All you need to handle the hostile is a Sikorsky H-60 airframe, and it really doesn’t matter if it’s a UH-60 Blackhawk, MH-60R/S Seahawk, or an Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk. Even a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk will do in a pinch. The real key to taking out these drones is the M240, M2, or M3 machine gun that the door gunners use.
In a sense, these door gunners are acting like the old waist gunners on B-17 Flying Fortresses. Back then, those gunners needed training films that included the voice of Bugs Bunny. Seventy-five years later, though, the gunners can actually train against a target similar to what they are shooting. And with live ammo, too.
This low-tech solution might not work in all situations, but it is good to know that the United States military does have these options in case they need them. In the video below, you can see a door gunner at the United States Navy Rotary Wing Weapons School get some very realistic training on how to deal with a hostile drone. Note the M240 that is used on this MH-60 Seahawk.
The Army Combat Capabilities Development Center (CCDC) Research Lab is testing a new suppressor with an integrated muzzle brake that will help soldiers maintain accurate and quiet fire on the enemy in future battlefields. This new device is aptly named “Smuzzle.”
Smuzzle’s design was originally meant for the Army’s 155mm howitzers, yet the inventors turned afterward to one of the army’s most common automatic weapons, the M240B. Greg Oberlin, Daniel Cler, and Eric Binter, the inventors of the new equipment, were trying to reduce recoil and muzzle flash while also reducing the sound from the machinegun.
Standard suppressors for the 7.62 mm caliber were unable to withstand the intense heat of the M240B (which is known as “the pig” by the soldiers who carry it in the field).
The device is currently undergoing testing on the M240B with the NATO 7.62×51 mm round as well as the Next-Generation Squad Weapon Technology 6.8mm round. (The 6.8mm round reduces the volume at the shooter’s ear by half, volume downrange by 25 percent, and recoil by a third said Oberlin, a small arms engineer at the Army’s CCDC Army Research Lab.)
The three inventors began their research back in 2007. They were recently awarded a 20-year utility patent with the Army in late March 2020.
“A few years ago, we were asked whether our next-gen squad weapon should have a muzzle brake or a suppressor,” Oberlin said in an interview with TechLink. “We asked ourselves ‘why not both?'”
Like any small-caliber muzzle brake, this new device vents the pressurized gas of each shot to counteract the recoil of the rifle. By venting the gas through a series of tiny asymmetric holes, the device has — in testing thus far — reduced volume by 50 percent and flash signature by 25 percent with minimal weight increase (0.8-3.0 pounds). “Suppressors are notorious for increasing flash,” Cler said. Furthermore, the Smuzzle adds only three inches to the weapon’s overall length.
When a weapon is fired using a suppressor, gases are trapped inside from the sound rings from the front of the suppressor back to the breech. That spreads the carbon throughout the weapon. It can force the soldier to clean the weapon more frequently.
“That brake baffle actually has a curvature to it borrowed from a 155mm muzzle brake I designed,” Cler said. But the researchers have stated that the device is scalable to any caliber.
“It was designed for automatic and semi-automatic weapons, but it’d be useful for anyone shooting magnum cartridges,” Cler said. “It has what you could call a bottom blocker that also reduces how much dust kicks up.” A smaller Smuzzle weighing 0.8 lbs and other larger versions weighing approximately 3 lbs have been developed to be used depending on a weapon’s caliber.
Binter said in a piece with the Army Times that although they have not yet tested the prototype devices to failure, nevertheless some of them had already fired 10,000 rounds through the weapons which continue to hold up to the sound, recoil, and accuracy standards.
In one test the researchers fired hundreds of rounds through one prototype Smuzzle attached to an M240B machine gun in a full auto failure test. (See video below.)
“It was glowing red, but it never failed,” Cler said.
In testing the weapon is expected to be able to sustain a rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute.
Smuzzle goes beast mode in full auto endurance test
While there are plenty of American veterans who might scoff at the idea that book learnin’ can effectively convey the experience of soldiering and combat, former US Secretary of Defense and decorated Marine Gen. Jim Mattis knows a little something about war, and this is his take on the subject:
“Reading is an honor and a gift from a warrior or historian who, a decade or a thousand decades ago, set aside time to write. He distilled a lifetime of campaigning in order to have a conversation with you. We have been fighting on this planet for 10,000 years. It would be idiotic and unethical to not take advantage of such accumulated experiences. … Any commander who claims he is too busy to read is going to fill body bags with his troops as he learns the hard way.”
I would take Mattis’ critique a step further and say that, in some instances, the novelist or fiction writer is even better equipped to capture something like a higher “Truth” about war. American fiction contains an endless repository of brilliant literary passages about soldiering and war, and we’re on a mission to share some of our favorites.
So here’s our inaugural list of some of the most profound passages about soldiering and combat in American fiction.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.
