US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Coming from the relatively flat state of New Jersey, Capt. Matthew Munoz recently learned for the first time how to land a UH-60 Black Hawk above 12,000 feet.

As a National Guard pilot, Munoz normally does flight training with sling loads and hoists, or he transports soldiers in air assault courses.

For the most part, those missions allow a large power margin for his helicopter, meaning there is less stress on the aircraft.


But here surrounded by the Rocky Mountains in western Colorado along Interstate 70, it’s a whole new ballgame. The mountainous terrain tests helicopter pilots with risky landing zones on limited, uneven space often strewn with large rocks and trees.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“There definitely is that pucker factor,” Munoz said. “You have that caution and fear in that confined space. And there’s that potential for the rotors of the aircraft to strike an obstacle.”

A student at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, Munoz recently took the site’s weeklong course to hone his power management techniques that may one day help him out of a bad situation.

The only aviation school of its kind in the Defense Department, HAATS teaches about 350 students per year across the U.S. military as well as from foreign militaries, which account for about 20 percent of its enrollment.

The school is one of four Army National Guard aviation training sites in the country. Given its access to over 1 million acres of rugged forest with landing zones from 6,500 to 12,200 feet, HAATS mainly focuses on power management that teaches pilots how to maximize the utility of their helicopters.

The training sharpens pilots heading into combat or to perform missions back home, where they may find themselves flying in high altitudes, hot weather or carrying heavy loads, all of which can sap power from an aircraft.

“It’s important for us to give them the tools they need to make sure that they can complete their mission successfully and not bend or break aircraft in the process,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.

Schoolhouse

Operated by a small 30-member cadre of full-time Colorado Guardsmen, federal employees and an instructor pilot from the Coast Guard, the school relies on pilots to bring their own helicopters that can range from Black Hawks, CH-47 Chinooks and UH-72 Lakotas.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

What they lack in numbers, the staff makes up with experience. Many of the instructors have thousands of hours of flight experience and multiple combat tours from when they served in line units, Reed said.

Instructors also have a dual role of conducting search and rescue missions when emergencies pop up across the state.

Once they arrive, students head to the classroom to learn about approaches and takeoff sequences, weather and environmental considerations, and then power management.Afterward, pilots typically fly twice a day out in the rugged terrain, practicing the skills they just learned.

Reed considers the training to be “graduate level,” intended for more experienced pilots.

“It would be difficult to take a student fresh out of flight school and put them through this training,” he said, “while they’re trying to learn their aircraft and how to maneuver it.”

With only two years of experience as a Lakota pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Ferguson said he was lucky to be chosen for the recent course.

The Virginia Guardsman plans to use the skills when he is next called upon for drug interdiction operations in the state. High above the ground, Ferguson helps conduct surveillance for law enforcement as they search for suspects or illegal marijuana fields hidden in the forest.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

An instructor pilot from the Coast Guard teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Many times the job requires him to hover at high altitudes so as not to spook suspects and for safety reasons.

“If you get too low, the helicopter hovering over the house becomes pretty obvious, pretty quick,” he said. “So, you got to know how to maintain standoff, how to read the wind, [and] position the helicopter where you need it to be positioned.”

The techniques and finesse he picked up at the HAATS course, he said, gave him a better control touch of the aircraft when it’s using a lot of power.

Crew chiefs

Since they manage the aircraft, crew chiefs frequently join the pilots in the training to hone their skills, too.

By being together, aircrews can improve their teamwork, especially in dangerous landing zones where a crew chief is needed to spot dangers on the ground.

“Having good aircrew coordination between everybody in the aircraft is pinnacle because if you’re not talking to each other, then something is going to get missed,” said Sgt. Robert Black, a Black Hawk crew chief.

One time while deployed to Iraq, Black said he was on a helicopter that landed roughly on the side of a mountain as his crew went to check out a new landing zone during a training event.

“When we came in, we kind of browned out and then touched down a little bit harder than usual,” said Black, who is assigned to the Virginia National Guard.

While no one was injured, Black still saw it as a wake-up call. “If we would have had the training we had here, that probably wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

During the course, instructors will show videos that simulate previous helicopter crashes and discuss how to avoid the issues faced by those crews.

While somber, since some of the crashes have led to deaths, the videos are valuable learning aids.

“They’re all lessons learned,” Black said. “Being able to recognize somebody else’s mistakes and being able to learn from them is a key part of any kind of training.”

Seasoned crew chiefs also share their personal stories with their students.

Instructor Staff Sgt. Greg Yost often draws upon lessons from his time in Afghanistan where he served as a crew chief on a medical evacuation helicopter, which had to fly quickly in hot weather that sometimes took a toll on its power supply.

“If I can’t teach you something here in this course, then I have failed you,” Yost said of what he tells his students. “It is my goal, my duty to impart some kind of knowledge to every student that comes into my classroom.”

Training for combat

Earlier this year, Reed said the school was requested by the 10th and 82nd Combat Aviation Brigades to train up its younger crews ahead of deployments. The units flew several helicopters out to the site and for weeks the school cycled soldiers through.

HAATS even has mobile training teams that travel around the country to prepare aircrews.

At times, instructors hear back from crew members downrange they’ve helped train, who thank them and tell them they were able to apply the skills to real-world missions.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Staff Sgt. Greg Yost, a crew chief instructor, teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Occasionally, crews will even share newly-found techniques with instructors that may help future students.

“More than anything, it validates what we’ve been doing,” Reed said.

While counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East may be waning, Yost believes skills in the course can still be used to mitigate risks in future operations.

For instance, helicopters may require heavier equipment, such as armor or technology, to offset anti-air threats posed by near-peer adversaries.

