Category Archives: Afghanistan

“We won’t forget about Irregular Warfare, we promise”

The DOD last week made a big deal of putting out a 12-page summary of the “Irregular Warfare Annex to the National Defense Strategy.”

The IW Annex details that irregular warfare endures, even as the military pivots from two decades of counter-insurgency and nation (re)building to near-peer Great Power Competition, and that the Pentagon will keep IW skills sharp as “an enduring, economical contribution to America’s national security, and will remain an essential core competency of the U.S. Department of Defense.”

The paper goes on to detail that the American way of war in the past was to build COIN skills and asymmetric warfare assets when we needed it (see Seminole Wars, Plains Wars, Philippine pacification, Banana Wars, Vietnam, El Salvador/Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Iraq), then put it aside and essentially throw away the manual when we didn’t need it on a daily basis any longer, requiring the military to start from scratch the next time. In each case, the lost muscle memory had to be regained with blood.

“In short, the IW Annex is a road map for deterrence and provides off-ramps for the U.S. in options short of kinetic warfare,” said a DOD official in firm language via a related press release.

No, really guys, we mean it this time

Sgt. Maj. Raymond Hendrick (left), Asymmetric Warfare Group Adviser, explains specifics of the blast radius of the man-portable line charge system during a training exercise just outside of Forward Operating Base Zangabad, Afghanistan, Oct. 20, 2013. (U.S Army photo by Cpl. Alex Flynn)

And in pure DOD logic, the word also surfaced last week that the Army will be disbanding both the Asymmetric Warfare Group and the Rapid Equipping Force as it transitions from counterinsurgency operations to better concentrate on “multi-domain and large-scale combat operations.”

AWG, for those following along at home, was founded in 2006 to help the Army gain an edge in low-key COIN and hearts-and-minds type operations through learning lessons that could be applied quickly to simultaneously save Joes and ghost Tangos. Similarly, REF– formed in 2002 as the Desert Storm/38th Parallel-oriented Army was faced with a new war of movement against fast-moving groups of guys armed with nothing more advanced than AK47s, IEDs, and cell phones– was designed to get urgently needed capabilities such as UAV jammers and MRAPs into the field in 180 days or less.

Insert Benny Hill chase scene, here.

Point Stay Back

Canadian Army Sniper Arthur Godin of Le Régiment de la Chaudière (Mitrailleuses) taking aim from his hide in the interior of a building in Zutphen, Netherlands, on 7 April 1945, during the two-week fight for that city that only concluded on 12 April.

Godin is using an Enfield No. 4 Mk. I (T) sniper rifle with what looks to be a No. 32 3.5x scope, a combo that remained standard for marksmen in the British and Commonwealth forces into the 1960s when it was replaced by the L42A1, a rifle that was essentially the same thing but in 7.62 NATO rather than .303 and with better glass.

He is also using a tactic that was as valid in 1945 as it is today– keeping well away from an opening or loophole to hide his shape, muzzle flash, shadow, and optic reflection from enemy eyes.

Of course, Hollywood always wants to show the sniper hanging out of a window, framing themselves as an excellent target for counter-fire, because Hollywood. It is a sign of a rookie or someone playing at war.

For reference, see the famous video of the YPJ Syrian sniper, who learned that fire goes both ways if you are easily spotted.

As for the Régiment de la Chaudière, they trace their origins to 1812 and the defense of Canada against the invading Americans to the South. The only French-Canadian unit to hit the beach at Normandy on D-Day, they fought from Caen to Calais then across Holland and the Rhineland. Since 1946, they have been a reserve unit based in Quebec but have seen extensive service in Afghanistan. Their motto is Ære perennius (Stronger than bronze).

The Emperor’s Chambermaids: Happy 305th

Hayes, Michael Angelo, “The 14th. (or The King’s) Light Dragoons. Heavy marching order” (1840). Prints, Drawings, and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. 

