President Trump released a Gitmo prisoner to Saudi Arabia - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump released a Gitmo prisoner to Saudi Arabia

A prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center has been sent back to his native Saudi Arabia to serve out the remainder of a 13-year sentence, making him the first detainee to leave the U.S. base in Cuba since President Donald Trump took office.

The Pentagon announced the transfer of Ahmed Mohammed al-Darbi in a brief statement on May 2, 2018. He had originally been scheduled to return home as part of a plea deal no later than Feb. 20, 2018.


Al-Darbi pleaded guilty before a military commission at the U.S. base in Cuba in 2014 to charges stemming from an al-Qaida attack on a French oil tanker. He is expected to serve out the rest of his sentence, about nine years, in a Saudi rehabilitation program as part of a plea deal that included extensive testimony against others held at Guantanamo

His lead defense counsel, Ramzi Kassem, said the transfer was the culmination of “16 long and painful years in captivity” by the U.S. at Guantanamo and in Afghanistan, with his children growing up without him and his own father dying.

“While it may not make him whole, my hope is that repatriation at least marks the end of injustice for Ahmed,” said Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York who has represented the prisoner since 2008.

Al-Darbi was captured at the airport in Baku, Azerbaijan, in June 2002 and taken to the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan. He has testified to being kept in solitary confinement, strung up from a door in shackles, deprived of sleep and subjected to other forms of abuse as part of his early interrogation.

In a statement released by Kassem, who was part of a legal team that included two military officers, al-Darbi described what he expected to be an emotional reunion with his family in Saudi Arabia.

“I cannot thank enough my wife and our children for their patience and their love. They waited sixteen years for my return,” he said. “Looking at what lies ahead, I feel a mixture of excitement, disbelief, and fear. I’ve never been a father. I’ve been here at Guantanamo. I’ve never held my son.”

His transfer brings the number of men held at Guantanamo to 40, which includes five men facing trial by military commission for their alleged roles planning and supporting the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack and another charged with the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000.

The U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Cole gets underway after completing extensive repairs to the ship’s hull and interior spaces.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Tina M. Ackerman.)

Al-Darbi, 43, pleaded guilty to charges that included conspiracy, attacking civilian objects, terrorism and aiding the enemy for helping to arrange the 2002 al-Qaida attack on the French tanker MV Limburg. The attack, which killed a Bulgarian crew member, happened after al-Darbi was already in U.S. custody and was cooperating with authorities, according to court documents.

Al-Darbi could have received a life sentence but instead got 13 years in the plea deal. He provided testimony against the defendant in the Cole attack as well as against a Guantanamo prisoner charged with overseeing attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2002-2006. Neither case has gone to trial.

Gen. Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor for the war crimes proceedings at Guantanamo, said in a February 2018 Defense Department memo that al-Darbi provided “invaluable assistance” to the U.S.

“Al-Darbi’s testimony in these cases was both unprecedented in its detail regarding al-Qaida operations and crucial to government efforts to hold top members of that group accountable for war crimes,” Martins wrote.

The agreement to repatriate al-Darbi was made under President Barack Obama, whose administration sought to gradually winnow down the prison population in hopes of eventually closing the detention center. Trump reversed that policy and has vowed to continue using the detention center.

In a separate statement on May 2, 2018, the Defense Department said it had sent the White House a proposed set of guidelines for sending prisoners to Guantanamo in the future “should that person present a continuing, significant threat to the security of the United States.” A Pentagon spokeswoman declined to provide any details about the new policy.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

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

It’s the first time the U.S. military has made a major upgrade to personal weapons in over 30 years, and so far, the only way anyone’s gotten an impression of what this new gun can do is to look at press releases and a few pictures from test ranges.


But as the Army is set to field upwards of 500,000 new M17 and M18 Modular Handguns to replace the 1980s-era M9 Beretta pistol, We Are The Mighty got an exclusive look at the impressive new firearm from the folks who designed and built it.

Soldiers on the range testing the new Sig Sauer M17. (Photo from US Army)

Comparing the M9 to the M17, gone are the external hammer, double action and decocker, and in its place is a slick handgun with a streamlined build based on the most modern technology available in pistol operation and design.

Engineers with M17 maker Sig Sauer likened switching from the M9 to trading in a 1980 Pontiac Bonneville station wagon for a 2015 Honda Accord.

“That old car works just fine, but think of how far car design has come in over 30 years,” one Sig official said. “That’s kind of what’s happening here with the M17. Pistol design has come a long way since the 1980s.”

The new M17 — and its smaller cousin, the M18 — is a 9mm handgun based on the ground-breaking P320 civilian pistol, which is a lot like a pistol version of a Lego set.

The M17 is built with a removable trigger module that can be inserted into new grips and mated with new barrels and slides to make a whole new handgun based on whatever the mission calls for.

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

But the main difference most soldiers will notice with the M17 is the change from a double action to a striker fired operation. What that means is an end to that heavy first-shot trigger pull with much lighter follow-up pulls. With the M17, every tug of the trigger is the same — and that makes for easier training and better familiarity with the handgun during yearly qualifications, Sig officials say.

“Soldiers will have a consistent trigger pull every time they shoot the M17,” said Sig Sauer pistol product manager Phil Strader.

Also, the M17 does away with the need for a decocker, so soldiers won’t have to be taught how to drop the hammer before holstering the weapon. Now, once you’re done shooting, you simply engage the external safety and put the gun on your belt.

Shooting the M17 is a no brainer. The design of the grip encourages a natural aim and the 4.7-inch barrel provides good balance between accuracy and compactness. During quick draw-and-shoot drills engaging steel targets at 10 meters, the M17 hit the target every time, even in this amateur’s hands and without taking the time to line up the sights.