“As that stuff develops, it will be bolted onto the aircraft,” the senior crew chief said. “It will be adding weight, maybe increasing drag. All these contributing factors will reduce the aircraft’s performance.”

Whatever the mission, it’s no secret what they teach at the site, Reed said, who hopes every aircrew takes advantage of the course.

“We’re trying to spread the word and share it,” the commander said. “Often times we hear about a helicopter crash that’s power related. We want to do everything we can to make sure that all the aviators out there have these tools and make the right decisions.”

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

Articles

9 Ukrainian soldiers killed in bloodiest day of fighting in 2017

The United States is condemning an outbreak of violence in eastern Ukraine, calling it the deadliest 24-hour period so far this year.


Ukraine’s military says nine soldiers have died in the east where Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels have been fighting for more than three years.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says that five deaths were in clashes that appear to have been initiated by what she described as Russian-led forces.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain
Pro-Russian rebels shoot in the air at funeral of a fellow fighter killed in a battle for Marinka near Donetsk. Eastern Ukraine, 6 June, 2015. (Photo by Mstyslav Chernov)

Ten soldiers were also wounded and one was captured, according to the Ukrainian Ministry Defense. Two civilians were also reported wounded in Avdiivka on the morning of July 19.

Nauert said the US is asking the Russia-supported troops to abide by the terms of a ceasefire deal for eastern Ukraine that was signed in early 2015 but never fully implemented.

The US has called on those forces to allow international monitors to have “full, safe, and unfettered” access to the conflict zone, Nauert said.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain
Soldiers of Ukraine’s Internal Troops in riot gear and protesters clash at Bankova str, Kiev, Ukraine. December 1, 2013. (Photo by Mstyslav Chernov)

At least 20 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and at least 35 more have been wounded in the first 20 days of July, according to tweets from Liveuamap.

 

 

 

 

Articles

The Marine Corps is experimenting with a new service rifle

On the heels of a widely praised 2015 decision to issue the more maneuverable M4 carbine in lieu of the M16A4 to Marines in infantry battalions, the Marine Corps may be on the cusp of another major weapons decision.


The Marine Corps’ experimental battalion, the California-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, has been conducting pre-deployment exercises with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle to evaluate it as the new service rifle for infantry battalions, the commander of 1st Marine Division, Maj. Gen. Daniel O’Donohue told Military.com Thursday.

Also read: These are 10 of the longest-serving weapons in the US combat arsenal

The battalion is set to deploy aboard the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit this spring. As part of its workup and deployment, it has been charged with testing and evaluating a host of technologies and concepts ranging from teaming operations with unmanned systems and robotics to experiments with differently sized squads.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain
A U.S. Marine with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, fires a M27 infantry automatic rifle at simulated enemies during an Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez

“When they take the IAR and they’re training out there with all the ranges we do with the M4, they’re going to look at the tactics of it. They’ll look at the firepower, and they’ll do every bit of training, and then they’ll deploy with that weapon, and we’ll take the feedback to the Marine Corps to judge,” O’Donohue said.

Marines in 3/5 used the IAR as their service rifle during the 28-day Integrated Training Exercise held this month at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, California. The exercise, also known as ITX, is the largest pre-deployment workup for deploying battalions, and typically one of the last exercises they’ll complete. O’Donohue said the ubiquity of ITX would give evaluators ample data as they contrasted results with the different weapons.

“All you have to do is compare this battalion to the other battalions going through ITX,” he said.

The M4 carbine and the M27 IAR handle very similarly as they share a number of features. However, the M27 has a slightly longer effective range — 550 meters compared to the M4’s 500 — and elements that allow for more accurate targeting. It has a free-floating barrel, which keeps the barrel out of contact with the stock and minimizes the effect of vibration on bullet trajectory. It also has a proprietary gas piston system that makes the weapon more reliable and reduces wear and tear.

And the the IAR can fire in fully automatic mode, while the standard M4 has single shot, semi-automatic and three-round burst options.

Currently, each Marine Corps infantry fire team is equipped with a single IAR, carried by the team’s automatic rifleman.

“I think the fundamental is the accuracy of the weapon, the idea that you’re going to use it for suppressive fires. And at first contact you have the overwhelming superiority of fire from which all the tactics evolve,” O’Donohue said. “So it starts with the fire team and the squad, if you give them a better weapon with better fire superiority, you’ll just put that vicious harmony of violence on the enemy.”

But officials do see some potential drawbacks to equipping every infantry Marine with the weapon.

“One of the things we’re looking at is the rate of fire,” O’Donohue said. “You can burn off too much ammo, potentially, with the IAR. We have a selector, a regulator [showing] how many rounds the Marines shoot. So that’s one area we’re examining with experimentation.”

Another variable is cost.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the gunner, or infantry weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division, told Military.com the M27 costs about $3,000 apiece, without the sight. Because the Marine Corps is still grappling with budget cutbacks, he said he was skeptical that the service could find enough in the budget to equip all battalions with the weapons. He said a smaller rollout might be more feasible.

“To give everyone in a Marine rifle squad [the IAR], that might be worth it,” he said.

O’Donohue said feedback would be collected on an ongoing basis from the Marines in 3/5 as they continued workup exercises and deployed next year. Decisions on whether to field a new service weapon or reorganize the rifle squad would be made by the commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, when he felt he had collected enough information, O’Donohue said.

If the Marine Corps can sort out the logistics of fielding, Wade said he would welcome the change.