How To Tell a True War Story by Tim O’Brien
As I’ve written previously, How To Tell a True War Story is one of the greatest American short stories ever written, and this succinct passage is a masterful expression of war’s infinite complexity and contradiction in the human experience. It had to top this list.
“War is hell, but that’s not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead.”
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
Steven Pressfield’s novel about the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC is a classic piece of historical fiction that contains a seemingly endless trove of truisms that speak especially to the warrior class. The novel is on the Marine Corps Commandant’s Professional Reading List and is taught at the US Military Academy at West Point and the US Naval Academy. Here are just a few of the book’s countless standout passages:
“When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime.”
“Here is what you do, friends. Forget country. Forget king. Forget wife and children and freedom. Forget every concept, however noble, that you imagine you fight for here today. Act for this alone: for the man who stands at your shoulder. He is everything, and everything is contained within him. That is all I know.”
“The secret shame of the warrior, the knowledge within his own heart that he could have done better, done more, done it more swiftly or with less self-preserving hesitation; this censure, always most pitiless when directed against oneself, gnawed unspoken and unrelieved at the men’s guts. No decoration or prize of valor, not victory itself, could quell it entire.”
East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Blood Meridian (or The Evening Redness in the West) by Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is one of America’s greatest novelists. Known for his dense, lyrical prose; dark, heady themes; and disdain for commas, McCarthy is a literary powerhouse, and Blood Meridian is one of his most revered novels. The book’s primary antagonist, Judge Holden, is easily one of the creepiest, most evil villains ever conceived. Archetypically speaking, “The Judge” is literally Satan. He is a complete sociopath, but also a literal genius whose affinity for killing and war is matched by his enthusiasm for waxing philosophical. In one scene from the novel, he sits around a campfire with his band of Old West mercenaries and preaches his own gospel of war in an old-school dialectic whose efficacy is slightly unnerving.
“It makes no difference what men think of war. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way … [War] endures because young men love it and old men love it in them. Those that fought, those that did not … War is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.”
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
East of Eden is — in my not-so-humble opinion — one of the greatest novels ever written. Steinbeck considered it his greatest work, and it’s hands-down my favorite book. It’s a truly transcendent work of fiction.
While it’s not necessarily a war novel, East of Eden does deal with the topics of military service, war, and its aftermath, and Steinbeck’s prose shines in those sections. In one early scene, Cyrus Trask tells his son Adam what to expect before he ships off to the Army:
“I’ll have you know that a soldier is the most holy of all humans because he is the most tested — most tested of all. I’ll try to tell you. Look now — in all of history men have been taught that killing of men is an evil thing not to be countenanced. Any man who kills must be destroyed because this is a great sin, maybe the worst sin we know. And then we take a soldier and put murder in his hands, and we say to him, ‘Use it well, use it wisely.’ We put no checks on him. Go out and kill as many of a certain kind or classification of your brothers as you can. And we will reward you for it because it is a violation of your early training.”
Steinbeck has a great deal more to say about soldiering, and all of it is incredibly poignant and “True,” but if you want more literary awesomeness, you’ll have to go read (or reread) the novel. Same goes for the others. They are all worth the time.
The humble fleet oiler doesn’t get a lot of attention. Today’s version of this vessel, the Henry J. Kaiser-class replenishment oiler, is still relatively slow (capable of reaching a top speed of 20 knots), but it is huge (displacing over 40,000 tons). It makes sense that the ship responsible for hauling gas enough to fuel an entire carrier strike group — both ships and planes — would be a lumbering sea giant.
During the Battle of the Coral Sea, however, one humble oiler did more than provide fuel for the ships in the fight.
That oiler, the USS Neosho (AO 23), saved the American carriers. The Neosho was a Cimarron-class vessel that joined the fleet in 1939. She wasn’t as big (displacing 7,500 tons) or fast (capping out at 18 knots) as today’s oilers, but she was still able to top off the fleet’s tanks.
USS Neosho (AO 23) refuels the carrier USS Yorktown (CV 5) before the Battle of the Coral Sea.
According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Neosho fulfilled her primary mission prior to the Battle of the Coral Sea, refueling USS Yorktown (CV 5) and USS Astoria (CA 34) afterplanes had carried out strikes against Japanese-occupied Tulagi. It was on the first day of the coming battle, however, that she would do much more than provide fuel.
At the time, the Navy was so short on hulls that she had only one escort, USS Sims (DD 409). A Japanese plane found the Neosho and her lone escort on May 7. The enemy pilot mistook the ship for a carrier. So, the Japanese carriers, Shokaku and Zuikaku, sent their air groups after the oiler. The Sims was quickly sunk and Neosho took seven bomb hits and had a Japanese plane crash into her.
USS Neosho (AO 23) pictured while taking the Japanese attack meant for the carriers USS Lexington (CV 2) and USS Yorktown (CV 5).