The new M17 is lighter and simpler to use than the Beretta M9. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

For those not used to an external safety on a striker-fired handgun, switching from safe to fire and back again takes a bit of getting used to, and lining up your grip hand thumb so that it doesn’t engage the slide released takes a few mags to drill into muscle memory.

But other than that, the M17 and M18 are pretty much as easy as any modern pistol to figure out.

The M17 also comes with glow-in-the-dark Tritium sights. The sights have a green front sight and orange rear sights to encourage proper alignment under stress, Strader said. What’s more, the M17 and M18 slides have a removable rear plate so soldiers can install Delta Point red dots optics.

All that, and the M17 is being outfitted with two extended 21-round magazines and a standard 17-rounder. The more compact M18 uses the same frame as the M17 with a size-medium grip and features a 3.9-inch barrel and shorter slide.

Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division will reportedly be the first to receive the M17, with more units following closely after. Rumor has it that the M17 and M18 have attracted the attention of the special operations community as well, with SEALs — who recently ditched their Sig P226 handguns for Glocks — particularly digging the ability to tailor the same gun to a variety of missions.

It was a tough fight that took many years, but in the end the U.S. military is poised to field an innovative, modern new handgun that makes the most of today’s technology and could give troopers a big advantage for a last ditch defense.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Green Beret will make you a mental commando: Holiday Edition

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the aspiring operator or inspired survivalist:

~Tactical training from the man who took Ryan Curtis back to school~

A typical Fieldcraft Survival classroom.  (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

For our final installment of the Mighty Holiday Gift Guide, we want to politely remind you that going out and getting active with a group of likeminded individuals is, when all is said and done, the best kind of therapy for what ails the modern psyche.

Whether you deployed to combat zones or burned your PT belt as soon you could specialize into admin; whether you’re a veteran looking for new purpose on the homefront or a civilian curious about what happens when you push beyond the bounds of civilization; let us suggest, with all requisite seasonal jollity, that you seek out a school like Fieldcraft Survival, squad up with their Tribe and give yourself the gift of training under an expert like Mike Glover.

He’ll make your mind quiet and your aim true.

As a Special Forces Weapons Specialist, Sniper, Assaulter/Operator, Recon Specialist, Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC), Team Sergeant, and Operations SGM, Glover spent 18 years acquiring the kind of skillset that would make him a force multiplier in the field and, upon transitioning, the kind of dude who would have to start a survival school.

Covering a range of topics from Pistol and Carbine Training for Gunfighters and Off Road Survival to Active Shooter Tactical Trauma, Fieldcraft Survival strives to prepare its trainees physically and, more importantly, mentally to competently tackle a murderer’s row of worst case scenarios.

Look, it’s easy to return to the comforts of home and get complacent. Honestly, if that’s what you want to do, you’ve earned the right. But brotherhood is what you miss the most about the military. And those bonds can be made anew, out in the bush and the muck, shoulder to shoulder, facing just the right amount of suck to bring up the best in you. When you give yourself a task and a purpose and a struggle to overcome, you invest this second life of yours with meaning.

The holidays can get pretty materialistic. But if you give yourself the right gift – the gift of a challenge – the person you want to be, or wish you were, might be out there waiting for you, just few weeks hard march into next year.

Go get ’em.

And Happy Holidays, from all of us at We Are The Mighty.

Because obviously yes goddamnit. (Go90 Oscar Mike Screenshot)

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

MIGHTY GAMING

4 top reasons why veterans should play battle royale games

Whether you’ve served or not, you know the difficulty of leaving a job and moving away. For all you civilians out there, take the struggles and anxieties that come with moving away from a place, a people, and a function you know and amplify them ten-fold. In the military, you spend all day, every day getting to know your coworkers and becoming a family. When you finally leave that family and return to civilian life, it sucks — all of your best friends are now thousands of miles away.

Thanks to the age of the internet and social media, that gap is easily closed — but one thing us veterans (especially us grunts) miss the most is playing soldier with our brothers and sisters. Strangely enough, we’ve found that there is a way to reconnect with our veteran friends in the way we prefer, which is getting into gunfights.

If you’re a veteran and you’ve been looking to reconnect with your buddies, here’s why you should do it over a few rounds of a battle royale game:


Just like the old days, eh?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

Teamwork is essential

By playing with your friends, you’ll have a distinct advantage in a battle royale game. You already know how to work together and function in combat scenarios and that chemistry takes you far. You also know how to communicate with each other because you speak the same military language.

If you’re like us, this is the part you miss the most.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Hurtado)

You spend time with your veteran friends

While it may not be an in-person visit, you still get to hang out with your friends. In a way, the settings are surprisingly similar — you never really know what lies ahead.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Ryan Carpenter)

Your knowledge can help you dominate

In games like PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, employment of real-world tactics is crucial. You didn’t know it at the time, but all that time you spent in training wasn’t just preparing you for real war — it was preparing you to dominate the digital domain, too.

The fact that you and your buddies have training and experience with each other gives you a distinct advantage — and we all love winning, so why not use everything you know? You’ve already done the hard part — once you get the controls down, it’s smooth sailing.

You’ll enjoy it.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Katherine M. Solano)

It’s just plain fun

Hanging out with your buddies and sh*t talking each other is the world’s greatest pastime. Even if you’re not dominating other teams, you’re still having fun reminiscing and joking with each other. So, why not take a crack at it?

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military medevacs are facing a hidden emergency

The role of the Dustoff is sacred, enshrined in both the relationship between medical personnel and their patients as well as treaties that underlie the Law of Armed Conflict, but the practical concerns of providing medical care to troops under fire will be sorely tested in a war with a modern foe.


