Much has been written about the threat of Islamic State militants’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly known as drones, over the embattled city of Mosul.
IS was quick to weaponize UAVs with small improvised explosive devices.
On Jan. 24, they released a video showing up to 19 different aerial attacks by commercially purchased UAVs — the kind of drone you can buy in any shopping center. Iraqi forces have followed suit by attaching modified 40mm grenades with shuttlecock stabilizers onto their larger UAVs to drop on IS positions.
A crude inaccurate way of killing terrorists, its effectiveness is questionable. Weaponized IS UAVs have mainly been used to target Iraqi military commanders and troops congregating in the open near the front line.
It’s a low-end, low-altitude attack that can be thwarted by keeping in hard cover.
But both sides use the UAV’s more effectively as a means of providing Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, known as ISR.
Islamic State UAVs in the air, once identified, are the warning that something is about to happen — either mortar fire, which is typically one hastily fired inaccurate round — before coalition air superiority can locate and target the firing point.
Or, more devastatingly, the launching of a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device, an SVBIED.
Since the Battle for Mosul officially started on Oct. 16, 2016, hundreds of SVBIEDs have been launched.
Recently, Sky News’ Special Correspondent Alex Crawford and cameraman Garwen McLuckie faced a number of SVBIEDs during their reporting from West Mosul’s front line.
Each time a small UAV was hovering high above. One occasion two were spotted.
Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay, cameraman Nathan Hale and Producer Haider Kata were also targeted by a SVBIED. On this occasion the UAV filmed the SVBIED (an armored Fronting Loader) to its intended target, a tank.
Later, the video was posted on Islamic State websites.
Due to the built-up urban area and the ever-changing nature of the battle, IS drivers of the SVBIEDs are believed to be hiding in garages with their heavily armoured explosive-laden vehicles. Modified with armor at the front and cameras on the wing mirrors, they provide militants with a 360-degree view of the battlefield and are notoriously difficult to stop.
They wait as the Iraqi forces move slowly forward, seizing ground and minimizing the driving distance to strike.
If they launch too early, the SVBIED will be exposed to air strikes or anti-tank fire, the only two real ways of neutralizing the vehicle.
But hidden IS drivers may not know the exact location of the moving Iraqi forces or be familiar with the streets and or access routes to their targets.
This is where the UAV is the key component to the attack.
The operators of the UAV act as navigators for the suicide driver; guiding him by radio or cell phone through battle-worn streets, they can help deliver the driver to his intended target with greater efficiency and accuracy.
This is a deadly combination.
The coalition has attempted to blanket all of Mosul in a red no-fly zone for commercially purchased UAVs, but this has been thwarted by either smart software adjustments to the unit or by placing aluminum material over the GPS.
Other methods have included the Battelle Drone Defender gun (hand portable beam type weapon) and the Spynel infrared camera, which is used to locate incoming UAVs. Both have been very limited, as UAV use is usually confined within a few hundred meters at the very front of the fight where these systems are not always deployed.
If an IS UAV is sighted, the immediate response by Iraqi forces is to engage it with small and heavy weapons, a difficult shot when aiming at a high flying fast moving object of no more than a meter wide.
After the firing has stopped, all attention shifts to street level as experienced operators know the next thing coming will be more deadly.
Many harmless recreational drones have now become deadly tools of war.
The various developers of these off-the-shelf UAVs probably never envisaged that their products would be used in a lethal cat and mouse hunt through Mosul’s war-torn streets.
It is believed that Napoleon who coined the phrase “An army marches on its stomach.”
The adage was as true then as it was in ancient times, and for the Mongols who traveled thousands of miles to conquer and plunder, eating was a daunting task.
Because of their lineage as nomads and herders, the Mongols perfected how to travel light and still be able to fill their bellies. Sure they lived off their conquered lands, but between engagements they had their own version of berserker Rip-Its.
For Mongols on the move, the food they carried was usually dried. The hordes would carry dehydrated foods like dried meat, dried curd, and 10 pounds of milk dried down to a paste.
Take the dried milk for instance. To make it, the Mongols would evaporate the milk in the sun in which it turned into a chalk-like substance that made it easy to transport. Once mixed with water, the dried milk paste turned into a low-carb fatty and quite possibly the world’s first protein shake that would suppress his appetite.
