The world's longest minefield isn't where you'd expect - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect

Veterans of the war in Afghanistan can tell you the country is absolutely riddled with land mines of all kinds. The country has experienced nonstop war and civil strife since the 1979 Soviet Invasion and ever since, land mines have been a constant hazard. But despite being one of the most heavily mined countries on earth, the biggest minefield is far from Afghanistan – it’s in the Sahara Desert.


Sure, there are plenty of war zones where one might expect a minefield, especially in North Africa. The unexploded ordnance from World War II is still a concern for North Africans, as well as the remnants of the French expulsion from Algeria, and the recent Civil War in Libya. But the world’s longest minefield is actually just south of Morocco – and it was placed there by the Moroccans.

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect

Little known outside of Africa is the tiny territory of Western Sahara. It’s not a country, not a recognized one anyway. When Spain left the area in 1975, both Mauritania and Morocco were quick to claim it for themselves. The people who lived in the area, called Saharawis, had other ideas. They wanted their independence along with the rest of Africa, which experienced wave after wave of anti-colonial independence movements in that time frame. Forming a military and political body called the Polisario, they forced Mauritanian troops out but were unable to dislodge neighboring Morocco. Morocco has occupied the area ever since.

But the Moroccan forces weren’t able to subdue the entire country. Instead of allowing a protracted rebellion by allowing the freedom of movement between the occupied territories and the so-called “free zone” run by the Polisario, Morocco constructed a sand berm with a strip of land mines 2,700 kilometers long (that’s 1677-plus miles for non-metric people). That’s some seven million mines along the disputed boundary.

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect

(Stefan Grossman)

Even after the shooting stopped in 1991, Morocco made no attempt to take out the mines. In fact, it doubled down on its occupation, constructing guard towers, radar posts, and deploying thousands of troops along the berm to keep the Saharawi out of Western Sahara and detect any possible infiltrators. Civilians are constantly being blown up and maimed by the minefield, while almost no other country recognizes the Moroccan claim to Western Sahara.

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These 3 snipers had more kills than Carlos Hathcock in Vietnam

While Carlos Hathcock is perhaps the most famous sniper of the Vietnam War, he actually ranks fourth in the number of confirmed kills.


Yeah, that’s right. Hathcock was out-scored by three other snipers during that conflict. So, who are the guys who bested Hathcock’s 93 confirmed sniper kills? Let’s take a look at them.

 

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect
Carlos Hathcock | Photo: Marine Corps Archives

 

3rd place: Eric R. England – 98 confirmed kills

The Union County Historical Society reports that Eric England had his service in Vietnam cut short at seven months.

England also had a lengthy track record of success in competitive shooting, including winning the Leech Cup — the oldest competitive shooting trophy in the United States.

England rates as perhaps the most obscure of the snipers who out-shot Hathcock. Aside from some photos taken during the 2011 Memorial Day Parade in Union County, Georgia, few, if any, photos of this legend are publicly available.

Second Place: Chuck Mawhinney – 103 confirmed kills

Chuck Mawhinney served from 1967-1970 in the Marine Corps. According to a 2000 Los Angeles Times article, he spent 16 months in Vietnam. After leaving the Marine Corps, he worked in the United States Forest Service.

Mawhinney’s youth was spent hunting, and he chose the Marines because they allowed him to delay his entry until after deer season. Some Marine recruiter did his country a service with that call.

Mawhinney noted that every one of his kills had a weapon — with one notable exception: A North Vietnamese Army paymaster who he took out from 900 yards away.

Today, Mawhinney is talking about what he has done, seeking to dispel the many stereotypes of snipers that are in people’s minds.

 

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect
This is the M40 sniper rifle used by Chuck Mawhinney during the Vietnam War. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

1st Place: Adelbert Waldron — 109 confirmed kills

America’s top sniper of the Vietnam War wasn’t a Marine. He served with the 9th Infantry Division of the United States Army. Yeah, you read that right. Marines got all the press and the glory, but an Army guy was the top sniper shot of the Vietnam War.

