Here's what training is like for the Air Force's elite - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite

America has some of the world’s most elite special operators and they get a lot of press. But on most of the missions that Special Forces, SEALs, and other top operators conduct, they bring a very special airman.


The Air Force combat controller moves forward with other special operators, swimming, diving, parachuting, and shooting with their brethren. But, they act as an air traffic controller and ground observer while doing so. They can also conduct missions with other Air Force special operators, seizing enemy airports and controlling air power for follow-on forces.

The Air Force combat controller moves forward with other special operators, swimming, diving, parachuting, and shooting with their brethren. But, they act as an air traffic controller and ground observer while doing so. They can also conduct missions with other Air Force special operators, seizing enemy airports and controlling air power for follow-on forces.

In his book “Kill Bin Laden,” former Delta Force commander Dalton Fury writes:

The initial training “pipeline” for an Air Force Special Tactics Squadron Combat Controller costs twice as much time and sweat as does the journey to become a Navy SEAL or Delta operator. Before their training is complete someone brainwashes these guys into thinking they can climb like Spiderman, swim like Tarzan, and fly like Superman — and then they have to prove they can, if they plan to graduate.

Being a combat controller takes a lot of brainpower and muscle. Here’s how the U.S. Air Force takes a bunch of talented young men and turns them into elite warriors.

The Elite isn’t too good for Air Force Basic Military Training

An airman training to become an elite combat controller

Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo

Like all other service members, combat controllers begin by learning the fundamentals of military life. Airmen attend basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base. Recruits go through a processing week and eight weeks of training.

You want to be elite? Take the the Combat Control Screening Course to see if you have what it takes.

This two-week course is also on Lackland, and it’s purpose is in the name. Students are physically screened and have to pass tests in seven events to move on. The events are: push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, 1.5-mile run, 500-meter swim, 4-mile ruck march, and an obstacle course.

“We need this two weeks just to make sure they’re the right guys to be combat controllers and they’re going to be successful in the pipeline,” says an Combat Control selection instructor in the Air Force video above.

Two weeks may seems like a short time for airmen to be screened and prepared for the rest of the combat controller pipeline, but the class is so tough that the Air Force has published a 26-week guide to help recruits physically prepare. The students will be tested on the seven physical tasks throughout the training pipeline with the standards becoming more rigorous at each testing (Page 12).

Immediately after the screening course, students may find themselves waiting for an open slot at the combat control operator course. They are tested weekly to ensure their performance on the seven physical tasks mentioned above don’t slip.

Combat Control Operator Course

This course lasts for just over 15 weeks at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. It focuses on recognizing and understanding different aircraft, air navigation aids, weather, and air traffic control procedures. It is the same course all other air traffic controllers in the Air Force attend.

Airborne School

Elite airman parachuting

Photo: US Army Ashley Cross

At Fort Benning, Ga., elite airmen go through the U.S. Army Airborne School. Here, they are taught how to safely conduct static-line parachute jumps from an airplane and infiltrate an enemy-held objective area.

Basic Survival School is required for even elite controllers

To learn basic survival techniques for remote areas, future combat controllers spend more than two weeks at the Air Force Basic Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. By graduation, the airmen should be able to survive on their own regardless of climatic conditions or enemy situation. Survival training is important for combat controllers since they’ll be deployed to a variety of austere environments.

Combat Control School

In 13 weeks at Pope Army Air Field, North Carolina, students are taught small unit tactics, land navigation, communications, assault zones, demolitions, fire support, and field operations. It is at the end of this course that students become journeyman combat controllers and they are allowed to wear their iconic scarlet beret and combat controller team flash.

Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training

Though they are technically now combat controllers, airmen will then spend almost another year training in Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training at Hurlburt Field, Fla. AST is broken down into four phases: water, ground, employment, and full mission profile. By full mission profile, combat controllers should be able to do their full job in simulated combat. The training at Hurlburt Field allows combat controllers to infiltrate enemy territory through a variety of means. A combat controller going to work “involves jumping out of an airplane, or sliding out a helicopter down a fast rope, or riding some sort of all-terrain vehicle, or going on a mountain path on foot,” Air Force Maj. Charlie Hodges told CNN.

AST is challenging. “This is probably about the most realistic training you could get here back in the states to get you prepared for the real world,” Air Force 1st Lt. Charles Cunningham, a special operations weather officer said in an Air Force video. “They add a very serious element of realism and make it as intense as it can be.”

While in AST, combat controllers will depart Hurlburt Field to complete the following three schools.

Military Free Fall Parachutist School

Students will train at Fort Bragg, N.C., and then Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. Trainees learn free fall parachuting procedures over a five-week period by practicing in wind tunnels and in free fall. Students learn stability, aerial maneuvers, air sense, parachute opening procedures, and canopy control.

Students jump from up to 35,000 feet above sea level and may wait until below 6,000 feet above the ground to open their chute. One student in the video above calls it “the best school I’ve ever been to.” It’s fun, but incredibly difficult to prepare students for elite missions.

Combat Divers School

Elite airmen have to be prepared for everything. At the U.S. Air Force Combat Divers School in Panama City, Fla., combat controllers learn to use SCUBA and closed-circuit diving equipment to infiltrate enemy held areas. The course is four weeks long.

Underwater Egress Training

Only a day long, this course teaches the controllers how to escape from a sinking aircraft. It is taught by the Navy at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla.

Graduation and assignment

Finally, after completion of the AST and the full mission profile, combat controllers are ready to head to a unit where they’ll receive continuous training from senior combat controllers and begin building combat experience on missions.

What? You thought they were done? To be able to augment Delta, Seal Team 6, and conduct missions on their own, combat controllers are never done training.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Iconic Lancers will retire as B-21 Raiders come online

The Air Force is mapping a two-fold future path for its B-1 bomber which includes plans to upgrade the bomber while simultaneously preparing the aircraft for eventual retirement as the service’s new stealth bomber arrives in coming years.