An Army air ambulance picks up a simulated Marine casualty during a 2018 exercise in Romania.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Sturdivant)

Currently, the U.S. and most of its allies — as well as many of its greatest rivals — enjoy nearly unquestioned air superiority in their areas of operations and responsibility. So, a commander of a modern military force, whether they’re Italian, French, Chinese, or American, can request a medical evacuation with near certainty that the wounded or sick person can be picked up quickly.

Even in active theaters of war like Afghanistan, wounded personnel can often be delivered to advanced medical care within the “Golden Hour,” the first hour after injury when medical intervention will make the biggest difference between life and death, recovery, and permanent disability.

In one recent case, military personnel in Africa were able to save an Italian woman’s life after she was injured in a car crash, thanks to collaboration between medical personnel from six nations, multiple ambulance services and air crews, and a doctor-turned-linguist.

But the advanced medical capabilities available across NATO and in Russian and Chinese forces rely on an evacuation infrastructure built for uncontested environments, where the worst threat to aircraft comes from IEDs and machine gun fire.

In a new paper from RAND Europe, defense analyst Marta Kepe dovetails recent speeches from military leaders, war game results, and scholarly work. They all point to a conflict wherein troops may have to wait days or longer for evacuation, meaning that providing care at the point of injury, possibly while still under threat of enemy attack, will be the only real chance for life-saving intervention.

Take the case of war with North Korea, a much “easier” hypothetical conflict than one with China or Russia. While North Korea lacks advanced air defense assets and electronic warfare assets, that simply means that they can’t jam all communications and they likely can’t shoot down fifth-generation fighters.

But medevacs rely on helicopters that, by and large, are susceptible to North Korean air defenses. Fly too high and they can be targeted and destroyed by nearly any surface-to air missile that North Korea has. Fly too low and infantrymen with RPGs and machine guns can potentially kill them.

North Korean weapons and aircraft, while outdated, are numerous — there are over 1,300 aircraft in the arsenal and widely deployed anti-air missile sites on the ground. It might take months to wipe them all out during an invasion, the same period of time when ground commanders would expect to take the most casualties.

An M113 ambulance drives through the Kuwaiti desert during a demonstration.

(U.S. Army)

And that’s before the helicopters’ traditional escorts in Afghanistan and Iraq, AH-64 Apaches that’re armed to the teeth, are tasked for more urgent missions, like taking out air defense and artillery sites.

All this combines to form a battlefield where command teams will need to use ground ambulances and standard vehicles to get their wounded far from the front lines before they can be picked up, tying up assets needed for the advance, taxing supply lines that now have competing traffic, and extending the time between injury and treatment.

Some battlefields, meanwhile, might be underground where it’s nearly impossible to quickly communicate with the surface or with air assets. People wounded while fighting for control of cave networks or underground bunker systems would need to be carried out on foot, then evacuated in ground vehicles to pickup sites, and then flown to hospitals.

The hospital ship USNS Mercy pulls into port.

(U.S. Military Sealift Command Sarah Buford)

And the closest hospitals might be ships far offshore since role 3 and 4 hospitals on land take time to construct and are vulnerable to attack. While deliberately targeting a hospital is illegal, there’s no guarantee that the treaties would be honored by enemy commanders (Remember, Russia’s annexations of South Ossetia and Crimea were violations of international law, as were China’s cyber attacks and territory seizures in the Pacific).

All of which means that a war with North Korea would see tens of thousands of injured troops die of wounds that wouldn’t have been fatal in a more permissive environment. A similar story exists in Iran.

But China and Russia would be worse since they have the assets necessary to shutdown American communication networks, making it impossible for ground commanders to call for medical aid. They’re also more likely to be able to pinpoint signal sources, making it risky for a platoon leader to call for medical aid for wounded troops.

And China and Russia’s air forces and air defenses, while not quite as large as America’s, are much more potent and well-trained that Iran or North Korea’s. They could likely hold out for months or years while inflicting heavy casualties to American air assets, preventing the establishment of a permissive medevac capability for even longer.

A 2016 analysis by RAND even postulated that China would be nearly impossible to conquer by 2025. The same weapon systems expected to protect China’s mainland from successful invasion would make it nearly impossible to evacuate all the personnel injured while trying to effect the invasion.

Air Force special operators render simulated medical aid during an exercise at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2017. The ability for non-medical personnel to render aid under fire is expected to become more important in the coming years.

(U.S. Army)

There is good news, though. The U.S. military has acknowledged these shortcomings and is trying to lay the framework for what a medical corps in a contested environment should look like.

The Army is expanding it’s “Tactical Combat Casualty Care,” or TC3, program where combat lifesavers are trained in military first aid. DARPA is working on autonomous or remotely piloted pods that can fly medical capsules with supplies in or casualty evacuation capsules out without risking flight crews. The Marine Corps already has an experimental autonomous helicopter for logistics.

Beyond that is re-building medical units to perform work closer to the front lines. This is a return to the old days to a certain extent. The only dentist to receive the Medal of Honor earned the award in World War II while acting as a surgeon in a hospital overrun by Japanese attackers.

They could also be more dispersed. Instead of building a few large hospitals with large staffs on easily targeted installations, surgical teams and other care providers could operate in small groups. That way, if one or two teams are destroyed or forced to retreat, there would still be a few groups providing medical care.

In addition to more dispersed and forward-positioned medical personnel, there’s room for expanding the medical capabilities of non-medical personnel.

In 2017, then-Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, the deputy commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, suggested that the non-medical soldiers trained in first aid could be sent on rotations with civilian paramedics and other medical personnel that treat trauma victims, building up their understanding of medical care and their resilience.

LaCamera was promoted to lieutenant general and commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps in January, 2018, increasing the chances that his directions will result in actual policy changes. He’s also the commander of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where special operations medical personnel have been sent to local hospitals to train for years.