Waldron had served in the United States Navy for 12 years before going to civilian life. In 1968, he enlisted in the Army. SniperCentral.com noted that Waldron spent 16 months in Vietnam. Waldron primarily used the M21 Sniper Weapon System, a modified M14.

Waldron was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross twice. He also was awarded the Silver Star and three Bronze Stars. Still, he never talked about his service with the media, and died in 1995. His total would be the top score for an American sniper until Chris Kyle totaled 160 during the Global War on Terror.

 

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect
Adelbert Waldron, America’s top sniper of the Vietnam War.

So, when it comes to Vietnam War snipers, the legendary “White Feather” ranks at number four.

Articles

Air Force secretary worried about a US alliance with Russia in Syria

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James at AFA. (Photo: Breaking Defense)


NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Air Force’s top civilian leader didn’t mince words Sept. 20 when she doubted Moscow’s ability to make good on potential military cooperation with the United States in targeting Islamic State forces in Syria, saying Russia likely can’t be counted on to stick to the deal.

“This would be a ‘transactional’ situation, it’s not a situation where there’s a great deal of trust,” Air Force Sec. Deborah Lee James said during a briefing with reporters at the 2016 Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference here.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced a deal with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in mid-September, saying that coalition and Russian aircraft would work together to target terrorist forces in Syria after a week-long cease-fire. It is unclear whether the deal will stick after reports that an aid convoy was targeted during the lull in fighting, with both sides pointing fingers at the other for breaking the terms of the short truce.

Wading into diplomatic waters, James also warned that allying with Russia could anger U.S. partners in the ongoing operations against ISIS in Syria, hinting that countries like Turkey and Baltic state partners would balk at cooperating on strikes if Russians are in the room.

“Coalition cohesion will be important,” James said. “We have more than 60 countries participating in this — we wouldn’t want to lose coalition members.”

But James offered her starkest critique of the Russian military on an issue that has increasingly plagued American military efforts overseas in the court of public opinion. Top U.S. military officials are worried that if Russia and the U.S. are jointly running air strikes, America will share the blame for bombs that go astray.

“We are extremely precise with our weaponry, Russia is not,” James said. “So we would want to have some form of accountability for the dropping of these weapons to ensure that if there are civilian casualties, clearly it’s not us.”

Military officials have been increasingly pressed on how the U.S. and its allies would work alongside Russian forces in Syria on everything from coordinating air strikes to sharing intelligence on enemy positions. Most military leaders, particularly in the Air Force, have taken a wait and see attitude, wondering whether the diplomatic rapprochement will ever result in a military alliance.

“Once the decisions are made on how this cooperation will occur … and we see that the cease-fire holds for the time that the secretary of state has laid out, then we’re going to step very carefully to make sure that what is said in terms of the intent actually results in actions,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines are now flying these new F-35 variants

This Is The First F-35C Carrier Variant Joint Strike Fighter For The U.S. Marine Corps VMFA-314.

Marines are also getting the F-35C CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Lightning II. Here’s their first Carrier Variant Jet in VMFA-314 markings.

Along with flying the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II aircraft, that operates from amphibious assault ships, the U.S. Marine Corps is transitioning to the F-35C, the CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (also known as CV – Carrier Variant), that can operate from U.S. Navy’s flattops (the Nimitz-class ones, until issues with the Ford-class carriers are fixed).

Indeed, the Corps plans to operate 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs to replace three types of aircraft: the F/A-18A++/C/D “Legacy” Hornet, the AV-8B Harrier II and the EA-6B Prowler.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, is the first Marines squadron that will replace the “Legacy” Hornet with the brand new F-35C.


The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect

The first F-35C delivered to a USMC squadron, VMFA-314, at NAS Lemoore.

