For most of us, we leave the military wanting desperately to escape. At some point, the majesty and nobility and glamour runs out. The pride has been spent sometime between the incompetent staff-non commissioned officer who yelled at you that last time for something stupid, or CIF giving you a hard time because there is dust on your gear, or S-1 messed up your leave, or you have just done the math and you have only woken up next to your wife 22 of the last 48 months and even more time waking up within arms reach of a rifle. For me, my last year was horrible. I had everything in that year, with some of the worst of it in the last three months.
When it was all over, Jennie and I packed up the truck and left California heading for Oklahoma. Among a sundry of other problems I had lost all love for the military and was now ready to greet the civilian life with open, while completely disenfranchised, arms.
A few months go by and then we try and start our new lives. You get a little fat and you try not to yell at random strangers for wearing flip-flops at the store or walking while holding their phones and then you realize, “Wait… they can do that. I can do that too!” So you just spend a while going full on hippy. You let it all go. Grow your hair, beard and just slum it like the civies for a while. Of course at some point, that wears off too, and you feel disgusted with yourself and find some medium that you are happy with. For me, I don’t work out that much, but I still always keep my high reg haircut.
After this is either college or work. For me, it was college. I would like to share this with you so that you can kind of grasp how we feel.
You have to understand. You are four years older than almost anyone around you. That doesn’t mean much when you’re 30 and they are 26, but it means a lot when you are 22 and they are 18. It especially means a lot to you when have been a Sergeant in charge of a mid sized team of military professionals in combat operations and that other person is just a high school graduate with a newly found sense of unqualified empowerment because he is now an “adult”, which he probably only discovered because his parents told him to get a job and move out of the house. You now question the meaning and subtlities of the word “equality” when your new peers continue to believe their opinions have as much intrinsic value as yours on the now questionable premise of equality. You feel an intense obligation to excel and show up on time. You are appalled by the people who are still mentally in high school who can’t stop acting like children. Worse is that they are all stupid. Perhaps stupid is a strong word… but yeah, I am going to go with it. Stupid.
It isn’t that they are actually intellectually deficient, but they don’t have any sort of world view based on anything more than peace, love, rainbows, hugs and unicorns and the other humanitarian world views propogated by those who have never truly suffered real indignity or desperation. Their opinions lack any sort of wisdom or experience. They have never experienced something like living in a country where there are people quite literally planning your death. How could you blame them?
Also, because of our experiences, people find it very difficult to communicate with us, due perhaps to our brazen animosity and extreme arrogance. In college we also experience a good amount of push back. You need to understand that most young people understand nothing about the wars other than “the evil Bush administration” and “all the stupid soldiers are idiots for being brainwashed into going”. Someone actually said that in a class one day. The professor was kind and asked “What does anyone else think about that?” and he didn’t even interrupt a massive two minute rant where I tore that kid a new one in front of the rest of the class.
That will last for a few years as they mellow out and try to adjust to acting the way that everyone else does. The training and lifestyle they live is hard to get rid of and will always be a part of them. Then there is the job search.
Now what I think was interesting was that as I was looking for a job I faced two different serious issues:
I faced some people who saw my military experience as a problem. I might be too aggressive to work with customers, I have never had a real job, I might have PTSD. Really? These are real discriminations I faced with no actual basis to support them.
Then the others thought I would be a real hard charger, a real go getter. In the worst case, obedient, you know the good little soldier who never questions and will march happily to your every whim. I had a boss like that for a minute. You shouldn’t treat employees like they are just stupid little troops in your service, especially not actual vets, and especially not ones who graduated with honors in business management.
Eventually though I did find work that fit. People still are surprised if you have any intelligence in you at all, in spite of the degree hanging behind your desk, because they will still only hire your military experience. Now I am in a place where my organizational ability and leadership are coming into play, and for many this is exactly the type of role they try and fill. We do have a type of responsibility factor that doesn’t appear except in about 60% of the civilians I deal with and it doesn’t really frighten us to get in someone’s face when they don’t cut it. Of course that isn’t all we do, we did get out after all.
Then there is a point that you get to and you realize that you don’t hate the military anymore. You are just proud. Maybe it is when the people you work with hear you were a Marine and are like “Whoa! Um…Well… OK.” Maybe it is after you get a few handshakes from the old Marines (who had it harder than you, just ask them). Maybe it is in knowing that you are different in a good way than many of the others around you. You have these powerful, sometimes very difficult experiences, that have built in you a character that others respect.
I looked back at my time in and realized eventually that there were parts I really missed. The Marine Corps has a saying that it is a perfect organization made of imperfect people. I definitely didn’t miss some of the people, but there was something important about what we were doing. We also recite this one often.
“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.”
PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN, 1985
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to go back. I love waking up next to Jennie every morning. I don’t like the panic that comes with not knowing where your weapon is, because you forgot the deployment is over. I don’t want to worry anymore if that car is going to explode, or if someone I know is going to be hurt or killed. But I definitely have learned to appreciate and love what I was a part of. From time to time I still bad mouth the little things, but now the Corps is like family. I can say whatever I want about it, but you don’t get to. You haven’t earned the right to disrespect her. You don’t question or assume or anything. You don’t muddle my heritage or dishonor the sacrifice of my friends. You respect what we stood for.
