By Tom Demerly.
NOTE: This story is fiction based on news accounts. It does not contain factual depictions of any events from official sources.
10:17 Local (15:17 UTC), Monday, 7 October 2013, Administrative Offices, Triple Five Group, Mall of the Americas, Bloomington, Minnesota, United States.
Bob Davis felt a chill race up his spine and down his arms. He saw his hands tremble on the desk in front of him. His ironic sense of humor kicked in when he thought, “Well, Bob, that’s why they call it terror-ism.” He looked at the two men sitting across from him, their mouths moving, but he didn’t hear the words for a second. He forced himself to tune back in to their meeting despite a feeling that this couldn’t be real. It was like walking onto the pages of a Clancy novel.
“…Possibly V-IED’s in the parking lots, ah, that means vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, a car or truck bomb, like Timothy McVeigh used on the Federal Building, if you recall… There could be some form of crude, locally produced chemical weapon; chlorine gas, something like that. Those have big shock value with the media. There definitely will be explosives and assault weapons used. They can source that equipment locally and may already have from gun shows around the Midwest. We have agents from the Bureau and the ATF at those shows. Even the NRA people have been helping us, but we can’t catch everything.”
Bob Davis manages operations for the Mall of the Americas in Bloomington, Minnesota. Over the past eight years he has seen women give birth there, the most elaborate shoplifting schemes every devised (and busted), a ring of prostitutes operating in the mall and a coyote that somehow made its way inside the giant shopping center on a busy Saturday night. This was the first time he sat across his desk from two FBI agents getting briefed on plans for a possible Al Qaeda style suicide attack on his mall during Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year in the busiest mall in the United States.
Davis was being briefed by the FBI about possible terrorist attacks at the Mall of the Americas two days after a pair of U.S. special operations raids, one in Libya, and one in Somalia. Sixteen days earlier Al Shabaab militants attacked the Westlake Mall, a U.S. style shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya. The FBI men told Davis it was a miracle only 67 people were killed in the Africa mall attack. Based on the damage to the mall, they felt the toll would have been higher. “Westlake was a test run for Al Shabaab. It was training for them, a field exercise. They won’t make the same mistakes twice.”
The two FBI agents pulled up a file on their tablet computer. “Our estimates of casualties here at Mall of the America in a Black Friday attack are between 400 and 800 killed.” Davis felt the grip of what an attack would mean. The country, the economy, Minnesota, his community, his tenants, his family, his job. He remembered the economic impact from the 9/11 attacks. He was 40 years old then, working for the Taubman Centers back in Michigan. They managed a large number of shopping malls around the U.S. The 9/11 terror attacks had gutted the company’s occupancy in the next five years when the economy tanked. And that hadn’t been a direct attack on a U.S. shopping center. What the FBI agents were describing to Davis now could sink the shopping mall industry in the United States.
“The real damage, though,” Continued the larger agent with the iPad, “will be the broader economic impact on U.S. business. Retail for the holiday season would be destroyed. Even the e-commerce guys, like Amazon.com, would take a hit since people would not only be afraid to shop at a mall, they would be afraid to shop, period, because of concern over another economic crash. This is the new 9/11. It really would be Black Friday”
Bill Davis had one question for the two FBI men, “So, what do we do to make sure this doesn’t happen?”
“Well,” The smaller of the two FBI men said, “We think we may have reduced the capabilities of the attackers to execute their previous plans, but we still need your cooperation here at Mall of the Americas, Mr. Davis.”
“I’m all ears guys.”
02:45 Local (23:45, 2 October UTC), Thursday, 3 October 2013, Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport, Headquarters, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA).
Nine men were arrested in Africa following the Kenyan mall attack. It took a few days for… the authorities… to extract information from those nine men. Taken one at a time none of them provided anything that seemed of much use. But each minor detail they provided, from how they paid for their meals to how they learned to use their weapons, began to congeal into a pattern. When that pattern was fit against the sides of other patterns, now electronically in a basement in Langley, Virginia, there was a horrific conclusion: The U.S. was next.