Another use of the milk was turning it into an alcoholic drink known as ”
kumiss” or “airagh.” This was their preferred drink and was made from mare’s milk. Rubruck mentions that the Mongols made kumiss by using “a great quantity of milk, which is as sweet as cow’s as long as it is fresh, they pour it into a big skin or bottle, and they set to churning it with a stick prepared for that purpose, and which is as big as a man’s head at its lower extremity and hollowed out; and when they have beaten it sharply it begins to boil up like new wine and to sour or ferment.”
But when winter arrived, food became scarce for the horses, so they drank up all the milk themselves. With the lack of dairy, the Mongols sought other foods — ones that at time appeared stomach churning. The diet of a Mongol warrior involved just about everything that walked or crawled.
According to Marco Polo:
They live off meat, milk and game and on Pharaoh’s rats (marmots or jerboa), which are plentiful everywhere in the steppes. They have no objection to eating the flesh of horses and dogs and drinking mare’s milk. In fact they eat flesh of any sort.
They eat dogs, wolves, foxes and horses, and, when in difficulty, they eat human flesh. Thus, when they attacked a particular Chinese city, and their emperor himself conducted the siege, they found after they had besieged it a long while that the Tartars had used up all their supplies and did not have enough for all the men to eat, so they took one of every ten men to eat. They even eat the afterbirth which comes out of a mare with the foal. Furthermore, we saw them eat lice. They would say, ‘Why should I not eat them when they eat my children and drink their blood?’ We actually saw them eat mice.
If rations really got low,
Marco Polo states that on “occasion they will sustain themselves on the blood of their horses, opening a vein and letting the blood jet into their mouths, drinking till they have had enough, and then staunching it.” However, a Mongol warrior knew not to do this or to drink from the horse too long. Horse blood was the last resort.
Mongols lived on what we call today a
paleo diet, but calling it “ketogenic” diet sounds more accurate, as it consists of high-fat, adequate-protein, and low-carbs. Such a diet based on protein leaves one full. Moreover, the Chinese who ruled the Jin Empire in northeastern China noted to their surprise that no puff of smoke came from the Mongol encampment and noticed that the warriors were able to survive off little food and water for long periods.
What the Chinese soon learned is that their soldiers could not go as long as the Mongols due to their dependence on carbs. Without a steady amount of carbs to stay energized, the Mongols could go for a few days before hunger set in since their bodies used the fats and proteins as energy. Overall, the Mongols were not fussy eaters as the accounts show.
For decades, Hollywood has made military-based films that touch Americans’ hearts with epic characters and stunning imagery. Not every movie has a big budget, but it’s the attention to detail that the veteran community respects. When their branch is accurately represented on the big screen, Hollywood scores big points.
Still, even when some filmmakers think they’ve done a great job, veterans notice the smallest error of detail in movies.
Here’s a simple list of five movie mistakes we always seem to spot.
In Jarhead 2, a senior officer (Stephen Lang) would know better than to put on the wrong color undershirt, wear gunny sleeves, and sport a cover that looks like a blooming onion. Plus, he’s wearing a guard duty belt for some reason.
You know you can Google our uniforms and learn how to set everything up, right?
You could afford a talented actor like Stephen Lang, but researching Marine Corps uniforms wasn’t part of the budget? (Image from Universal Pictures’ Jarhead 2: Field of Fire)
4. “Flagging” your boys
Any person on earth can tell you that pointing a weapon at one of your friends is a bad thing, and pulling the trigger in their direction is even worse. In the infantry, we’re always training to maneuver on the enemy without pointing our rifles at our own people.
1987’s Full Metal Jacket showcased a prime example of “flagging” as “Doc” runs in front of his squad and they shot around him. Every veteran watching this scene is shaking their head.
See anything wrong with the image below? Shy of the obviously awful salute, her beret shouldn’t be that low and the back of it is supposed to be flush with the skull. It makes the beret look better if you shave off the fluff.
Several films are guilty of this common mistake, but we like looking at Jessica Simpson.