And once you reach that point you realize…
You are never going to be able to transition from military to civilian life.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team performs during halftime at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., Dec. 14, 2016. The routine was part of the Washington Wizards’ Air Force night, where the team took on the Charlotte Hornets.
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor passes over the Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., flightline during a morning training mission Dec. 14, 2016. Six Air Force installations contributed air and ground support assets to the 2016 Checkered Flag 17-1 and Combat Archer 17-3 large scale aerial total force integration exercise.
1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division Soldiers carry a simulated casualty to the casualty collection point during a training rotation at the National Training Center/Fort Irwin.
A U.S. Soldier with Scout Platoon 2D Battalion (Airborne) 503D Infantry “The Rock” repels down a steep ravine during a German Mountain Warfare Training in Seinsbach Gorge, Mittenwald, Germany, Dec. 8, 2016.
YOKOSUKA, Japan (Dec. 20, 2016) Sailors assigned to the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), deliver gifts to Shakai Fukushi Kotobuki childcare center during a community relations project. Twenty-five Ronald Reagan Sailors and multiple Sailors’ family members travelled to the center in Yokohama to interact with the children and celebrate the holiday season. Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 19, 2016) An AV-8B Harrier from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU) launches off the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp is deployed as part of the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, which is offloading the 22nd MEU after completing a six-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations.
GULF OF ADEN (Dec. 17, 2016) U.S. Marines assigned to the 2nd Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (11th MEU), position their rigid-hull inflatable boat to conduct a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) mission as part of Exercise Alligator Dagger, Dec. 17. The unilateral exercise provides an opportunity for the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 11th MEU to train in amphibious operations within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. The 11th MEU is currently supporting U.S. 5th Fleet’s mission to promote and maintain stability and security in the region.
Infantry squad leaders assigned to School of Infantry West, Detachment Hawaii, provide security during the Advanced Infantry Course aboard Kahuku Training Area, September 21, 2016.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alder clears ice from the deck of the cutter as the ship transits through Lake Superior Dec. 14, 2016. The Alder and other Great Lakes Coast Guard cutters commenced Operation Taconite, the Coast Guard’s largest domestic ice-breaking operation, encompassing Lake Superior, the St. Mary’s River, the Straits of Mackinac and Lake Michigan, Dec. 19, 2016.
Capt. Malcolm McLellan, deputy commander of Sector Houston-Galveston, presides over the swearing in of new Coast Guard recruits during the halftime event at the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 23, 2016. The Navy Midshipmen played the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at the Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Feature image screen captured from included YouTube video
In recent years, the United States has begun to shift its military focus away from counter-terror operations and back toward the possibility of a large-scale conflict with near-peer opponents like China. Unfortunately, nearly two straight decades of the Global War on Terror has left the American defense apparatus on the wrong footing for such a war. In some important respects, America now finds itself playing catch up; working to close capability gaps that have presented themselves in Europe and the Pacific.
While America retains the largest military on the planet, it also has further reaching obligations than any other force on the planet as well. In every corner of the globe, America’s military serves in a variety of capacities, from providing a stabilizing presence, to training foreign militaries to defend themselves, to enforcing international norms on the high seas. As we’ve discussed in some depth before, America’s Navy may be huge for this era of relative global stability, but it would find itself significantly outnumbered in a Sino-American war in the Pacific. That issue becomes even more clear when you consider that the U.S. Navy couldn’t deploy the entirety of its fleet to any one waterway without leaving a number of other important interests un-guarded.
When you combine China’s rapidly growing Navy with its well-armed Coast Guard and its maritime militia, you get a positively massive 770-ship Chinese presence in the Pacific. For context, the massive U.S. Navy currently boasts only around 293 ships–and while President Trump has pushed for growth to reach a 355-ship Navy, no real plans to get there have yet to materialize. That means the U.S. Navy would be left to face China’s massive sea fairing presence while outnumbered at least two to one.
When the most powerful military in the world isn’t enough
Having a massive fleet alone isn’t enough to win a 21st century conflict on the high seas–It’s equally important that you have the right kinds of ships to leverage for specific roles.
Over the years, advancing technology has enabled the United States to move away from the massive fleets of ships and aircraft it maintained during the Second World War, and toward a lower number of assets that are capable of filling multiple roles. Ships like the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, just like multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are properly outfitted to serve in a number of capacities. This mindset has allowed the United States to expand its capabilities while reducing its personnel requirements and the overhead costs of maintaining far more assets with far more specialized roles.
But there are downsides to America’s love affair with “multi-role” platforms: They dramatically increase the cost of research and acquisition, and that increased cost forces purchases in fewer numbers. It also forces military assets into positions that don’t fully leverage their broad capabilities.