“It is the best infantry rifle in the world, hands down,” Wade said of the IAR. “Better than anything Russia has, it’s better than anything we have, it’s better than anything China has. It’s world-class.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

But can it fight? Russian tank filmed using turret to cut fruit

Russia’s T-80 battle tank was once expected to be among the best in the world. They were the first tanks developed by the Soviet Union to utilize a gas turbine engine, giving it an impressive top speed of 70 kilometers per hour and a far better power to weight ratio than its predecessors. It was even dubbed the “Tank of the English Channel,” because Soviet war games calculated that it could plow through Europe and reach the Atlantic Coast in just five days.


Then it went into battle, and like so many Russian efforts since, reality failed to live up to the hype. When called into service to fight in 1994’s separatist war in Chechnya, the latest iteration of the T-80 (The T-80B) absorbed heavy losses against the lesser equipped Chechnyans. Inexperienced operators combined with fuel-hungry engines left some T-80s useless, as they burned through their fuel reserves idling before the fighting even began.

Others were quickly destroyed by Chechnyan RPGs thanks to a significant design oversight. The T-80 was among the first Russian tanks to utilize an auto-loader for its main gun, which kept stored propellant in the vertical position beneath the tank where it was only partially protected by the tank’s wheels.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Russian T-80 Main Battle Tank shown while not serving as a fruit chef

(Vitaly Kuzmin)

All it took was a few well-placed shots with RPG-7V and RPG-18 rocket launchers to literally pop the top off of a T-80, as the propellant exploded and destroyed the vehicle. T-80s, the Chechnyans quickly assessed, were easy targets — especially when they were out of gas. All told, nearly a thousand Russian soldiers and 200 vehicles were lost in the conflict, with the T-80s serving as both the most advanced vehicles present and the most often destroyed.

Today, the 51-ton T-80 remains in service in the Russian military in rather large numbers, despite its embarrassing debut. Some 5,500 total tanks were produced during its run, and thanks to Russia’s stagnant economy and the limited production run of their latest advanced tank, the T-74, it seems likely that Russia will continue to rely on the T-80 as a main battle tank for years to come.

History may have already shown that the T-80 is a troubled platform that’s perpetually thirsty for fuel and that harbors at least one fatal flaw along with a laundry list of lesser issues. But that doesn’t mean it’s without its uses. Sure, the T-80 may not hold up to ground troops armed with RPGs, but it actually makes for a pretty decent stand-in for your SlapChop.

T-80 tank VS battle group of fruits (watermelon, pear and apple) ARMY-2019, Kubinka, Russia

youtu.be

As you can see in this footage, surely meant as a demonstration of the stability and precise control allotted by the T-80s 125mm main gun, this vehicle really can do a passable job at slicing fruit.

Of course, you’ll need a Russian soldier that’s willing to stand there and do most of the busy work (like moving the fruit into the tank’s reach, separating it, and moving it away again) but that’s just the price you pay for a fresh fruit Soviet-Smoothie. I suppose this video would still be pretty impressive, if Russia weren’t the first to show off their tank skills using food. Long ago, Germany released a video of their own Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank (designed and built in the same era) hitting the trails with a stein of beer sitting comfortably on its turret.

If you think chopping a watermelon is good, you’ll love this.

Leopard 2 Beer Test

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Unlike slicing fruit, this actually serves as a good demonstration of the Leopard 2’s ability to keep its main weapon pointed at distant targets, even as it traverses all sorts of terrain. In a fight, that serves a far greater purpose than any fruit salad might, no matter how well prepared.

The Russian video does, however, offer a glimpse into what may be another secret weapon Russia has maintained since the cold war. If all else fails, their tanks can always fix bayonets.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Career Marines talk life as a dual-serving couple

Family first, mission always.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Charles Vanscoyk and his wife, Staff Sgt. Alexandra Vanscoyk, are both aviation supply specialists who recently returned to the fleet after completing tours on recruiting duty. The transition has been met with unexpected challenges that magnify the logistics needed for couples seeking successful careers and a growing family.


US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

The Vanscoyks met in 2013 shortly after Alexandra left college and enlisted in the Marine Corps. She says the two quickly became friends, deciding to date after being stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, together.

“For three years our lives crossed paths on and off and eventually timing lined up where we were both single and we decide to try dating each other,” she explained in an email.

Alexandra said it came natural to date someone who understood the military lifestyle.

“It was always difficult finding civilians who wanted to date a ‘female Marine.’ I’m not really sure why. My best guess is our job title is intimidating to most civilians and we usually have an alpha personality which can also come off as intimidating. It also made conversations easier. We use so many acronyms and random jargon that most people will never understand, no matter how many times you tell them. So, for me, dating a Marine was what seemed realistic,” she said.

Missouri-native Charles Vanscoyk followed his twin brother into the Marines in 2004 after a short stint at college proved school wasn’t for him. Charles says a conversation with the recruiter made him realize the military was what he had been looking for.

“Growing up I was an athlete and liked to be challenged and stay competitive. Plus coming from a small town in the middle of nowhere the idea of travel and adventure sounded cool,” he said.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Both Marines were attached to Recruiting Station Houston, completing the independent duty assignment then relocating to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona. They both admit it’s been an adjustment to not only be back in the fleet, but doing so with the added stress of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Under normal circumstances, childcare is a trending issue for households with working parents. Alexandra says a good command definitely makes it easier for them.

“Since we are both active duty it’s very difficult to come up with a solid routine while the daycares are closed. We’ve got two kids at home — one school aged who needs to complete online class work and an infant who needs constant attention. Thankfully our command has been very helpful but I know other dual couples who have not been as fortunate,” she said.

