more aircraft.

The Corps also had more Class A Mishaps, the most serious category of accident which involve loss of life or more than id=”listicle-2622946621″ million in damage.

The Marine Corps has fewer aircraft than the Navy, so a few accidents can boost the accident rate considerably. Marine Corps aircraft are also frequently carrying troops, which can make fewer accidents more deadly.

The age and nature of Marine Corps aircraft also complicate matters. The F/A-18 Hornet and the KC-130T both entered service around the same time. (The Corps has said it will get rid of its oldest Hornets, but delays in the F-35 program have slowed that process.)

Planes like the AV-8B Harrier, which first became operational in 1971, and the newer MV-22 Osprey are vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, which makes them trickier to fly even when they’re new.

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An MV-22 Osprey from Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron (VMM) 166 (Reinforced) lands on the flight deck of the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) to conduct a personnel transfer.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Eshleman)

But, as Breaking Defense found, the Corps was seeing accidents at a much higher rate than the Navy — 10% more in the best year.

An investigation by Military Times this spring found Marine Corps aviation accidents had increased 80% over the previous five years, rising from 56 in fiscal year 2013 to 101 in fiscal year 2017. The greatest increase came among Class C mishaps, where damage is between ,000 and 0,000 and work days are lost due to injury.

2013 marked the beginning of mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, and other services also saw an increase in mishaps starting that year as squadrons reduced flying hours for training.

The Marines, however, have a smaller budget, fewer personnel, and fewer aircraft. After 2013, flying hours were reduced and and experienced maintainers supervisors were released.

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Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Zachary Almendarez, cleans the inside of a nacelle on a V-22 Osprey aboard USS Iwo Jima, Oct. 7, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Margaret Gale)

The next year, military operations increased as a part of the campaign against ISIS and in response to Chinese activity in the South China Sea. Flying hours for deployed pilots grew while returned pilots were “flight-time deprived.”

Along with increased flight hours for deployed Marine pilots, maintenance suffered, as the Corps was not able to replace some of its more experienced maintainers and crew members. That drove an increase in the number of aircraft that were unable to fly, in turn depriving pilots of flight time for training.

The loss of both skilled maintainers and pilot hours increases the chances a mishap will occur and the chances that a minor mishap will escalate, defense analysts told Military Times.

“You got worse at everything if you flew two or less times a week,” John Venable, a former F-16 pilot and senior defense fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Military Times. “And the average units have been flying two or less times for five years. It lulls your ability to handle even mundane things.”

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

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