The vessel stayed afloat for four days when Allied search planes finally found her. The destroyer USS Henley (DD 391) arrived on the 11th. The 123 survivors that were taken off of the oiler then learned that the United States Navy had turned back the Japanese — in no small part because the Neosho took a strike intended for Lexington and Yorktown.
The Neosho was scuttled, but two other fleet oilers have since borne the name.
In the months leading up to the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump in Finland, Moscow appears to have ramped up activity in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.
Satellite imagery gathered by Planet Labs and reported by Defense One shows activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, a town that hosts a major Russian port and two air bases.
Between March and June 2018, “the visible change … appears to be the fortification of buildings, characteristic of explosive storage bunkers, utilizing earthen berms to further insulate these structures,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One.
Hall said other structures shown in the images appeared to have been reinforced over that period. Activity in a forested area was partially obscured by foliage, but there appeared to be more structures among the trees, some covered and some uncovered with different levels of fortification.
Aerial photo of Baltiysk
“In this area some of the structures have changed, potentially showing roofing structures or tarps that have since been removed to reveal caches of items,” Hall said. “Additionally, there appear to be new or redistributed items — potentially identifiable as shipping containers.” Hall also told Defense One a railroad line was visible in the photos.
Kaliningrad — 86 square miles of land bordered by Poland and Lithuania — was an important asset to the Soviet Union, and military activity there has grown amid Russia’s recent military buildup. It also hosts Russia’s Baltic Fleet and its 11th Army Corps.
Russian weapons in Kaliningrad have been a point of contention with NATO. In late 2016, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said the transfer of nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to the exclave “means an aggressive, open demonstration of power and aggression against not the Baltic states but against European capitals.”
Iskander missiles have a range of about 310 miles and in the past were stationed in Kaliningrad on a temporary basis. But in February 2018, Grybauskaite said Russia had deployed more of the missiles there “for permanent presence.”
The head of Russian parliament’s defense committee confirmed that deployment, saying it was a response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe. A Kremlin spokesman said at the time that Russia had the “sovereign right” to station military forces on its territory.
(Russian Defense Ministry)
Satellite imagery of another area within Kaliningrad showed renovations of what appeared to be an active nuclear weapons storage site, according to a June 2018 report by the Federation of American Scientists.
Images “show one of three underground bunkers near Kulikovo being excavated in 2016, apparently renovated, and getting covered up again in 2018 presumably to return operational status soon,” the report said.
The imagery provided few conclusive details, but “features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” the report said. “But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region.”
The missiles deployed to Kaliningrad have raised concern about threats to Western Europe, but the exclave also positions Russian forces near the Suwalki Gap, a weak point in the NATO alliance, according to a recent report from the Center for European Analysis, coauthored by retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who was head of US Army Europe.
The gap, stretching between eastern Kaliningrad and western Belarus, is the only land connection between NATO and its three Baltic member states: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
“The Suwałki Corridor is where the many weaknesses in NATO’s strategy and force posture converge,” the report says.
“If Russia attempted to establish control over the Suwałki region, or even threatened the free movement of NATO personnel and equipment from within the borders of Kaliningrad and Belarus, it could cut the Baltic states off from the rest of the Alliance” and hinder reinforcement efforts. NATO forces did exercises focused mobility and interoperability in the Suwalki region early 2018
Suwalki Gap crossing
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kevin Wang)
A dispute over the gap “could escalate with alarming speed,” the report says, though Hodges believes a Cold War-style Russian ground invasion is unlikely.
“I don’t think that Russia intends to invade Europe as though its 1991. They don’t have the capacity to do that anymore,” he told Defense One.
Moscow may instead look to use a crisis in the area to undermine NATO by showing it was unable to response effectively, or at all, to a threat.
“If you accept that premise, that they might do a limited attack to demonstrate that NATO cannot protect its members,” he told Defense One. “That would create a problem.”
Russia is believed to have a substantial military force stationed along NATO’s eastern border, and its ability to deploy it quickly could make it harder for Western forces to distinguish between a military exercise and an actual military operation.
During the Zapad war games in 2013 and 2017, Russian troops simulated advances on the gap, cutting off the Baltic states from the rest of Europe. There has also been an increase in close encounters between NATO and Russian aircraft in the skies over the Baltics.
In the years since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, Baltic countries have warned about possible aggression against them.
In 2017, Lithuania said it worried Russia was laying the groundwork for “kinetic operations” through propaganda and misinformation — a manner similar to what preceded Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Lithuania, which is under pressure from Moscow to allow a permanent Russian-controlled transit corridor to Kaliningrad, has also called for a permanent US troop presence on its soil and started building a fence along its border with Kaliningrad.
The CEPA report lays out several scenarios through which Russia could provoke a crisis to justify action against Suwalki, using disinformation and hybrid-warfare techniques to deflect blame and confuse observers.