These two trajectories, which appear as somewhat of a paradox or contradiction, are actually interwoven efforts designed to both maximize the bomber’s firepower while easing an eventual transition to the emerging B-21 bomber, Air Force officials told Warrior Maven.

“Once sufficient numbers of B-21 aircraft are operational, B-1s will be incrementally retired. No exact dates have been established,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven. “The Air Force performs routine structural inspections, tests and necessary repairs to ensure the platform remains operationally viable until sufficient numbers of B-21s are operational.”


The B-21 is expected to emerge by the mid-2020s, so while the Air Force has not specified a timetable, the B-1 is not likely to be fully retired until the 2030s.

Service officials say the current technical overhaul is the largest in the history of the B-1, giving the aircraft an expanded weapons ability along with new avionics, communications technology, and engines.

Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite

Official U.S. Air Force Artist Rendering of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Heavy Bomber.

The engines are being refurbished to retain their original performance specs, and the B-1 is getting new targeting and intelligence systems, Grabowski said.

A new Integrated Battle Station includes new aircrew displays and communication links for in-flight data sharing.

“This includes machine-to-machine interface for rapid re-tasking and/or weapon retargeting,” Grabowski added.

Another upgrade called The Fully Integrated Targeting Pod connects the targeting pod control and video feed into B-1 cockpit displays. The B-1 will also be able to increase its carriage capacity of 500-pound class weapons by 60-percent due to Bomb Rack Unit upgrades.

The B-1, which had its combat debut in Operation Desert Fox in 1998, went to drop thousands of JDAMs during the multi-year wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The B-1 can hit speeds of MACH 1.25 at 40,000 feet and operates at a ceiling of 60,000 feet.

It fires a wide-range of bombs, to include several JDAMS: GBU-31, GBU-38 and GBU-54. It also fires the small diameter bomb-GBU-39.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Nope, ‘God & The 3 Mistakes’ is not what happened after Pearl Harbor

I’m known among my friends as a bit of a heartless cynic (#NotPopularAtParties #PleaseStopInvitingMe #HowManyOfTheseDoIHaveToRuinToBeLeftAlone). Maybe that’s why We Are The Mighty’s president and CMO, U.S. Air Force veteran Mark Harper, sent me this heartwarming story about Admiral Nimitz arriving at Pearl Harbor after the attack.

But then, I ruined it.


Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite

Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, a bold and brave man too busy being optimistic for your “history facts” or his own notes.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

The story is entitled God and the 3 Mistakes, and it makes the rounds on the internet every once in a while. Here’s a version of it from armchairgeneral.com:

Tour boats ferry people out to the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii every thirty minutes. We just missed a ferry and had to wait thirty minutes. I went into a small gift shop to kill time. In the gift shop, I purchased a small book entitled, “Reflections on Pearl Harbor” by Admiral Chester Nimitz.

Sunday, December 7th, 1941 — Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the phone. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.

Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941. There was such a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat–you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war. On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters every where you looked.

As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, “Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?” Admiral Nimitz’s reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice. Admiral Nimitz said, “The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?”

Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, “What do mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?” Nimitz explained:

Mistake number one: the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk–we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.

Mistake number two: when the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.

Mistake number three: every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That’s why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America.

I’ve never forgotten what I read in that little book. It is still an inspiration as I reflect upon it. In jest, I might suggest that because Admiral Nimitz was a Texan, born and raised in Fredricksburg, Texas –he was a born optimist. But anyway you look at it–Admiral Nimitz was able to see a silver lining in a situation and circumstance where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism.

President Roosevelt had chosen the right man for the right job. We desperately needed a leader that could see silver linings in the midst of the clouds of dejection, despair and defeat.

There is a reason that our national motto is, IN GOD WE TRUST.
Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite

Look, an optimistic photo of a re-floated battleship. Let’s all go get coffee and not read the rest of this.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

Stop here to remain happy. No? Alrighty, then.

Was that heartwarming and satisfying for you? Good. Stop reading. Go away. Be happy. Don’t let my factual poison into your soul. Ignore the holes and historical discrepancies and return to the world as a satisfied human being.

Or, let’s go through this together and destroy joy.

(Author’s note: For some of the debunking done here, we’re turning directly to Adm. Nimitz’ notes from December, 1941, compiled in his “gray book,” which the Navy put on the internet in 2014. Citations to that document will be made with a parenthetical hyperlink that will give the PDF page, not the printed page number. So, “(p. 71)” refers to his December 17 “Running Summary of Situation” that is page 71 of the PDF, but has the page numbers 9 and 67 printed on the bottom.)

Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite

Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Navy Adm. Chester W. Nimitz.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

That phone call on December 7 didn’t happen

First: “Sunday, December 7th, 1941 — Admiral Chester Nimitz was … told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.

Nope. At the time, no one knew exactly what had happened or who to blame, and Adm. Husband E. Kimmel was still very much in charge. How screwed up would it have been if Roosevelt’s first action, while the fuel dumps were still burning and sailors were still choking to death on oil, was to fire the guy in command on the ground rather than shifting supplies and men to the problem or, you know, investigating what happened?

The bulk of the losses at Pearl weren’t even announced until December 15 (p. 51) because no one, even at Pearl, could be sure of the extent of the damage while the attack was ongoing.

In reality, Nimitz wasn’t ordered to Hawaii until December 17, the same day that Kimmel was told he would be relieved (p. 71).

Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite

National ensign flies from the USS West Virginia during the Pearl Harbor attack.

(U.S. Navy)

No, it wouldn’t have been worse if the Japanese had lured the ships to sea

The single most non-sensical claim in this story is that Nimitz was glad Pearl Harbor was a surprise attack.

Mistake number one: the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk–we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.

What? Nimitz thought he would’ve lost more men if the Japanese had lured them into a fight near the island? Does anyone believe that he had that little belief in the skills of his men?

If the Japanese had tried to lure the American ships to sea, we would’ve only sent the ones ready to fight, with full ammo loads and readied guns with crews. We would’ve tried to recall the carriers conducting exercises at sea. Yes, losing 38,000 sailors is worse than 3,800, but we’ve never lost 3,800 in a fair fight.