Photo by United States Marine Corps

At the time of writing, VMFA-314 has already started training alongside the U.S. Navy’s VFA-125, the F-35’s only Fleet Replacement Squadron, based at NAS Lemoore, California. The plan is to complete the preparation by next Spring.

By the time the Marine Aircraft Group 11 commander officer will certify the squadron as “safe for flight” and ready to operate independently of the FRS, VMFA-314 will have returned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the F-35C was declared on Feb. 28, 2019, after the first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, conducted aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and received its Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification.

“In order to declare IOC, the first operational squadron must be properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct assigned missions in support of fleet operations. This includes having 10 Block 3F, F-35C aircraft, requisite spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS). Additionally, the ship that supports the first squadron must possess the proper infrastructure, qualifications and certifications. Lastly, the Joint Program Office (JPO), industry, and Naval Aviation must demonstrate that all procedures, processes and policies are in place to sustain operations,” the Navy added in an official statement.

Also read: F-35, once beaten by F-16s, shows stunts older jets can’t touch

VFA-147 will conduct the first deployment with the F-35C integrated into the Carrier Air Wing 2, aboard the Nimitz-class USS Carl Vinson in 2021, and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 will conduct the second F-35C carrier deployment.

Interestingly, at least one F-35C already sports full VMFA-314 markings. The first photos of CF-35/169601, modex VW-434, including those that you can find in this article, were posted three weeks ago by Col. Simon Doran, MAG 11’s commanding officer. More shots have started circulating on the Internet after the aircraft, with just a handful flying hours, made a public appearance at Tinker AFB Air Show, on Jun. 1, 2019.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US military is preparing for North Korea’s ‘Christmas gift’

A top US Air Force general said Dec. 17, 2019, that the US is preparing responses just in case North Korea fires a long-range missile amid the stalled peace talks, possibly reigniting the tensions that characterized 2017.

North Korea warned earlier this month that “it is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift” it gets, suggesting that failure to meet Pyongyang’s expectations could yield undesirable results.

“It’s not implausible that they could give the world a Christmas or New Year gift of an ICBM test,” Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT, previously told Insider.


“What I would expect is some type of long-range ballistic missile would be the gift. It’s just a matter of, does it come on Christmas Eve? Does it come on Christmas Day? Does it come in after the new year?” Gen. Charles Q. Brown, the Pacific Air Forces commander, said Tuesday, according to multiple reports.

While there have been a number of short-range tests in recent months, North Korea has not launched a long-range missile since its successful test of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile in late November 2017.

North Korea releases video showing the launch of the Hwasong-15 missile

www.youtube.com

“We’re watching,” Brown added, acknowledging that there are other possibilities. “I think there are a range of things that could occur.”

North Korea has given Washington until the end of the year to change the way it negotiates with Pyongyang. It has said that it will pursue a “new path” if the US does not lift its heavy sanctions in return for North Korea’s moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear testing. While the threat remains unclear, North Korea is using language similar to past ICBM tests.

Brown said Tuesday that the US military is dusting off responses should efforts to secure a diplomatic peace between the US and North Korea fail.

“Our job is to backstop the diplomatic efforts. And, if the diplomatic efforts kind of fall apart, we got to be ready,” he explained. “Go back to 2017, there’s a lot of stuff we did in 2017 that we can dust off pretty quickly and be ready to use.”

“We are looking at all of the things we have done in the past,” Brown added.

During the “fire and fury” tensions between the US and North Korea that defined 2017, the US routinely flew bombers over the Korean Peninsula as a symbol of support for US allies and as a warning to the North Korean regime.

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

Articles

Former sex slaves are getting payback on the ISIS sleazebags who held them

Yazidi women who were enslaved and terrorized by ISIS have formed a military unit known as the Sun Brigade to hunt down the fighters and condemn them to Hell.