Historically, those types of rotations have been limited to medics and other specialized troops. Medical personnel, meanwhile, would see an increased number of rotations into civilian trauma centers in the U.S. and allied countries.

But the most important aspect of medical care under fire in tomorrow’s war will be the same as it is today: Achieve and maintain fire superiority. The best way to open a window to evacuate your own personnel is by killing everyone on the enemy side wounding your troops and trying to prevent it.

Articles

Pentagon revs up Hellfire missiles to attack ISIS

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jon Soles


Ongoing U.S. and allied drone, helicopter and aircraft attacks against ISIS have led the Army to massively rev up its production of air-launched HELLFIRE missiles, a weapon regularly used to destroy Islamic State buildings, bunkers, armored vehicles, fighter positions and equipment.

The war against ISIS has depleted existing inventory of the weapon and generated a fast-growing national and international demand for HELLFIRE missiles, Army officials told Scout Warrior.

“Production of HELLFIRE has increased for quantities ordered in Fiscal Year 14 and Fiscal Year 15,” Dan O’Boyle, spokesman for Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, said in a written statement.

As the principle manufacturer of HELLFIRE missiles, the Army provides the weapon to national and international entities to include the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy arsenals, among others. Overall, there as many as 15 or more international customers using HELLFIRE missiles, many of them partners in the U.S.-led coalition to destroy ISIS.

While Army officials did not provide specific numbers of production increases or plans to provide particular allied nations with HELLFIREs, the Pentagon has requested $1.8 billion in its 2017 budget for munitions, bombs and missiles needed to replenish or maintain stockpiles and sustain the attacks against ISIS.

As part of a separate effort, the Air Force did request and receive $400 million in reprogrammed dollars to address an air-to-ground munitions shortage, particularly with Hellfire missiles.

“The Air Force worked with the Army to re-prioritize HELLFIRE missile deliveries to the Air Force, requested additional funding for HELLFIRE missiles, reduced aircrew training expenditures, and is working a procurement plan to increase production to reconstitute munitions stocks as quickly as possible,” an Air Force official told Scout Warrior.

While precision-guided air-to-ground weapons are typically needed during aerial bombing efforts, they are of particular urgent value in the ongoing attacks on ISIS. ISIS fighters regularly hide among civilians and at times use women and children as human shields, making the need for precision all the more pressing.

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Bryanna Poulin

In service since the 1970s, HELLFIRE missiles originated as 100-pound tank-killing, armor piercing weapons engineered to fire from helicopters to destroy enemy armored vehicles, bunkers and other fortifications.

In more recent years, the emergence of news sensors, platforms and guidance technologies have enabled the missile to launch strikes with greater precision against a wider envelope of potential enemy targets.

HELLFIRE Missile Technologies and Platforms

These days, the weapon is primarily fired from attack drones such as the Air Force Predator and Reaper and the Army’s Gray Eagle; naturally, the HELLFIRE is also used by the Army’s AH-64 Apache Attack helicopter, OH-58 Kiowa Warriors and AH-1 Marine Corps Super Cobras, among others. Although not much is known about when, where or who — HELLFIREs are also regularly used in U.S. drone strikes using Air Force Predators and Reapers against terrorist targets around the globe.

The HELLFIRE missile can use radio frequency, RF, guidance – referred to as “fire and forget” – or semi-active laser technology. A ground target can be designated or “painted” by a laser spot from the aircraft firing the weapon, another aircraft or ground spotter illuminating the target for the weapon to destroy.

There are multiple kinds of HELLFIRE warheads to include a High-Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, weapon and a Blast-Fragmentation explosive along with several others. The HEAT round uses what’s called a “tandem warhead” with both a smaller and larger shaped charge; the idea is to achieve the initial requisite effect before detonating a larger explosion to maximize damage to the target.

The “Blast-Frag” warhead is a laser-guided penetrator weapon with a hardened steel casing, incendiary pellets designed for enemy ships, bunkers, patrol boats and things like communications infrastructure, Army documents explain.

The “Metal Augmented Charge” warhead improves upon the “Blast-Frag” weapon by adding metal fuel to the missile designed to increase the blast overpressure inside bunkers, ships and multi-room targets, Army information says. The “Metal Augmented Charge” is penetrating, laser-guided and also used for attacks on bridges, air defenses and oil rigs. The missile uses blast effects, fragmentation and overpressure to destroy targets.

The AGM-114L HELLFIRE is designed for the Longbow Apache attack helicopter platform; the weapon uses millimeter-wave technology, radar, digital signal processing and inertial measurement units to “lock-on” to a target before or after launch.

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Spike Call

The AGM-114R warhead is described as a “Multi-Purpose” explosive used for anti-armor, anti-personnel and urban targets; the weapon uses a Micro-Electro Mechanical System Inertial Measurement Unit for additional flight guidance along with a delayed fuse in order to penetrate a target before exploding in order to maximize damage inside an area.

The AGM-114R or “Romeo” variant, which is the most modern in the arsenal, integrates a few additional technologies such as all-weather millimeter wave guidance technology and a fragmentation-increasing metal sleeve configured around the outside of the missile.

The “Multi-Purpose” warhead is a dual mode weapon able to use both a shaped charge along with a fragmentation sleeve. The additional casing is designed to further disperse “blast-effects” with greater fragmentation in order to be more effective against small groups of enemy fighters.

“The “Romeo” variant is an example of how these efforts result in a more capable missile that will maintain fire superiority for the foreseeable future,” O’Boyle said.