At the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, the U.S. took combined losses of about 1,000 killed while inflicting losses against Japan of about 4,000. At the Battle of Savo Island, “the worst defeat ever inflicted on the United States Navy in a fair fight,” according to Samuel Morison, the U.S. lost 1,100 sailors.

Meanwhile, at Pearl, the U.S. lost over 2,000 killed while inflicting less than 100 enemy deaths. Who the hell would be glad it was a surprise attack?

In his notes on Samoa dated December 17, Nimitz specifically cites Japan’s use of surprise as to why it had been so successful (p. 64).

Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite

The largest fuel dumps at Pearl Harbor did survive the attack, but they weren’t enough.

(U.S. Navy)

Yes, Japan did ravage America’s fuel dumps and hit drydocks

Nimitz, when he got the actual call on December 17, quickly tied up his duties in Washington, D.C., and reported to Pearl Harbor. (He arrived Christmas Day, not Christmas Eve.)

There, he found an island still burning and heavily damaged. The Japanese planes absolutely did hit fuel dumps at Pearl Harbor. They hit drydocks as well, heavily damaging three destroyers that were in the docks at the time.

Luckily, Pearl Harbor didn’t have “every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war” in December 1941 as the story says, but the other dumps were under attack as Nimitz was supposedly giving this pep talk. Fuel dumps on the Philippines and Wake Island were destroyed or isolated by the Japanese attack in the days and weeks following December 7.

(Seriously, how would you even run a Pacific fleet if your only gas station was in Hawaii? That would mean ships patrolling around the Philippines and Australia would need to travel 10,000 miles and over three weeks out of their way every time they needed to refuel.)

It is true, though, that Japan failed to hit the largest and most important fuel tank farms on Pearl and didn’t destroy the doors to the drydocks. That was a major strategic error on the part of the Japanese.

But, what damage was done to these facilities was important, changing the strategic calculation for America at every turn.

On December 17, Nimitz wrote a plan to reinforce Samoa that specifically cited the lack of appropriate fuel dumps being ready or filled at Pearl or Samoa (p. 63 and 70). It even mentioned how bad it was to shift a single oiler from replenishing Pearl to getting ships to Samoa. The fuel situation was dire, and Nimitz knew it.

Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite

Two heavily damaged U.S. destroyers sit in a flooded drydock. Both destroyers were scrapped and the drydock was damaged, but it did return to service by February 1942.

(U.S. Navy)

The ship repair situation was worse

If the fuel situation was bad, the repair situation was worse. Drydocks were attacked during the battle. Two ships were destroyed in Drydock number one, and Floating Drydock number 2 was sunk after sustaining damage. Both were back in operation by February 1942.

Other drydocks were safe or only lightly damaged and were up and running by the time Nimitz arrived at Pearl. Yes, that’s a big deal logistically. But that still left too few drydocks for the sheer number of ships heavily damaged in the attack.

But the number of drydocks wasn’t the biggest factor in whether a ship could be repaired at Pearl, because there weren’t nearly enough supplies and skilled laborers in and around the harbor, anyways. Capt. Homer N. Wallin, the head of the salvage effort from January 1942 onward, lamented shortages of firefighting equipment, lumber, fastenings, welders, carpenters, mechanics, engineers, and pumps for the duration of salvage.

That’s why three battleships left Pearl Harbor for repairs on the West Coast on December 20, and ships were heading back to the continent for repairs as late as the end of 1942, nearly a year after the attack, because drydocks had insufficient space or supplies to repair them on site.

In fact, in his history written in 1968, Wallin specifically remembers Nimitz touring the wrecks on Dec. 31, 1941, and being pessimistic about repairs, especially the viability of the USS Nevada. The Nevada was back in combat less than a year later, despite Nimitz’ pessimism.

But the worst problem facing Pearl Harbor was invasion

But the most naive claim of this entire story is that Nimitz was optimistic as to the situation in December 1941. His actual notes from the period paint a much grimmer picture of his mind.

In the wee hours of December 17, hours before Nimitz was ordered to replace Kimmel, Nimitz sent Kimmel a message on behalf of himself and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. Kimmel was ordered to “reconsider” his beliefs that Pearl Harbor was safe from further attack (p. 74).

Knox and Nimitz wanted Kimmel to keep ships out of the harbor as much as possible, to reinforce defensive positions. Most importantly:

Every possible means should be devised and executed which will contribute to security against aircraft or torpedo or gun attack of ships, aircraft and shore facilities [on Hawaii];

Given that Nimitz was actively cautioning about how vulnerable Pearl Harbor was on December 17, it would be odd for him to feel cocky and optimistic on December 25 (the earliest he could have actually taken this supposed boat tour).

Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite

Adm. Chester W. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Doris Miller at Pearl Harbor on May 27, 1942.

(Library of Congress)

But he was still a great leader

The fact is, Nimitz was not some famed optimist. He was a realist. And he was in command of a fleet crippled by a sneak attack but backed by the most industrialized nation in the world in the 1940s. American industrial might was so strong that, by the end of the war, the U.S. was producing half of all industrial goods and weapons in the world. And the Japanese had failed to hit the submarines, something that did give Nimitz hope.

While it took most of 1942 and 1943 to fully ramp up America’s wartime production, the seeds were all in place in 1941 thanks to Roosevelt’s Cash-and-Carry and Lend-Lease policies. Nimitz was no fool. He knew he could win, even though the challenge facing him on Christmas 1941 was still daunting.

We can honor him, the sailors lost at Pearl Harbor, and the stunning achievements of the greatest generation without sharing suspect anecdotes about a Christmas Eve boat ride.

(As an added side note: The book this story supposedly came from wasn’t actually by Nimitz, it’s an “oral history” by William H. Ewing. And it was published five years after Nimitz died. Maybe it is a faithful account of Nimitz’ words at some point, but it doesn’t match his notes or the tactical situation in 1941.)