Once that conclusion was reached the Director of National Intelligence was briefed. He briefed the President, a man deeply embroiled with a domestic political battle when Congress refused to approve economic changes forcing a shutdown of some government offices. The President and his staff were busy with, among other things, trying to manage the first ever White House online flaming campaign via e-mail and social media. Their target was Congress and their intent was to depict them as uncompromising and unreasonable. To his credit as Commander in Chief, when the briefing materials on the Nairobi attacks reached his desk, the President did not delay. He set the wheels in motion via Admiral William H. McRaven at MacDill AFB. McRaven is the ninth man to command the United States Special Operations Command at MacDill, a unified command that coordinates the training, equipment, doctrine and employment of all U.S. special operations units.
McRaven’s units include some of the most sophisticated military intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities in the world. These operate organically to the special operations community, from the field around the world back to MacDill, largely for the purposes of mission planning. The strategic intelligence may flow upward from McRaven’s units, or downward from Langley, but flow it did, in both directions. When the intelligence McRaven’s units had collected was collated with the information garnered from the West Lake Mall attack in Kenya the picture was crystal clear.
A big part of that picture pointed back to a beach house in the Somali coastal city of Barawa.
Force Recon Marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12 (SPMAGTF-12) at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, had been training local indigenous forces in the region. They also collected intelligence from them during training. Both special operations and CIA operatives joined the activities related to Somalia at Camp Lemonnier to help with data collection and facilitate better, more context-based interpretation of intel. SPMAGTF Recon Marines had even conducted beach reconnaissance of some areas of the Barawa, Somalia coastline. That hydrographic survey data, combined with signals intelligence, some limited HUMINT (human intelligence from operatives on the ground in the target area), satellite and drone images merged with data from the West Lake Mall detainee interviews.
Back at Camp Lemonnier, at MacDill AFB in Florida, on a ship off the coast of East Africa and in Langley, Virginia, planners held a web conference to review the final plans for a direct action mission to interdict the capability of Al Shabaab to carry out their planned U.S. mall attack.
It was Thursday night. The raid on Barawa was a “go”.
03:50 Local (12:50 UTC), Saturday, 5 October 2013, 473 meters off the coast of Baraawe, Somalia.
High tide hit the rocky beach off Baraawe, Somalia at 04:38 hours under a dim, waxing crescent moon. Just before high tide the incoming tidal current urged the twelve combat swimmers of the Naval Special Warfare Combat Interdiction Group (formerly “SEAL Team 6 or “DEVGRU”) toward the rocky outcrops that lay just off the Somali coast. Swimming along the surface was easy; the black African waters were warm. High clouds filtered what little moonlight there was.
The assault team had left their F470 CRRC boats almost 2 miles off shore to prevent visual detection of the assault boats from land. The boats used sound suppressed motors that were extremely quiet. After dropping off the combat swimmers the rigid inflatable boats immediately turned back out to sea for recovery on a U.S. Navy ship that was even now steaming back toward the coast after the insertion.
The first element of the combat swimmer/assault team would hit the beach, remove their swim fins and floatation vests then cross inland on foot less than a kilometer south of their target, a large beachfront villa on the southern edge of Baraawe. They would turn immediately north toward the objective. This first six-man element of the team moved inland approximately 400 meters toward the concealment of low scrub. The other six-man element lay prone in the gently lapping waves of shallow water just off the beach until the flanking assault element was in place. A series of clicks on their updated, secure AN/PRC-126 radios would signal the first assault team was in place. Then the two teams would move toward the target, a two-story villa where the objective, a high value personnel target named Ahmed Abdi Godane, was supposed to be located.
The two elements of the assault team were in place. The wind was gentle coming just barely off the ocean, it was 71 degrees Fahrenheit. The sun would not rise for another hour and forty minutes. Each member of the second assault element heard the clicks in their headset when the first element got into position. They responded with a single click of the mic button. Then each team member checked right, then left, clearing his field of fire and began a low, quick advance across the beach, trending right or north to the target.