Prior to the pandemic, she adds, some of the challenges “were deciding who would stay home if the kids got sick, who would take time off work for appointments, worrying about when you or your spouse has 24–hour duty,” though she is quick to point out their family has benefitted from “very understanding units and leadership.” And the exposure to solid leadership over the years has guided her throughout her career.

“The commanding officer at my first unit had a moto: “family first, mission always.” At the time I didn’t have a family but it stuck with me. At my second unit I had two different COs and both were huge family men. Seeing them, 15 years plus into their career and still having a strong family made me realize it is possible to have the best of both,” she said.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Alexandra adds that her advice for younger service members is to find a good balance for work-home life, especially if you’re in a dual military relationship. Charles echoes that sentiment.

“The best advice I could give is put your family first. Still be a good Marine and proficient at your job, but understand this machine that is the Marine Corps will not fall apart if you are not there. Be there for you kids and family. Don’t miss those moments you will never get back with your family,” he said.

The Vanscoyks have their sights set on serving in the Marines for the long haul, with Alexandra weighing the idea of either pursuing warrant officer school or becoming a career recruiter. Charles says he has checked the box on many of his goals making career progression the natural focus.

“As a Marine you always strive for the next rank, so MSgt is my goal. And continue to try and motivate and inspire these next generation of Marines that will carry on the legacy,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

US nuclear subs Hartford and Connecticut surfaced in the Arctic

Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) and Seawolf-class fast attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) both surfaced in the Arctic Circle March 10, 2018, during the multinational maritime Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018 in the Arctic Circle north of Alaska.


Both fast-attack submarines, as well the UK Royal Navy submarine HMS Trenchant (S91), are participating in the biennial exercise in the Arctic to train and validate the warfighting capabilities of submarines in extreme cold-water conditions.

Also read: Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

“From a military, geographic, and scientific perspective, the Arctic Ocean is truly unique, and remains one of the most challenging ocean environments on earth,” said Rear Admiral James Pitts, commander, Undersea Warfighting Development Center (UWDC).

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain
(Photo by U.S. Navy Mass Communication 2nd Class Micheal H. Lee)

ICEX provides the U.S. Submarine Force and partners from the Royal Navy an opportunity to test combat and weapons systems, sonar systems, communications, and navigation systems in a challenging operational environment. The unique acoustic undersea environment is further compounded by the presence of a contoured, reflective ice canopy when submerged.

Related: The Coast Guard warns that Russia is moving in on the Arctic

According to Pitts, operating in the Arctic ice alters methods and practices by which submarines operate, communicate and navigate.

“We must constantly train together with our submarine units and partners to remain proficient in this hemisphere,” Pitts said. “Having both submarines on the surface is clear demonstration of our proficiency in the Arctic.”

In recent years, the Arctic has been used as a transit route for submarines. The most recent ICEX was conducted in 2016 with USS Hampton (SSN 767) and USS Hartford (SSN 768).

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain
(Photo by U.S. Navy Mass Communication 2nd Class Micheal H. Lee)

The first Arctic under-ice operations by submarines were done in 1947-49. On Aug. 1, 1947, the diesel submarine USS Boarfish (SS-327), with Arctic Submarine Laboratory’s founder, Dr. Waldo Lyon, onboard serving as an Ice Pilot, conducted the first under-ice transit of an ice floe in the Chukchi Sea.

More: Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

In 1958, the nuclear-powered USS Nautilus made the first crossing of the Arctic Ocean beneath the pack ice. The first Arctic surfacing was done by USS Skate (SSN 578) in March 1959. USS Sargo was the first submarine to conduct a winter Bering Strait transit in 1960.

The units participating in the exercise are supported by a temporary ice camp on a moving ice floe approximately 150 miles off the coast of the northern slope of Alaska in international waters. The ice camp, administered by the Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL), is a remote Arctic drifting ice station, built on multi-year sea-ice especially for ICEX that is logistically supported with contract aircraft from Deadhorse, Alaska. The ice camp will be de-established once the exercise is over.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines’ drone-killing lasers get even more powerful after upgrades

The Marine Corps‘ ground-based laser systems, which can be mounted to the tops of vehicles to take down drones, now have stronger beams to combat airborne threats.

The Corps has a new $2.5 million agreement with Boeing to service its Compact Laser Weapon System for the next five years. The system, which can be attached to combat vehicles, can be used on land or at sea.

Boeing just completed a round of updates to the service’s Compact Laser Weapon Systems, giving Marines the ability to take out bigger drones. The updates also made the laser weapon more reliable and faster, and they allow Marines to target more aircraft from greater distances, according to Boeing.

The changes come as the top U.S. general in the Middle East warned last month that cheap, off-the-shelf drones pose the most concerning tactical development in that region since terrorists began using improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.Advertisement

“These systems are inexpensive, easy to modify and weaponize, and easy to proliferate,” Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the head of U.S. Central Command, said last month.

The Islamic State group has used drones to fly IEDs. One such attack killed two Kurdish fighters in 2016.

Militaries are also using drones to target and surveil troops. Marines using another vehicle-mounted system in 2019 jammed at least one Iranian drone that flew within 1,000 yards of their Navy warship in the Strait of Hormuz, sending it plummeting into the sea.

The Compact Laser Weapon System doesn’t just jam drones but destroys them. Josh Roth, a spokesman for Boeing’s missile and weapon systems, said the lasers can take out what the Defense Department refers to as Group 1 and 2 unmanned aircraft, which weigh as much as 55 pounds and can operate below 3,500 feet.

Boeing’s system also has a counter-sensor capability at longer ranges for larger targets, Roth said. The system uses software to spot and track a threat. Once a drone is spotted, the weapon system focuses a high-energy laser beam on the threat until it’s disabled and defeated, he added.