Three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Shoup (DDG 86) steam in formation during a photo exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz)
For some useful context into how more advanced technology has enabled the U.S. to increase capability while decreasing volume, consider that America’s military apparatus wielded a whopping 6,768 ships and an astonishing 300,000 combat airplanes at its peak during World War II. As America poured money into better military technology throughout the Cold War, it transitioned to an era of valuing technology and capability over volume, and today the U.S. Navy boasts just 293 ships, and America maintains a comparatively paltry 13,000 military aircraft.
With so many fewer platforms to utilize, these multi-role ships and airplanes are left doing a wide variety of work that has to be prioritized. Despite being capable of filling multiple roles, these platforms can often only fill one role at a time — making them more effective for strategic posturing, but less effective in a combat situation. Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers are incredibly powerful ships, equipped with a variety of guns, missiles, and torpedoes, but are often relegated to simplistic missile defense operations because of their role within the Aegis missile defense apparatus. These destroyers serve as a shining example of how a ship with a number of uses may get stuck in a single defensive role during large scale conflict.
As former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson put it, BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships are restricted to very confined operating areas that he refers to as “little boxes.”
A cargo ship packed with missiles? Really?
If the United States were to find itself on a collision course with China, one of the nation’s first priorities would be finding ways to rapidly expand both America’s military presence and strategic capabilities in the Pacific. China owns a positively massive ballistic missile stockpile (including hypersonic anti-ship missiles), which would mean missile defense would be considered a significant priority for America’s Aegis destroyers. Unfortunately, that would limit the ability for America’s destroyers to operate in a more offensive capacity, as they steamed in circles around their area of responsibility, waiting to intercept any missiles lobbed their way.
Left to right, the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the guided missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Carney (DDG 64) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) launch a coordinated volley of missiles during a Vandel Exercise (VANDALEX). (US Navy photo)
This would be a significant waste of destroyers, which would in turn limit the capability of other battle groups that couldn’t rely on the offensive power of these warships. In a real way, America would simply need more vertical launch missile tubes (commonly referred to as VLS cells, or Vertical Launch System cells) in the Pacific to bolster both offensive and defensive operations — and it would be essential to get them as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
That’s where the idea for missile barges, or missile ships, comes into play. In a 2019 article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, five experts, including a retired Navy captain and a retired Marine Corps colonel, offered their suggestion for rapidly procuring and equipping commercial cargo ships for combat operations.
“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts.” -Captain R. Robinson Harris, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Andrew Kerr; Kenneth Adams; Christopher Abt; Michael Venn; and Colonel T. X. Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
The premise behind missile barges has been around for some time; after all, at its most simplistic levels, this idea boils down to “just stick a bunch of missiles on a ship you have laying around,” but what differentiates this modern missile barge concept from past iterations is the technology of our day. America has long possessed “containerized” missile platforms that would sit comfortably on the deck of large cargo ships. Further, with data-fusing supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America has also already demonstrated the capability of engaging targets with surface-based weapons via targeting data relayed by nearby aircraft.
Put simply, we already have modular weapon systems that would work when operated off the decks of cargo ships, and we’ve already proven that weapons of that sort can be leveraged to engage targets identified by aircraft… That means this concept would require very little in the way of infrastructure building or development–which equates to both cost and time savings.
Procuring the hulls
The first step to building a fleet of missile barges would be procuring the hulls of commercial cargo ships, which would likely be a fairly easy endeavor if a war in the Pacific were to occur. It’s estimated that as much as 1/3 of all global commerce sails across the South China Sea on an annual basis, and a conflict between the United States and China would curtail a majority of these trips–due to both the drop in trade between these two economic power houses and the perceived danger of sending commercial ships through what would effectively be the site of the greatest naval conflict in all of recorded history. As a result, purchasing these vessels would likely come at a significantly reduced cost.
Purchasing a new commercial double hulled cargo ship would normally run the United States between and million dollars, but cargo ships that are already in use can be procured on websites like NautiSNP for pennies on the dollar, with some vessels currently on the market for just over id=”listicle-2647023060″ million.
Again, a significant drop in trade through the Pacific would likely result in even greater cost savings as firms liquidate their assets in the region to recoup some of their losses.
Modifying commercial ships into missile barges
Once the U.S. Navy had procured the ships themselves, it could begin the relatively significant task of refitting them for service as missile barges. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.
The Navy could utilize containerized missile and drone assets stacked on the ship, which would make it more difficult to discern from traditional cargo vessels while dramatically reducing the actual work required to convert each ship. While the vessels would have to be marked as U.S. Navy ships and flagged as such, the similar profile to commercial ships would force the Chinese Navy to positively identify each vessel before engaging, as many weapons systems rely on inverse synthetic-aperture radar that assesses targets through little more than low-resolution profiling.
That front-end investment could be further curbed by relying on external assets like nearby Aegis destroyers for command and control, relying on the warship’s radar, targeting, and command apparatus for what is effectively little more than an arsenal ship or “floating magazine.” In this regard, missile barges would effectively serve as a supplement to a destroyer’s existing weapons loadout.