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3 reasons why ambushes are boring until they aren’t

Ambushes are central to the fundamentals of warfighting. The infantry trains in many types of patrols. An ambush patrol is meant to strike a complacent enemy where they feel safe. The Basic School and School of Infantry teach that ‘an aggressive ambush can disrupt the enemy’s scheme of maneuver.’ There is a lot of preparation involved when planning a deliberate ambush. It is boring until show time.

1. Ambushes involve a lot of preparation

ambush
Pvt. Brice Hinton, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, from Fort Bliss, Texas, looks at the bullet holes left in the humvee he was driving when his convoy was caught in a complex ambush Mosul Iraq, April 30.

Practice make perfect. Marines in an ambush have different respect for mother nature. She can hide you or she can betray you. Troops are trained to leave no trace behind. There is a reason MREs are colored brown, it is so they can buried and leave no sign to the enemy observer. Move, emplace, observe, engage. Do it until you can do it in your sleep. You have no idea how long you will be there or if the enemy will show up at all. It is essential to camouflage your position with the extra time. Which is pretty boring but it must done right.

Through training, Marines learn to conduct a deliberate ambush, to take advantage of an ambush of opportunity, and practice hasty ambushes. The patrol leader establishes an objective rally point. This is an area where the patrol can provide security while making their final preparations before going to the ambush site. For an ambush of opportunity or a hasty ambush it is much quicker due to little to no time to prepare. So an ambush could be a long boring wait or an immediate action to catch the enemy off guard.

2. It’s psychological warfare

Do not think for a second our enemies aren’t researching our tactics. We want them to know that our troops are effective at surprise attacks. There isn’t such a thing as meal hours, chow is continuous. The enemy cannot sleep, they cannot eat, there is nothing more dangerous as a Marine on the move. We will reach out and touch you. Marines train for ambushes in practically every field op. A Marine will be able to dissemble and reassemble a weapon, identify and correct system failure, and engage the enemy. The psychological effect of ambushes should not be underestimated.

3. Night Ops

America owns the night. Let’s cut straight to the meat and potatoes: Marines like to strike fear into the enemy. Every Marine in basic training learns the diddy: ‘What is an ambush?’ and legions of recruits respond ‘Premeditated murder!’ I’m not trying to be morbid. It is what is taught as a basic war fighting skill, it is what it is. When I was in Afghanistan, we waited on a hilltop for an IED maker to return home. In the dead of night, the deadliest force on the planet would descend upon him. Fortunately for the insurgent, he never showed up. Unfortunately for us because we stayed up all night watching someone mistreat a goat. Ambushes are boring until the planets align and you are able to complete the mission.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hawaii’s big island volcano eruption can be seen from space

The ongoing volcanic eruptions from Hawaii have been so massive that astronauts can see them from space — and the pictures are incredible.

Ricky Arnold and AJ Feustel, US astronauts stationed on to the International Space Station, posted dramatic photos to Twitter of the ash plume emerging from the Kilauea volcano on the east of the Big Island.



Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite
(Ricky Arnold / Twitter)

The volcano erupted on May 10, 2018, and is showing no signs of slowing down.

The crater is already emitting noxious fumes which can make breathing difficult for children and elderly people. The ash cloud has reached as high as 12,000 feet about sea level.

Feustal wrote: “It is easy to see the activity on Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano from the International Space Station. We hope those in the vicinity of the eruption can stay out of harm’s way.”

Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite
(Ricky Arnold / Twitter)

Lava and molten rock bursting from the volcano’s fissures also destroyed at least 26 homes and four other buildings over the weekend, forcing 1,700 people to evacuate.

The US Geological Survey issued a rare “red alert” warning, which means a major volcanic eruptions is imminent or underway, and that the ash clouds could affect air traffic.

Here’s a shot of the volcano from a lot closer to the ground:

Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite
A US Geological Survey photo of ash rising from the Puu Oo vent on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.
(Kevan Kamibayashi / US Geological Survey)

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

Russia threatens US with nuclear doomsday device

Russia’s military and state-sponsored media have reacted with a fire and fury of their own to the news that the US will exit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), one of the last barriers preventing a full-on Cold War-like arms race in Europe — and there’s already talk of a nuclear doomsday device visiting the US.

The INF Treaty banned land-based nuclear-capable missiles with a range between 300 and 3,200 miles in 1987 when Russia and the US had populated much of Europe with intermediate-range nuclear missiles. The ban eliminated this entire class of missiles and went down as one of the most successful acts of arms control ever.


The US and NATO concluded recently that Russia had spent years developing a banned nuclear-capable weapon, thereby making the treaty meaningless. The US responded by saying it would withdraw and design its own treaty-busting missiles. Russia said it would do the same, though many suspect they have already built the missiles.

Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite

United States President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

But Russia’s response to the US didn’t stop there.

A BBC review of Russian newspapers, some state-owned and all adhering to state narratives or censored by the Kremlin, revealed some truly apocalyptic ideas.

“If the Americans deploy their new missiles near Russia’s borders, and in response we deploy ours, then of course, the risk of [nuclear] conflict rises sharply,” an arms-control expert told one paper.

“If US missiles are deployed in Poland or the Baltic states, they’ll be able to reach Russia in minutes. In such an event, the way Russia currently conceives using nuclear weapons, as a retaliatory strike, becomes impossible, since there won’t be time to work out which missiles have been launched against Russia, what their trajectory and their targets are,” he continued. “This is why there is now a temptation for both us and for them to adopt the doctrine of a preemptive strike.”

The expert said the INF Treaty’s demise means both the US and Russia now have to consider nuking the other at the first sign of conflict because missile attacks won’t be as predictable as longer-range salvos from the continental US and Russia’s mainland.

But the expert neglects to mention that US and Russian nuclear submarines can already fire from almost anywhere at sea, already confusing targets and trajectories and taking minutes to reach Russian forces.

Finally, Russian media turned to what’s quickly becoming a propaganda crutch in communicating Moscow’s might: the doomsday device.