The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect
A military trainer teaches Yazidi and Kurdish women how to fire machine guns during basic training. Screenshot: YouTube/BBC News

ISIS fighters believe that they will not be allowed into Paradise if they are killed by a woman, a fact the Yazidi women of the Sun Brigade are happy to exploit.

ISIS fighters brutally committed a campaign of forced conversion and genocide against the Yazidi religious minority. After overrunning a Yazidi village, ISIS killed the men and took able-bodied women and girls as sex slaves. When one Yazidi slave gave birth, she was not permitted to feed her newborn son, according to Fox News. When the baby cried, the woman’s ISIS master beheaded him.

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect
Xate Shingali shows other Yazidi women how to handle firearms during a display for visiting CNN journalists. Screenshot: YouTube/Hiwa Marko

Some Yazidi women want to punish ISIS for what they did to their people. Xate Shingali, a 30-year-old folk singer, leads the Sun Brigade. The Sun Brigade is part of the Women’s Protection Unit, abbreviated as the YPJ, an all-female branch of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units.

Many volunteers have friends and relatives kidnapped by ISIS. One of the unit members told CNN, “We are Yazidi. We are women. And we will destroy you and anyone who touches our women and dirties our lands.

The Yazidi women share the sentiment of the Kurdish women. CNN interviewed a 21-year-old Kurdish YPJ commander, known as Tehelden – the Kurdish word for ‘revenge.’ ‘They believe if someone from Daesh [IS] is killed by a girl, they won’t go to heaven. They’re afraid of girls.’

The Sun Brigade has been manning observation posts and training in small unit tactics on Sinjar Mountain, the site where IS killed many Yazidi civilians who sought refuge there in 2014.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happens when military aircraft find your anti-aircraft truck

Originally, the thing that terrified everyone about ISIS was how fast-moving it was and how sophisticated its battlefield strategy and equipment was. But as the battlefield has shifted against ISIS, their deployments have become less terrifying horror stories and more hilarious follies.


For example, have you heard the one about the ISIS anti-aircraft truck that was discovered by coalition aircraft? Yeah, turns out the anti-aircraft truck isn’t all that good at detecting aircraft.

Task Force Trailblazer, the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade, and other coalition forces were hunting for ISIS remnants in Iraq when they spotted the truck. While ISIS has lost its territory and de facto state, that just reduced it to a more “normal” terrorist organization — and it still has a decent arsenal of weaponry.

Hunting them down is important to finally #DefeatISIS, and eliminating the more sophisticated weapons makes it easier and safer to go after all the rest. Anti-aircraft trucks, in the scheme of things, are fairly sophisticated and important.

But the thing about coalition aircraft is that it includes a lot of aircraft and weapons that can engage enemy targets at well beyond the ranges at which they are easy to spot and attack. Basically, a jet can kill you from much further away than you can kill the jet, unless you have very good missiles and radar.

So, when U.S. forces found the truck, they called in an airstrike against it. It’s not immediately clear which weapon and platform was used against it, but it does look like a missile or fast-moving bomb enters the frame just before the explosion. While the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade was cited in Operation Inherent Resolve’s tweet, the 35th didn’t deploy with any attack helicopters, and so it’s likely that the attacking aircraft came from somewhere else.

Regardless, the footage is sweet and available at top. Enjoy.

MIGHTY MONEY

This meditation company is giving away free downloads to veterans

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect
Deployed Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, coalition partners and civilians go relax as they finish the largest Yoga session to take place in Qatar history July 11, 2015 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.


A meditation company with an iTunes app is offering free downloads to veterans. Meditation Studios has developed 200 meditation tracks that can be downloaded through their app in the iTunes store.

Through a recent partnership with Give Back, the company created the Veterans Collection, a unique series of meditations that are designed to help veterans improve their focus, relieve stress, and encourage better sleep.