Conversely, these vessels could be modified to carry traditional VLS tubes just like those employed by America’s guided missile destroyers today. A container ship could be modified to carry a slew of vertical launch tubes carrying Tomahawk missiles in as little as three to six months. The costs would be higher, but the trade off benefit would be utilizing the same basic systems found on other Navy ships, reducing the required training and logistical concerns associated with standing up a different weapon system.
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Charles Coleman inspects missile cell hatches on one of two Vertical Launching Systems (VLS) aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66). The VLS is capable of launching numerous missiles including the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and SM-2 Standard Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Charles E. Hill)
As the proposal in Proceedings suggests, it would be important for the Navy to carefully consider how many missile barges they intended to build, and how many missiles they intend to keep on each.
While it’s possible to place more than a hundred VLS tubes and associated missiles on one of these vessels, that would represent both a massive expense and a massive target for the Chinese military. Instead, the proposal suggests converting 10 to 15 cargo ships into missile barges, each carrying between 30 and 50 Tomahawk missiles. That would limit the potential losses if such a vessel were lost, while giving it enough firepower to benefit the Navy’s overarching strategy.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Jimmy C. Pan)
The hybrid-crew model
Of course, another shortfall we have yet to discuss in a Pacific conflict could very well be trained Sailors. As the U.S. Navy rapidly procured and modified ships into missile barges, it would also have to rapidly staff these vessels — which likely wouldn’t be feasible leveraging a traditional Navy recruiting pipeline. Instead, the hybrid crew model proposed by Navy Captain Chris Rawley seems most logical.
Each missile barge would have a crew comprised of both U.S. Navy officers and civilian sailors that have experience operating these commercial vessels. By recruiting from the private sector, the U.S. Navy could rapidly field these ships with crews that are already trained and proficient at the tasks they’d be assigned, while placing Naval officers in command of the vessel and in other essential combat roles.
By using a military command element, operating missile barges in war with a crew made up in part of civilians would still be legal under international law. Indeed, this model is already in use aboard some specific Naval vessels, like the recently decommissioned USS Ponce amphibious transport dock.
These missile barges could be crewed with as few as 30 people, split between U.S. Navy and civilian personnel. Because the missile payloads would not come close to these ship’s total capacity, they could also utilize buoyant cargo sealed in the hull to help make these ships more survivable in the event of an attack.
It’s possible that these ships could be crewed by even fewer people in the near future, as the Navy has already earmarked 0 million in the 2020 budget for the development of two large unmanned surface ships. The Navy’s Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel dubbed “Sea Hunter” has already successfully traversed the open ocean between San Diego and Hawaii all on its own, demonstrating the capability for unmanned Navy ships to come.
Are missile barges actually realistic?
Although the U.S. Navy is in the early stages of what may come to be a transformative era, it seems unlikely that the United States would shift away from its current love affair with high-cost, multi-role platforms any time soon. The new USS Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers serve as a good example of how the U.S. military prefers new, shiny, and expensive hardware over old, rusty, and more cost efficient options. While some within the Defense Department are questioning the future of America’s supercarriers, the alternative posited is usually something akin to smaller, but still rather large and expensive Lightning Carriers built for short-take off, vertical landing F-35Bs.
However, it’s important to note that the Navy of today is a product of the past fifty years of foreign policy posturing, but that may not be the right Navy to see us through a return to large scale conflict. Today, war with China remains a distant threat, but as that threat looms closer, we may see a transition in the Navy’s mindset similar to that of the Air Force’s recent push for “attritable” aircraft to bolster our small volume of high-capability assets.
Attritable, a word seemingly designed to give copy editors stress wrinkles, is the term used by the U.S. Air Force to describe platforms that are cheap enough to be used aggressively, with some degree of losses considered acceptable. This has led the Air Force to investing in drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, which is a low-observable drone capable of carrying two small-diameter bombs for ground strikes while costing only a few million dollars a piece.
Kratos Valkyrie (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)
While it would cost more than a few million dollars to field each missile barge, the price may still be discounted enough to be considered attritable when compared to billion behemoths like the Ford. As unmanned ships become more common, and as a result, more affordable, it may become even more cost effective to leverage existing commercial hulls as a means of offsetting China’s huge numbers advantage in the Pacific.
Does it seem likely that the U.S. Navy would start strapping missiles to old container ships any time soon? The answer is a resounding no, but if America and China continue on this collision course, America’s defense apparatus may find itself being forced to make some hard decisions about just how much capability it can squeeze out of America’s already massive defense budget. If that day comes, missile barges may represent one of the most cost effective force multipliers America could leverage.
Navy SEALS, Army Green Berets, and Marine Reconnaissance are just of the few forces in the U.S. military that are considered the best of the best. The Navy SEALS earn their beloved Trident, Army Green Berets proudly wear their unique headgear, and Marine Recon team members usually get their insignia tattooed onto themselves.
Each of these symbols are considered the marks of a powerful and well-trained instrument of war. But back in the World War I era, German troops had a different idea. They’d travel high up in the Alps, far above the tree line, just to pick a very small flower — one that would show others that they were true warriors.
The edelweiss, otherwise known as Leontopodium alpinum, is a flower native to the Alps and is a national icon in Switzerland. The name, in German, is a combining of the words for ‘noble’ and ‘white.’ It’s beautiful, unique, and it grows more than 10,000 feet above sea level, so finding one means you’ve made quite the hike.