“If [Russian forces] ever tried anything, they would do it asymmetrically so that they could achieve whatever they wanted to achieve before the alliance caught on,” Hodges told Defense One.T
his article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Video games are extremely popular in the military community. It’s a favorite pastime and even troops who grew up playing outside will take part at some point. But what might surprise you is that it’s not just the nerds among us who’ve made videos games less of a time-killer and more of a hobby.
The military brings people from all different backgrounds together under the same roof — nerds and jocks alike. In fact, in the past two decades, a countless number of young hopefuls have showed up at the recruiter’s office looking to live out fantasies they’ve had while playing games.
Sure, not all of them make it and, yes, the harsh reality of military life sets in and you’ll quickly realize it’s not anywhere close to your favorite video game, but those who make it hold on tightly to their hobby. You just might be surprised at what types of games are popular among troops.
There was a movie that came out recently based on the original game. You should probably just stick to the games, though…
The predecessor to the insanely popular massively multiplayer online role playing game, Warcraft is a real-time strategy series set in a grim fantasy world. If anyone from any walk of life brings this game up in conversation, they are most definitely a nerd — but by that barometer, there are a lot of nerds in the military.
Service members often feel the need for speed after a long week.
Any Mario game
Mario Kart, Mario Party, and Super Smash Brothers are all great games to play in the barracks on the weekend. These bring people together, just like a split-screen game of Call of Duty, but you’d never expect to see the bright colors and cartoony characters of a Nintendo title glowing on the faces of hardened war fighters.
You’ll still find an amazing following within the military, though.
(Sony Interactive Entertainment)
‘God of War’
Judging by the title alone, you’d think this series was a smash hit among service members, but it’s not wildly popular. Here’s why: You might get the opportunity to kill a bunch of gods in a bloody frenzy, but most games in the series follow a linear storyline. Troops generally aren’t interested until it comes time to fight.
This game takes quite a bit of skill, actually.
‘The Last of Us’
Of course a zombie shooter made it onto this list, but the best part of The Last of Us isn’t its gunplay, it’s the engaging and tragic story. Anyone can pickup Call of Duty and get their fill of zombie killing, but it takes a true dork to buy a game for the zombies and stay for the story.
Nerds love fighting giant monsters!
One of the greatest game series to ever be developed, Dragon Age is a fantasy RPG that offers great story that evolves based on player choices. Much like the Witcher series (see below), you wouldn’t expect this to come up in conversation, but if you bring it up in the barracks, you’ll turn a few heads.
(CD Projekt Red)
A role-playing fantasy game based on the novels of the same name by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, this series is renowned for its engaging story and open-ended choices. This game requires patience, preparation, and a good amount of reading — and it’s still popular among service members. It’s just that good.
Located in Southern California, Naval Base San Diego is the second largest surface ship base in the United States. Deploying on a ship with a critical mission is supposed to be one of the proudest moment for any sailor. Those aboard get a chance to serve their country by performing the righteous duties for which they’ve trained hard — in theory, anyway.
In reality, being underway means doing a ton of cleaning and other tasks that fall outside of your regular MOS.
It’s not like what you see in those cool television commercials. You won’t be working with sailors in the intel room trying to defeat an enemy force while listening to the soothing tone of Keith David’s voiceover. In fact, it’s almost the complete opposite.
Going on watch
If you’ve ever watched paint dry, then you know exactly how it feels to be on watch — you stare at nothing, waiting for anything to happen. Watch is, by far, is the most critical responsibility on any Naval vessel, but it can also be the most painful. You’re looking out for incoming threats, but the likelihood of that happening is slim.
That is, unless you’re in foreign seas and Somalian pirates are feeling ballsy.
Using these little computers in our pockets, making a call to anyone around the world is as easy as picking up your phone and dialing. However, being underway means you’re not going to have any cell service — much to the devastation of millennials.
The idea of not knowing what everyone’s doing back home or what’s happening in the rest of the world can be a little unsettling. After weeks of limited-to-no connectivity, that moment when you reach port and see service bars on your phone is glorious.
After a long day, it’s finally time to hit the sack — but you don’t get to sleep in a big bed like you did back home. You get to sleep in a rack that looks and feels like a coffin. It may be comfortable for vampires, but for everyone else, it’s anything but that.
Let’s be real, three-man bunks with a minimum of 20 to 30 roommates — does this sound like a good time to you?
Sweepers, sweepers, all hands man your stations
If you’re a sailor, you know how this feels. Once you wake up and get ready for your day, you know what’s about to happen. So, grab a broom and get to cleaning, because there’s always a petty officer around the corner reminding you to do so.
Welcome to hell.
It sounds easy at first, but after a day of working on the ship, the last thing anyone wants to do is pick up another freakin’ broom — trust us.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gabriela Hurtado)
Leaving your family
This is a topic that all veterans can relate to. Above all else, the reason we continue to fight is to protect the many families of our nation. Leaving them behind is extremely difficult. You have been their sworn protector for as long as you can remember, and now you must leave them to fulfill your obligations to our great country.