The building was surrounded by low walls on three sides and a high wall at the back. It made sense to go over the lower sections of the walls, enter the courtyard section, assault any threats that were providing security and then conduct the entry. Once the entry began, speed and violence of action was their primary tactic. They had to overwhelm what security may be in place quickly, assault the target building and secure the objective, detain Ahmed Abdi Godane or neutralize him, then exfil the target area. The primary extract route was by helo extraction near a defensible LZ south of the target area. The secondary extract was back out to sea.
Overhead surveillance by an RQ-170 Sentinel drone would provide a live video feed to the command center back at MacDill and help give the Naval Special Warfare operators on the beach a high degree of situational awareness via radio. What the Sentinel video showed now was troubling. There were more personnel between the insertion point and the objective than normal. Within the walled compound itself, no less than eight hot targets could be seen, some of them milling around from target to target as if they were spreading information. Outside, there were more than ten hot spots between the insertion point at the beach and the objective. The insertion would almost certainly involve contact earlier than they planned.
A common feature of operations in this region is that its difficult to tell who is a combatant and who is not from overhead surveillance. The hot spot on the drone feed may be a fisherman rigging his boat to go out at first light, or an insurgent walking a security perimeter armed with an automatic weapon and grenades. Until the assault team got eyes on they would not know from the drone feed. They didn’t have to wait to see to find out.
The insurgents initiated contact with one man firing a single round at one of the SEALs as he moved to a concealed position across the beach to establish the flanking position. The single round alerted every other sentry. The SEAL’s weapons were suppressed. When another assault team member put two rounds into the insurgent it didn’t make enough noise to be heard back at the compound a couple hundred meters away. Nonetheless everyone in the compound was alerted by the single shot, then the silence. Now they were coming outside the wall.
The assault team worked an “L” shaped hasty ambush on the objective, both teams directing controlled fire toward targets they could see. When the volume of returning fire began to increase the SEAL assault team leader radioed for a pair of Viper gunships from an assault ship orbiting off the coast to swing inland for fire support.
The Viper gunships, an upgraded version of the AH-1 Cobra helicopter, overflew the target from the ocean. They banked hard and attacked facing back out to sea to avoid collateral damage from their guns. When the rounds from the AH-1Z Viper ‘s 20 mm cannon hit the compound the result was like cracking open a hornet’s nest. The pilot and gunner could see personnel and vehicles scatter through their Thales Top Owl helmet imagery system. White streaks showed the path of gunfire reaching into the dark to find the assaulters.
Special operations is a fragile craft with a courageous heritage. But the reality is lightly armed men are flung against sometimes heavily fortified targets in inferior numbers. Their primary advantage is speed and violence of action. If their objective is compromised before it can be overwhelmed their chances of success evaporate by the split second. The SEAL assault force commander on the beach knew this well, having operated on both sides of this double-edged sword for a decade. He knew he had men inland a few hundred meters who risked being cut off from the sea extraction route and that securing a landing zone for extraction was, at best, an iffy proposition now.
The assault was compromised before it began. He signaled for mission abort and emergency extraction.
This contingency was well drilled. The beach fire team put 40 mm grenade fire on the target while the inland team broke contact, peeling back toward the sand and the sea. Each man covered the next in a modified version of the classic peel maneuver to break contact. The Vipers overflew the target at high speed and low altitude, this time flying inland and banking left or south, the opposite direction as before, then paralleling the beach on a gun run to cover the SEALs.
Only twenty-five minutes after the first assault element crossed the beach the team was back in the water as their assault boats raced back inland to recover them. After a twenty-minute swim to the east and south the recovery boats spotted the infrared strobes of the assault teams and the recovery was completed. The Vipers left their orbit along the beach just before the SEALs were picked up off shore and the assault force collapsed back out to sea as the sun lit the horizon an angry orange. It would be hours or even days until U.S. assets would know if the target had been compromised in the raid.
The raid on Baraawe to capture Ahmed Abdi Godane did not go as planned. It also was not a failure. While the primary objective was not achieved it may have killed or wounded Godane. If not, it sent a clear message to Godane and his men: The U.S. will cross the beach to get you before you can get us. Regardless of the results on the beach that night in Baraawe that message was sent and received loud and clear.