Marines began testing the system, the first ground-based laser approved for military use, in 2019. The laser gives Marines a lightweight option to target drones, Roth said, since it can be carried and operated by just one person.

“It … affords the warfighter the opportunity to save more expensive air defense missiles for other threats and reduces the logistics footprint by eliminating resupply needs for conventional ammunition,” he said.

Roth declined to say how many of the laser systems have gone to the Marine Corps and what units received them, citing operational security. Marine Corps photos and videos show low-altitude air defense battalions on the East and West coasts testing the systems.

Last year, Marines tested the upgraded laser weapon in Yuma, Arizona, where they were able to take down 12 out of 12 drone threats, according to Boeing. Now, those upgraded systems have been delivered to Marine units, Roth said.

The system has also been used in real-world missions, though Roth declined to say where.

The Air Force tested it at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base in September.

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

Articles

China deploys rappers to fight US missile defense

China’s fight against the deployment of a battery of Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense missiles has now expanded to the deployment of hip-hop.


No, you didn’t read that wrong – China’s now using a rap video as a form of public diplomacy against the ballistic missile defense system, according to a report by the New York Times. The video seems to be bombing, with less than 50,000 views on YouTube.

The video, in English and Chinese, urges South Korea to reconsider the system’s deployment.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain
AiirSource Military | YouTube

Dubbed “CD Rev,” the rap group is based out of Sichuan, China, and has done other videos in support of Beijing’s government — including one on that country’s claims in the South China Sea, a maritime flashpoint involving five other countries, as well as a video celebrating the legacy of Mao Tse-Tung.

A London Daily Mail report from 2011 noted that Mao was responsible for at least 45 million deaths during “The Great Leap Forward,” a brutal attempt to shift the country from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial one.

The deployment of THAAD has drawn sharp criticism from China – and the reactions have included hacking that targeted the South Korean company that allowed the battery of missiles to be placed on a golf course it owned. The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also hacked. China has also been blocking videos of South Korean artists, particularly from the K-pop genre.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain
Heritage.org

South Korea recently elected Moon Jae-in, who has favored diplomacy with North Korea, as President after the impeachment and removal from office of Park Geun-Hye.

The THAAD battery, consisting of six launchers that each hold eight missiles along with assorted support vehicles, was deployed to South Korea to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles. According to ArmyRecognition.com, the system has a range of over 600 miles.

The United States has other options to shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile, including the sea-based RIM-161 Standard SM-3. The system is considered far more capable than the MIM-104 Patriot systems that the United States, Japan, and South Korea have deployed.

Here’s the video from CD Rev:

MIGHTY MOVIES

Top 10 superheroes who were military veterans

The hero has been the most popular archetype of human-storytelling for as long as stories have been told. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to the Odyssey to comic books to the epic film franchises that bring in billions of dollars in revenue, superhero stories are here to stay.

Superheroes all have origin stories, which tell how they gained their powers and chose to fight against evil.

But some heroes felt the call to serve before being recruited by special agencies — some even before having heightened abilities.

Get ready because this is your SPOILER WARNING: we’ll be discussing plots from comics and films — both released and upcoming — from the DC and Marvel universes.


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US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

“You might remember that ‘annoyed’ is my natural state.”

10. Logan aka James Howlett (Wolverine)

Wolverine’s mutations — accelerated healing powers and longevity; heightened senses, speed, and stamina; and retractable bone claws which were later plated with nearly indestructible adamantium — render him a powerful fighting machine.

According to the film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Logan was born in the 1800s. He fled his childhood home and fought as a soldier in the American Civil War, both World Wars, and the Vietnam War. That’s a century of combat, by the way.

When he was discovered by Maj. William Stryker — a military scientist biased against mutants and intent on destroying them — Wolverine’s military career came to an end, leading him on a path towards the X-Men.

In the comics, Wolverine has many storylines, including a journey to hell, but we’ll stick with the cinematic telling of his life. He can never fully escape his painful past, and even when he’s fighting for the good guys, he’s got a bad attitude. He’s like the Senior NCO who doesn’t have any more f*cks to give but is so great at his job that everyone just lets him do his thing.

Nonetheless, his moral compass remains true until the end.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

“I’m more of a soldier than a spy.”

9. Sam Wilson (Falcon)

Sam Wilson is a former Air Force Pararescue Jumper, which made him a great candidate for the superhero with a tendency to jump into the middle of a combat situation to ice evildoers and save lives.

Wilson is important for many reasons. Created in 1969 by Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan, he was the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics, making his mark on the civil rights movement of the 60s.

In the comics, Wilson has a telepathic link to his bird, Redwing, which allows him to see through the bird’s eyes. He’s also skilled in hand-to-hand combat and operating the Falcon Flight Harness.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the powers are gone, but the harness remains. It was actually a secret military asset, which Wilson somehow stole… and, somehow, there were never consequences levied by the U.S. government for that, but okay…

Most importantly, Wilson counsels veterans with post-traumatic stress issues, embodying the ideal of service after service and the value of supporting our fellow brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

“But being the best you can be…that’s doable. That’s possible for anybody if they put their mind to it.”

8. Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel)

Major Carol Danvers is a trained military intelligence officer and erstwhile spy. She’s one of the most distinguished officers in the superhero universe and a graduate of the Air Force Academy, where Nick Fury recruited her for the CIA.

In the comics, she retired from the Air Force as a Colonel to be Chief of Security at NASA before becoming half-Kree (a militaristic, alien race in the Marvel Universe). She became Captain Marvel after meeting a Kree alien named Mar-Vell, but she acquired superpowers after an explosion merged her DNA with the first Captain Marvel… well, it’s complicated.