Additional HELLFIRE Uses

Although the HELLFIRE began as an air-to-ground weapon, the missile has been fired in a variety of different respects in recent years. The Navy has fired a Longbow HELLFIRE from a Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, to increase its lethality; the Navy’s 2017 budget request asks for Longbow HELLFIRE missiles, beginning with the LCS surface-to-surface mission module, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.   Also, the Army has fired the weapon at drone targets in the air from a truck-mounted Multi-Mission Launcher on the ground and international U.S. allies have fired the HELLFIRE mounted on a ground-stationed tripod.

Articles

This pilot defected with the Soviet Union’s most advanced plane

(Photo: U.S. Air Force)


Lieutenant Viktor Belenko decided he had had enough. Despite being considered an expert fighter pilot with one of the Soviet Union’s elite squadrons, with all the perks that went with it, Belenko was tired of the shortages and propaganda that defined much of life in the USSR. He feared that reports of plenty in the U.S. were also exaggerated, but he decided to take a chance. On September 6, 1976 during a routine training mission, he switched off his radio and bolted to Hakodate airport in Japan. After nearly running out of fuel, barely avoiding a civilian jetliner, and overshooting the runway, he set down in Japan with only a busted landing gear. It turned out to be one of the great intelligence coups of the Cold War.

Given this gift, including a flight manual that Belenko had helpfully brought along, Western intelligence agencies proceeded to tear the plane to bits analyzing the fighter whose capabilities up until now were only an assumption. When the Soviet Union demanded its return, Japan agreed on the condition that they recoup shipping costs. The plane showed up at a docked Soviet vessel in dozens of crates, and when the Soviets realized at least 20 key components were missing, they demanded $10 million in compensation. As befitted the Cold War, neither ever paid.

The MiG-25 “Foxbat” was the newest and most advanced fighter the Soviet Union possessed. The United States and its allied NATO countries were genuinely concerned over its capabilities, and it was generally assumed to be an advanced fighter bomber that could outfly anything NATO had. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Mig-25 was very cutting edge in its way. It was one of the fastest fighters ever produced, with a theoretical top speed of mach 3.2 at the risk of engine damage, putting it near the vaunted U.S. SR-71 spy plane. It’s radar was one of the most powerful ever put on a plane of its size.

Viktor Belenko

But those strengths were where it ended. The MiG-25 was built around its extremely heavy engines, and it showed. It had a ridiculously short combat range, and even its unarmed cruising range was too short, as Belenko’s journey could attest. It was so specialized in high-altitude interception that flying it at low altitude and speed could be very difficult. It could not carry weapons for ground attack, did not have a integral cannon, and the large wings NATO interpreted as making it a formidable dogfighter were simply meant to keep its heavy airframe in the air. In reality, it was maneuverable and would be mincemeat in a conventional dogfight once it closed to short range. Its electronics were still vacuum tube technology, and its airframe would literally bend itself out of shape if the pilot was not careful. It was made to be a high speed missile carrier targeting bombers or U.S. high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft like the U-2 inside Soviet airspace, and not much more.

Despite its flaws, the Soviet Union built over a thousand of them, and it was widely exported to a number of countries, where its combat record in several wars was mixed at best. An updated version called the MiG-31 was later built that shared aspects with the original, including many of its shortcomings.

Belkov, for all his doubts, received a welcome beyond his skeptical hopes. In an old saw that applied to many Soviet visitors, he was flabbergasted by his first visit to an American supermarket, and wondered if it was a CIA hoax. He was granted citizenship by an act of Congress in 1980, and he co-wrote an autobiography called MiG Pilot that had some success. He reportedly works as an aerospace engineer to this day. His daring escape still stands as one of the defining moments of the Cold War.

Articles

F-35’s $400K helmet still blinds pilots on night flights

A software fix designed to make the state-of-the-art F-35 helmet easier to use for Navy and Marine Corps pilots landing on ships at night is still falling short of the mark, the program executive officer for the Joint Strike Fighter program said Monday.


One discovery made as the F-35C Navy carrier variant and F-35B Marine Corps “jump jet” variant wrapped up ship testing this year was that the symbology on the pricey helmet was still too bright and distracting for pilots landing on carriers or amphibious ships in the lowest light conditions, Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan told reporters.

Also read: The Pentagon wants a half-billion more dollars for the F-35

During the final developmental test phase for the F-35C aboard the carrier George Washington in August, officials told Military.com they were testing a new software load specifically designed to address the F-35 helmet’s “green glow” problem, which can make it difficult for pilots to detect outside light sources and the cues they need to land their aircraft safely.

The F-35’s high tech helmet aims to provide pilots with unprecedented situational awareness. | Lockheed Martin image

While testers were hopeful at the time the problem was solved, Bogdan said officials are not yet satisfied.

“The symbology on the helmet, even when turned down as low as it can, is still a little too bright,” he said. “We want to turn down that symbology so that it’s not so bright that they can’t see through it to see the lights, but if you turn it down too much, then you start not being able to see the stuff you do want to see. We have an issue there, there’s no doubt.”

Bogdan said the military plans on pursuing a hardware fix for the helmet, which is designed to stream real-time information onto the visor and allow the pilots to “see through” the plane by projecting images from cameras mounted around the aircraft. But before that fix is finalized, he said, pilots of the F-35 B and C variants will make operational changes to mitigate the glare from the helmet. These may include adjusting the light scheme on the aircraft, altering how pilots communicate during night flights, and perhaps changing the way they use the helmet during these flights, he said.

Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

“We’re thinking in the short term we need to make some operational changes, and in the long term we’ll look for some hardware changes,” Bogdan said.

The window for making such adjustments is rapidly closing. The first F-35B squadron is expected to move forward to its new permanent base in Japan in January ahead of a 2018 shipboard deployment in the Pacific. The F-35C is also expected to deploy aboard a carrier for the first time in 2018.