Океанская многоцелевая система «Посейдон»

www.youtube.com

Russia recently said it built one of the most devastating nuclear weapons of all time in the form of an undersea torpedo with a 100-megaton nuclear warhead that’s designed to be unstoppable against all missile defenses and create tsunami-size waves, and a radioactive hellstorm that stomps out life on earth for thousands of square miles for decades.

Since they announced the weapon, they’ve already used it to threaten Europe. But now with the INF Treaty in tatters, a military expert told a Russian paper that the doomsday device could see use.

“It cannot be excluded that one of the Poseidon with a 100 megaton nuclear warhead will lay low off the US coast, becoming ‘the doomsday weapon.’ Thus an attack on Russia, will become a suicidal misadventure,” the paper said.

The paper also declined to mention that the US and Russia’s nuclear posture already guarantees any mutual nuclear exchanges would lead to the total destruction of both countries.

Russia’s Poseidon doomsday device doesn’t change the mutually assured destruction dynamic between Washington and Moscow. It provides only a way to destroy more natural life in the process.

Russia’s media may swerve into bombast, but Russia’s actual military has already announced plans to build more weapons and extend the range of weapons to counter the US in what experts peg as the next great nuclear standoff.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The legal argument for Willie Pete as a weapon

White phosphorous, often known by the nickname “Willie Pete,” is possibly one of the oddest and most controversial weapons on military frontlines, including in American units. Its use as a chemical weapon is banned, but its use as an incendiary weapon is simply limited, and use as a signaling device is fine.


Recent use of phosphorous weapons in Israel has brought this weird dynamic back to the forefront. And the U.S. came under fire for using phosphorous rounds in Iraq. So, what’s going on? And is everyone involved now a war criminal?

Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite

U.S. Air Force drops a white phosphorous bomb on a Viet Cong position in 1966.

(U.S. Air Force)

First, let’s look at why some weapons are illegal, especially chemical weapons. Chemical weapons work by interrupting human processes, some via very gruesome means. Mustard gas causes extreme respiratory irritation, sometimes to the point that those hit by it will develop fatal lung infections. Sarin gas can cause muscle convulsions, paralysis, and respiratory arrest. Both can permanently disfigure people.

In other words, gruesome ways to be wounded or killed.

As a chemical weapon, phosphorous can be released as a gas that is breathed in by the enemy, burning the insides of their lungs and killing them by cooking them from the inside out. Or, it can be introduced into enemy water supplies to poison them. It’s illegal to use phosphorous in either of these ways.

But phosphorous is a peculiar beast because, while there are no legally accepted military uses for sarin or mustard gas, there are accepted uses of white phosphorous, because it can also burn people externally or its white smoke can be used to screen troop movements or mark battlefield locations.

The chemical burns at about 86 degrees Fahrenheit. And, when burning, phosphorous emits 5,000 degrees of heat. So, it can spontaneously combust on a warm day, and it can easily sustain its own reaction once it gets going. If it’s cold outside, then even a small charge in an artillery shell can ignite the reaction.

Once it’s burning, phosphorous emits clouds of thick smoke. For infantry and other maneuver troops attacking an enemy position, that means phosphorous smoke can block the view of defenders trying to kill them. This use of phosphorous is completely legal. It can also be used to mark enemy positions which, again, is completely legal.

(In fact, the 1980 treaty limiting incendiary weapon use specifically does not include weapons used predominantly for marking targets or screening movement.)

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Shells from M777A2 155mm Howitzer cannons rain white phosphorous on a target during a four-day, live-fire exercise following the conclusion of Talisman Saber 13 in Australia on Aug 3, 2013.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Paul Robbins Jr.)

But if you release still-burning phosphorous into the air and get that onto people, then it’s extremely dangerous. Phosphorous, again, will continue burning as long as it’s exposed to oxygen and above 86 degrees. So, if a chunk lands on a person’s shoulder, it will stay above 86 degrees and will keep releasing 5,000 degrees of heat until it runs out of fuel or is drowned in water or mud.

But even drowning phosphorous won’t work long-term in human skin, because it will re-ignite from the body heat the moment the water stops flowing. So, in Vietnam, American troops learned to cut the chunks of phosphorous out with knives if any friendlies were hit.

This use of phosphorous is legal, as long as the shooter takes “care” to prevent exposing civilians to the weapon.

And this is the thing that some groups will point to as insane. If it’s illegal to use it as a chemical weapon, how can you use the chemical as a weapon without it being a chemical weapon?

Well, first, everything is a chemical, and pretty much all weapons that aren’t iron or stone rely on chemical reactions of some kind. Bombs are explosive chemical reactions. Napalm and other incendiary weapons rely on chemical reactions that release a lot of heat, burning the flesh of enemy troops. It’s not a chemical reaction that is banned, or the release of heat. Chemical weapon laws really only apply to those weapons which directly interact with the target’s cells.

But heating the cells up, as you would with napalm, is legal.

And that’s how white phosphorous, as an incendiary weapon, works. It’s stored safely encased, then fired against an enemy, exposing it to the air and igniting it in the process. Once the burning phosphorous hits enemy troops, it sears them. A World War II test of phosphorous smoke screens found that, when fired against mock German defenders, the smoke screen would kill or seriously wound 40 percent of the defenders before the U.S. infantry arrived to fight them.

War Dept Film Bulletin 55 White Phosphorus VS High Explosive 1943 (full)

www.youtube.com

War Dept Film Bulletin 55 White Phosphorus VS High Explosive 1943 (full)

And that’s why, as long as the weapon is legal in any context, there will be an incentive for commanders to use it. Without overhead cover, 40 percent of the defenders could be knocked out by the smoke screen. By the smoke screen. High explosive mortar rounds used in the same World War II test generated only 24 percent casualties.

Remember, the point of war is to force an enemy into submission to achieve some political goal. It’s gruesome, but it always includes humans killing humans, and explosions and burning are accepted methods of killing each other in war.