In a statement to We Are the Mighty, Meditation Studios said:

Please enjoy these complimentary meditations from Meditation Studio App. For more from this collection, download the app. The guided meditations in the Veterans collection will help to improve focus, relieve stress, encourage better sleep and generally bring more peace of mind. The mind can be a great source of distress when it’s out of control. When we can relax, pause or slow the mind down, it becomes a source of consolation and peace. As we learn to meditate, we learn to recognize emotions, thoughts and sensations without reacting to them. It helps us to respond more thoughtfully, without impulse or overreaction. This can be very comforting, giving veterans more control over the thoughts and emotions that accompany a return from deployment.

The downloads are available through the app, or through SoundCloud. The app, which is $3.99 and has high ratings, features unlimited access to all of the company’s meditations and courses; population and situation specific mediations; step-by-step “courses” with instruction on proper meditation; meditations in various lengths to fit into busy schedules; a section for tracking progress, scheduling meditations, and an in-app calendar.

The meditations offered by Meditation Studios are Self Care and Relax and Energize.

An uncontrolled study published in Military Medicine in June, 2011 found that meditation among Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom combat veterans with moderately severe post traumatic stress “may have helped to alleviate symptoms of PTSD and improve quality of life in veterans of OEF/OIF with combat-related PTSD.”

A similar study by the Army in 2013 determined that meditation could have a positive impact on PTSD, and noted that more research was needed.

The VA notes that meditation, when combined with other treatments, may “improve outcomes” of treatment.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch a young Chuck Yeager test fly a stolen MiG-15

Brigadier General Chuck Yeager is best-known for being the first man to break the sound barrier. He was also a World War II ace and saw action in Vietnam as commanding officer of the 405th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying B-57s. But did you know that this aerial all-star also logged time in the MiG-15?


The MiG-15 in question was flown from North Korea to Seoul by No Kum-sok, a defector who, upon landing, learned that he was fulfilling a $100,000 bounty by delivering the plane into allied hands. The MiG-15 was quickly taken back to the United States and put through its paces.

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect

The last moments of a MiG-15 — many of these planes met their end in MiG Alley.

(US Navy)

Test pilots are known for getting in the cockpit of new, unproven vehicles and using their skills and adaptability to safely maneuver vessels through early flights. They’ve flown the X-15 into space and are responsible for putting the newest fighters, like the F-35, through their paces. But what’s just as important (and half as reported) is role they play in exploring the capabilities of foreign aircraft, like a MiG, Sukhoi, or some other international plane.

This is why the “Akutan Zero,” a Japanese plane that crashed on June 4, 1942 over Alaskan soil, was so important. It gave the US invaluable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of an enemy’s asset, informing the design of the F6F Hellcat.

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect

This is the MiG-15 that was flown to South Korea by a North Korean defector.

(USAF photo)

The MiG-15 of the Korean War wasn’t quite as fearsome as the Zero was in World War II. In fact, the F-86 dominated it over “MiG Alley.” But finding out just how good – or bad – the MiG-15 really was still mattered. After all, American allies, like Taiwan, ended up facing the MiG-15 later in the 1950s (the Taiwanese planes ended up using the AIM-9 Sidewinder to deadly effect).

The MiG-15 still is in service with the North Korean Air Force, meaning Yeager’s half-a-century-old flight still informs us today.

Learn more about Yeager’s time flying the MiG-15 in the video below.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis shared the thinking behind the new National Defense Strategy during a discussion at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington on Oct. 30, 2018.

The strategy, released in January 2018, sees Russia and China as the greatest threats with Iran and North Korea as regional threats. Violent extremism rounds out the threat matrix.

The strategy is based on a return to great power competition among the United States, Russia and China.


Power, urgency, will

Mattis told Stephen Hadley, the moderator of the event and former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, that in setting up the strategy, officials looked at threats from three different angles: Power, urgency and will.

“In terms of raw power right now, I look at Russia and the nuclear arsenal they have,” he said. “I look at their activities over the last 10 years from Georgia and Crimea to the Donetsk Basin to Syria and I can go on and on and on. In terms of just power, I think it is Russia that we have to look at and address.”