Daring German troops would haul their gear straight up the mountain, reach the top of the tree line, and search for the precious little, white flower. If you saw someone who managed to bring one back down, you know they’d climbed mountains for it.
This prestigious act wasn’t for soldiers alone. Reportedly, in the 19th century, the edelweiss was associated with purity and Swiss patriotism. In fact, countless young men would risk their lives in attempts to retrieve the unique little flower and give it to their brides.
An F-117 Nighthawk is headed to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library December 2019 and will call the Simi Valley, California, hillside its permanent home.
The Reagan Foundation and manufacturer Lockheed Martin announced Nov. 4, 2019, that the single-seat, twin-engine stealth aircraft will be on display just outside the library, next to an F-14 Tomcat.
The restored jet, tail number 803, will be unveiled during the annual Reagan National Defense Forum on Dec. 7, 2019.
“The Reagan Library will now be one of two places in the nation where the general public can visit an F-117 Stealth Fighter on permanent display,” said John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.
“We are deeply grateful to Lockheed Martin for their outstanding assistance in restoring the aircraft for such a meaningful display and to the U.S. Air Force for making it possible for the Reagan Library to exhibit the plane for millions of visitors to enjoy for years to come,” he said in a news release.
An F-117 Nighthawk.
Nicknamed the “Unexpected Guest,” the jet going to the library flew more combat sorties — 78 — than all other F-117s combined, according to the release. It entered service in 1984.
Another F-117 is on public display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
According to officials, Lockheed produced 59 operational F-117s and five developmental prototypes, beginning in 1981. The U.S. didn’t publicly acknowledge the stealth attack plane — capable of going after high-value targets without being detected by enemy radar — until 1988, even though a few crashed during trials.
“The F-117 was developed in response to an urgent national need,” said Jeff Babione, vice president and general manager of the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the division that designs and engineers advanced development projects, which are typically highly classified.
“It has paved the way for today’s stealth technology and reminds us to continue redefining what’s possible,” Babione said in the release. “It’s been a privilege for our team to collaborate with the [Air Force] and the Reagan Foundation on this effort, and we are excited to see it on proud display at its new home.”
Congress gave authority in 2007 and 2008 to retire a total of 52 F-117s from the inventory but wanted them maintained so they could be recalled to service if they were needed for a high-end war, an official previously told Military.com.
“I was privileged to fly the airplane when the program was classified,” said retired Lt. Col. Scott Stimpert, the pilot for tail number 803. “It was an exciting time, and a vitally important capability, but not something you could share with friends or family. I’m glad the airplane can come out of the dark to take its rightful place in the light, somewhere it can be seen and appreciated by the people it helped to protect.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Allied invasion of Normandy was a challenge on a grand scale. Every single aspect of the plan drew new challenges for commanders. Luckily, the greatest military minds of the day were leading the Allied forces. They came up with some ingenious solutions. For example, in the absence of securing a usable harbor, they created the Mulberry, a harbor that could be shipped and built on site to keep the flow of supplies going.
To confuse the Germans as to where the D-Day attacks would come, Operation Fortitude created an entire fake army aimed at the Pas-de-Calais. The soldiers on the invasion beaches still faced the many natural and man-made obstacles that would hinder their ability to effectively storm the beaches. One man was tasked to create overcome these obstacles and protect the assault forces.
Major General Percy Hobart, an unconventional yet very successful armored and engineering officer, created specialized vehicles designed to help amphibious forces overcome the natural and man-made obstacles common during a landing. These vehicles helped the British and Canadians during their assaults on Gold, Juneau, and Sword beaches. Collectively these vehicles were known as “Hobart’s Funnies.”
Sherman DD Tank
The most well-known of Hobart’s Funnies was the Duplex Drive Sherman Tank — or Sherman DD. This tank had a large canvas floatation screen that was erected to make the tank seaworthy and included a secondary drive mechanism that powered a propeller to drive the tank through the water. The idea was to launch these tanks a few miles from shore and have them come ashore with the infantry without the need to bring a large landing craft too close to shore. Their use on D-Day saw mixed results.
The Crocodile was a British Churchill tank that replaced the hull mounted machine gun with a flamethrower. An armored trailer behind the Croc carried fuel for the weapon. This weapon was adept at clearing German fortifications and later inspired American versions used in the Pacific.
The Crab was a Sherman tank fitted with a cylindrical flail with weighted chains. When activated, the flail cleared a tank-width path by detonating any mines in its way with the weighted chains. This tank was an improvement over previous versions as the Sherman’s engine drove the flail, rather than needing to fit a separate engine on the tank. It was also equipped with numerous ways to mark the cleared path for the following infantry or tanks.