10:58 Local (15:58 UTC), Monday, 7 October 2013, Administrative Offices, Triple Five Group, Mall of the Americas, Bloomington, Minnesota, United States.
“We’ll have teams of agents operating undercover all the way from the parking lots to the inside of the mall itself.” The FBI agent told Bob Davis. “We need to put some of our people under cover as store employees and mall workers over the weekend too. Prior to the weekend we’ll be installing some additional surveillance equipment outside and inside the mall. We’re pretty sure we know what we’re looking for and this surveillance should prevent any operatives from gaining access to the mall.”
Davis thought he should be reassured. The thought of installing security checkpoints at the entrance and exit to the mall was unthinkable. It would ruin business and attract the wrong kind of media. This softer approach seemed much less… obtrusive. He hoped it was enough. He noticed his hand shake again.
By Tom Demerly for MILTECHREV.com
There are three likely options for a U.S. punitive strike on Syria in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons:
Option 1 is the predictable Tomahawk cruise missile strike. It would likely be launched from the specially equipped USS Stout (DDG-55), the USS Mahan (DDG-72), the USS Ramage (DDG-61), the USS Gravely (DDG-107) and the USS Barry (DDG-933) as they cruise the Mediterranean off the Syrian coast. They would strike the confirmed chemical weapon storage sites with some of their 300+ precision guided UGM-109E Tomahawk Block IV Land Attack Missiles once accurate targeting coordinates (supplied by the Israelis among other assets) are uploaded to the missiles. The destruction will likely be complete and, from a U.S. casualty exposure perspective, antiseptic.
Option 2 is a precision air strike carried out by B-2 Spirit bombers launched (possibly) from Whiteman AFB in the U.S. and supported by French aircraft and assets. This is a complex option for a number of logistical and perceptive reasons. It exposes the expensive B-2’s and their crews to a long flight from Missouri. The mission would require multiple mid-air refuelings along with exposure to risk over the target area.
The B-2 Spirits of the 509th Bomb Wing may be forward deployed closer to the region, at Diego Garcia for instance, as they were to the Philippines during the recent North Korean crisis. That said, B-2’s launched from Whiteman AFB were recently used for precision strikes against Libya. On March 19, 2011, three B-2s of the 509th Bomb Wing struck 45 targets including the airfield at Ghardabiya, Libya. Bomb damage assessment photos showed hardened aircraft shelters at that base were precisely targeted and destroyed by the B-2’s.
The concern with using B-2’s isn’t so much that the Syrians could shoot one down, although their Soviet style integrated air defense network is formidable, it is the complexity of a B-2 raid. A B-2 raid on Syria from Whiteman AFB would likely be over 25 hours in duration. It would cover 12,000+ non-stop flying miles. A benefit of a cruise missile strike compared to B-2’s is, if a Tomahawk missile crashes, no one gets a visit from a chaplain. If a B-2 and its crew are lost that is two terrible messages to deliver and billions in lost technology and training.
Option 3 is the wild card.
A combined French/U.S. special operations team would use intelligence gathered in the previous months by a number of nations, including Israel. The combined task force would infiltrate Syria from the north via land- likely using trucks. They would assault and capture the chemical weapons storage facility with tactical and rotary wing air support, collecting video of the weapons cache- the “smoking gun”for later distribution to news networks . The world would see the verification. The team would perform a match of the stored chemical weapons against those used in the attacks on the Syrian rebels and civilians. There would be minimal exposure to Syrian casualties, good guys and bad, an intact “smoking gun” of captured chemical weapons and a gold star for an administration already renowned for its creativity.
There is no perfect option. Option 1 seems politically antiseptic except for the problem that attacking a chemical weapons cache with cruise missiles risks disbursing the very weapons they are sent to destroy. The US could unwittingly create its own chemical attack. There is also the issue of verification. Tomahawks would make deep, smoking, contaminated craters that could be spun in any number of ways; that there was nothing there, that the strikes spread the weapons even further, that it was, in fact, a pharmaceutical research facility or even that the Tomahawks had carried the gas residue into the target area themselves.