Formed 22 July 1715 in southern England during the Jacobite rebellion by newly-appointed Brig. Gen. (later Lt.Gen) James Dormer as (surprise, surprise) Dormer’s Dragoons, the unit was baptized in fire at the Battle of Preston the same year, part of Dormer’s brigade, and went on to provide service in Ireland for 27 years before returning to Scotland in the ’45 Rebellion.

Redesignated the 14th Dragoons in 1751 (a decade after Dormer’s death), then the 14th Light Dragoons in 1776, by 1794 the regiment was saddle-deep in the various French Revolutionary/Napoleanic Wars that raged around the world for the next 21 years. At one point, the regiment was reduced to just 25 men. This saw the 14th fight in Haiti, Flanders, Germany, and Spain.

It was in the latter that the regiment, during the Battle of Vitoria in June 1813, the Dragoons captured a French baggage train that included such booty (wait for it) as a very nice silver chamberpot belonging to Joseph Bonaparte, brother Napoleon.

The relic, retained by the regiment, earned the regiment the wagging nickname of “The Emperor’s Chambermaids.” Photo via the KRH Trust 

Nonetheless, the unit continued to serve around the globe, getting licked by the Americans in the swamps of Chalmette outside of New Orleans in 1815, enduring extended service in India and Persia (after which they became the 14th Hussars), scrap in the Boer Wars where they helped relieve Ladysmith, then chase the Ottomans across Mesopotamia in the Great War, marching through Baghdad.

Following the shake-up in the British Army that came about after Ireland– where the 14th had served off and on over the years– became a Free State in 1922, the regiment was amalgamated with the younger (formed in 1858) 20th Hussars and became the 14th/20th Hussars, shifting back to Indian garrison.

Last mounted parade of the 14th/20th King’s Hussars, Lucknow, 1938. “In 1928 the 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars became the first cavalry regiment to mechanize, receiving Rolls-Royce and Lanchester armored cars. The other British cavalry regiments followed their lead and all were eventually mechanized by 1941.” Photo via National Army Museum NAM. 1963-09-106-1

Losing their horses in the 1930s, the regiment served during WWII in Iraq and Persia– where they had already fought at least twice before– and ended the war in Italy before being used to garrison the British occupation sector of Germany, where they had also been once upon a time.

Eventually becoming part of the British Army of the Rhine off and on during the Cold War– while dispatching units to Cyprus, Malaysia, Aden, and Northern Ireland. The 14th/20th paraded their tanks in Berlin in 1989 before redeploying back to the UK.

How about that digital pattern on the Hussar’s Chieftains?

After service in the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, the unit was amalgamated with The Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales’s Own) to become the King’s Royal Hussars, going on to serve in Bosnia in 1996 and 1997, Kosovo in 1999, go back to Iraq for like the 6th and 7th time in 2005 (Telic 6) and 2007 (Telic 10), and sent detachments to Afghanistan (Operation Herrick) in 2009 and 2012.

While in Bosnia, members of the King’s Royal Hussars patrolled on horseback, as shown by this shot of Hussars on very Dragoon-like mounted patrol alongside their Challenger tanks, Mrkonjic Grad, Bosnia, 1997. Photo by Richard Strickland, NAM. 2018-01-70-7

Today, despite a half dozen name changes and seeing the elephant in America, Africa, Asia and Europe dozens of times over the course of the past three centuries, the King’s Royal Hussars still have that damned Bonaparte chamberpot, dubbed “The Emperor” and even use it in regimental ceremonies.

“Today, the Commanding Officer traditionally asks officers to drink from the Emperor on Mess nights. It remains the most treasured piece of silver possessed by the Regiment,” notes the KRH Trust.

Speaking of their drinking habits, the Hussars made an epic troll video this month on how to have a nice brew-up while in a Challenger, in salute to U.S. Independence Day (leaving that old Battle of New Orleans thing unsaid).