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.

(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

There are two threats that are most urgent right now: North Korea and the continuing fight against violent extremism. North Korea’s nuclear and missile program — in clear violation of United Nations sanctions — remains a problem, and the current fight against violent extremists from the Islamic State to al-Qaida to Boko Haram to other transnational terror groups must be fought.

“In terms of will, clearly it is China,” he said.

China is different than Russia. “Russia wants security around its periphery by causing insecurity among other nations,” he said. “They want a veto authority over the economic, the diplomatic and the security decisions of the nations around them.

“China seems to want some sort of tribute states around them,” he continued. “We are looking for how do we work with China. I think 15 years from now we will be remembered most for how … we set the conditions for a positive relationship with China.”

Cooperation

The United States is looking for ways to cooperate with China and that has been beneficial to both countries, Mattis said. He pointed to China’s vote against the North Korean nuclear program in the United Nations Security Council as an example. The United States will also confront China when it must as he pointed to the United States continuing freedom of navigation operations in international waters and airspace.

“I have met with my counterpart in Beijing and in Singapore 10 days ago, and he will be here 10 days from now to continue that dialogue as we sort it out,” Mattis said.

Also part of the strategy are U.S. strengths, and foremost among them is the country’s network of alliances and friends around the world. This network requires constant tending, the secretary said. He noted that just in the last month he has attended NATO meetings, consulted with Central and South American allies and journeyed to Manama, Bahrain, to meet with Middle Eastern allies and friends.

All of these were part and parcel of forming the National Defense Strategy.

South Asia Strategy

The secretary also spoke about the South Asia Strategy announced in August 2017 and how that is proceeding. Officials continue to follow the strategy and it is making progress, but it is slow. It entails far more than just the military and far more than just the United States, he said.

The strategy is a regional approach to the problem. It also reinforced the commitment to the area and realigned those reinforcements with Afghan forces. This was needed because the Afghans had an Army that wasn’t ready to have the training wheels taken off the bike, Mattis said. “Only the Afghan special forces had mentors from NATO nations with them,” he said. “And every time they went against the enemy, the Taliban, they won.

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.

(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

But the rest of the Afghan forces were spread out around the country with no mentorship and no air support. The strategy changed that. The air support is crucial in giving Afghan forces the high ground in the mountainous country, “and that changes the tactical situation,” the secretary said.

Afghan forces are carrying the burden. They took more than 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September 2018, the secretary said, and they stayed in the field fighting. “And the Taliban has been prevented from doing what they said they were going to do, which was to take and hold district and provincial centers, also disrupt an election that they were unable to disrupt,” he said.

But the most important aspect of the strategy is reconciliation. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad agreed to serve as a special envoy in Afghanistan specifically aimed at reconciliation between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. “He is hard at work on this, on an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation effort,” Mattis said. “So this is the approach we’re trying to sustain right now. It is working from our perspective, but what is heartbreakingly difficult to accept is the progress and violence can be going on at the same time.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These pics of an F-35 in the snow-covered mountains are epic

The stunning photographs in this post were taken on Feb. 21, 2019, by our friend and photographer Christopher McGreevy.

They show a 461th FLTS F-35A from Edwards Air Force Base, at low level, on the Sidewinder low level route, enroute to the famous “Jedi Transition.”

While we are used to see some great photographs of the F-35s, F-16s, and many other types thundering over the desert in the “Star Wars” canyon, the rare snow days in California provided a fantastic background for these shots McGreevy shot from an unusual spot, deep in the Sierra Mountains.


As mentioned several times here at The Aviationist, what makes the low level training so interesting, is the fact that aircraft flying the low level routes are involved in realistic combat training. Indeed, although many current and future scenarios involve stand-off weapons or drops from high altitudes, fighter pilots still practice on an almost daily basis to infiltrate heavily defended targets and to evade from areas protected by sophisticated air defense networks as those employed in Iran, Syria or North Korea. While electronic countermeasures help, the ability to get bombs on target and live to fight another day may also depend on the skills learnt at treetop altitude.

To be able to fly at less than 2,000 feet can be useful during stateside training too, when weather conditions are such to require a low level leg to keep visual contact with the ground and VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in trouble spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.

Even a stealth plane (or helicopter), spotted visually by an opponent, could be required to escape at tree top height to survive an engagement by enemy fighter planes or an IR guided missile.

That’s why low level corridors like the Sidewinder and the LFA-7 aka “Mach Loop” in the UK are so frequently used to train fighter jet, airlifter and helicopter pilots.

And such training pays off when needed. As happened, in Libya, in 2011, when RAF C-130s were tasked to rescue oil workers that were trapped in the desert. The airlifter took off from Malta and flew over the Mediteranean, called Tripoli air traffic control, explained who they were and what they were up to, they got no reply from the controllers, therefore continued at low level once over the desert and in hostile airspace.

H/T to our friend Christopher McGreevy for sending us these shots. Make sure to visit his stunning Instagram page here.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force may soon have its first female special operator

One woman remains in training to become a battlefield Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) specialist, one of several special operations jobs in the Air Force, the head of Air Education and Training Command said September 19th.


“We have one female that’s in the course right now,” AETC commander Gen. Darryl Roberson said during a Facebook Live interview Tuesday with Military.com.

Roberson didn’t identify the airman, who joined the program Aug. 14 after Basic Military Training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, according to Air Force Times.

Roberson said four other women have entered Air Force special operations training since then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter reversed long-standing U.S. military traditions in late 2015, when he announced that all military occupational specialties would open to women.

Those other trainees have left the program for various reasons, the general said.

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect
Photo: US Air Force Racheal E. Watson

One woman who began SpecOps training in August dropped out that same month. One TACP retrainee ended up removing herself from training due to a leg injury last year; a combat rescue officer candidate passed the physical test but never completed the selection program application; and another non-prior service TACP candidate couldn’t meet entry standards following BMT.

Roberson said he is hopeful more women will seek out some of the toughest jobs the service has to offer.

Also read: These were the real-life Wonder Women who fought in the world’s bitterest wars

“Come and join us!” he said during an interview on Sept. 19. “We can help you get through it.”

The general this spring introduced a new initiative, the Continuum of Learning, which aims to streamline training for airmen just beginning their Air Force careers.

“We’re working really hard for battlefield airmen. It’s our hardest specialty area; it’s our biggest attrition rate area,” Roberson said. “We have to figure out better ways to train and get these airmen through the program. Several of the ways we’re doing this is through the Continuum of Learning [initiative].”

“We just instituted a brand-new course — the Battlefield Airmen Prep Course, a preparatory course that once you finish BMT … we’re going to put you in this training program that is six weeks long. And it’s going to prepare you to start the original course of initial entry,” he said.

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect
Senior Airman Brooke Seler, 557th Expeditionary RED HORSE structural journeyman, stands covered in concrete after a night of work July 27, 2017, in Southwest Asia. Seler is one of four female Airmen in the squadron who are helping build the future living sustainment area for the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Damon Kasberg)

Following the prep course, airmen head to the indoctrination course, both of which are under the Battlefield Airman Training Group, also at JBSA-Lackland, Marilyn Holliday, a spokeswoman for AETC, said last month. “Both of these groups are part of the 37th Training Wing” at Lackland.

Roberson said airmen must trust the process.

“It’s to get you ready better than we’ve ever done before, so when you start the [special operations training] course, your chances of success are much higher,” he said.

Women in the Fight: First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Lt. Gen. Marshall “Brad” Webb, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, said he is confident women will soon count themselves among the service’s commandos.

“It’s going to happen, and we are ready in this command for it to happen,” he said during a briefing with reporters. “It’s going to be a huge non-event when it does happen.”

Webb said he isn’t sure when, exactly, or whether some special operations fields may see more female recruits than others. But he drew a comparison to the 1990s, when female pilots started flying service aircraft and many advanced into leadership positions.

“It’s maturing at a pace that you’d expect,” he said.

So far, six women have expressed interest in applying for special operations positions, including three for TAC-P, two for combat control officer and one for pararescue jumper (PJ), according to Command Master Sgt. Greg Smith.

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect
Maj. Jennifer Orton, a combat search and rescue (CSAR) pilot with the 39th Rescue Squadron here, flies the HC-130P/N King fixed-wing aerial refueling aircraft on missions for the 920th Rescue Wing. Orton recently discovered that according to the 39th RSQ she holds the title of being their first female Air Force Reserve fixed-wing CSAR pilot. (U.S. Photo by Senior Airman Brandon Kalloo Sanes)

Of those, two followed through, but one suffered a foot injury during initial training and another wasn’t ultimately selected, Smith said.

“For recruitment, it is open, it is there,” he said. “Assessment, that is always our hardest part. We graduate less than 1 percent of males that go through, so you can expect probably 1 percent of females that go through will do that. We will get there. We are enthusiatsically waiting and wanting this to happen.

“If you watch ‘American Ninja Warrior’ today, I’ll tell you right now we need to go hang out there with recruitment because half of them could kick the crap out of half of us,” he added, referring to the NBC series on obstacle course competitions. “Those are the ones we want in special tactics today.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a President actually fought in Iowa

When most people think of Iowa, they think about cornfields, hog farms, Field of Dreams, and politics. Generally overlooked is the Battle of Credit Island, an island in the Mississippi River, which would host one of the westernmost skirmishes of the war of 1812.


The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect

The Louisiana Purchase

(iowaculture.gov)

After the United States made the Louisiana Purchase in 1804, the country faced the challenge of establishing control of the Mississippi River. At the time, St. Louis was the northernmost city on the river, and all the territory north of there, the upper Mississippi, was generally controlled by natives. The United States attempted to gain more control in 1808 by establishing Fort Madison (in present-day Fort Madison, IA).

This fort would be abandoned in 1813, however, as it was regularly attacked by Sauk tribes. This led to the U.S. establishing Fort Shelby (located in present-day Prairie du Chien, Wisc). Fort Shelby, however, was captured in 1814 by the British, just months after its establishment, during the Siege of Prairie du Chien.

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect

Zachary Taylor 12th President of the United States.

(iowaculture.gov)

American troops would attempt to retake Fort Shelby, mounting an attack with armored keelboats. However, one would become grounded near East Moline Ill., where it was burned by Sauk Indians, forcing another retreat. One more effort would be made to reclaim the fort using armored keelboats, and this time, Major Zachary Taylor would lead the excursion.

Taylor led eight armored vessels up the Mississippi, but due to inclement weather stopped for the night in the vicinity of Pelican Island (a small island just to the north of Credit Island, near modern-day Davenport, Iowa.) Overnight, Sauk warriors waded to Pelican Island, and at daybreak attacked Taylor’s sentries, killing one. The Americans mounted their defense, repelling the natives, only to come under attack from accurate cannon fire, from a nearby British canon. The British and the native warriors would fire on Taylor’s flotilla for the next 45 minutes, with good effect, until Taylor ordered a retreat downriver.

30 to 40 British troops and approximately 800 Native Americans would repel Taylor’s 334 soldiers, and end their ambitions to recapture Fort Shelby. The Americans would not gain control of the upper Mississippi region until after the war in 1815.

The war would come to an end the following winter of 1815 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which would normalize relations between Britain and the United States and restore borders to their pre-war status. As for Taylor, he continued to climb the military ranks, serving next in the Black Hawk War, the Second Seminole War, and later in the Mexican-American war. He would be elected 12th President of the United States in 1848, but died of illness in 1850.

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