A diorama showing the arrival of an Northern Alliance T-55 being welcomed by Afghani militia. The tank transporter is Takom’s MAZ-537, the T-55 is from Trumpeter. Figures on the vehicle are from Paracel Miniatures, the rest are modified from various components to represent Afghanis. The structure is a 3D resin print.
This is the Takom Russian Army Tank Transporter, specifically a MAZ-537G Tractor with a CHMZAP-5247G trailer. I have developed a fondness for tank transporters, this one is finished as serving with the Afghani Northern Alliance using Star Decals. Figures are from Paracel.
Trumpeter T-55 kit number 07284 built as a tank of the Afghani Northern Alliance from the “Zabati” unit near Bagram, 2001. Markings are from Star Decals sheet 72-A 1050, figures are from Paracel Miniatures.
Hardcover in dustjacket, 312 pages, photographs, references, and index
Published by Casemate February 2015
Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
Like so many of the modern world’s current political problems, the on-going turmoil in the Middle East can be traced back to diplomatic missteps in the aftermath of the First World War. Those decisions remain with us and are still costing lives on a daily basis over a century later. In the first twenty pages of this book Oscar E. Gilbert traces the modern history of the Middle East which imparts on the reader an understanding of the basis for the conflicts which have plagued the region. This chapter is concise and exceptionally well-written, it alone warrants the purchase of the book and is worthy of periodic re-reading.
The bulk of the book focusses on the use of Marine armor in Iraq and Afghanistan, both the M60 and M1 Abrams main battle tanks along with the lighter LAV-25. The dominance of the better trained and equipped Marines during the conflicts with the Iraqi Army, even when outnumbered, are well described. The use of armor in the drawn-out counter insurgency operations also offers many insights, such as the use of the vehicle’s impressive array of sensors. Tactics used during the Battle of Fallujah illustrates the value of armor in clearing an urban environment, an arena where tanks are generally considered to be at a disadvantage.
The book is well researched and interspaced with first-hand accounts taken from interviews with the participants. This is an engaging read, made somewhat more poignant by the recent decision to eliminate tanks from the Marine Corp’s inventory. This is the second of Gilbert’s Marine tanks histories which I have read, and I can recommend them without hesitation.
This book pulls back the curtain on America’s MQ-1 Predator “drone” program and the people who operate it. LCOL McCurley was a U.S. Air Force instructor pilot who volunteered for transfer to the Predator program after the 9/11 attacks. The transfer was not a normal request, the program was not a popular assignment within the USAF – “real” pilots flew fighters, and the Predator had become a dumping ground for officers who didn’t qualify for other assignments.
The term “drone”, though widely used in the press, is inaccurate. A drone is an automatous vehicle, programmed to perform its mission without human intervention. The U.S. Navy’s XM-47B is an example. The MQ-1 Predator and its larger cousin, the MQ-9 Reaper, are more accurately described as Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPV) or Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), flown by a pilot and a sensor operator on the ground. The crew is linked to the aircraft via satellite and can be physically located anywhere in the world. RPVs operating over Afghanistan are routinely piloted by crews within the U.S.
One revelation for me was that it takes two separate crews to fly a mission – one where the aircraft is physically based to launch and recover the aircraft and one to fly the mission. Many missions are flown in shifts due to the duration. The crews operate under similar rules of engagement as any other U.S. unit. Strike missions which eliminate high-value terrorist targets grab the headlines, but these are usually supported by weeks of routine 24/7 surveillance missions to establish the target’s patterns and minimize collateral damage.
The book is written from the first-person perspective and follows LCOL McCurley’s career in the RPV community. It is an interesting insight into one of the USAF’s most-used platforms, and corrects many popular misconceptions. It is an enjoyable read and an engaging story which I can recommend.
The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq
by C. J. Chivers
Hardcover in dustjacket, 400 pages, indexed
Published by Simon & Schuster August 2018
Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
The Fighters follows the stories of six American military personnel through their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. In some cases this is a single tour, in others there are multiple deployments. The progression of both wars is viewed through their personal perspectives, and those perspectives and the wars themselves change over time. The protagonists are:
a Navy fighter pilot, flying F-14s and later F/A-18s from carriers
a Navy corpsman assigned to a Marine platoon
an Army OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopter pilot
an Army infantryman
a Marine platoon commander
an Army Special Forces sergeant.
The stories are very personal and often tragic. Chivers pulls no punches and gives the reader the whole story, both the good and the bad. The book is arranged chronologically, so the chapters follow one individual and then shift to another, later returning to the original person on a later deployment. It is thoroughly researched and very well written, just as you would expect from a Pulitzer Prize winning author. I can recommend it without hesitation to anyone interested in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.