Saying goodbye to your loved ones — and not knowing exactly when you will return — is, by far, one of the hardest things about going underway.
The F-15 Eagle has put up one of the best records of any air-superiority fighter – ever. It has scored over 100 air-to-air kills with no losses. Yet while the development of the Su-27/30/33/35 and J-11/15/16 families of the Flanker from Russia and China have closed the gap significantly, the Eagle remains very lethal – and keeps getting better.
Part of it is the inclusion of new sensor capabilities, like the Legion pod, that enable the F-15 to do thing the Su-27 can do. Another part has been upgrades to the existing systems, like the AN-APG-63 radar, which has been replaced by a new version with an active electronically-scanned antenna version known as the APG-63(V)3.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Air Force did give the entire F-15 fleet an upgrade known as the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System, or EPAWSS, which gave the F-15C/D an improved chaff and flare dispenser, a digital radar-warning receiver, and a towed decoy. This gives the F-15 a better chance against enemy surface-to-air or air-to-air missiles.
But the F-15 from the get-go had a lot of advantages. It could carry up to eight air-to-air missiles (today, the load is usually four AIM-120 AMRAAM and four AIM-9X Sidewinders), and it had a 20mm M61 Gatling gun with 940 rounds of ammo. It has a top speed of 1,875 miles per hour, and an unrefueled range of 2,402 miles. Boeing has been pitching an Eagle 2040C that would add even more missiles to the F-15’s already formidable armament.
Over 1,500 F-15s of all types have been built, and the production line is still open, producing variants of the F-15E Strike Eagle for orders by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. You can see a video about why the F-15 is aging so well below.
While most of the world was watching Trident Juncture, the massive NATO war games where 31 countries sent 50,000 participants and Russia responded with missiles and other provocations, the U.S. was participating in more war games on the other side of the world.
The U.S. and Japan sent a record number of troops to Keen Sword, Pacific war games to which Canada also sent ships and sailors.
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, center left, and the Japanese helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga, center right, sail in formation with 16 other ships from the U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force as aircraft from the U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force fly overhead in formation during Keen Sword 2019 in the Philippine Sea, November 8, 2018.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)
Keen Sword is focused on ensuring that Japan can defend its territory, and the U.S. and other allies take part to improve their ability to operate with the Japanese Self-Defense Force. Over the past few years, China’s aggression in the region has increasingly shaped the narrative — but China is far from the only threat Japan faces.
An E-2D Hawkeye lands on the flight deck of the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during exercise Keen Sword 19, November 7, 2018.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class MacAdam Kane Weissman)
Japan is deeply within range of North Korea’s missiles and has an ongoing dispute with Russia over islands dating back to World War II.
Therefore, its annual hosting of Keen Sword is crucial. Japan sent 47,000 troops, about a fifth of its active military, and America sent 9,500 more. Canada sent two ships to the exercise.
U.S. Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 5 fast rope from an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter onto the USS Ronald Reagan during Keen Sword 19 in the Philippine Sea, November 1, 2018.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erwin Jacob V. Miciano)
The Japanese forces carry a lot of American hardware, everything from F-35s to Apache helicopters to Aegis missile defense systems. But Japan has still felt the need to further expand their military capabilities, standing up amphibious assault forces and increasing their ability to rapidly deploy with forces such as paratroopers.
The forces practiced these marine and airborne operations as well as submarine hunting, combat search and rescue, and other operations. See more photos from the exercise below:
A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldier assigned to the 1st Airborne Brigade jumps from a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron over Hiju-dai drop zone, Oita prefecture, Japan, November 4, 2018, during Keen Sword 19.
(U.S. Air Force Yasuo Osakabe)
A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force solider assigned to the 1st Airborne Brigade performs personnel accountability on a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules at Japan Air Self-Defense Force Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, November 4, 2018, during Keen Sword 19.
(U.S. Air Force Yasuo Osakabe)
A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldier assigned to the 1st Airborne Brigade waits to jump from a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules over Hiju-dai drop zone, Oita prefecture, Japan, November 4, 2018, during Keen Sword 19.
(U.S. Air Force Yasuo Osakabe)
Rear Adm. Karl Thomas, commander of Task Force 70, departs an E-2D Hawkeye on the flight deck of the Navy’s forward deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during exercise Keen Sword 19, November 7, 2018.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class MacAdam Kane Weissman)
U.S. Air Force pararescue specialists assigned to the 31st Rescue Squadron from Kadena Air Base, Japan, charge land during a combat search and rescue training near Misawa Air Base, Japan, October 31, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)
Sailors perform preflight checks on an E/A-18G Growler on the flight deck of the forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during exercise Keen Sword 19, November 1, 2018.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class MacAdam Kane Weissman)
Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 5 ready themselves for training during Keen Sword 19.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erwin Jacob V. Miciano)
U.S. Airmen stand in front of an E-3 Sentry during Exercise Keen Sword 2019, at Kadena Air Base, Japan, October 29, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Matthew Seefeldt)
A Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine participates in Exercise Keen Sword with Submarine Group 7 and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors and staff. For the submarine force, the exercise was an opportunity to demonstrate how both countries’ submariners would detect, locate, track and engage enemy assets.