Option 2 is so close to option 1 the line between them is blurred. There is the additional exposure of US aircraft being over Syria. Not that there is much concern over Assad’s forces shooting down a B-2, but more that one may have an in- flight emergency and go down anywhere in the region. Messy. Complex. Same problems as Option 1.
Then there is option 3.
There is a saying that if your favorite tool is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. The President has used this hammer before, and hit the nail on the head. The Bin Laden raid was a similar affair. It wasn’t enough to antiseptically dispatch the target with drones or stealth bombers Bill Clinton style. There needed to be a “body”, a “smoking gun”, although hopefully not literally smoking in this instance. Like the Bin Laden raid, there needs to be an airtight case that the chemical weapons seized are the ones used to kill hundreds s of Syrian rebels and civilians. There needs to be irrefutable proof.
The hypothetical play out:
In a three-hour meeting on Friday evening at the White House, Option 3 won. A ninety-minute phone call between the U.S. President and British Prime Minister David Cameron put the requisite parties in touch, and the required wheels turning. Parliament voted the British out, the French were still in.
Planning for Option 3 began at Headquarters; United States Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Florida. Directives were issued. The units involved were sent into isolation for planning. The U.S. Army and the Navy had maintained a WMD special operations response capability since 9/11. They had deployed operationally several times, mostly in Iraq for WMD recovery. Their commanders brainstormed ideas using existing mission templates for this contingency. It only took an hour to flush out a viable plan by comparing templates to intel. Thirty hours later the assets were in motion. A key part of the plan was to strike while the news cycle still carried the photos of dead Syrian children on their front pages. In the Internet age the public has a short memory for horror.
The U.S. special operations component of the mission would remain entirely classified, as it usually did except in the case of Operation Neptune Spear, which made for darn good Hollywood and bookstore fodder. No one would ever know the details of U.S. ground involvement in this operation, now internally dubbed “Operation Specific Scalpel”. As far as the media was concerned this was a joint operation between a hastily assembled coalition, the Syrian rebels and with “assistance and support” from the U.S. and France.
Israeli intelligence said the missiles used in the mass attack came from the Adra Industrial City complex to the Northeast of Damascus. In an attempt to maintain maximum unattributability Assad’s special chemical strike units had used an indigenously developed short-range attack missile. The Israelis estimated its maximum range to be no more than 30 kilometers.
The plan was simple. The U.S. and French Counter WMD Special Operations team would covertly infiltrate Syria using trucks from Turkey. They would drive south toward the target in Adra where they would dismount and begin the assault. The objective was not to destroy the chemical weapon storage facility in Adra but to capture it intact and turn it over to a joint Free Syrian security team who would then grant access to chief chemical weapons inspector Ake Sellstrom’s team via UN disarmament chief Angela Kane.
“Special Operations” are called that because there is always a creative element to them. They don’t fit molds or mission templates exactly. This operation had a lot of sharp edges. Any op involving chemical weapons had an ominous aspect to it.
The assault team decided it would not use protective chemical suits. The suits would not facilitate the need to appear as indigenous personnel. The intelligence suggested they were attacking a storage facility, and that the chemical weapons would be “safed” or not assembled in their delivery state yet since it was dangerous even to store them in that state.
The trucks would deploy the assault team around the perimeter of the storage compound. The assault would open with precision shooters neutralizing guards, vehicles and even attempting to breech locks with their .50 caliber sniper rifles.
Under the cover of the sniper/spotters, four assault teams would approach the facility, one from each side. To prevent a “Mexican firing squad” of deadly crossfire only one assault element would push through the target, from the high ground to the north, breeching the fence line with bolt cutters and breeching charges and then fanning out into the rows of storage buildings while the surrounding snipers provided what overwatch they could. Once the facility was seized the supporting international units would insert via helicopter. Included in their charges would be weapons investigators to verify the presence of the weapons and “fingerprint” the chemicals. They would also take possession of the unique delivery rockets from the U.S. commandos who seized the target.