The KRH, set to switch from Challengers to Ajax AFVs this year, is based at Tidworth Garrison.

Happy Turkey Day from Da Nang to Bagram

Official caption: TURKEY TIME—Lance Corporal Walter R. Billetdeoux (Johnstown, PA) takes a healthy bite from a turkey leg on Thanksgiving Day in Vietnam. Sitting in a foxhole on the front lines, just outside of Da Nang, the combat-clad Marine is enjoying his first hot meal in more than two weeks. LCpl Billetdeoux is a member of L Company, 3d Battalion, 9th Marines.

3m-1-142-65, III MAF, Da Nang, Vietnam, 26 Nov 1965, Photo By: Sgt W. Weih. Defense Dept Photo (Marine Corps) A186195

The more things change:

 

The 8mm Mauser AK

Apparently along the Afghan/Paki frontier, among the cottage industry of local gunsmiths who craft anything the market could want, AK variants chambered in 8mm Mauser are a thing.

Boom:

(Photo: Silah Report)

Via The Silah Report:

The AK can be had in various calibers from gun manufacturers and gun shops but this large caliber round is a mystery, why did the gunsmiths choose this round? The simple answer as with most questions is this; the 7.92 × 57 mm Mauser cartridge isn’t regulated like its 7.62 × 51 mm NATO counterpart, which is in use by the Pakistani military, and there were large stockpiles of the ammunition available when this rechambering was conceptualized.

Just wait till Century finds out about this…

More after the jump 

The Shok Valley sounds like a nice place to never go

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams was presented with the Medal of Honor at the White House on Wednesday. Williams earned the award for his actions in Shok Valley, Afghanistan, on April 6, 2008, while a weapons guy on an SF A-team, Operational Detachment Alpha 3336.

“It was kind of quiet, then all of a sudden everything exploded all at once – machine gun fire, some RPGs started going off. [The insurgents] had some pretty good shooters and a lot of people up there waiting for us.”

Originally recognized with the Silver Star, which was ugraded in September, he is still on active duty.

Retiring the Colours

“The Royal Fusiliers marching through the City of London in 1916” At the time, the Regimental Colour carried honours for “Namur, 1695,” “Martinique, 1809,” “Talavera,” “Busaco,” “Albuhera,” “Badajoz,” “Salamanca,” “Vittoria,” “Pyrenees,” “Orthes,” “Toulouse,” “Peninsula,” “Alma,” “Inkerman,” “Sevastopol,” “Kandahar, 1880,” “Afghanistan, 1879-80,” “Relief of Ladysmith,” “South Africa, 1899-1902.” Plate by Ernest Eggersun, via Regimental Nicknames and Traditions of the British Army 5th ed. London Gale & Polden. 1916

Today’s Royal Regiment of Fusiliers is a fairly new unit, only formed in 1968. However, it was amalgamated from at least four previous regiments (20th Foot/The Lancashire Fusiliers, 5th Foot/Northumberland Fusiliers, 7th Foot/The Royal Fusiliers/City of London Regiment, and 6th Foot/Royal Warwickshire Regiment) which dated back to as far as 1674.

The current colours Royal Regiment Of Fusiliers carry more than 40 honors from past campaigns, presented to the units in the Regiment’s lineage. (All photos: British Army)

Recently, the long-retired colours of the 2nd Battalion (carried in the Second Anglo-Afghan War 1880) and later 10th Battalion of the old Royal Fusiliers, having deteriorated to a point where dignified preservation was apparently no longer an option, were honorably burned and buried in the Royal Fusiliers Garden of Remembrance.

Moving forward, 3 October will be known in the Regiment as “Afghanistan Day” honoring the chain from 1880 to today, when the modern unit has been active in the same region, although with a different mission.