AVRE (Armored Vehicle Royal Engineers)
The AVRE were a family of engineering vehicles designed for specific tasks. All AVRE were Churchill tanks with the main gun removed and replaced with a Petard mortar that could fire 40-pound shells against German fortifications. The British then attached various equipment for specific tasks. One tool was a Bobbin, a canvas sheet that was rolled down in front of and then under the tank to provide a path to keep it, and following tanks, from sinking into the soft ground of a beach. There were also attachments for dealing with gaps such as a fascine, a bundle of wooden poles that could be dropped into a ditch for the tank to drive over, or a small box girder bridge that could clear 30-foot gaps. For breaching, there was an attachment the British called the Double Onion, two explosives on a metal frame that could be pressed against a bunker or fortification to breach it.
ARK (Armored Ramp Carrier)
The ARK was a Churchill tank with the turret removed and folding ramps installed in both front and back. The tank could drive up to an obstacle, extend a ramp, and have other vehicles drive up it and over the obstacle. It could also drive into a gap and act as a bridge if necessary.
All of the vehicles Hobart created were assigned to the 79th Armoured Division under his command. All these designs were offered to the Americans as well, but since they did not have a specialized unit to operate the vehicles, they turned them down with the exception of the Sherman DD tanks. The 79th did not fight as a unit on D-Day but was instead assigned to support different elements making the assault. After the success of Hobart’s Funnies on D-Day, the 79th remained in action and used its special vehicles many times throughout the remainder of the war.
While most Marines and soldiers walk or ride into battle, paratroopers pride themselves on getting into harder-to-reach spots, or dropping behind enemy lines. Though military strategists developed plans for their use before 1939, the use of “sky soldiers” was really perfected during World War II.
Perhaps the most famous use of paratroopers was during the Normandy invasion of 1944, when more than 13,000 airborne troops dropped from the sky behind German positions in France. Today, the U.S. and other countries still maintain airborne soldiers, or train up their special operations forces in airborne operations.
A common trope among the airborne is that it’s crazy to “jump out of a perfectly good airplane.” But if you think it’s crazy, then you’re probably just a leg (that’s airborne talk for regular-old ground troops).
Check out 12 photos of U.S. and other airborne troops:
Paratroopers from South Korea diving out of a ROK Air Force CASA CN-235 in the United Arab Emirates.
A US Navy warship deployed to the Persian Gulf has been quarantined at sea for more than two months because of a virus outbreak, a rare move the US Navy revealed March 13, 2019, after an inquiry from CNN.
Parotitis, a viral infection with symptoms similar to the mumps, has spread across the USS Fort McHenry, a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship, affecting a total of 25 sailors and Marines. Symptoms of the illness appeared for the first time in December 2018.
In the past 15 years, state-sponsored cyber attacks have increased significantly, from hacking government and military computers to obtain information to shu…
Sick sailors were quarantined aboard the vessel and treated in the onboard medical facilities while their living areas were cleaned and disinfected. No one had to be medevaced off the ship, CNN reported March 13, 2019, but it’s very unusual for US warships to spend more than two months at sea without a port call.
USS Fort McHenry.
“None of the cases are life-threatening and all have either already made or are expected to make a full recovery,” Fifth Fleet said in a statement emailed to Business Insider. Since the first case was detected at the end of 2018, 24 of the 25 infected individuals have returned to duty.
The US Navy told Business Insider that port calls were canceled, effectively quarantining the ship at sea while medical teams worked to get the situation under control. Exercising caution, it was determined that all of the more than 700 service members on the Fort McHenry would receive booster vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella.
Viral parotitis is an infection of the saliva glands on either side of the face that’s typically caused by the mumps, which can be prevented through vaccination.
The Fort McHenry, which carries elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, is currently operating in the Persian Gulf. A US military medical team specializing in preventative care will be deploying to the Fort McHenry in the near future to assess the crew and MEU’s health.
A US Navy spokesman told Business Insider that a ship is like a college dorm, locker room, or even a first-grade class. People are living in close proximity, and illnesses make the rounds from time to time, but this situation is quite unusual. The Navy said that it believes it has a handle on the situation.
As only a small portion of the crew has been affected by the virus, routine unit-level training operations have continued with some modification to the training schedules.
CNN reported that the Navy made no mention of the virus outbreak aboard the Fort McHenry until the outlet asked about it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US military has stepped up to regularly challenge Beijing’s dominance in the South China Sea and has achieved one of its main missions — controlling the narrative — with the help of B-52 nuclear-capable bombers.
For years, Beijing has laid unilateral and illegal claims to about 90% of the South China Sea, a rich shipping lane where trillions of dollars in annual trade pass and untold billions in oil resources lie.
Through environmentally damaging dredging, China built up island fortresses around the waterway.
Chinese President Xi Jinping stood next to former President Barack Obama in the White House’s Rose Garden and promised not to militarize the islands. But China has flown its own nuclear bombers, fighter jets, and other military aviation to the artificial land features that now hold radar and missile sites.
The US’s main way of challenging China’s claims to these waters have been freedom of navigation operations, or sailing a US Navy destroyer close to the islands to show that its military doesn’t respect Beijing’s claims, as they violate international law.
“US military aircraft, you have violated our China sovereignty and infringed on our security and our rights. You need to leave immediately and keep far out,” a recent Chinese warning blared to the US, according to The New York Times.