As news of the seizure by the United Nations forces hit the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and MSNBC the U.S. team would already be extracting back to Lebanon and back to the ships they deployed from.
By Tom Demerly for MILTECHREV.com
You’ve seen posts on Facebook about the new F-35 Lightening II Joint Strike Fighter contending it’s a “failure”, “a waste”, “damaging to the environment” and even that “F-35 Basing is a Racial Injustice: New Americans and people of color are disproportionately harmed.” The public vitriol surrounding the F-35 program eclipses any previous defense program.
The discussion begs the question, is the F-35:
A. A costly boondoggle spun as a super plane by the Pentagon “old boy network”?
B. The next ultra-weapons system that will render nation-users invincible?
C. A combat aircraft at the beginning of a typically difficult development program?
The reality is “C”.
Another reality is the F-35 is the first major weapons system to do combat on the battlefield of social media. Social media is a great equalizer among combatants. All you need is a laptop and “friends” to fight a battle with the biggest defense contractors on earth. Whether you are Lockheed or Larry Smith the anti-F-35 activist, every opinion on social media is 800 x 600.
If you add some historical context to the development of military aircraft you see daunting realities. Firstly, the F-35 is actually doing quite well for such an ambitious project. In fact, some of the criticism for what has been described as “delays” may actually be the F-35 program’s primary drawback: too much caution. Partially because the magnifying glass of public opinion has focused so much heat on the F-35 the program has ground slowly ahead with more than the typical degree of caution.
Let’s look at some previous military aircraft development programs and think about how they would fare under “trial by Facebook”.
In WWII my father was a draftsmen for Boeing Aircraft in Seattle, Washington at “Plant 2” near the Duwamish River. His first project was drawing a quickly conceived update to the B-17 Flying Fortress: a chin turret with two forward facing .50 caliber guns. The first eight versions of the B-17 lacked adequate guns to defend themselves from a frontal attack. German pilots quickly learned to attack the B-17 from high and head-on, or “Twelve O’clock High”. The results were catastrophic. Early B-17 crews attacking Germany had better odds of dying than surviving before completing their required 25 missions. In fact, more aircrews from the Allied 8th Air Force died over Europe than all of the Marines killed in the Pacific in WWII. Today the B-17 is remembered as a “great aircraft”. How would Facebook pundits have treated the first eight versions of the B-17 with a record like that?
My dad was transferred to a top secret project working on a super bomber that would fly too high to shoot down and carry a larger bomb load than the B-17. It was the B-29 Superfortress, a project so secret he wasn’t allowed to tell my mom what he was working on. The B-29 delivered the only nuclear weapons used in combat. It is largely credited with ending the war in the Pacific. But the B-29 was a difficult and dangerous aircraft to operate. It used four Wright R-3350 engines that were prone to overheating, and catching fire. With a full bomb load while straining to get to altitude it was common for the B-29 to have engine fires. The B-29 killed a lot of U.S. flight crews. The engine problem, combined with navigation and bombing accuracy problems encountered from an undiscovered high altitude wind phenomenon called the “jet stream” forced Maj. General Curtis LeMay to order B-29’s to attack Japan from low altitude, well within range of Japanese anti-aircraft guns. To carry more bombs LeMay told his bomber crews to remove their defensive guns and leave their gunners behind, a request some crews ignored according to the definitive account of B-29 operations, Mission to Tokyo by author Robert F. Dorr. What would people have said about the B-29 program on Facebook?
More recently, and in an oddly similar program to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, in 1961 former Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara asked for a feasibility study on the development of one aircraft that could perform low-level, supersonic penetration bombing missions into the former Soviet Union and also serve as a fleet defense interceptor launching from aircraft carriers for the U.S. Navy. The result was the General Dynamics F-111. The F-111 was never adopted by the navy and served with mixed results in the Air Force. Initial F-111 operations in Vietnam were a catastrophe, with 50% of the aircraft being lost and the Vietnam deployment being halted. The one shining moment for the F-111 came during Operation El Dorado Canyon under the Reagan administration, when F-111’s attacked Libyan airfields in retaliation for Libyan sponsored terrorist attacks on U.S. servicemen. A version of the F-111 never initially envisioned, the EF-111 Raven electronic warfare aircraft, did serve successfully in the early Gulf war but, in general, the entire F-111 program fell well short of its original multi-role, multi-service concept.