Jessica Simpson does look good in the beret, though. (Image from Sony Pictures’ Private Valentine: Blonde and Dangerous)
2. One too many flags
In 2008’s The Hurt Locker, Col. Cambridge appears to have more patriotism than any other soldier in the Army.
There’s only supposed to be the one flag on his right shoulder — not two. The “field” is supposed to be facing forward. You know, like someone running into battle with the flag.
But this colonel decided to show up to work supporting America twice.
Col. Cambridge should have known better. (Image from Summit Entertainment’s The Hurt Locker)
Saluting officers stateside — or when you’re facing an epic ass-chewing — is an absolute must. But salute an officer in the middle of a war zone in real life, and you just might get him or her killed by an enemy sniper.
In war, saluted officers make great targets for the enemy. (Image via GIPHY)
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds unveiled their new “Super Delta” formation during a joint training session over the Imperial Valley in California on Tuesday. The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds are the two services’ flight demonstration squads, known the world over for their spectacular shows and incredible aircraft control.
“The formation grew out of a series of joint training opportunities held in 2020 and 2021, and serves as a symbol of the teamwork, discipline, and skill of the men and women of our United States military forces deployed around the globe,” read the Blue Angels’ Instagram post.
The “Super Delta” formation consists of six U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets operated by the Blue Angels flying in their standard delta formation while flanked on either side by six F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Air Force’s Thunderbirds. Three F-16s flank the Delta formation on either side, forming a massive flying wing made up of some of America’s top-tier 4th generation fighters.
This unveiling is of particular import for the Navy’s Blue Angels, who are entering their 75th performance season. 2021 also marks the first year the Blue Angels operate with Super Hornets, as opposed to the team’s previous legacy F/A-18 Hornets.
Over the past year, with many of each team’s performances cut due to Covid, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels traveled around the country performing complex maneuvers over communities and hospitals struggling to control the spread of the virus. The high-performance jets gave the folks below a small morale boost, while also allowing the pilots to continue honing their skills behind the stick.
However, even amid working together for these morale flights, the two teams have never formed a single formation like the “super delta” before. According to the Thunderbirds Twitter account, the teams plan to unveil this new formation during a nation-wide broadcast of the National Memorial Day Parade later this year.
One of the oldest axioms in writing is to “write what you know.” Ernest Hemingway knew adventure, war, travel, and love (even if that love was temporary). When reading a work by Hemingway one might think of how incredible his characters must have felt fighting fascists in Spain, fighting a shark with a harpoon, or saving lives in WWI Italy, only to realize all these people are real, and they’re one person: Ernest Hemingway.
In the entire history of wordsmithy, no one ever reached the level of real-world adventurer quite like Ernest Hemingway. Here are ten ways he was the quintessential American warrior poet, punctuated by his own life lessons.
1. “Never sit at a table when you can stand at a bar.”
Hemingway ignored his father’s wishes and enlisted in the Army during World War I but did not pass the Army’s initial physical examination due to poor eyesight. Instead, Hemingway drove ambulances for the Red Cross.
In the course of his duties, he was hit by fragments from an Austrian mortar. He never stopped working to move wounded soldiers to safety, earning the Italian Medal of Military Valor.
2. “Develop a built-in bullsh-t detector”
After high school, Hemingway moved to Kansas City where he became a reporter, covering a local beat which included fires, work strikes, and crime. Here he formed his distinct prose of “short declarative sentences.” After WWI, he continued working in journalism in Toronto and Chicago, covering unrest in Europe’s Interwar years. He interviewed Benito Mussolini during this time, describing him as “the biggest bluff in Europe.”
3. “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”
Hemingway stayed in Europe for the Spanish Civil War, even teaming up with famed war photographer Robert Capa. He was in Madrid writing his only play, the Fifth Column, as it was being bombed by Fascist forces. He was at Ebro when the Republican army made its last stand.
4. “When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead.”
When World War II broke out, Hemingway was living in Cuba. In his free time he ran his own intelligence network to spy on Nazi sympathizers there. The ring had 26 informants, six working full-time and 20 of them as undercover men, all recruited by Hemingway.
He also equipped his fishing boat with direction-finding equipment, a machine gun and grenades to hunt for Nazi U-boats in the Atlantic, reporting his sightings to Navy officials.