Danvers is an author and feminist and her powers include flight, enhanced strength and durability, shooting energy bursts from her hands, and being able to verbally judo one Tony Stark.

Her upcoming film, set in the 90s, will be about Danvers’ origin story. It will also explain where the superhero has been since then but, most importantly, we know that Captain Marvel will play into Avengers 4, given her post-credit paging at the end of Infinity War.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

“The future of air combat… is it manned or unmanned? I’ll tell you, in my experience, no unmanned aerial vehicle will ever trump a pilot’s instinct.”

7. James Rhodes (War Machine)

There’s a bit of a discrepancy here. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, James Rhodes is an airman. In the comic books, he’s always been a Marine. If I told you that a hero was named “War Machine” and had little understanding of ammo consumption, would you think he was an airman or a Marine?

Screw it — let’s dive into both!

First, the comics: A former pilot in the Marine Corps, Rhodes met Tony Stark aka Iron Man while he was still deployed in Vietnam. Rhodes was shot down behind enemy lines when he encountered Stark in the prototype Iron Man suit. The two teamed up and became best friends. Rhodes conducts himself according to military honor codes, which often contrasts with Tony Stark’s relativistic heroism, and even assumes the mantle of Iron Man when Stark struggles with alcohol addiction.

In the MCU, Rhodes becomes War Machine and struggles to balance his loyalty to the Avengers with the legal obligations of the military and the Sokovia Accords. This tension eventually earns him a court-martial, when he’s forced to disobey the Accords to help Captain America travel to Wakanda.

But hey, is a military infraction even that big a deal when half of the universe is being wiped out?

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

“Three minutes and twenty seconds, really? If you were my agents, it wouldn’t be for long.”

6. Maria Hill

Maria Hill commissioned in the Marine Corps before joining S.H.I.E.L.D. She quickly rose through its ranks and was appointed Deputy Director under Nick Fury. She possesses normal human strength, which makes her participation in supernatural phenomenon even more impressive.

As a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, she is experienced in espionage, hand-to-hand combat, weapons expertise, and tactical vehicle operation.

In the comics, Hill served under Fury until after Marvel’s Civil War, when she assassinated Captain America. But that’s okay because she was only evil because she was controlled by Red Skull — and no one stays dead in comics anyway (except Uncle Ben).

In the MCU, Hill provides intel and support for the Avengers and remains the one person Nick Fury can trust.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

“Daddy needs to express some rage.”

5. Wade Wilson (Deadpool)

Deadpool is the guy in your unit that just won’t take anything seriously. That’s true for his character, both in the comics and on-screen, but it’s also true for the actual creators of Deadpool, who break convention in more ways than one. For example, he knows that he is a fictional character and he commonly breaks the fourth wall. Most antiheroes are dark and tortured, and Deadpool certainly is that… but he’s also… just… uncouth and rather undignified, which is what makes him so unique.

His origins are rather vague and are subject to change. Stories have been retconned, conveniently forgotten, or just ignored (like what we’re going to do with Deadpool’s appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Nonetheless, there seems to be a consensus that Wade Wilson (if that’s even his name) served in the U.S. Army Special Forces before he was dishonorably discharged.

In the film, he is diagnosed with terminal cancer and undergoes an experiment where he is injected with a serum meant to activate his mutant genes. After prolonged stress and torture, the experiment works. Cancer continues to consume his body, but his superhuman healing allows him to cure it simultaneously, leaving him disfigured, but unkillable.

He becomes a mercenary who continues to fight the chaotic-good fight.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

“I’m all out of wiseass answers.”

4. Jonah Hex

Though he initially joined the United States Army as a cavalry scout, Jonah Hex‘s story really began during the Civil War. As a southerner, he fought for the Confederacy, but he found himself increasingly uncomfortable with slavery. Unwilling to betray his fellow soldiers, but loathe to fight for the South, Hex surrendered himself to the Union.

Tried for treason and exiled to the wild west, Hex would later be branded with the mark of the demon and be forced to walk the land as a supernatural bounty hunter. At some point, he’d also travel time (because comic logic) and fight alongside other superheroes.

He also fought alongside Yosemite Sam. Yeah, the Looney Toons’ Yosemite Sam.

Hex didn’t have supernatural abilities, but he was an outstanding marksman, a quick draw, and an expert fighter in the wild west.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

“I still believe in heroes.”

3. Nick Fury

As with many comic book heroes, whose stories continue for decades, Nick Fury has a sliding history that keeps him current in conflicts. His first appearance was in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1, which took place during World War II.

Fury served as a colonel during the Cold War before becoming the director for S.H.I.E.L.D. (then known as “Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division”). His skills and experience with espionage were put to use against the Soviet Union and primed him for his position at S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers Initiative.

From leading his Howling Commandos to becoming the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. to transforming into the silent observer of Earth, Nick Fury has done it all without any actual abilities — and with only one eye. He obtained the Infinity Formula, which kept him from aging, but it was his mind and skill on the battlefield that allowed him to take down nearly every superhero in the Marvel universe.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

“I can do this all day.”

2. Steve Rogers (Captain America)

Steve Rogers is the ultimate example of patriotism, bravery, and sense of duty. In fact, that’s why he was chosen for the Super Soldier Serum project in the first place.

During World War II, Rogers made multiple attempts to enlist, but failed to meet the physical requirements. But his tenacity caught the eye of a scientist who recognized that Rogers’ attitude made him the perfect Project Rebirth candidate.

Rogers began his career doing propaganda to support the war effort, but he would eventually be unleashed in Europe in the fight against the Nazi faction, HYDRA.