Articles

This organization makes the dreams of terminally-ill veterans come true

(Photo: The Dream Foundation)


Dream Foundation was founded in 1994 with a mission to serve terminally ill adults and their families by providing end-of-life dreams that offer inspiration, comfort, and closure. In September 2015, the organization introduced Dreams for Veterans – a program for terminally ill veterans.

“For 21 years we’ve had the privilege of fulfilling over 25,000 final dreams for terminally ill individuals, including veterans of all ages,” said Kisa Heyer, Dream Foundation’s CEO. “Given the number of dream requests we’ve received from the military community has jumped exponentially in recent years, we felt compelled last year to create Dreams for Veterans, a program designed to address the specific needs of our nation’s heroes and their families. Our team is working to double the number of terminally ill veterans we serve in the next three years.”

Dream Foundation has fulfilled 829 dreams specifically for veterans since it was founded in 1994, and since the launch of their Dreams for Veterans program they have fulfilled 111 dreams for veterans. Their motto is: “If you served, you can dream.”

Veteran Joe Hooker who served in Vietnam passed away last summer, but not before he was able to fulfill a promise he had made 40 years ago. On his way back from the war, he made a stop in Honolulu, Hawaii. That visit inspired a lifelong desire to go back to Hawaii “to honor the men and women that gave their life at Pearl Harbor,” as he put it. In his application to Dream Foundation he wrote that he wanted to “learn, touch and understand what happened there.”

The foundation approved this application and sent him along with his brother and sister-in-law on a VIP tour of Pearl Harbor. Although he was suffering from cancer and heart disease, he was able to pay his respects to his fellow brothers and sisters in arms.

“I can go home now and rest in peace,” Hooker said in an interview with Salon.com. He passed away two months later.

Carl Johnson and Lucinda “Cindy” Niggel have also had their final dreams fulfilled by Dream Foundation.

Floreville, Texas resident Carl Johnson, 92, is World War II Army veteran who landed on the sands of Normandy on D-Day. Johnson earned two Bronze Stars, a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. He now has lung disease and has been told by doctors he only has a couple of months to live. He hadn’t seen Ronnie, his disabled son who lives upstate New York, in eight years.

Carl Johnson with his son. (Photo: The Dream Foundation)

“I always said I wanted to give Ronnie a hug before I got laid down beside my wife,” Johnson said. His caregiver contacted Dream Foundation, and in February he was able to wrap his arms around his son one last time.

“I spent a whole day with him and on top of that, [I got to see] lot of my wife’s relatives  – she has a quite a few!” Johnson said.  “They say you can’t win them all, but when you win them all, it’s a miracle.”

Lucinda “Cindy” Niggel, 59, is Navy veteran with terminal breast cancer. Aside from trips to the doctor or hospital, Niggel has spent most of her time confined in her home, on constant oxygen. When Lucinda told a friend she wanted to get out of her house and visit someplace tropical, that friend suggested she look into Dream Foundation.

Dream Foundation provided Cindy and a companion with a vacation to Captiva Island, complete with airfare and funds for food and transportation. “They’re true to their word, and the application process is not hard,” Niggel said. “The trip was amazing. I felt like I was in paradise.”

To learn how you can support Dream Foundation click here.

Articles

US Navy SEALs are training with Ukrainian special operations forces

Across southern Ukraine, US special operations forces trained with Ukrainian special operators and conventional US and Ukrainian naval forces during Sea Breeze 2017, July 10-21.


An annual fixture in the Black Sea region since 1997, Sea Breeze is a US and Ukrainian co-hosted multinational maritime exercise.

This year, Ukraine invited US special operations forces to participate, and US Special Operations Command Europe’s Naval Special Warfare Command operators were eager to sign up for the mission.

This is the first time that special operations forces have operated at Sea Breeze, said US Navy Capt. Michael Villegas, the exercise’s director. “[Their] capabilities are extremely valued by the Ukrainians and extremely valuable to the US.”

A U.S Naval Special Warfare Operator observes a Ukrainian SOF Operator during a weapons range in Ochakiv, Ukraine during exercise Sea Breeze 17, July 18, 2017. Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea and is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security within the region. (U.S. military photo)

Naval Special Warfare Command operators were completely integrated into the various air, land, and sea missions that required their unique warfighting skill set. Exercise Sea Breeze is a perfect fit for special operations forces to train and exercise their capabilities, the exercise’s lead special operations forces planner said. “With the support of the [Air Force’s] 352nd Special Operations Wing, we saw a prime opportunity to support [special operations] mission-essential training with our Ukrainian allies,” he said.

He added that naval special warfare units bring a host of unique capabilities into the exercise scenario, such as rigid-hull inflatable boats; visit, board, search, and seizure expertise; and the strongest direct action capabilities available. However, Villegas noted, capability is only one piece of the puzzle when training alongside a partner nation with shared objectives to assure, deter, and defend in an increasingly complex environment.

“In the spirit of Sea Breeze, we come not to impose what we know or how we operate,” he said. “Here, we come to exchange ideas, train towards interoperability and learn to operate side by side should a conflict arise that would require that.”

Achieving interoperability with partner nations and interservice partners is a common objective at exercises like Sea Breeze. But here, the US special operations forces capitalized on it. “Interoperability is our ability to conduct combined planning, problem solving, and mission execution efficiently to achieve a mutually-defined end state,” Villegas said.

Ukrainian SOF prepare to board a U.S. CV-22 Osprey during exercise Sea Breeze 17. Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Lopez

Achieving this end state, he added, hinged on US-Ukrainian integration at the tactical level within the special operations platoons, and at the special operations maritime task group level.

“We have combined with our Ukrainian colleagues to integrate their experience and capabilities within our key positions,” he said. “Starting in the command team and further within our operations, communications, logistics, and intelligence departments, we were fully partnered.”