(U.S. Navy Chief Electronics Technician Robert Gulini)
U.S. and Japanese ships maneuver during a photo event at the end of Keen Sword 19 on November 8, 2018.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)
The Russian pipe-laying vessel Akademik Cherskiy at anchor in northern Germany on May 10.
WASHINGTON — The United States has threatened to sanction any individual or company helping Russia build a controversial natural gas pipeline to Germany as the Kremlin moves to complete the last kilometers of the nearly $11 billion project.
“Get out now — or risk the consequences,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said July 15 during a press conference in Washington announcing the new sanction guidelines for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
The State Department essentially removed language that excluded the pipeline from the powerful Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was passed in 2017.
Unable to use CAATSA, the United States in December passed legislation to sanction any vessel laying underwater pipes for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, forcing Swiss-based Allseas to quit the project with just about 160 kilometers remaining.
The pipeline, which consists of two parallel lines running under the Baltic Sea, is a combined 1,230 kilometers in length.
Russia is now trying to use its own vessels to finish Nord Stream 2 after receiving permission from Denmark earlier this month. The unfinished portion of the pipeline lies in Denmark’s economic waters.
However, the Russian ship would still need to use the services of Western companies, such as port facilities and insurance, giving the United States the potential to hamper their efforts.
CAATSA allowed Congress to sanction Russian energy export pipelines but contained guidance put in by Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson, that grandfathered in Nord Stream 2 and the second leg of TurkStream, which runs under the Black Sea to Turkey.
Pompeo said the State Department is updating the public guidance for CAATSA authorities to include the two Russian-led projects, which he described as “Kremlin tools” to expand European dependence on Russian energy supplies and undermine Ukraine.
Pompeo is set to visit Denmark on July 22 to discuss the pipeline, among other issues.
Nord Stream 2 would pump up to 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Germany annually upon its completion, doubling the European nation’s import of Russian gas.
The project enables Moscow to significantly reduce natural gas shipments through Ukraine, which currently earns billions of dollars annually in transit fees.
“They are winding up and laying the ground for the imposition of additional sanctions if Russia attempts to deploy its pipe-laying vessels,” said Dan Vajdic, an adviser to Ukraine’s state-owned energy firm Naftogaz, which lobbied Washington to impose more sanctions.
The United States is seeking to export more natural gas to Europe while helping Eastern and Central Europe develop the necessary infrastructure to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas.
Congress last year approved up to id=”listicle-2646417365″ billion in financing for energy infrastructure projects in the region.
James Carafano, a national security and foreign policy fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told a congressional hearing on July 14 that the completion of Nord Stream 2 would destroy the economic rationale for such U.S.-backed projects.
The State Department has denied that the threat of new sanctions against Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream are designed to help U.S. exporters of natural gas.
The State Department has denied that the threat of new sanctions against Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream are designed to help U.S. exporters of natural gas.
Nonetheless, State Department Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told RFE/RL in an interview that Russia and Gazprom are in a “difficult position” to be able to finish Nord Stream 2.
“Companies basically have to choose – you can do business with the Russians and Gazprom or you can do business with the United States. We think that companies will make the decision that it is more lucrative to do business with the United States,” she said.
Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas) urged Congress to give the White House more firepower to stop Nord Stream 2 by passing legislation that would impose more sanctions on the pipeline, including on insurance and certification companies.
“The Kremlin will no doubt continue its frantic efforts to circumvent American sanctions, and so it is imperative that Congress provide the administration the broadest possible authorities to counter these ever-changing attempts at evasion,” he said in a statement.
Cruz’s home state of Texas is the largest producer of natural gas in the United States and a key energy exporter.
With an abundance of data points on COVID-19 — the news, your friend from high school who has turned into a respiratory and infectious disease expert on social media despite never going to med school, your family, your neighbors, that group text — it’s difficult to discern what is relevant and what is truthful.
Finally, here’s one source that absolutely nails it. Three-year-old toddler “Dr. Big Sister” Hannah Curtis delivers a spot on briefing from her very own White House.
Every April, many Americans join energy cooperatives and utilities across the US in celebrating National Lineworker Appreciation Day. Roughly 114,930 lineworkers work around the clock to keep 328 million Americans connected to energy, and there is perhaps no better image to illustrate the gravity of the job and the sacrifices lineworkers make than Rocco Morabito’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning photo “The Kiss of Life.”
