Archive for Sunday, October 28, 2001

Personnel and equipment involved in the operations against the Taliban regime and the terrorist group al-Qaida.

October 28, 2001



Developments in Afghan-istan have seen the deployment of several United States military units and devices. Special forces units, highly advanced weaponry and new advances in ballistics all have been employed in neutralizing terrorist camps and training facilities in Afghanistan.

Navy SEALs

(Sea, air, land)

The SEALs trace their roots to the amphibious landings conducted in World War II both in the Pacific and Atlantic theatres. The Navy Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs) were assigned the task of clearing underwater mines and obstacles before the landing craft delivered the infantrymen and support vehicles. During the Korean War the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) were formed and took part in the landing at Inchon as well as other missions including raids on bridges. During the Vietnam conflict each branch of the U.S. military formed its own counterinsurgency force. The UDTs became the modern-day Navy SEALs.

Today, Navy SEALs operations are conducted in "teams" of infantry and support personnel. Team 6 was originally designated as a counter-terrorism unit but disbanded in the 1990's after a former officer authored a series of books outlining their operations and combat procedures. It is thought that the naval unit DEVGRU replaced Team 6 as the Navy's special development group designed to test new weapons and munitions. Much of the actions of DEVGRU, however, are clouded in mystery and their weapons and equipment have yet to be publicly revealed. Currently they are associated with several anti-terrorist units within the U.S. military and are thought by many to be the premier U.S. counter-terrorist force.

Army Rangers

The Ranger units date back to the 1700's and have seen action in various armies of the world. American Ranger units saw action in the War for Independence, the American Civil War and World War II. During the D-Day landings on Omaha Beach, the Rangers were assigned the task of assaulting German positions above a cliff area that the Rangers had to scale to move in to attack.

Currently, the U.S. Army Rangers are America's elite Rapid Deployment Force. They provide the U.S. armed forces a fighting unit that can be moved to anywhere in the world within 18 hours. One Ranger Battalion is on call for deployment 24 hours a day. The Rangers are capable of rapid infantry assaults as well as some special operations into varied terrain and climates. Rangers are trained in all types of warfare. The Rangers specialty is rapid assaults such as airport seizures. Some Rangers also undergo SCUBA and combat swimmer training, while some train in HALO, or High Altitude Low Opening parachuting. Each Battalion in the 75th Ranger Regiment has a SCUBA, HALO and Deep Recon platoon trained to complete more special operation type missions. Training is specialized; officers train alongside the men and regularly work from the field with them.

Air power

Air power has seen significant changes since the Gulf War. In Afghanistan, the United States has employed a full range of bombers, strike aircraft and infantry support aircraft. Some of these aircraft have been recently upgraded or only have recently been deployed in a combat role.

B-2 Spirit

(Stealth bomber)

Based at Whitman Air Force Base in Missouri, the B-2 was based on Jack Northrop's XB-135 "Flying Wing" designed more than 50 years ago. The revolutionary blending of low-observable technologies with high aerodynamic efficiency and large payload gives the B-2 important advantages over other bombers. Its low-observability provides it greater freedom of action at high altitudes, thus increasing its range and a better field of view for the aircraft's sensors. The B-2's low observability is derived from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual and radar signatures. These signatures make it difficult for the sophisticated defensive systems to detect, track and engage the B-2. Many aspects of the low-observability process remain classified; however, the B-2's composite materials, special coatings and flying-wing design all contribute to its "stealthiness." Its unrefueled range is about 6,000 nautical miles (9,600 kilometers). However, when refueled mid-flight its range becomes limitless, allowing the United States to assign the B-2 targets anywhere in the world. The B-2 has a crew of two pilots, an aircraft commander in the left seat and mission commander in the right, compared with the B-1B's crew of four and the B-52's crew of five.

RQ-1 Predator

An unmanned American spy plane armed with missiles has been used for the first time in combat missions over Afghanistan, defense officials said.

The low-flying RQ-1 Predator, previously used only for reconnaissance, is carrying Hellfire anti-tank missiles, two Defense Department officials said on condition of anonymity.

The unarmed version of the aircraft was used extensively in support of NATO forces in the Balkans, then tested for the attack mission.

Operated remotely, its main value as an armed vehicle is that it can be used to strike quickly because it is collecting near real-time intelligence. The Predator without missiles relays information, which then must be acted on by pilots or cruise missile commanders at a later time.

The armed drone also makes it possible to strike without putting a pilot in harm's way.

The Predator carries two color video cameras and can remain airborne for more than 40 hours. It can provide information via satellites with near-real time video.

The use of Predators in Afghanistan was first reported in the New Yorker magazine, which said a CIA-operated drone had intelligence on Taliban leader Mohammed Omar, but could not get permission from military commanders to fire.

The Predator is 27 feet long with a wingspan of 48 feet.

The use of unmanned aircraft has become an increasingly common tool for U.S. intelligence-gathering operations.

AC-130 Spectre

The AC-130 is a variant of the C-130 series of military cargo planes. The Spectre's principle role is the support of special forces incursions during night hours or support helicopter operations during inclement weather. The aircraft's weapons systems include a 105 mm howitzer, a 40 mm cannon and either a 20 mm or 25 mm gun. Night and poor weather capabilities are provided by infrared and all-light-level television sensors. These weapons are mounted on the left side of the aircraft allowing it to circle around the target in a counter-clockwise pattern and provide continual fire support to units on the ground.

The United States has also conducted attacks on Taliban and al-Qaida targets with a variety of new and improved missiles and bombs. These weapons are designed to attack targets in more nonconventional ways.

Missiles, bombs

The United States has a full complement of high-tech weaponry at its disposal to hunt and strike enemy targets.


Unveiled during the Persian Gulf War, the GBU-28 is a high-impact precision bomb designed to penetrate hardened or buried targets such as command and control bunkers. The 5,000 pound bomb is dropped by B-1, B-52, and B-2 bombers and can penetrate more than 30 feet of concrete or soil before detonating. It is most often led to the target by special operations ground teams who "paint" the target area with a laser beam guiding the bomb to the target.

Cruise missiles

The Tomahawk cruise missile is the Navy's primary land attack weapon and can deliver either a 1,000 pound warhead or cluster bomblets. The Tomahawk's air-launched equivalent is the AGM-86C and is operated exclusively by the U.S. Air Force.

The Tomahawk missile is jettisoned from a vertical launch or torpedo tube. Once clear of the submarine, a solid-fuel booster burns for 12 seconds, propelling the missile to the surface. About 900 feet above the water, the booster burns out and is jettisoned. At 1,300 feet, the wings and other control surfaces fold out and the motor ignites for cruise.

The combination of global positioning, terrain and digital scene matching enables a cruise altitude of 50 feet and strike within 20 feet of the target.

Terrain matching is done at checkpoints by comparing stored elevation maps with elevation measured by the missile radar.

Above the target, the missile activates an on-board camera, which compares what it sees with a stored digital image and makes any final route changes for target acquisition.

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