A B-52H Stratofortress.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Brittany Y. Auld)
China built not only islands, but its own narrative insisting on its ownership of the South China Sea. Any US military flights in the South China Sea used to make prominent news because Beijing would heavily object using its substantial media clout.
In August 2018, the US flew B-52s over the South China Sea four times.
“Is the US trying to exert more pressure on China’s trade by sending a B-52 bombers to the South China Sea?” China’s nationalist, state-affiliated tabloid Global Times asked at the time.
But on Sept. 24, 2018, the US flew four B-52s clear across the South China Sea with hardly a peep from US or Chinese media.
Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, told Business Insider the B-52 flights were a matter of course.
“The movement of these aircraft require them to fly multiple routes, to include in the vicinity of the South China Sea, part of regularly scheduled operations designed to enhance our interoperability with our partners and allies in the region. The United States military will continue to fly sail and operate wherever international law allows at a times and places of our choosing,” Eastburn said in an email.
By making US military transit across the South China Sea a non-news item, something that happens regularly and without incident, the US has started to turn the tide against China’s unilateral claims.
By declaring the South China Sea as its own and trying to pressure the US into backing down in the face of missiles and fighter jets, Beijing may have opened itself up to being challenged by a superior force.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
While every military has accidents, the Russian military appears to be more accident-prone than other great powers.
“There’s a tendency for accidents to happen in Russia,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a Russia expert at CNA, told INSIDER.
Edmonds, a former CIA analyst and member of the National Security Council, said that the problem appears to be that Russia often combines a willingness to take risks with an outdated military infrastructure that simply can’t support that culture, creating an environment where accidents are more likely.
In recent weeks, many people have been killed or wounded in various Russian military accidents, including a deadly fire aboard a top-secret submarine, an ammunition dump explosion at a military base, and a missile engine explosion at a military test site.
Fourteen Russian sailors died on July 1, 2019, when fire broke out aboard a submarine thought to be the Losharik, a deep-diving vessel believed to have been built to gather intelligence as well as possibly destroy or tap into undersea cables.
The incident was the worst Russian naval accident since 20 Russian sailors and civilians died aboard the nuclear-powered submarine Nerpa in 2008 — a tragedy preceded by the loss of 118 sailors aboard the nuclear-powered cruise-missile sub Kursk in 2000.
“The aging Russian navy (and the predecessor Soviet Navy) in general has had a far higher number of operational accidents than any other ‘major’ fleet,” A.D. Baker, a former naval intelligence officer, previously told INSIDER.
The Russian navy lost its only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, last fall when a heavy crane punched a large hole in it, and the only dry dock suitable for carrying out the necessary repairs and maintenance on a ship of that size sank due to a sudden power failure.
Even when it was deployed, the Kuznetsov was routinely followed around by tug boats in expectation of an accident.
Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.
Accidents are by no means limited to the Russian navy. An ammunition depot housing tens of thousands of artillery shells at a military base in Siberia exploded on Aug. 5, 2019, killing one and wounding over a dozen people. Then, on Aug. 8, 2019, a missile engine at a military test site in northern Russia unexpectedly exploded, killing two and injuring another six.
Russia also experiences aircraft accidents and other incidents common to other militaries, the US included.
“Russia really pushes an infrastructure that is old to try to keep up or gain parity with the United States,” Edmonds told INSIDER. “They’re pushing their fleet and pushing their military to perform in a certain way that is often beyond what is safe for them to actually do considering the age of the equipment and the age of the infrastructure.”
At the same time, though, “there is a culture of aggressiveness and risk-taking,” Edmonds added, pointing to some of the close calls the Russian military has had while executing dangerous maneuvers in the air and at sea in close proximity to the US military.
“There is a culture of risk-taking in the Russian military that you don’t have in the United States,” he explained. “You would never allow a US pilot to do a low flyover of a Russian ship. The pilot would immediately have his career ended.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Lithuanian soldiers and U.S. Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force engaged opposition forces in a partnered attack during Exercise Saber Strike at the Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania.
Cpl. Tyler R. Garretson, a crew chief assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, monitors the flight line out of the rear of a MV-22B Osprey after completing fast-rope and rappelling training with Marine Corps Special Operations Command, near Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.
A Green Beret, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group-Airborne, conducts free-fall training in a wind tunnel while a civilian sky dive instructor observes in Eloy, Arizona.
Sailors participate in a low light small arms training exercise aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71). Ross is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Kyle Cawein, from Lake Isabella, Calif., stands by to prepare an aircraft to be launched from the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).
Rescue swimmers and aircrewmen from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Mass., conduct hoist training evolutions.
Rescue swimmers and aircrewmen from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Mass., conduct hoist training evolutions.
Team Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Air Force Tech. Sgt. Isreal Del Toro braves the 110 degree heat index during track and field competition for the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Krystalane Laird (front) and Helena Palazio, weapons loaders with the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, download munitions from an F-16 fighter jet that was just landed after a monthlong deployment to Łask Air Base, Poland.