As a young newspaper photographer for the Jacksonville Journal, Morabito, who served as a ball-turret gunner on a B-17 with the Army Air Corps in World War II, was on assignment on July 17, 1967, when he happened upon a very troubling scene. Lineworker Randall G. Champion had been working on a utility pole when he contacted one of the power lines and absorbed more than 4,000 volts of electricity. According to First Coast News, the powerful current shot through Champion’s body, burning a hole in his foot as it exited, and he fell back, hanging unconscious from his safety harness at least 20 feet off the ground.
Fellow lineworker J.D. Thompson, who was working on the ground nearby, had been hired by Jacksonville City Electric (now Jacksonville Electric Authority) four years earlier on the same day Champion was hired. Realizing his friend was in trouble, Thompson’s emergency training kicked in, and he sprinted toward the pole.
In the 2008 documentary “Kiss of Life,” Morabito says when he arrived on the scene he heard people on the ground screaming and then saw Champion dangling. He snapped a single photo before rushing back to his car to radio back to the Journal’s newsroom and tell them to send an ambulance. Then he quickly reloaded his Rolleiflex camera with a fresh roll of film and rushed back to the scene.
By then, Thompson was ascending the pole, and when he reached Champion, he thought his friend was surely dead.
“His face—his cheeks were just blue, and there was no movement to him, no breathing, nothing going on there,” Thompson says in the Kiss of Life film.
He started administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a lifeless Champion.
“I was putting air in him as hard as I could go and also trying to reach around him and hit him in the chest,” Thompson told First Coast News.
“When he actually started breathing, I can remember it was just like a hiccup or something,” Thompson says in Kiss of Life. “He just kind of jerked a little bit, and I knew there was some life there then.”
Thompson yelled down to workers on the ground: “He’s breathing!” He unhooked and rigged Champion’s harness so he could get him down to the ground. Just before he reached the ground, Champion regained consciousness. Disoriented, he began flailing and kicking.
“I started fighting, trying to get loose from the wire because I didn’t realize I had been out, and I thought I was still on the wire,” Champion says in a 1985 interview featured in Kiss of Life.
Thompson and the other workers calmed Champion down and lay him down on some grass to wait for the ambulance.
Morabito, having captured the entire sequence of events, raced back to the Journal’s newsroom, and the paper’s editors pushed back their printing deadline to get the photo in the paper that day. After it was published, the wire services picked it up, and it ran on the front page of newspapers all over the country and was even distributed internationally.
In Kiss of Life, the narrator notes that, “After saving a man’s life, [Thompson] quietly went back to work. A thunderstorm was on the way, along with power outages. J.D. would be at it until 3 in the morning.”
Telling his story in the film, Thompson deflects the suggestion that his actions were heroic. Perhaps for him it really was just another day at the office for a lineman. But as he recalls his supervisor’s praise after the incident, viewers get a glimpse of what appears to be a more honest reaction to how it affected him.
“[Our supervisor] was proud of the fact we had helped this fella,” he says with a southern drawl. “I felt at that time, you know, that, well, I did it …”
Thompson then trails off as he’s overcome by emotion. His chin slightly quivers, and his jaw tightens as he stares off camera, lost in the memory of the day he saved Randall Champion’s life. The film then cuts to the interviewer’s next question: “Did you feel like a hero?”
“No … no,” he says.
According to the film, Champion was angry when he saw the photo in the newspaper the next day, and his daughter, Ann Dixon, offered this explanation: “He told us that he always kissed us goodbye in the mornings before he would go to work. And all he could remember as he lay in the hospital was he didn’t kiss us goodbye that morning, and he could have easily never had the opportunity to do that again. And that really weighed heavy on his heart.”
In 1991, Champion suffered a second injury in the line of duty, coming in contact with 26,000 volts (roughly six times more voltage than the 1967 incident) while carrying out his duties as a lineman. He suffered third-degree burns to his face and hands, according to the Orlando Sentinel. By that time, Thompson was the chief of the division where Champion worked at Jacksonville Electric Authority, and he told the Sentinel, “I’ve got 26 of these trouble men (linemen are sometimes called trouble men) working every day, and I worry about them every day.”
According to a 1997 Florida Times-Union article, the surge from 26,000 volts of electricity burned off the side of Champion’s nose, his lip, the top of his forehead and one of his fingers. He spent five weeks in the burn unit at Orlando Regional Medical Center and almost six months at Memorial Rehabilitation Hospital, where Thompson visited him regularly as he underwent plastic surgery and rehabilitation.
Initially paralyzed by the incident, Champion eventually regained movement but had to use a wheelchair to get around. He retired from JEA in 1993 after 30 years of service. In 2002, he died at age 64.
Morabito worked for the Jacksonville Journal for 45 years, retiring in 1982, according to the Florida Times-Union. He died April 5, 2009 after a long, full life.
Thompson retired from JEA in 1994 after 31 years of service, and today, JEA uses Morabito’s iconic photo and the incredible story behind it in its orientation training for new lineworkers.
Every spring, American Public Power holds an annual Lineworkers Rodeo where one of the timed events requires lineworkers to put on gear, climb a 40-foot pole and rescue an injured man. The record for this feat is 43.33 seconds.