Down at the platoon level, operators fast-roped from hovering US Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft assigned to US Special Operations Command Europe, conducted personnel recovery training and boarded vessels at sea.

“Whether it was on the range, in the field, or on the water, these men were a pleasure to work with,” said a US special operations forces platoon commander. “The Ukrainians’ attitudes made this exercise a great opportunity to exchange training and create a strong relationship.”

US Navy Special Warfare Operators train at a small-arms range with Ukrainian SOF at Ochakiv, Ukraine, July 13, 2017 at exercise Sea Breeze 17. Photo by Spc. Jeffery Lopez.

As with any exercise of this size and scope, there were challenges to overcome to make the exercise a success while identifying tactical and technical gaps in partner capabilities. “The first major obstacle we had, but were prepared for, was the language barrier,” the platoon commander said. “Another was that our mission sets differed slightly from our counterparts’.” To remedy this, he said, he found ways to incorporate the skill sets of each unit in ways to accomplish the mission while building relationships to forge a stronger partnership. As the operators returned from a long day, mutual trust emerged through combined hard work, long hours, and mutual respect for each unit’s professionalism.

“You always want to work with a partner force who is motivated, wants to train, and wants to get better, and the Ukrainian [special operations forces] are all of these,” the platoon commander said.

On the pier here, overlooking the Black Sea, Villegas expressed the Navy’s gratitude to Ukraine for inviting US special operations forces to participate in this year’s exercise.

“[Special operations] participation at Sea Breeze is so important for Ukraine and the US Navy and all the other units participating,” he said. “Our hosts have been incredibly friendly, committed, and dedicated. Their hard work has ensured Sea Breeze 17 was a success, and we are truly very thankful for that.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 heroes who saved American lives on Heartbreak Ridge

The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge in 1951 was supposed to be a quick win by U.S. and U.N. forces in Korea. They had just pushed the North Koreans and Chinese off of the nearby “Bloody Ridge,” and they believed the communist forces could be pushed off the ridge quickly as they’d had a limited time to dig in, but it turned into a month-long slugfest that would leave almost 30,000 dead.

Here are six heroes who ensured most of those deaths came from North Korea and China:


Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau

(Military Sealift Command)

Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau

Infantryman Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau’s company was holding a key position at Pia-ri on the ridge when, after repeated attacks, the platoon was nearly out of ammo. They needed to withdraw temporarily, but the near-continuous attacks made that challenging. Pililaau volunteered to stay in position as the men near him withdrew.

Communist forces charged the lines as the rest of the company withdrew, and Pililaau fired through his automatic weapon ammo, threw hand grenades until he ran out, and then fought hand-to-hand with his fists and trench knife until he was overwhelmed. He is thought to have killed more than 40 before dying and later received a posthumous Medal of Honor.

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris was part of the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea.

(Pfc. James Cox, U.S. Army)

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris was part of a series of attacks near Mundung-Ri from October 8-9, 1951. They hit an entrenched force and the attack stalled, except for Burris. Burris charged forward and hurled grenade after grenade, killing 15 and creating an opening. The next day, he spearheaded an assault on the next position.

He was hit by machine gun fire, but pressed the attack anyway. He took a second hit, but remained forward, directing a 57mm recoilless rifle team to come up. He drew fire from the enemy machine gun, allowing the team to take it out. Then, he refused medical evacuation and attacked again, taking out more machine gun emplacements before taking a mortal wound. He received a posthumous Medal of Honor.

Corpsmen assist wounded from the 7th Division at the Battle of Triangle Hill in 1952. May was from the 7th Division.

(U.S. Army)

Sgt. Homer I. May

On September 1, 1951, Sgt. Homer May helped lead an assault squad against enemy positions, but the attackers encountered withering machine gun fire. The sergeant sent his men into cover and maneuvered against the guns himself and got eyes on three bunkers, and took one out with grenades.

He doubled back for more grenades and made his way back forward, taking out the other bunkers. The attack was successful, and May received the Distinguished Service Cross for his efforts. He tragically died the next day while helping fend off an enemy counterattack against the hill.

U.S. infantrymen from the 27th Infantry Regiment defend a position near Heartbreak Ridge in August, 1952.

(National Archives Records Administration)

Cpl. James E. Smith

Army Cpl. James E. Smith was manning a defensive position on September 17 as waves of enemy forces attacked. His company was able to repulse attack after attack, but ammunition dwindled and the attacking waves got closer and closer to the American lines. As it became clear that the unit would need to pull back, Smith stayed in position to cover the withdrawal.

He fired through all of his ammunition and then fought with bayonet and his bare fists until he was killed. He is thought to have downed 35 of the enemy before succumbing, earning him a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.

French Sgt. Louis Misseri

French Army Sgt. Louis Misseri was part of an assault on September 29 against a hill that was part of Heartbreak Ridge. The French Battalion came under artillery and mortar attack but kept pressing forward. Misseri split his squad into two sections and led one of them against enemy bunkers on the hill, taking them out.

When the communist forces launched a counterattack, Misseri led the defense and, despite suffering a serious wound, hit 15 enemy soldiers with his rifle fire. He was able to reach the top of Heartbreak Ridge and remained in position until the rest of his force had withdrawn. He would later receive a Distinguished Service Cross from the U.S.

Infantrymen move to the firing line in July 1950 during fighting in Korea.

(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

Sgt. George R. Deemer

On October 10, Company F of the 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, was attacking Hill 800 as mortar and artillery fire rained down. Sgt. George R. Deemer went into the battle carrying a 57mm recoilless rifle. A companion helped him load and he advanced with the skirmish line, knocking out one enemy emplacement after another.