5. “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”
By 1944, Hemingway was back in Europe covering WWII. He was onboard a landing craft on D-Day, within sight of Omaha Beach, but was not allowed to go ashore. He attached himself to the 22nd Infantry on its way to Paris but was brought up on charges because he became the leader of a French Resistance militia in Rambouillet, aiding in the Liberation of Paris (forbidden for a combat correspondent under the Geneva Convention). He beat the rap.
According to World War II historian Paul Fussell, “Hemingway got into considerable trouble playing infantry captain to a group of Resistance people that he gathered because a correspondent is not supposed to lead troops, even if he does it well.”
6. “To hell with them. Nothing hurts if you don’t let it.”
He came down with pneumonia, but covered the Battle of the Bulge while still sick. In France, Hemingway encountered a basement full of S.S. troops, whom he told to “share these among yourselves” before throwing grenades inside.
He also covered the Battle of Hürtgenwald Forest as U.S. troops broke the Siegfried Line. He returned to Cuba after the war, where he received the Bronze Star for his work in Europe.
7. “I drink to make people more interesting.”
While sightseeing in Africa, he and his wife survived a plane crash after hitting some power lines, causing severe head injuries. The next day, he boarded another plane which exploded during take-off, giving him another concussion. He walked to the hospital and did not die, even though his obituary had already been published.
8. “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
When author Max Eastman published a review of one of Hemingway’s essays which questioned his masculinity, Hemingway hit Eastman in the face with his own book, then called him out in The New York Times, challenging him to a fight. Eastman declined.
Hemingway’s favorite drinking buddy was James Joyce, not known for his strength or stature. Whenever Joyce was about to get into a barfight, he’d yell “Deal with him, Hemingway!”
9. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit at a typewriter and bleed.”
Hemingway used to write standing up. Even though Hemingway’s fondness for drinking is well documented, he never drank while he wrote.
“Jesus Christ,” Hemingway once said. “Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes – and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one. Besides, who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time?”
10. “Death is like an old whore in a bar. I’ll buy her a drink but I won’t go upstairs with her.”
Hemingway struggled with bipolar disorder all his life. The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota gave him electroshock therapy, but it didn’t help and Hemingway blamed it for his memory loss. After surviving gunshot wounds to practically every part of his body, an Austrian mortar wound, countless concussions, three car crashes, two plane crashes, two fires, and an anthrax infection, Hemingway eventually took his own life, deciding to do so with a shotgun.
During his funeral, an altar boy fainted at the head of the casket, knocking over a large cross of flowers, to which his brother Leicester said, “It seemed to me Ernest would have approved of it all.”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis goes by many badass nicknames, including “Mad Dog,” “Warrior Monk,” and “Chaos.”
So it’s only fitting that the aircraft he usually flies on while functioning his official capacity is known by an equally badass name — “Nightwatch.” Its name hints at its original mission — a doomsday plane, equipped to provide the president and high-ranking members of the military with the ability to retain control of America’s offensive forces in the event of an all-out nuclear war or cataclysmic event.
Nightwatch now serves as an airborne command post for the SECDEF, allowing him to remain in touch with the U.S. military he oversees while traveling anywhere in the world, especially useful should the unthinkable occur.
The Air Force possesses four Nightwatch aircraft — converted Boeing 747-200 jumbo jet airliners. Like their civilian counterparts, these airplanes come with a considerable operating range and internal carriage capacity. However, that, and a passing external resemblance, is where all similarities end. Underneath the hood, these are completely different aircraft with unique systems and sensors that allow it to do what no other aircraft in the Air Force can.
Unlike a commercial Boeing 747, these aircraft, officially designated E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Posts, lack the rows of plush seats, fold-out meal trays and entertainment screens. Instead, each E-4B is divided up into compartments for its Battle Staff, a joint services team of controllers and coordinators ready to interface with various military units should they be called into action.
Nightwatch crew quite literally have the ability to call virtually connect to any phone number in the world, thanks to a complex satellite communications suite aboard the aircraft. It’s this suite that allows them to also relay commands and orders to America’s nuclear arsenal, forward-deployed submarines and Navy battle groups operating around the globe, or even to speak directly with the President at secured locations.