April 18 is National Lineworker Appreciation Day (though the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association celebrates it on the second Monday of April each year). Those who are familiar with the noble, difficult and dangerous work these men and women do have no problem celebrating lineworkers throughout the month of April and beyond. As the saying goes, “Thank a lineworker, because when the lights go out, so do they.”
Today and always, Americans should celebrate the service and sacrifice of the men and women who keep the power on across the United States.
One year ago in Norfolk, Virginia, aboard USS George H.W. Bush at the establishment ceremony for US 2nd Fleet, I directed the fleet to be ready to fight — ready to fight so that we do not have to.
The last time 2nd Fleet existed, the world looked very different than it does now: Today maritime superiority, vital to our national security, has been placed at risk by resurgent powers, namely Russia and China, seeking to supplant the US as the partner of choice around the world.
The 2nd Fleet of today has redirected its strategic focus from mainly training units to deploy to regional conflicts in the Middle East to operating high-end naval forces and developing tactics to deter potential conflicts, to include near-peer adversaries in the North Atlantic and Arctic.
Arleigh-Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham hits heavy seas in the Atlantic Ocean, deployed in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 18, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)
We must be present in contested spaces — and virtual presence is not true presence. US 2nd Fleet is focused on the waters from the East Coast to the Arctic, Iceland, Norway, and approaches of the Baltic and Azores.
There has never been a question as to whether the North Atlantic or the Arctic is important, but the security environment has changed.
Sailors signal an E-2D Hawkeye ready for launch on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 27, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
The Arctic is the only body of water on earth where there has not been a naval battle, and today we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about hydrography in the Arctic.
With waterways remaining open for longer periods, it is becoming a competitive economic and strategic space.
In my office I have a world map from the point of view of the Arctic. When you look at the world from that perspective, you realize just how close North America is to Eurasia. The Northern Passage, close to Russia, and the Northwest Passage, through North America, will provide opportunity for commercial and leisure travel.
However, the waters are dangerous, with increased risks of mishaps. Russia considers itself THE great power in the Arctic, and China is certainly interested in the hydrocarbon and fish available in those waters.
If we do not get into the Arctic with a measured and deliberate approach, the area is destined for conflict. US and Allied presence now, both naval and economic, in the Arctic, could mean a peaceful, cooperative flourishing environment.
US 2nd Fleet is a platform for partnerships; no one nation can face today’s challenges alone.
As an F-18 pilot, I have spent most of my career fulfilling combat missions into the Middle East. In contrast, my counterparts in our Allied and partner Nordic navies have continued to operate at sea in the tough conditions of the North Atlantic and the Arctic.
As the Arctic becomes increasingly navigable, we must look to our partners as experts in the arena and learn from them. We are doing exactly that. Just last week USS Gravely (DDG 107) conducted operations with a Danish ship in the Arctic waters off the coast of Greenland.
We will carry home our lessons learned from these types of operations and implement them going forward.
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely with Danish navy command and support ship HMDS Absalon off the coast of Greenland, Aug. 16, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Jessica L. Dowell)
Wherever we operate, we will do so professionally.
Early this summer 2nd Fleet led exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) in the Baltic Sea. We led 18 nations, 50 ships, and nearly 10,000 personnel through two weeks of operations designed to improve integration among us.
The Baltic Sea is a contested space. During BALTOPS the Russian navy announced a simultaneous exercise in the Baltic. Russia is a Baltic nation, and as such we expected our ships and aircraft would operate alongside Russian ships and aircraft.
Each interaction was safe, professional, and in accordance with international norms; as professional mariners, we must all strive for this regardless of diplomatic or political tensions. We will continue to lead by example.
My greatest challenge in the endeavor of standing up 2nd Fleet has not been lack of money or manpower, though both present problems.
Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis speaks to a sailor aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, Feb. 1, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Amber Smalley)
The greatest challenge I have faced is disrupting the sense of normalcy established during years of fighting FROM the sea, rather than fighting UPON the sea. We need to take a hard look at the assets we have and ensure we are employing them appropriately and fighting as fleets rather than as small task groups or units.
We are adept at operating at the lowest monetary cost, but we can no longer afford to do so. Efficiency does not necessarily correspond to effectiveness. To be successful, we must rewire our assumptions and be willing to be uncomfortable.
In the military, we are in the business of risk management. We often conduct operations that may be considered dangerous by any account, but we weigh the risks, implement mitigation efforts, and assess advantages before moving forward. The most dangerous course of action is complacency — to continue to do things just because it is what we have always done or because there is red tape in the way of changing course.
We have made great progress in the last year, but the heaviest lifting is still to come. The most risky course of action at this point is to continue operations as usual. We are building US 2nd Fleet to be the market disrupter that changes the way we fight as a fleet — as a coalition — and in doing so, we will be ready to fight.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.