Articles

These 11 weapons have been in the US military's inventory a very long time

The western world is always in a rush for the latest and greatest iPhone or other tech gadgets, but troops know that some weapons systems stand the test of time without too many, if any, mods. Here are 11 of them:


1. M2 (1933)

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane

This baby predates World War II, entering service in 1933. The M2 fires a .50-caliber round at 2,910 feet per second. It was originally adopted as an anti-aircraft weapon, but has served for decades in anti-personnel, anti-light vehicle, and anti-ship roles as well.

2. B52 (1954)

Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Lance Cheung

The B-52 Stratofortress bomber carries enough up to 70,000 pounds of ordnance on flights up to 9,000 nautical miles. Don't worry if it needs to go further; it can refuel in the air. There are plans to upgrade the B-52's carrying capacity to 105,000 pounds as well as computer upgrades to let this plane originally built in 1954 serve until 2040.

3. C-130 (1954)

Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Plew

The C-130 Hercules was a radical, and ugly, design departure from Lockheed's previous transport aircraft. But the ridiculed "Herk" of 1954 has proven itself over hundreds of thousands of sorties and still serves with distinction today.

It has delivered tanks at high speed, dropped paratroopers, and transported supplies to every corner of the globe. An armed version, the AC-130, has supported troops in combat since Vietnam.

4. KC-135 (1956)

Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jerry Fleshman

The first KC-135 took to the air in Aug 1956, and the flying gas station has been serving America's best jets, helicopters, and prop aircraft ever since. Carrying up to 200,000 pounds of fuel, it has served in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, and the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

5. U-2 (1956)

Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris

The high-flying U-2, famous for its reconnaissance role during the Cold War, took flight in 1956 and has received repeated upgrades ever since. Today, the U-2S can fly at 70,000 feet and is being eyed for service beyond 2050.

6. M14 (1957)

Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Grovert Fuentes-Contreras

The M14 entered service in 1957 and was the standard rifle for U.S. Marines and Soldiers from 1959-1970. While it was replaced by the better known M16 for most missions from Vietnam on, improved versions have continued to see action in American hands, mostly as a weapon for squad marksmen and special operators.

7. UH-1 (1958)

Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Artur Shvartsberg

The UH-1 first flew with the U.S. Army as the HU-1 in Vietnam in 1958 as an air MEDEVAC platform. It was quickly adapted for troop transport and attack missions. Today, upgraded versions of the UH-1 with a second engine serves in both the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force as well as in foreign militaries.

8. M72 LAW (1963)

Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Parkinson

Capable of piercing nearly 8 inches of enemy armor from over 200 yards away with a 66mm rocket, the M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon was designed to give U.S. infantry a fighting chance against Russian armor in 1963. Though no longer in production, the U.S. uses stockpiled weapons to knock out light enemy armor and buildings.

9. AH-1 Cobra (1967)

Photo: US Marine Corp Sgt. Tyler C. Gregory

Originally introduced to the military in 1967 as a stopgap solution in the Vietnam War while the AH-56 was developed. The AH-56 never materialized and the AH-1 reigned supreme until the adoption of the AH-64 Apache. While the U.S. phased out the AH-1, the Marine Corps still fields an upgraded version, the AH-1Z Super Cobra/Viper.

10. CH-47 (1962)

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Peter Reft

The CH-47A Chinook entered Army service in 1962 and were deployed to Vietnam from 1965 to 1975. Today, conventional Army units fly the CH-47F with engine, computer, and avionics upgrades from the CH-47A while the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment flies the MH-47G with increased fuel storage and inflight refueling capabilities.

11. A-10 (1975)

Photo: DARPA

The beloved Warthog. The A-10 Thunderbolt II is famous for its seven-barrel, 30mm gatling gun but has also been firing rockets, missiles, and bombs since 1975. It's recent retirement plans have been indefinitely canceled.

Because Brrrrrt!

History

This pilot shot down an enemy fighter at Pearl Harbor in his pajamas

Comfort is important when doing a hard job. If it's hot on the work site, it's important to stay cool. If it's hazardous, proper protection needs to be worn. And comfort is apparently key when the Japanese sneak attack the Navy. Just ask Lt. Phil Rasmussen, who was one of four pilots who managed to get off the ground to fight the Japanese in the air.

Rasmussen, like many other American GIs in Hawaii that day, was still asleep when the Japanese launched the attack at 0755. The Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant was still groggy and in his pajamas when the attacking wave of enemy fighters swarmed Wheeler Field and destroyed many of the Army's aircraft on the ground.

Damaged aircraft on Hickam Field, Hawaii, after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

There were still a number of outdated Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighters that were relatively untouched by the attack. Lieutenant Rasmussen strapped on a .45 pistol and ran out to the flightline, still in his pajamas, determined to meet the sucker-punching Japanese onslaught.

By the time the attack ended, Wheeler and Hickam Fields were both devastated. Bellows Field also took a lot of damage, its living quarters, mess halls, and chapels strafed by Japanese Zeros. American troops threw back everything they could muster – from anti-aircraft guns to their sidearms. But Rasmussen and a handful of other daring American pilots managed to get in the air, ready to take the fight right back to Japan in the Hawks if they had to. They took off under fire, but were still airborne.

Pearl Harbor pilots Harry Brown, Phil Rasmussen, Ken Taylor, George Welch, and Lewis Sanders.

They made it as far as Kaneohe Bay.

The four brave pilots were led by radio to Kaneohe, where they engaged 11 enemy fighters in a vicious dogfight. Even in his obsolete old fighter, Rasmussen proved that technology is no match for good ol' martial skills and courage under fire. He managed to shoot down one of the 11, but was double-teamed by two attacking Zeros.

Gunfire and 20mm shells shattered his canopy, destroyed his radio, and took out his hydraulic lines and rudder cables. He was forced out of the fighting, escaping into nearby clouds and making his way back to Wheeler Field. When he landed, he did it without brakes, a rudder, or a tailwheel.

There were 500 bullet holes in the P-36A's fuselage.

Skillz.

Lieutenant Rasmussen earned the Silver Star for his boldness and would survive the war, getting his second kill in 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, but will live on in the Museum of the United States Air Force, forever immortalized as he hops into an outdated aircraft in his pajamas.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

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