His military service ended when he sacrificed himself to save the United States from a HYDRA-coordinated WMD attack. He was suspended in ice until he was revived by S.H.I.E.L.D. in the modern day.

Rogers later joined the Avengers, but his sense of duty and his compulsion to act in the face of injustice — no matter what the laws are — pitted him against other Avengers after creation of the Sokovia Accords, which established U.N. oversight of the team.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

“If you want peace, prepare for war.”

1. Frank Castle (Punisher)

The Punisher is a psychologically troubled antihero, which makes his story both unsettling and, in many ways, very familiar for combat-veterans. He is a vigilante who fights crime by any means necessary, no matter how brutal those means might be.

Frank Castle joined the Marines after dropping out of Priest school when he was asked if he could ever forgive a murderer. Because of Marvel’s sliding timeline, through which they avoid putting firm dates on characters, Castle’s story changes every now and then to reflect modern, real-world events.

Hands down, the most “Marine” story in The Punisher canon goes to Punisher: Born. Set in Vietnam, it is essentially the origin story of how Castle goes from being the gun-slinging badass that Marines think they are to actually being the gun-slinging badass Marines know they are.

Fan theories speculate the narrator of the story is actually Ares, the Greek God of War, who makes an unsuspecting Castle his avatar.

Editor’s Note: Parts of this article have appeared previously on We Are The Mighty.

popular

Huge changes coming to the Corps will affect every Marine

Tradition has long been an essential part of the United States Marine Corps. It’s tradition that’s responsible for instilling a Corps-wide expertise with rifles. It’s the reason why a Marine squad has always been a baker’s dozen — and it’s why those thirteen personnel can put some real hurt on the bad guys.


Well, according to a report by Stars and Stripes, the Marines are going to be making big changes in how their ground combat units are organized, and even the traditional rifle squad is going to see change.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Every Marine in a fire team will be packing a M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.

(USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Tanner Seims)

The traditional rifle squad had three four-man fire teams. Each fire team was made up of one Marine with a rifle-mounted grenade launcher, another Marine with an automatic rifle (formerly the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, now the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle), a third Marine to assist the automatic rifleman, and a fourth packing just a regular rifle.

The new squad will consist of an even dozen Marines and will be comprised of three-man fire teams. Bad guys shouldn’t think that this makes things easier, though. Every member of the fire team will pack an M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. That’s a lot of rock and roll inbound for the bad guys.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Big changes are coming in the shoulder-launched weapons area: The SMAW is out, and Carl is in.

(USMC photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell)

There will also be a change to the squad command structure. It used to be that there was a squad leader and that was it. Now, there will be an assistant squad leader (a second-in-command, if you will), as well as a new position for a “squad systems operator.” This Marine will operate quadcopter drones, with which each squad will be outfitted. One other thing: The Marines are leaving open the possibility of adding a rifleman to the new fire team organization should a mission call for it.

Other changes include replacing the shoulder-launched multi-purpose assault weapon (SMAW) with the latest multirole anti-armor anti-personnel weapon system (MAAWS), also known as Carl Gustav. Each battalion loses two 81mm mortars and four BGM-71 TOW missile launchers, but will have a total of 12 FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Every Marine squad will have a quadcopter drone.

(USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins)

There will also be a host of other improved technologies.

In short, the Marines of 2025 will still be able to kick a lot of ass — they’ll just look a little different doing it.

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How one commander tried to get his men to leak D-Day plans

British Lt. Col. Terence Otway and his men were to be charged with assaulting the Merville battery on June 6, 1944, at the height of the D-Day invasions of occupied France. For their mission – as well as the overall invasion – secrecy was of the utmost importance, so Otway wanted to ensure his men held that secret close and wouldn’t divulge anything under any circumstances.

So he turned to one of the oldest tricks in the intelligence-gathering book to test their mettle: using women to try to draw the information out of them.


US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain
The Merville Gun Battery. (Wikimedia Commons)

Otway and the British 9th parachute battalion were going to assault the series of six-foot-thick concrete bunkers that housed anti-aircraft guns, machine gun emplacements, and artillery from a special artillery division. In all, 150 paratroopers would attempt to take down 130 Germans in a hardened shelter. Since the assault would come just after midnight and well before the main landings, operational security was paramount. The Lieutenant Colonel decided to test his men to see if they could be trusted with the information.

According to the 2010 bookD-Day: Minute by Minute, Otway enlisted the help of 30 of the most beautiful women of the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce and sent them out to the local pubs with the mission of trapping his men into divulging their secret plans. It was an important test; if the men of the 9th weren’t able to take down those guns, the entire landing might be in jeopardy.

D-Day
A memorial to the commander of the 9th at the former location of the battery (Wikimedia Commons)

But Otway would be pleased with the discipline of his men. Throughout the nights, they caroused as they always had, drinks in hand, singing the night away. But not one of Otway’s men ever gave up their secret. The attack would go on as planned. His 150 now-proven loyal men landing in the area by parachute and by glider that day in June. Even though the winds disbursed the fighters throughout a large area, they still managed to take down the gun site, albeit taking heavy casualties in the process.

After the Merville Gun Battery was down, the exhausted and depleted British paratroopers then moved on to secure the occupied village of Le Plein. Their assault on the guns cost them roughly 50 percent of their total strength – but they were able to accomplish their mission because of the total secrecy surrounding it from lift off to completion.


Feature image: “The Drop” by Albert Richards (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-22 and F-35 test their ‘beast mode’ stealth technology

US F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters and B-2 stealth bombers in the western Pacific recently trained for high-end combat scenarios requiring the full might of the US military — exercises that came as Beijing reacts with fury to heavy-duty missile deployments.