Because Nightwatch was designed during the Cold War, where nuclear war was still a distinct possibility, it was built to fly with incredible endurance. Defense analysts estimate that each E-4B could spend up to seven days flying continuously with the help of aerial refueling, though the Air Force has only actually flown its E-4Bs up to 35 hours in testing thus far.
The cockpit of the aircraft looks just as it would in the 1980s, with a few modifications. Instead of LCD screens and touch-pads, the Air Force has kept the original analog gauge-type flight instruments, as they’re less susceptible to failing after experiencing an electromagnetic pulse blast from a nuclear explosion.
That’s right… the E-4B is built to be able to fly through the immediate aftermath of a nuclear detonation without sustaining any damage to its systems. The entire aircraft is sealed off and pressurized with special “scrubbers” in its air conditioning system constantly filtering out harmful particles that may find their way inside the cabin. Should an E-4B actually fly through nuclear radiation, its crew inside will be completely safe and sound. The aircraft also carries a considerable amount of rations and potable water for its crew, as well as sleeping berths and its own troubleshooting staff, ready to assist with technical malfunctions and glitches as needed.
However, flying theses monsters isn’t very cheap at all – each Nightwatch costs an average of around $159,529 per hour to fly. Sourcing parts for the fleet isn’t easy either, especially considering that Boeing ceased production of the 747-200 platform decades ago.
It’s estimated that by 2039, all four E-4Bs will have served out their entire useful lifespans, and will have to be replaced, this time with an even more capable long-range aircraft that will assume the mantle of being America’s doomsday plane. Until that day comes, Nightwatch still serves at the Secretary of Defense’s pleasure, ferrying him around on official trips and visits as a visible sign of American military power.
Special Forces soldiers are the snake-eaters, known for slipping into enemy territory, living off the land, and then killing all the enemies of America they find. They trace their unit lineage back to the Office of Strategic Services in World War II, served with distinction as both warriors and spies in the Cold War, and snuck into Afghanistan to hunt the Taliban before anyone else.
But for all most people think they know about Special Forces, there’s a lot they don’t. Here are 7 things that might surprise you.
1. They have a reputation for “creature comforts.”
While Green Berets are known to rough it on missions, they’re also known for bringing blankets and cots to training exercises. Operators have a grueling deployment schedule and are required to prove their skills to their teammates every day. So when they show up to a training event, they’re likely to cut loose and enjoy some barbecue and football in their off-time.
2. Green Berets are as much teachers as fighters.
While SF soldiers are very capable fighters, it’s just as important to their mission that they are good instructors. Green Berets are called on to deploy all over the world, build lasting relationships with local groups friendly towards the United States, and then teach those groups how to kill effectively. The SF soldiers then begin going on missions with the locals and fight side-by-side.
3. In the Special Forces, they are required to learn new languages.
Of course, training the locals to kill their enemies is a lot easier when everyone speaks the same language. Special Forces soldiers attend 18-24 weeks of foreign language and cultural training at the Special Operations Academic Facility at Fort Bragg.
The language these soldiers learn usually depends on what Special Forces Group they are later assigned to, since each group has a certain region of the world it needs to be oriented toward.
4. They’re in about 90 nations everyday.
Operators need access to so may bi- and trilingual service members because they are in about 90 nations every day. In 2015, they’ve already visited at least 135 according to media reports. This represents a significant increase in operational tempo. Eight years ago SF visited only 60 countries.
5. They’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Two of the countries people might not be surprised to find Special Forces is in Iraq and Afghanistan. While most military units have been pulled out of these countries, the Green Berets never left Afghanistan and may have never fully leave Iraq. Currently, Special Forces soldiers are advising troops in both countries. In Afghanistan they are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder against insurgents with commandoes they have trained. In Iraq, they are advising Iraqi Army and militia units who are trying to roll back ISIS.
6. Recruits can enlist straight into Special Forces.
Believe it or not, a recent high school graduate could walk into a recruiting office and enlist for 18X, Special Forces Candidate. These recruits go through basic training and then immediately enter the Special Forces training pipeline. If they fail or are simply aren’t selected during the Special Forces assessment, they are re-assigned to infantry.