These are three examples of aircraft that had major problems eclipsing anything the F-35 faces. But that was a long time ago. We’re not in a major air war with a similarly equipped air force. Technology has come a long way. Engineering tools exist today that were unheard of even in the 1970’s when the current generation of operational combat aircraft were first conceived. And those are some of the reasons the F-35 has been treated unfairly.
When cost estimates for the F-35 were originally drafted much of the development program included the new generation of virtual prototyping and testing. Computational Fluid Dynamics replaced early prototype flight-testing. Finite Elemental Analysis replaced actual strain gauge developmental analysis. The business model for the F-35 included development in the virtual space spread over international economies of many user-nations. Each of these factors left opportunities for a host of variables to act on the program and drive costs up. Some of those variables, such as the European economic crisis, have become a reality.
Another reality is the need for all combat aircraft to evolve significantly over their life span. The F-16, FA-18, AH-1 Cobra and AH-64 Apache are just a few legacy aircraft flying today that have undergone such sweeping updates they only vaguely resemble their original versions. The F-16 now has conformal fuel pallets, different control surfaces and improved sensors installed. One version of the FA-18 has gotten larger wings, new intakes, improved avionics and become an entirely new aircraft called the EF-18 Growler. And then there is the B-52 bomber, the plane that just won’t die. The B-52’s in operation now are older than their flight crews. They were based on lessons Boeing learned from- you guessed it- the B-17 and B-29 development programs my dad worked on in WWII. And the B-52 is still flying. People post photos of them on Facebook now, talking about how amazing an aircraft it is. Social media wasn’t around for the bumpy development years.
The F-35 wasn’t developed in the middle of a world war, but it is being fielded in one of the most volatile periods in history, when enemies use airliners as attack aircraft and superpowers are fielding a new generation of combat aircraft like the Russian T-50 and the Chinese J-20. While it’s unlikely Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad and their radical splinter organizations will field a new- or any- combat aircraft the ability to command the airspace over insurgent controlled territory has kept their doctrine in the Stone Age. It has also helped prevent another 9/11.
The F-35 won’t bring peace to the world. It isn’t the final answer- no single combat aircraft is. It’s likely not even the best combat aircraft ever. But it is a viable next generation multi-role combat aircraft with a degree of information sharing and mission flexibility that can’t be retrofitted to aging current aircraft systems. It is also designed to fight a war we don’t know everything about yet: the next one. And while uncertainty, at a minimum, swirls around the F-35 on the vaunted spaces of social media the one thing that is certain is, that next war will come.
By Tom Demerly for MILTECHREV.com.
NSW Publications has released a comprehensive new reference book on all aspects of United States Navy Special Operations titled United States Naval Special Warfare by Greg F. Mathieson Sr. and David Gatley. The book is a large wardroom-table size 13.5 X 10 inch (35.5 cm X 25.5 cm) and is 403 pages long, weighing a hulking 8 pounds. It contains hundreds of new, never published, photos in addition to the original text.
The Navy SEAL book category is a crowded one with Amazon.com returning 4,389 results for a search on the book topic “Navy SEALs”. What sets United States Naval Special Warfare apart is its freshness, accuracy and scope. Previous large format photo books on Naval Special Warfare have contained generic, public release official U.S. Navy photos usually seen in numerous publications. United States Naval Special Warfare uses photography we’ve never seen in previous books or publications. Even the photos of historical, older SEAL training and operations in United States Naval Special Warfare are original.
Co-Author/Photographer Greg E. Mathieson Sr. served over a decade in the U.S. Army prior to becoming an expert in defense photography. He is the founder of MAI Photo News Agency, a journalistic resource that specializes in military and tactical photojournalism. Mathieson has published photos in every major, mainstream news publication. His relationship with each branch of the military and his experience as a member of the U.S. Army provide him with a degree of technical insight that, arguably, no other photojournalist currently enjoys. Mathieson’s photos bring this book to life as an engaging and fascinating insight that serves as a strong visual reference.