In a first, the F-35B, the short-takeoff, vertical-landing variant of the world’s most expensive weapons system, took off from the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship capable of launching aircraft, and dropped externally mounted bombs.


The F-35 is a stealth aircraft designed to store most of its weapons internally to preserve its streamlined, radar-evading shape, but the F-35Bs on the Wasp ditched that tactic to carry more bombs and air-to-air missiles.

An executive from Lockheed Martin, which builds the F-35, previously told Business Insider that an F-35 with external bomb stores represented a kind of “beast mode,” or an alternative to the normal stealth mode, and was something F-35s would do on the third day of a war, after enemy defenses had been knocked out and stealth became less of a priority.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

A B-2 bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri conducts aerial refueling near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii during a training exercise in January 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

“We conducted these missions by launching from the USS Wasp, engaging role-player adversary aircraft, striking simulated targets with internally and externally mounted precision-guided munitions,” and then landing aboard the Wasp, Lt. Col. Michael Rountree, the F-35B detachment officer-in-charge on the Wasp, said in a statement.

While F-35s trained for Day Three of an all-out war in the Pacific, stealthier jets — the F-22 fighter and the B-2 bomber — trained for Day One.

B-2s from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri flew to Hawaii, where they met up with F-22 stealth jets, the top air-to-air fighters in the US fleet.

The B-2s spent their time near Hawaii “going out to an airspace and practicing realistic threats,” with an F-22 on either wing, said Lt. Col. Robert Schoeneberg, commander of the 393rd Bomb Squadron at Whiteman.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

(South China Sea)

The Pacific area of responsibility “is of high importance as of late,” Schoeneberg said, adding that “it will continue to be of high importance.”

F-22s and B-2 bombers represent the US’s most high-end platforms, designed to work as “door kickers,” or the opening punch in a war.

B-2s carry “massive ordnance penetrators” — the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the US inventory — and nuclear gravity bombs. Both could play a role in opening a conflict.

F-22s also serve an air-to-ground role and are frequently discussed as a first-strike weapon that could take out enemy air defenses and clear the way for less stealthy fighters.

(South China Sea)

China is getting mad and trying to get even

Washington’s focus on air power in the Pacific comes as Beijing’s military installations in the South China Sea are becoming formidable.

China has landed nuclear-capable bombers and fighter jets and deployed surface-to-air missiles and an extensive network of radars at those installations.

This, coupled with “carrier killer” long-range anti-ship missiles deployed on China’s mainland, indicates China is determined to lock the US out of international waters in the western Pacific.

China’s military is also speaking openly about fighting the US and even about sinking aircraft carriers.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

(Defence.Pk Frorums)

Chinese state media said in early February 2019 that Gen. Xu Qiliang, the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, “required the officers and soldiers to be well-prepared for different cases, encouraging them to staunchly safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests.”

Days earlier, US Navy ships had sailed through the tense Taiwan Strait. Days later, Navy destroyers challenged China’s extrajudicial claims in the South China Sea with a freedom-of-navigation exercise.

China responded to the US Navy’s sailing in international waters near its artificial islands with its usual fury, saying the US had threatened its sovereignty.

Beijing knows Washington is training, and it wants anti-stealth

China has been pioneering anti-stealth technology in an attempt to blunt the advantage of F-22s and F-35s.

“China is fielding networked air-defense systems that can coordinate the radar pictures from multiple sites in an area like the South China Sea,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments who was formerly a special assistant to the chief of naval operations, told Business Insider.

“This could enable the radars to see F-35Bs or other low-observable aircraft from the side or back aspect, where they have higher radar signatures, and share that information with [surface-to-air missile] launchers elsewhere in the region to engage the F-35Bs,” he added.

But the US knows no aircraft is truly invisible, especially in an area with a dense network of radars, like the South China Sea.

Instead of focusing solely on stealth, the US has shifted to employing decoys and electronic warfare to fight in highly contested areas, Clark said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here is how a new generation of computers will help America dominate

One of the reasons why American weapons systems have been so dominant is computer power. Whether it’s helping the M1 Abrams keep its gun on target or helping secure communications, computers give American troops an edge. Now, the Pentagon wants to bring the next generation of computers, quantum computers, into the fight.

You’re probably asking yourself, “what, exactly, is quantum computing and how would it give our troops an edge? Well, here’s a quick rundown.


As explained by one of America’s top tech companies, IBM, quantum computing is a form of computing that uses quantum mechanics — the mathematics of subatomic particle movements. Current processors distill all information down, eventually, to a simple ‘0’ or ‘1.’ Quantum processors, however, can distill information down to ‘0’ and ‘1.’ In short, this has the potential to greatly increase the baseline speeds at which computers operate. To put that increase in speed into perspective, it’s the difference between using a horse to go from New York to San Diego and using a SR-71 Blackbird for that same trip.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Joint Direct Attack Munitions, currently dependent on GPS, could become more accurate thanks to quantum clocks.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

So, how might this translate to military operations? Well, one application could be a replacement for the Global Positioning System. The satellite-based system relies on multiple updates per day, and there have been concerns the system could be vulnerable to attack. Quantum clocks could provide GPS-like accuracy when the satellite system is down.

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Quantum computing could help make satellite communications more secure.

(NASA)

A number of other countries, including the United Kingdom, Israel, Canada, and Australia, are also working on quantum computing programs. The Air Force Research Laboratory expects to have working prototypes in five years, with other systems rolling out later. In one sense, this program is an urgent one: China is also working on quantum computers, and has reportedly launched a purportedly unhackable satellite using that technology — and it’s not a good idea to be technologically outgunned if tensions should boil over.

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