When the company took the Hill, he used the weapon to aid in the defense until he ammunition ran out. Then, he organized two machine gun teams and made three trips under fire to keep them supplied with ammunition. During the third trip, he was mortally wounded by mortar fire. He received a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy takes out a drone in new weapons test

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the event occurred on a test vessel, not aboard the Ford as previously stated.

The Navy recently got a step closer to getting the first ship in its new class of aircraft carriers ready for combat missions with a live-fire test off the coast of California.

A drone was taken out by Raytheon’s latest integrated combat system that’s being developed for the supercarrier Gerald R. Ford, Raytheon announced Feb. 5, 2019. The event took place on a test vessel off the coast of California, said Ian Davis, a Raytheon spokesman.


The system the Navy used to take down the drone is called the Ship Self-Defense System. It integrates a myriad of equipment that will be used aboard the Navy’s first Ford-class carrier, such as sensors, missiles and radars.

Raytheon program manager Mike Fabel said in a release that the new system allowed for “seamless integration” when its sensors and missiles were put to the test.

Aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)

“This first-of-its-kind test [proves] the ability of the system to defend our sailors,” Fabel said. “This integrated combat system success brings Ford [herself] one step closer to operational testing and deployment.”

At least five of the integrated-combat system’s capabilities, which are also used on amphibious assault ships, were used during the live-fire event, according to the release detailing the test.

That included a radar that searched for, tracked and illuminated the target; the Ship Self-Defense System, which processed the data and passed launch commands to the missile; and missiles that took out the targeted drone.

The Ford, which is the first in its class of next-generation carriers, is expected to deploy in 2022.

The first in the new generation of carriers, the flattop has faced a series of mechanical and technological setbacks. That has left lawmakers and the commander in chief pressing Navy officials to explain the issues, including those with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and advanced weapons elevators.

The problems have even left some members of Congress reluctant to bless future multi-carrier purchases, a process that some say saves the service billions.

Navy and Raytheon officials are planning to conduct more live-fire events this year as they continue putting the Ford’s integrated combat system to the test.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Saudis are about the change the game in the Middle East

In the first week of February 2018, insiders in the Israeli aviation industry told Haaretz that Saudi Arabia reportedly granted approval to Air India to fly direct from Delhi to Tel Aviv using its airspace.


Reuters confirmed that Air India said it is planning direct flights to Israel, and sought permission from Saudi Arabia to fly over its territory, which would significantly reduce flight times by more than two hours.

Saudi Arabia’s aviation authority denied reports that it already granted Air India’s request.

However, there was no indication that it would not consider the request in the future.

If the air route is confirmed, it would mark the first time Saudi Arabia would allow commercial flights to fly to Israel using its airspace and would mark a significant shift in strategic policy that has shaped the region for decades.

Also read: The reason why Saudi Arabia is buying so many Blackhawks

Currently, Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and has instated a ban on flights traveling to Israel from using its airspace for more than 70 years.

But news of Saudi Arabia potentially easing its airspace regulations may add concrete evidence to reports of the country’s warming ties to Israel.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have shared goals

Several reports have surfaced showing covert cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, who currently maintain no diplomatic ties.

One key issue the two have reportedly bonded over is curbing common-enemy Iran’s continued expansion in the Middle East.

President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin.)

Iran has openly threatened to annihilate Israel many times over the serious decades-long conflict between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia and Iran’s conflict dates back to a centuries-old divide between Sunni Muslims, who make up the majority in the Saudi Kingdom, and Shiites who govern Iran. The two officially severed ties in 2016, after Iranian protesters set fires in the Saudi Embassy compound in Tehran.

While the two countries have been coy about reports of exchanging intelligence, Israel has been upfront about its “covert” contacts with Saudi officials amid common concerns over Iran.

Related: Saudi Arabia is paying $15 billion for this advanced anti-missile system

Representatives from the two countries shared the stage at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in 2015 and discussed their common interest in opposing Iran. Anwar Eshki, a retired major general in the Saudi armed forces and Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, admitted that they’ve been quietly conducting diplomacy on Iranian issues since 2014.

In 2017, a leaked diplomatic cable confirmed longtime rumors of Israel and Saudi cooperation. In the cable, Israel instructed its overseas embassies to encourage support for Saudi Arabia in its battle against Iranian-proxy Hezbollah.

Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, told Al Jazeera that Iran remains a major threat to many countries across the Middle East.

“Unfortunately, the U.S. left a vacuum in the region which was filled by the Russians in Syria and by the Iranians and their proxies in other parts of the Middle East,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Israel is perceived as the most reliable potential ally. Therefore the Saudis understand pretty well that it is a good time to be good friends with Israel,” he said in the interview.

The Crown Prince is ushering in a new era

President Donald Trump speaks with Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Saudi’s young Crown Prince is also seen as a key piece to understanding the timing of Israel and Saudi Arabia renewed relations.

The ambitious Mohammed Bin Salman has been spearheading a reform of Saudi’s domestic and foreign policy, which includes reevaluating its regional alliances, and aggressively opposing Iranian influence, according to Al-Arabiya.

The Crown Prince is also shaping Saudi’s cultural ethos. In November 2017, Salman made waves by purging anti-American and anti-Jewish clerics, making a strong indication that Saudi Arabia is seeking rapprochement with its Jewish neighbor and U.S.-ally Israel.

More: This is where Saudi princes do prison time

And by December 2017, Israel invited the Crown Prince to visit the country to discuss regional peace, and described the nation as the “leader of the Arab world.”

Experts say the Salman’s rise to power and widespread calls for reforms have allowed for a modern partnership with Israel to grow.

Associate professor with the Gulf Studies Program department at Qatar University Mahjoob Zweiri told Al Jazeera: “The political changes in Saudi Arabia and the desire to consolidate power is the main reason why these relations with Israel were opened.”