Women are capable of incredible things, including feats of physical strength, athleticism and tremendous bravery. I have always been a strong supporter of equality for women, and women in the military are no exception. With that in mind, the playing field between men and women in the military isn’t level. Equal doesn’t mean identical.
Often, they’re unaware of these potential hardships until they experience them firsthand. Women are assets to the military without a doubt, but they also deserve to know the details before they sign up. Here’s what any prospective female recruit should consider before they enlist.
Sexual assault is a real threat.
Of all the risks to women in the military, sexual assault is the most widely publicized. While male soldiers are also at risk, women have a heightened risk in comparison. The risk is highest for those stationed on ships; at some high-risk installations studied in 2014, 10% of women were assaulted – and that’s only what was reported. At the two most dangerous, 15% of women were assaulted. The risk is much lower for most military bases, but because studies are done after the fact, it’s impossible to know which bases are the most dangerous currently.
All branches of the military have been working to improve these sobering stats, but between 2016 and 2018, the number of assaults actually increased. Some of the pinpointed factors included alcohol use and off-base parties. Victims also had certain common qualities, like joining the military at a younger age and having a prior history of sexual abuse. On average, one in 17 civilian women will be sexually assaulted in the US. For military women ages 17 to 20, the risk is one in 8, and around 25% of women report sexual harassment at some point during their time of service.
Experiences like these have an impact on mental health.
Many women choose not to report their assaults for fear that their case won’t be taken seriously, or that it will impact their career potential. Either way, victims are more likely to experience PTSD, depression and anxiety that can last for years.
More women in service will serve safely than not, but it’s important to be aware that fending off male attention can be part of the job…even though it shouldn’t be.
Women have a much higher risk of injury in certain military roles.
In close-combat positions and others that require ongoing heavy lifting and extreme physical exertion, women are more likely to experience injuries like stress fractures and torn muscles. Women are more than capable of holding their own in combat, but the particularly physical roles don’t come without risks. Pelvic floor injuries are a particular problem related to carrying heavy weights, potentially leading to urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
Irregular meals have a more pronounced effect.
Eating inconsistently impacts women more heavily than it does men. Many women experience irregular menstruation, or none at all, with potential impacts on future fertility. Since periods can be irritating to deal with when you’re taking on a role that’s heavily physical and allows very little downtime, some opt to take birth control that eliminates periods completely. The hormones they include can have substantial side effects when taken long term, including low bone density and metabolic issues.
Women are more likely to receive a physical disability discharge.
According to one study published by the Army surgeon general’s office, women are 67% more likely to leave on a physical disability discharge due to a musculoskeletal disorder. That statistic was also from 2011, before the most intense combat jobs allowed women to apply.
Side effects can take years to show up.
It’s possible that even women who leave the military feeling healthy will feel the consequences of hard, physical labor later in life. Some female veterans have reported issues like osteoporosis, muscle atrophy, low endurance and infertility, which they believe to be the result of their time in the military.
Military careers can be rewarding for women, too. As long as they know what to expect.
The point of this piece isn’t to tell women they should stay out of combat or avoid the military. That said, since there are risks unique to female members of service, it would be unfair to encourage them to enlist without offering full transparency.
Some military roles can increase the risk of pelvic floor and musculoskeletal injuries, and sexual harassment and assault is an issue that is far from solved, but many women also climb the ranks proudly without a hitch. Now you know the risks. If you still feel a combat role is where you belong, don’t let any statistic hold you back.
Four people were injured and one remains missing after Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, suffered damage when a floating dry dock sank while the vessel was leaving it, officials say.
The waterborne repair station’s sinking at an Arctic shipyard early on Oct. 30, 2018, was the latest in a series of mishaps involving the Admiral Kuznetsov, which lost two military jets in accidents off the coast of war-torn Syria in 2017.
The PD-50 dry dock had “fully sank” by 3:30 a.m. local time at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in the village of Roslyakovo near the port city of Murmansk, regional Governor Marina Kovtun said on Twitter.
“Unfortunately, one person has not yet been found,” Kovtun said.
The Admiral Kuznetsov.
She said that two injured workers were hospitalized and two were treated without hospitalization.
One of the injured was in very serious condition, said Viktor Rogalyov, the head of the local Disaster Medicine Center.
She said that rescue divers from the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet were working at the site and that it was “hard to say” what caused the sinking.
Authorities said at least one crane fell when the dry dock sank, damaging the aircraft carrier.
Aleksei Rakhmanov, head of the state-run United Shipbuilding Corporation, said experts are assessing the damage but that “the vitally important parts of the aircraft carrier were not affected.”
The PD-50 was one of the world’s largest dry docks.
Russia sent the 305-meter Admiral Kuznetsov to the Eastern Mediterranean in 2016 as part of its ongoing military campaign in support of Syrian government forces in the Middle Eastern country’s devastating war.
An Su-33 military jet crashed while trying to land on the aircraft carrier there in December 2016, and a MiG-29 crashed a few kilometers from the vessel three weeks earlier.
A fire on board the carrier killed a sailor during a 2008-09 deployment, and an oil spill was spotted by the Irish Coast Guard near the vessel afterwards.