“The vibrant colours of the current Standards and Colours laid on the high altar in the church with the Royal Fusilier Victoria Crosses contrast sharply with the burnt remains of the Colours buried today. In the moving ceremony, enacted for the first time by the Regiment of Fusiliers, there is time to reflect on the bravery and service of the officers and men who have served through the Regiment’s history. The final, formal burial of old Colours which have decayed over the decades is still a rare event in modern-day soldiering.” noted the Army on Thursday.

Prowlin’ no more

Before they merged with Northrop in 1994, the old-school Grumman Corporation fielded some of the most iconic military– and specifically carrier– aircraft ever made in the 20th Century.

We are talking the F4F Wildcat (which the Brits used as the Martlet, their most common naval fighter of WWII), the Zero-busting F6F Hellcat, the briefly-loved F7F Tigercat, the F8F Bearcat (which the French continued to fly in Indochina and Algeria well into the jet age), the F9F Panther, F11 Tiger, and, of course, the F-14 Tomcat– last of the “cats.”

They just didn’t make fighters. They also produced the Cold War ASW king S-2 Tracker and the Yankee Station bomb truck that was the A-6 Intruder.

Sadly, all of the above have long since faded from the fleet. Other than a few ragtag IRIAF F-14s and some Taiwanese and Latin American S-2s, they aren’t even in the service of Third World countries.

And last week, the last armed Grumman combat aircraft used by the U.S. was put to bed.

First flown in 1968, the EA-6 Prowler was an A-6 that had been converted to be an “Electric Intruder” developed for the Marine Corps to replace its 1950s-era EF-10B Skyknights in electronic warfare missions. By 1971, they were flying over Vietnam with VAQ-129 flying from USS America (CV-66). Over the next 48 years, the plane matured and no carrier air boss would leave home without it. Not just an EW jam spreader, it could also target enemy radar sites and surface-to-air missile launchers in SEAD missions with high-speed anti-radiation missiles– more than 200 AGM-78 Standard ARM/AGM-88 HARMs were fired by Prowlers in combat over the years, with the first “Magnum” HARM warshot being against a Libyan SA-5 battery in Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986.

Later, in Iraq and Afghanistan, they even jammed the cell phone and garage door signals used to trigger IEDs.

No Prowler was ever lost in combat, although they have been in the thick of it over Vietnam, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Serbia, Afghanistan, Grenada and other points of conflict for a five-decade run.

In all, more than 20 Navy and Marine VAQ squadrons took to the sky in the flying jambox although just 170 of the aircraft were produced.

Now, replaced by the EA-18G Growler, the last Prowlers of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VMAQ) 2, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, have been put to pasture.

U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowlers assigned to Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VMAQ) 2, fly off the coast of North Carolina, Feb 28, 2019. VMAQ-2 is conducting its last flights prior to their deactivation on March 8, 2019. VMAQ-2 is a subordinate unit to Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Liam D. Higgins)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Liam D. Higgins)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Liam D. Higgins)

But Grummans are not totally out of the fleet. The E-2C Hawkeye lingers on.

Further, EA-6B BuNo. 162230/CY-02, part of the Sundown Flight, will be put on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

30 years ago today, the end of Gorbachev’s nightmare and the beginning of everyone else’s

“Goodbye Afghanistan” in Cyrillic, written with AK74 rounds

15 February 1989- The last Soviet combat soldier in Afghanistan, Col.-Gen.Boris Vsevolodovich Gromov of the 40th Guards Army, walked across the Friendship Bridge spanning the Amu-Daria river between that country and what is now Uzbekistan.

The nine-year conflict, which began with the Soviet takeover of the country on Christmas Eve 1979, cost the Motherland 14,453 killed and 264 missing (some of which have later been found alive) of the more than 600,000 that cycled through Afghanistan during the war.

It is estimated that as many as 2 million Afghans on both sides and caught in the crossfire, also perished.

Without Moscow’s support, the Pakistani-Saudi-U.S.-backed Mujahedin quickly swept away the Communist government in Kabul, replacing it after the resulting civil war with the Taliban.

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