And so, the question that will confront investigators looking into Israel’s actions will be, “How was the weapon used? And did it cause undue damage to civilians?” Those are the same questions they would have to look at if a bomb was dropped on a church or hospital.

Was this a valid military act, or maybe a valid act that went awry? Or was a commander deliberately harming civilians?

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Reflections of a 1980s Military Spouse

It is a truth universally acknowledged amongst the milspouse community that this lifestyle can be downright crazy – but is this experience one that has always been true of military families?

Does our modern world – the age of technology, the era of constant communication – assist or exacerbate the nuances of military life? We spoke to Stephanie Bates, a Marine Corps spouse of thirty-three years, to find out!


MS: So – let’s talk about you! What does your background look like? Did you have any experience of the military lifestyle before your marriage?

SB: I am 68 years old and I was a military spouse for 33 of those years while John was on active duty. I still feel I am a military spouse – that feeling never goes away, retired or not. It’s a very special community and one I have ALWAYS been proud to be part of! I can honestly say, looking back through the years, I would not change ONE thing about our life in the USMC. We have one son who is a LtCol in the Marine Corps and actually stationed here in Hawaii now which has been wonderful. He and his wife will be retiring here in a year and staying put, which of course pleases us immensely!

MS: How did you and your husband meet?

SB: John and I met in college, where he was just returning from the Vietnam war. We were married in 1972, and although I knew he had been in the Marine Corps previously, I also knew he had been medically discharged (3 Purple Hearts later) and just assumed that part of life was over. We dated for a year, got married my senior year of college in Arkansas and started our life together. Never in a million years did I think we would spend the next 33 years, moving 22 times around the world, back in the Marine Corps. I knew John loved his beloved Corps and unbeknownst to me spent the first 3 years of our married life petitioning the USMC to come back in as an officer. He finally wore them down, gave up his disability and took off for OCS. When this news was presented to me I was devastated! Until I met John I had no experience with any connections to the military. I knew my father and uncles all served but that was it..now he’s telling me he is taking off for 6 months and re joining the Corps! I was at a complete loss, but I knew this was what he lived for. All I could imagine was he would be sent off to war and killed. Didn’t stop to think there was no war going on at the time, but that comes later…

MS: Did you have any preconceptions about what military life would look like before you got married?

SB: I’m not sure what I expected having had no connections with anyone in the military before this, but it exceeded my expectations. Not to say there weren’t some “hard” moments. I remember crying when we were trying to save enough money to buy a mattress for our bed and instead the money had to go for uniforms and a sword! They were pretty lean times, but we had made so many new friends all in the same boat with us, that you could never ever have a pity party for yourself! It was a different time then and not a lot of the wives worked outside the home so there was always something going on. I never felt lonely although I missed our friends and family back home.

MS: When your spouse deployed (or went away for training) in the ’80s, how did that feel? I ask this in light of our age of instant communication – it’s an easy thing to take for granted, after all!

SB: Long distance phone calls were expensive, but that was the only way to keep in touch and that was only when they could get to a phone…No cell phones that’s for sure! And certainly not computers so therefore NO emails or social media. 6 month deployments at that time meant a lot of letter writing and to keep track of letters, we would number them so if they arrived out of sequence, which they did a lot!, you could make sense of them. And a lot of times I would get a letter written on whatever scrap of paper he could find. The back of MRE boxes etc…. Toward the end of our career in the Corps I can’t believe how much easier military life is with the invention of cell phones and computers. It’s the communication that makes all the difference in the world. I have reservations about social media, but that’s another subject. Just being able to talk while your spouse is deployed or knowing that you can get in touch with him in an emergency without having to go through the Red Cross or any other red tape is a game changer. It eliminates so much of the worrying…you know what is going on and don’t have to speculate and think the worst possible scenario.

MS: Have you found that the sense of community in on-base/spouse/family environments has changed at all over the years? If so, how?

SB: In the 80’s there were not a lot of wives who worked outside of the home, so the wives’ clubs and social groups and volunteering groups ( Navy, Marine Corps Relief Society, Red Cross, Omsbudsman) were a lot more active. More spouses work now and this has changed things. Towards the end of our career I could sense the change. The wives clubs became smaller and smaller and did less and less. Volunteerism was down a lot also but this is life as we know it now. The world wide web has made it easier for wives to take their job and career with them. I was a teacher and mainly had to rely on working as a substitute teacher at each duty station. Although they would never come out and say it, teaching jobs were hard to come by as they knew if they hired you in a couple of years you would be gone.

MS: The age-old question – does PCS-ing ever become easier?!

SB: PCSing…no it never gets easier, but it can still be a fun adventure…Of course, as every spouse I know, can tell you they have had at least one move where their spouse is not available to be there for pickup or delivery etc etc…but somehow we get through it, our military spouse friends will always step in to help check off the inventory list while you tell the movers where to put what…nothing ever goes as planned, dates change, orders change but that’s life! I was never one not to add to our household inventory so we always moved with whatever the max allowance we were given, which I’m sure did not please our packers. We even had one packer walk down our driveway and off the job after doing the walkthrough! I did have friends whose philosophy was we will just wait till were are retired then buy what we want…not me, my life was now not later so our moves were a lot of boxes that’s for sure!

MS: What are some ways in which military family culture has changed that you think might be useful for new milspouses to consider? The good, the bad, and the ugly!

SB: The one big difference between life in the Marine Corps today as opposed to the 80’s is that the Marine Corps is so much more family “friendly”! And I’m sure that spouses from the much earlier years would think we had it perfect in the 80’s. The good news is things keep getting better…I know everyone has heard the old adage, “If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife they would have issued you one,” but that wasn’t far from the truth in the olden days….There was no thought given to how to make life better for spouses until one day they realized that a happy wife makes a happy life and a much better Marine. I was in on the ground floor with Sandy Krulak and others when the L.I.N.K.S program started. The goal was to help a new wife adjust to life as a military spouse. It was the thought that marrying into the military was like moving to a different country where you didn’t know how to navigate or speak the language. Programs like this have paved the way to helping adjust to military life so much easier.