Co-author David Gatley owns three Pulitzer Prize nominations and has 35 years experience as a professional photographer. He is also a former RAND Corporation analyst for military weapons systems. Gatley owns six tours in the Middle East with deployed combat units. He has also done commercial photography for General Dynamics, Lockheed, ITT Defense and has provided imagery of sensitive material to his clients.
A big part of the appeal of United States Naval Special Warfare is the scope of the subject matter. Topics given short-shift in previous books are examined in detail in Mathieson and Gatley’s book. Of special note are new photos and detailed insights into submersible operations and SEAL delivery vehicles past and present.
The book also devotes considerable photography and insights into the Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman (SWCC) branch of Naval Special warfare with new insights into their littoral boat technology, operations and the training and history of their crews. While much has been written about the SEAL teams themselves, there is very little available reference material on the Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman units.
Most gallery style military books are primarily photo references but Naval Special Warfare backs up the great, original photography with accurate, detailed and in some cases, previously unavailable insights into Naval Special Warfare. Additionally, the text is well written and engaging. Nailing both the photography and the writing in a book that reports on a secretive society is a high bar to clear, and Naval Special Warfare sets the new standard for books on this subject.
Finally, if you enjoy well made and archival, library quality paper books the construction of Naval Special Warfare is impressive. The giant book uses a real “case binding” with beautiful quality case cloth on the board outer of the binding with nicely done shoulders on the signatures of the book binding. This is a historical grade binding and printing that can serve as an empirical research resource in libraries.
The cover of the book features a deeply and intricately embossed insignia of the Naval Special Warfare Command and the SEAL qualification badge, the Trident. It looks like something you’d see on a flag pole outside the Phil H. Bucklew Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, California.
Every aspect of Naval Special Warfare is covered in detail and with currency and authority in Naval Special Warfare. This book is the start point for any literary survey of Naval Special Operations and will be an important title in any collection of books on Naval Special Warfare.
The book is currently sold directly from NSW Publications LLC for a “Printers Promotional Price” of $65.00 with an advertised “List Price” of $98.00.
By Tom Demerly for MILTECHREV.com
The second tactical apparel innovator we were so impressed by is Vertx. Vertx discreet tactical operator pants are the very best low profile tactical pants we’ve used. The fit, fabric, pattern, pockets and overall features are superb. It’s the tactical pant you can wear without looking… too tactical.
The gem in Vertx’s booth was their new Vertx Multicam Smock. This new version of the classic parachutist’s smock uses new patterning, fabrics and design details to reinvent the tactical smock category. This completely replaces the conventional field jacket, merging an active insulation layer with a shell garment that spans a wide range of temperatures and climates. The Vertx Multicam Smock packs so much technology and design innovation into one garment we are devoting an article to its review (coming soon).
We have one final update in our SHOT show 2012 Series here on MILTECHREV.com.
In our first round of SHOT Show 2012 coverage for MILTECHREV.com we look at new footwear innovations and some proven styles shown at the SHOT show in Las Vegas, Nevada from January 17-20th, 2012 at the Sands Convention Center.
One of the most impressive boots in Danner’s 2012 line-up is the Rivot TFX. Rivot TFX is designed for the U.S. Marine Corps as well as other military unit, law enforcement and tactical outdoor use. The Rivot TFX is U.S. made and features a full Gore-Tex sock liner. The upper is 1000 denier nylon with Space Frame Webbing reinforcement built-in that is reminiscent of traditional jungle boot design. The lower portion of the boot is waterpoof rough-out leather that is durable and non-reflective.
There is an additional non Gore-Tex version of the Danner Rivot TFX sold in men’s and women’s sizes. Both the Gore-Tex and non Gore-Tex boots are built on the successful Danner Terra Force-X platform in the midsole over a Vibram Rivot TFX outsole with a unique tread pattern that allows “increased pivotal movements”. The boot meets AR 670-1 uniform requirements for “Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia”