US Special Operations Command prepares for aviation upgrades

A member of the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron observes a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan. (Photo: DoD)

U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has big plans to upgrade its aviation capabilities. Just before 2018 ended, the Department of Defense (DoD) awarded two separate contracts to Boeing to upgrade and maintain America’s special operations helicopter fleet.

The first contract Boeing was awarded was a $1.1 billion, seven-year contract to maintain SOCOM’s current fleet of MH-6 Little Birds, MH-47 Chinooks, and MH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. The aerospace company will provide support program management, field service representatives, and sustained engineering. Furthermore, Boeing will ensure a steady stream of spare parts. Most of the work will take place at Boeing’s facility in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, which also happens to be where the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) is headquartered.

The second contract Boeing received is smaller but more specialized. The aerospace company will produce an indefinite number of Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB) kits to upgrade the two variants of the Little Bird helicopter (AH-6 is the attack version and MH-6 is the troop-transport version). The MELB upgrades were first adopted earlier this decade. The kit provides an improved six-blade main rotor and four-blade tail rotors. It also offers an enhanced tail boom and rotor drive system, a chambered vertical fin, and an upgraded tail stinger. Further, MELB kits provide more efficient and accessible door openings and a better landing gear. The contract is worth $48 million and is expected to be fulfilled by December 2026. It is worth noting that this was a sole source procurement, meaning SOCOM didn’t run a competition to determine which company offered the best upgrade and price.

The AH-6 is a light attack helicopter. Flown by the 160th SOAR, the chopper specializes in armed reconnaissance, direct action, and close air support. It can be outfitted with a variety of weapons, including the GAU-19 .50 caliber Gatling gun, M134 Minigun, and Hellfire anti-tank or Stinger anti-air missiles. The MH-6 is the unarmed version. Its small size and extreme maneuverability make it an ideal aerial platform to surgically insert and extract SOF units from targets. It can even carry motorcycles. It has two pods where troops can sit.

These are the latest contracts in a long list of SOF aviation awards Boeing has received lately. Earlier in 2018, Boeing won a $122 million contract to continue producing the MH-47G Chinook helicopter. The MH-47G is the heavy-lift workhorse of the 160th SOAR. The steady stream of Chinooks that Boeing continues to build underlines the enduring importance of SOF units to American military doctrine.

What do Navy SEALs think about fellow SEALs who cash in on the brand post-service?

Retired Navy SEAL Matthew Bissonnette who took part in Operation Neptune Spear when Osama bin Laden was killed
Retired Navy SEAL Matthew Bissonnette (Photo: Wiki)

Bad news. At DEVGRU (Team 6 to the uninformed) they have a Grave Stone / Rock of Shame. You do something atrocious or sellout… your name is on it. You are henceforth banned from coming to the command ever again including reunions.

Author: Jason Murray (Current Enterprise Architect, Former SEAL)

I know many of the guys who do the circuit (I will allow them to remain unnamed) and they disgust me. It has gotten to the point where I am sick of hearing “Seals.” It used to be a badge of honor (even if you’re quiet about it, it comes up…job interviews especially) but its gotten to a point where I feel it is borderline shameful. Just a few guys ruining it all for the majority. You know what, I will name one: Jocko Willink. He is famous for his stint at Team 3 as Commander of Bruiser—supposedly the most decorated of Iraq…blah, blah, blah. I knew him as an enlisted trainer at Team 1 when I was stationed there. He was a tool then and he is a bigger tool now. His interviews with captions like, “How a SEAL Thinks” “Typical Personality of a SEAL” “Epic Speech About Discipline from a Combat Proven SEAL” “I Can Do Anything But Be in a Room With Kryptonite!” Makes me want to punch my monitor. I do specialized work in Qatar (IT/Intelligence) and most of my comrades in the company where I work (but not on my project) are former DELTA guys. We bust each other’s balls all the time: me on them about Army and them on me about Navy. It’s usually a pretty good quid pro quo but the final dagger is ‘Jocko’. I have no response when they pull out the Jocko card.

Look, people, we’re not that special. Yeah, training sucks. Yeah, lives are on the line. But it’s something like (guessing) how movie stars exist. From our angle, we only see clips of champagne and caviar (cue music from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous) but in the end, its a day to day job. You don’t feel special because you are surrounded by tons of people who have done exactly what you have. No big deal, really. Don’t look up to a Seal because they are a Seal. Some are great guys—most are great guys—but there are a fair amount of big-headed douches. Ask questions…sure. Buy a beer for em…sure (we are veterans after all). But for God’s sake…do NOT revere or idolize any of us. We wipe our butts the same as anyone else. Some can fight…most cannot. Some can pick up women…most cannot. Some are smart…most are not (at least exceptionally high IQs).

I am not bashing my Brothers in Arms. I love them. I was one for crying out loud. Not knocking anyone just being realistic. Being disciplined, calm and focused on warfare are traits which are incredibly commendable so I don’t want to completely knock over the Seal Jenga tower. But, and most would agree, I do not nor will ever accept idolization. These guys are ruining it for us silent warriors. I only write this because I am sick and tired of this constant deification of Seals—usually perpetuated by a small group of Seals. Do you want to be an elitist? Take care of your wives, girlfriends, kids, and family. Love them, respect them, do the daily grind. Pay your taxes. Help an old lady in need across the street. Donate to the needy. Assist at your church. Read your Bible. Pray diligently. Whatever…that is who deserves the pat on the back.

God bless friends.

P.S. Luttrell is in the clear (and Kyle) because the Navy approached them about writing books. They didn’t seek it out. Big difference. Their names remain good in the Teams.

* The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Spec Ops Magazine.

More than a rifle: US Army eyes new automatic rifle that fires with pressure equivalent to tank

Troopers assigned to 2nd Squadron, 14th Calvary Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division provide security during a combined arms live-fire exercise at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, May 15, 2018. (Photo: 1st Lt. Ryan DeBooy/Army)

A new Army assault rifle will tear through any body armor with the pressure of a battle tank, strike from unprecedented ranges, and withstand the rigors of weather, terrain and soldier use, Army Chief of Staff. Gen. Mark Milley told The Military Times.

The new 6.8mm rifles, which are expected to be in use by 2022, will offer major improvements in capabilities over the decades-old M16 and M4 weapons, the Army claims.

The “Next Generation Squad Weapon program,” is an Army initiative but has had input from Marines and special operations forces, according to The Times. Milley has described it as “better than any weapon on earth today, by far,” and a “pretty impressive gun.”

The so-called Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) will “weigh less, shoot farther, and pack more punch than the service’s existing infantry weapons,” Col. Geoffrey A. Norman told Task & Purpose.

The goal, Norman said, is to equip soldiers with rifles that fire “a small bullet at the pressure equivalent to what a tank would fire.”

Norman cited the Army’s shift from the urban environments of Iraq and Syria to the open terrain of Afghanistan and “near-peer threats like Russia.”

“For the past 10 or 15 years, we’ve been really focused on the requirement of lethal effects against unprotected targets,” Norman said. “Now we’re looking at near-peer threats like Russia and others. We need to have lethal effects against protected targets and we need to have requirements for long-range lethality in places like Afghanistan, where you’re fighting from mountaintop to mountaintop over extended ranges.”

The upgrades in soldiers’ weaponry will necessarily require changes in training, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt told The Times.

What makes a tank destroyer different from a tank?

US Confirms Nine American Abrams Tanks in Hands of Iranian Militias

Tanks are designed to fight every threat while Tank Destroyers are purpose-built machines for the sole purpose of destroying enemy tanks, in basics.

Tank destroyers were designed purely for the purpose of destroying enemy tanks. Their main distinguishing features include the majority of them lacking turrets and carrying much larger and more powerful guns. The larger and heavier armament is one of the main reasons why they tend to lack a turret, having gotten rid of it during the design. This also has the added benefits of reducing the profile of the vehicle, thus increasing concealment.

Obviously, there were Tank Destroyers with turrets, most notably the American TDs, but the majority lacked a turret. This, however, came at the cost of being able to mount smaller weaponry with the largest being a 90mm on the M36.

German Jadgpanther - What makes a tank destroyer different from a tank?
German Jadgpanther, a heavy tank destroyer (Photo: Wiki)

Oddly enough, tank destroyers can also include AFVs that aren’t necessarily “tank-like”, such as the American M3 GMC, which was basically a truck with an anti-tank gun mounted on it.

It should also be noted that the concept of the Tank Destroyer pretty much died out by the end of the Second World War. This is primarily due to the rise of a universal tank or the Main Battle Tank concept.

Tanks, on the other hand, are designed to combat everything. In WW2 this wasn’t always the case but from the Cold War onward the Main Battle Tank(which meant a tank capable of dealing with all threats) concept became standard. This concept was able to be utilized due to the rapid technological advancement, that allowed for heavier armor and armament, while still being able to maintain decent mobility.

It was primarily the Main Battle Tank concept that killed the Tank Destroyers. MBTs were now able to do everything Tank Destroyers could while being more versatile and better able to support infantry. Other factors that killed the concept of the Tank Destroyer included the fielding of ATGMs(Anti-Tank Guided Missiles) which could do the same job while being much more reliable and cheaper as well.

Tanks are versatile machines designed to take on any kind of threat, while Tank Destroyers are inflexible machines that specialize at killing enemy tanks resulting in them being far less capable of dealing with other threats.

Why The Infantry Company Is No Larger Than 150

10th Mountain Division during patrol
Soldiers from the U.S. Army's Bravo Company, 1 battalion, 32nd Infantry, of the 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, New York, patrol in Pengram district, Logar province October 14, 2009. REUTERS/Nikola Solic (AFGHANISTAN CONFLICT MILITARY)

150 is about as large a group of people as the human brain can handle in personal relationships, notes a British military commentator Tom Ricks for Task & Purpose.

The story of the importance of stories begins not in leadership, but in anthropology. Robin Dunbar is a British anthropologist, evolutionary psychologist and a specialist in primate behaviour. In the 1990s he identified a correlation between the size of the pre-frontal cortex in ape species and the size of the social groups each species could maintain. If you took the size of an ape’s brain, you could calculate the size of its social group size. This number – the maximum social group size for a given species, based on pre-frontal cortex size – became known as the Dunbar Number.

Hence the limit on the size of an infantry company, he says, as well as on Stone Age farming villages and new religious sects.

Charged with crime and stuck in the brig, a Navy SEAL vows to fight on

Navy SEAL Chief Edward "Eddie" Gallagher (Photo: Navy Times)

Charged a few months ago with multiple war crimes in connection with the 2017 stabbing death of a detainee in Iraq, Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward “Eddie” Gallagher vows to fight for his freedom.

The 19-year Navy veteran has hired two high-powered criminal defense attorneys who specialize in military law — Colby Vokey of Dallas and Phillip Stackhouse of San Diego — and he’s exploring a civil rights lawsuit against Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents for alleged misconduct linked to his Sept. 11 arrest and detention in San Diego’s Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar.

An Article 32 hearing with a special military judge sent from Florida will begin to sift through the evidence against Gallagher on Nov. 14 in San Diego, according to Stackhouse.

The judge will then recommend which charges should be forwarded or withdrawn by an admiral who could convene a general court-martial. Gallagher has been accused of murder, aggravated assault, obstruction of justice and professional misconduct.

“While the burden is very, very low to send the charges to court, Chief Gallagher will, like he has on every combat deployment, fight. Fight to clear his name, fight for justice, and fight to expose the lies that are being made against him,” said Stackhouse in a written statement emailed to Navy Times.

Multiple criminal defense attorneys, senior military commanders in the Navy and several special warfare units told Navy Times that the ongoing war crimes probe isn’t focused solely on Gallagher but includes more than a dozen SEALs who also deployed between 2017 and early 2018 near what then was Islamic State-held Mosul, Iraq.

NCIS agents are not only probing a number of serious allegations involving the death of the detainee, but also images that allegedly depict SEALs posing with the body. They’re also exploring concerns about how Naval Special Warfare Group 1 officers and senior enlisted leaders handled the initial reports about war crimes and the internal investigation that followed in their wake, they say.

But the central question in Gallagher’s case is whether he and other SEALs rendered first aid to the wounded Islamic State fighter or if they executed him.

Because the military judge has sealed most evidence in the case and has placed a gag order on all parties, Stackhouse said he can’t address specific allegations or delve into most details of the NCIS probe.

“But what we’ve learned in our independent investigation into these allegations is that crime simply didn’t happen,” he said.

Stackhouse traces the beginning of the NCIS investigation to April, while Gallagher was preparing to retire from the Navy and leave California for Florida.

He’s asked military prosecutors for a copy of the June search warrant, obtained through a federal magistrate in San Diego, that allowed NCIS agents to search Gallagher’s residence in military housing in Point Loma, but they haven’t provided it yet.

“They held Chief Gallagher at NCIS, while they knew his wife was at work,” Stackhouse said. “NCIS laid siege to the house in the morning hours ― weapons drawn — and inexplicably traumatized Chief Gallagher’s young sons by pulling them out of the house at gunpoint in their underwear.”

Stackhouse said the NCIS probe culminated on Sept. 11, when agents arrested Gallagher at Camp Pendleton’s Intrepid Spirit Center.

Opened on April 4, the base facility aids service members recovering from traumatic brain injury. Stackhouse said that Gallagher suffers from multiple head injuries incurred during his combat duty overseas.