MS: What would you tell yourself as a young milspouse, with all of the experience that you now have?

SB: There’s not too much I would have done differently if I could go back and give my younger self any words of wisdom but I am forever grateful that the wife of one of my husband’s first commanders told me at our first duty station, “Stephanie, always bloom where you are planted and make the most of every duty station you are sent to.” She was so right, it paid off in so many ways. Wonderful lifetime friends, and memories.

Looking back , all I can say is , that although I went into this with so many trepidations and worries as a young 22 year old, I wouldn’t have traded this life for anything else…it’s been a wild ride. And I also have the Marine Corps to thank for honoring me with the Dickie Chapel Award in 1999, it meant so much to me and still does to this day.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the Kentucky militia was most feared by America’s enemies

“These Kentucky men are wretches,” wrote British Redcoat NCO Sgt. James Commins, ” suborned by the government and capable of the greatest villainies.” The War of 1812 was in full swing by the end of that year, and fighting the war on the British side were contingents of Native American tribes while the Americans called up state militias.

The one thing the British didn’t want was to face the militias from Kentucky. Those guys were maniacs.


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(Laughs in Kentuckian)

(Wikimedia Commons)

Kentucky, being on the American frontier at the time, had no fortifications and didn’t have to defend any structures, so its militiamen spent much of their time fighting the enemy wherever they were to be found. Being on the frontier, they spent a lot of time fighting the British Army’s Indian allies. The Indians were really good at taking the scalps of their enemies, a story which the U.S. government used as propaganda. The British tried to get the Indian tribes to cool it with the scalping, but it was too late. The story spread, and the Americans soon had their own savage band: Kentuckians.

The men from Kentucky were reported to have fought almost naked when weather permitted, painting themselves with red all over their body, sometimes carrying only a blanket and a knife with which to take their own enemy scalps. When the British sent Indian Tribes into the Michigan territory, Gen. William Hull, commander of the Michigan forces and governor of the territory, threatened to send Kentucky troops into Canada as a response.

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Redcoats must have been sad to find Kentuckians in New Orleans.

(Kentucky National Guard)

And they did invade Ontario.The redcoats weren’t thrilled to be fighting the Kentuckians either. They took enemy scalps not just a war tactic, but as a token of pride in their masculinity. The Kentucky penchant for taking scalps was so well-known, the Indians began to call their militiamen “Big Knives” because of the size of their scalping knives. As a matter of fact, the Indians agreed to stop scalping until the Kentucky militia began their own scalping campaign, and the practice was revived for another half-century or more.

When Redcoats found their pickets and sentries dead and scalped in the mornings, they knew there were Kentucky men in the area, and it made them uneasy. But Kentucky men were not invincible. The Kentuckians took more casualties than all the other state militias combined, fighting in every neighboring state and territory as well as helping the defense of New Orleans while supplying the U.S. with saltpeter.

That’s punching above your weight class.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This World War I veteran came home and built himself a castle in Ohio

A lot of American troops find something to love about cultures they discover during their service. One World War I veteran left Ohio and discovered the magical history of Medieval Europe amid the fighting and squalor of the trenches. When he returned to the rolling hills next to Ohio’s Little Miami River, he decided to build that magic in his own backyard. Literally.


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Complete with sword room.

Just north of Loveland, Ohio sits a structure that has no business standing in the American midwest. Harry D. Andrews began constructing a full-scale replica of the castle where his medical unit was stationed in Southern France. It was built brick-by-brick by Andrews himself on land he acquired from buying yearlong subscriptions to the Cincinnati newspaper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, taking stones from the Little Miami River, and even using bricks formed from milk cartons.

It took him 50 years to complete the project.

Though it has come to be known as Loveland Castle, the building began its life as Chateau Laroche – French for “Rock Castle” – and Andrews was a huge fan of the Medieval Era of European History. As the Castle Museum’s website reads:

[It was built as] “an expression and reminder of the simple strength and rugged grandeur of the mighty men who lived when Knighthood was in flower. It was their knightly zeal for honor, valor and manly purity that lifted mankind out of the moral midnight of the dark ages and started it towards the gray dawn of human hope.”
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Loveland Castle via Instagram

Harry D. Andrews was born in 1890 and served as a medic in France during World War I. While “over there,” he contracted spinal meningitis and was declared dead. Except that he was very much alive and in hospital at the actual Chateau La Roche in southwest France. It would take him six months to recover. By the time he was declared alive, the war was over, and his fiancée was married to someone else. So Andrews stayed in Europe and toured the castles. He never much cared for modern war and believed the weapons used by knights in the Medieval Era were much more fair to a fighting man.

That’s when Harry Andrews gave up on women and dedicated his life to recreating the Medieval Era right there in his native Ohio. As he built the castle, he also constructed a year-round hotbed garden, a secret room, and wrote a book about immigration. As a lifelong Boy Scout leader, he donated the castle to his scouts when he died in 1981. Called the “Knights of the Golden Trail,” they guard the castle to this day.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Special Forces medic will receive Medal of Honor

A former medic with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) that heroically fought his way up a mountain to render aid to his Special Forces teammates and their Afghan commando counterparts will receive the Medal of Honor.

The White House announced Sept. 21, 2018, that former Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II went above and beyond the call of duty April 6, 2008, while assigned to Special Operations Task Force – 33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 1, 2018.


In April 2008, Shurer was assigned to support Special Forces operators working to take out high-value targets of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin in Shok Valley.

As the team navigated through the valley, a firefight quickly erupted, and a series of insurgent sniper fire, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms and machine gun fire forced the unit into a defensive fighting position.

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Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II graphic.

Around that time, Shurer received word that their forward assault element was also pinned down at another location, and the forward team had sustained multiple casualties.

With disregard for his safety, Shurer moved quickly through a hail of bullets toward the base of the mountain to reach the pinned-down forward element. While on the move, Shurer stopped to treat a wounded teammate’s neck injury caused by shrapnel from a recent RPG blast.

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Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II.

After providing aid, Shurer spent the next hour fighting across several hundred meters and killing multiple insurgents. Eventually, Shurer arrived to support the pinned down element and immediately rendered aid to four critically wounded U.S. units and 10 injured commandos until teammates arrived.

Soon after their arrival, Shurer and his team sergeant were shot at the same time. The medic ran 15 meters through a barrage of gunfire to help his sergeant. Despite a bullet hitting his helmet and a gunshot wound to his arm, Shurer pulled his teammate to cover and rendered care.

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Medal of Honor.

(US Army photo.)

Moments later, Shurer moved back through heavy gunfire to help sustain another teammate that suffered a traumatic amputation to his right leg.

For the next several hours, Shurer helped keep the large insurgent force at bay while simultaneously providing care to his wounded teammates. Shurer’s actions helped save the lives of all wounded casualties under his care.

Shurer also helped evacuate three critically wounded, non-ambulatory, teammates down a near-vertical 60-foot cliff, all while avoiding rounds of enemy gunfire and falling debris caused by numerous air strikes.

Further, Shurer found a run of nylon webbing and used it to lower casualties while he physically shielded them from falling debris.

Shurer’s Medal of Honor was upgraded from a Silver Star upon review.

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

Military Life

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’

In boot camp, Marine recruits must endure a 54-hour training event under intense mental and physical distress.

During the exercise, recruits will hike over 45 miles while taking on several obstacles that require strong problem-solving and teamwork. Every moment of the event is highly structured, planned well in advance, and done under strict Marine supervision. Toward the end of their days-long test, each recruit must negotiate one of the toughest hikes up one of the steepest hills in Camp Pendleton, best known as the “Reaper.” This is the final test before earning the title of U.S. Marine.


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Recruits of Fox Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, navigate through the Weaver obstacle during the Crucible Confidence Course at Edson Range aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. The event is part of the Crucible, which is a 54-hour test of endurance and team building.
(Photo by Marine Sgt. Benjamin E. Woodle)

As darkness still blankets the recruits outside their berthing area, drill instructors blare their high-decibel horns to awaken those who are about to experience the Reaper. The young troops quickly pack up their heavy gear and begin the last 9.7-mile hike of basic training as they approach the 700-foot-tall hill.

As each recruit ascends the hill, the fatigue of spending days on minimal rations and little sleep sets in. Each of the recruits must now motivate one another to overcome the struggle and make it up the tall hill. This final hike pays homage to the brave Marines who willed themselves to the top of Mount Suribachi, securing the area from their Japanese enemy.

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The famous photo of U.S. Marines placing the American flag atop of Mount Suribachi, WWII.
(Photo by Joe Rosenthal)

This final test of fortitude is just the beginning of a long career for these soon-to-be Marines, as life in the Corps is just as tough as the last 13-weeks they’ve endured. Pushed by an overwhelming amount of motivation, recruits surpass obstacles they didn’t know even existed before boot camp.

Recruits approach this final challenge, charging as hard as they can, screaming out war cries, and pushing their bodies beyond limits. Before they know it, they’ve reached their ultimate goal: becoming a United States Marine.

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The new Marines of Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, received their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor during a ceremony. This ceremony marks the end of the 54-hour culminating event of training known as the Crucible. Delta Company is scheduled to graduate Sept.
(Photo by Marine Lance Cpl. Mary Ann Hill)

Overcome with emotion, the young Marines open their palms to receive their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor from a once-demanding drill instructor, who now calls them a brother.

Check out Hard Corp Cadences‘ video below to witness this impressive final boot-camp test.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZTdG2zBH7M

MIGHTY TRENDING

US warship loaded with F-35s spotted near disputed reef in South China Sea

The US appears to have sailed a warship armed with stealth fighters near a disputed reef in the South China Sea.

Filipino fishermen spotted an “aircraft carrier” launching stealth fighters near the contested Scarborough Shoal, a tiny speck of land in the South China Sea, the local media outlet ABS-CBN reported on April 9, 2019. The video report shows what looks like a US amphibious assault ship, most likely the USS Wasp.

The Wasp “has been training with Philippine Navy ships in Subic Bay and in international waters of the South China Sea … for several days,” a US military spokeswoman told The Japan Times, refusing to confirm the Wasp’s presence near Scarborough Shoal for “force protection and security” reasons.


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Screenshot of the warship spotted by Filipino fishermen.

(ABS-CBN)

The Marine Corps told Business Insider that they were aware of the video but were unable to confirm when and where it was taken. It is also unclear how close the vessel in the video was to the shoal.

The ship has been conducting flight operations in the area as part of ongoing Balikatan exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, according to US Pacific Fleet.

The US Navy warship ship sailed into Subic Bay last week with a heavy configuration of 10 F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, significantly more than it normally carries. “We have a lot of capability on this ship,” Capt. Jim McGovern, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 11, said of the Wasp, Stars and Stripes reported. The F-35B is a jump jet that has directional engines that allow it take off from and land on short runways.

A US Marine Corps spokesperson told Business Insider that the Wasp has been operating in international waters and Philippine territory during the joint exercises. “Philippine territory” means different things to different countries in the region.

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USS Wasp with heavy F-35 configuration in the South China Sea.

(US Navy/USS Wasp/Facebook)

China seized Scarborough Shoal, a potential powder keg in the South China Sea, from the Philippines after a tense standoff in 2012. The Philippines took the dispute before an international arbitration tribunal in 2016 and won. Beijing, however, rejected the ruling, as well as the tribunal’s authority.

China has not militarized the shoal as it has the Paracels and Spratlys, the other two corners of what is commonly referred to as the “strategic triangle.”

The US routinely conducts freedom-of-navigation operations, as well as bomber overflights, in the South China Sea as a challenge to Beijing’s sovereignty claims. These operations usually take place in the Paracels and Spratlys.

The last freedom-of-navigation operation near the Scarborough Shoal took place in January 2018, when the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of the shoal. China accused the US of violating its sovereignty and security interests.

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

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