It wasn’t always this way. In the past, Special Forces typically wanted soldiers to be older and more seasoned in the regular Army before making the jump. The older SF soldier even have a name for the younger generation making it through the Q-course: “SF Babies.”
Shortly after the end of World War II, the scientists who developed the atomic bombs dropped on Japan tried to envision the kind of nuclear event that could lead to the destruction of not just cities, but the entire world.
A declassified document shared by nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein gives the verdict that scientists at the Los Alamos laboratory and test site reached in 1945. They found that “it would require only in the neighborhood of 10 to 100 Supers of this type” to put the human race in peril.
In 1945, the Los Alamos scientists concluded it would only take between 10 and 100 “Super” bombs to end the world. pic.twitter.com/01I8ypmIP0
They reached this conclusion at a very early point in the development of nuclear weapons, before highly destructive multi-stage or thermonuclear devices had been built. But the scientists had an idea of the technology’s grim potential. “The ‘Super’ they had in mind was what we would now call a hydrogen bomb,” Wellerstein wrote in an email to Business Insider.
At the time, the scientists speculated they could make a bomb with as much deuterium — a nuclear variant of hydrogen — as they liked to give the weapon an explosive yield between 10 and 100 megatons (or millions of tons’ worth of TNT).
For perspective, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had a yield of around 15 kilotons, or 0.015 megatons. These theorized bombs were several orders of magnitude more powerful than those that wrought destruction on Japan earlier that year.
The apocalypse brought on by these 10-100 super bombs wouldn’t be all fire and brimstone. The scientists posited that “the most world-wide destruction could come from radioactive poisons” unleashed on the Earth’s atmosphere by the bombs’ weaponized uranium. Radiation exposure leads to skyrocketing rates of cancer, birth defects, and genetic anomalies.
The Los Alamos scientists understood the threat that airborne radiation would pose in the event of nuclear war. “Atmospheric poisoning is basically making it so that the background level of radioactivity would be greatly increased, to the point that it would interfere with human life (e.g. cancers and birth defects) and reproduction (e.g. genetic anomalies),” says Wellerstein. “So they are imagining a scenario in which radioactive byproducts have gotten into the atmosphere and are spreading everywhere.”
Wellerstein says that this fear of widespread nuclear fallout was hardly irrational and that concerns over the atmospheric effects of nuclear detonations were “one of the reasons that we stopped testing nuclear weapons aboveground in 1963, as part of the Limited Test Ban Treaty.”
Taking both of the estimated scales to the extreme — 100 superbombs yielding 100 megatons of fission each — would result in a total yield of 10,000 megatons. As Wellerstein notes, that’s the same amount of fission that Project SUNSHINE determined was enough to “raise the background radioactivity to highly dangerous levels” in a 1953 study.
That degree of nuclear power — though not necessarily accompanied by the radioactive component critical to meeting the fears documented here — rested in the hands of both the U.S. and Russia during the Cold War.
A deactivated Soviet-era SS-4 medium range nuclear capable ballistic missile displayed at La Cabana fortress in Havana, on Oct. 13, 2012. (Photo: Desmond Boylan/Reuters)
In recent decades the total yield of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons has fallen, such that “the threat of over-irradiating the planet is probably not a real one, even with a full nuclear exchange,” Wellerstein wrote. “A bigger concern is the amount of carbon that would be thrown up in even a limited nuclear exchange (say, between India and Pakistan), which could have detrimental global effects on the climate.”
Back in 1945 the Pentagon had speculated that it would take a few hundred atomic bombs to subdue Russia.
That thought experiment had a strategic bent. But the 1945 estimate seems to have advised caution in the new, uncertain nuclear age.
The scientific push to learn more about the destructive weapons that were so hastily researched and used in the 1940s resulted in important insights as to the consequence of their use. Nuclear weapons aren’t just horrific on the intended, local scale. They can carry consequences on the planet’s ability to foster human life, whether that’s by contributing to the greenhouse effect or irradiating it beyond habitability.
The Yom Kippur War raged from Oct. 6-25, 1973, and the Israeli forces initially suffered severe setbacks. It was a full, combined arms conflict where tanks, artillery, planes, infantrymen and air defense missiles all had their say.
But one string of events reaches forward in time from those weeks and threatens the A-10.
Israel’s air force, the Chel Ha’Avir, was able to slow and halt nearly all advances by tanks and other ground forces when it was safe to fly. But when the enemy forces stayed under the air defense umbrella, Israel’s pilots came under heavy attack.
In one instance, 55 missiles were flying at Israel’s pilots in a single, small strip of land occupied by Syrian forces.
Israeli forces turned the tables with a few brilliant maneuvers. At one point, a pilot realized the enemy was firing too many missiles, so he led his men in quick passes as bait for the missileers, causing the enemy to expend all their ordnance while downing a relatively few number of planes. The survivors of this risky maneuver were then able to fly with near impunity.
On another front, artillerymen opened the way for the air force by striking the missile sites with long range guns. They moved forward of their established safe zones to do so, putting their forces at risk to save the planes above them.
Israel went on to win the war, allowing NATO and other Western militaries around the world to pat themselves on the back because their tactics and hardware defeated a coalition equipped with Soviet tactics and hardware.
But for the Chel Ha’Avir and aviation officers around the world, there was a lesson to be parsed out of the data.
Both the A-4 Skyhawk and the F-4 Phantom flew a high number of sorties against the Syrians, Egyptians and their allies. But the Skyhawk suffered a much worse rate of loss than the F-4s.
This was — at least in part — because the F-4 flew faster and higher and could escape surface-to-air missiles and radar-controlled machine guns more easily. Just a year after the A-10’s debut flight and over 3 years before it was introduced to the air fleet, the whole concept of low and slow close air support seemed dated.
The resulting argument, that low and slow CAS is too risky, is part of the argument about whether the Air Force should ditch the low-and-slow A-10 Warthog for the fast-moving, stealthy F-35 Lightning II.
Of course, not everyone agrees that the Yom Kippur War is still a proper example of the close air support debate.
First, the A-10 has spent its entire service life in the post-Yom Kippur world. While it suffered six losses against the Iraqis during Desert Storm, it has been flying against more advanced air defenses than the A-4s faced in the Yom Kippur War and remained a lethal force throughout the flight. The A-10 has never needed a safe space.
Second, while the A-10’s speed and preferred altitudes may make it more vulnerable than fast movers to ground fire, it also makes the jet more capable when firing against ground targets. To modernize the old John A. Shedd saying about ships, “A ground-attack jet at high-altitude may be safe, but that’s not what they are designed for.”
Finally, the Yom Kippur War was a short conflict where the Chel Ha’Avir had to fly against a numerically superior enemy while that enemy was marching on its capital. This forced commanders to take additional risks, sending everything they had to slow the initial Syrian and Egyptian momentum.
The U.S. Air Force is much larger and has many more planes at its command. That means that it can field more specialized aircraft. F-35s and F-22s can support ground forces near enemy air defenses and go after missile sites and other fighters while A-10s or the proposed arsenal plane attack ground forces from behind the F-22 and F-35 shield.
This isn’t to say that the Air Force is necessarily wrong to divest out of the A-10 to bolster the F-35. The Warthog can’t stay on the battlefield forever. But if the A-10 has served its entire career in the post-Yom Kippur world, it seems like a shallow argument to say that it couldn’t possibly fight and win for another 5 or 10 years after nearly 40 successful ones.
During World War II, there was a concerted effort to develop heavier and heavier tanks, often stretching past the limits of practicality and even credulity. Some of the larger examples were well over 100 tons, huge by today’s standards. Almost none were ever deployed in battle. But they displayed a school of thought similar to that of battleships, where sheer armor and weaponry took precedence over anything else.
The Japanese developed several prototypes for massive tanks to be used in the Pacific Theater. The O-I superheavy tank was conceived due to the profound inferiority of Japanese Army armor facing off against Soviet armor in a series of severe border clashes at Khalkin Gol on the Manchurian border. A single functional model was built by 1945, weighing in at a gigantic 120 tons and armed with a 105mm gun and two rocket launchers. Under murky circumstances it was shipped to Manchuria and it is unknown whether it ever saw combat. It was scrapped after the war. Only its tracks remain in an Japanese museum.
The German Panzer VIII, jokingly named the Maus, or Mouse, was the largest and heaviest tank design that was ever actually built, though it never saw any frontline service. It weighed in at 188 tons, over six times as heavy as a U.S. M4 Sherman, and was conceived as a way to break through heavy field fortifications in frontal assaults. It was armed with a 128mm gun that could easily destroy any Allied tank out to very long ranges. It also carried a 75 mm gun as a secondary armament that was equal to the main gun on the M4. Several prototypes were constructed, but were captured by the Soviets in 1945. Only one, assembled from the prototypes, remains in the Kubinka tank museum in Russia.
The United States and the British also worked on vehicles in the 70-100 ton range, but they were conceived more as large armored self-propelled artillery, such as the American T28 and the British Tortoise. Neither entered production before the end of the war.
Despite their awesome appearance, superheavy tank designs were almost uniformly a failure. The size and weight of the tanks made traversing rough terrain difficult if not impossible, and they were often far too heavy for most bridges, restricting them to fording the rivers using snorkels. But river fords shallow enough for passage were not always available, a severe restriction on the tank’s tactical flexibility. Also, tanks were generally transported long distances by rail, and the extreme difficulty of doing so with 100-plus ton tanks was a serious disadvantage.
Heavy armor alone was not enough to make up for low speed and presenting a large target. Tanks in the open are extremely vulnerable to air attack, and a slow, large target was even more so. A 250-pound bomb from above would kill a superheavy tank as quickly as a light one.
Even light artillery could at the least knock off one of the tracks, leaving the tank immobilized and helpless. Low maneuverability and speed meant lighter enemy tanks could outflank them and hit them from the sides and rear, where the armor was weakest. Far greater numbers of regular tanks like the American M4 and the famed Soviet T-34 could be built, and it was these that overcame the often superior German tanks through tactics and numbers.
But the single biggest problem facing superheavy tank designs was one that plagued many of their smaller cousins: mechanical reliability. The engines available were uniformly underpowered, and the huge weight of armor and weapons took a terrible toll on transmissions, suspensions, and turret mechanisms. A broken-down tank was just as useless as one destroyed by the enemy. Even the German King Tiger II, still large at 68 tons, lost more tanks to mechanical breakdown than to the enemy.
Following the war, improvements in armor and gun technology made superheavy tanks unnecessary. Advances like composite armor and better engines made tanks more survivable while faster and more maneuverable, and ever more effective airpower made monster tanks more of a target than a weapon. The M1 Abrams, the mainstay tank of the United States for over 30 years, weighs in at less than a third of the Panzer VIII.
Like so many “miracle weapons,” the superheavy tanks never panned out. It proved more effective to have larger numbers of smaller, economical, and more reliable tanks, rather than a small number of large ones. Modern tank design in particular has concluded that bigger is not always better.
There has probably never been a more symbiotic relationship than the one between a war-fighter and their alcohol. Roman Centurions and wine. Vikings and mead. Samurai and sake. American troops and whatever is cheapest on non-first and fifteenth weekends.
We have a storied history with our booze.
I like to think that I put my liver through its rounds, but looking through military history — damn. If I went drink for drink with some of the best, I’d get drunk under the table by the greatest minds the world has ever known.
This beer goes out to the badasses who have awesome stories to talk about over one — and who would still probably carry my ass back to the taxi.
5. William the Conqueror
As the last ruler to successfully conquer England in almost a thousand years, William I lived up to the viking heritage of the Normans. For an over-simplification of what William did, think of Robert Baratheon from Game of Thrones.
The story goes, as King of England, William I threw lavish parties for his guests. Because he left his viking lifestyle and worries about consolidating power behind him, he became fat as f*ck.
To the point that his horse would be in great pain.
This diet, surprisingly enough, didn’t lead to his death — unless you attribute him falling face first off his horse because it bucked his rotund rear off it. Then maybe.
4. Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoléon visiting the cellars Moët Chandon in 1807. (Painting via Chateau Loisel)
The man most credited with why we open bottles of Champagne with a sword, Napoleon and his Hussars were famous for drinking the bubbly.
“Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it” was Napoleon’s famous toast.
Napoleon and his men would frequent the hotel of Madame Clicquot, a beautiful business woman who was widowed young. The Emperor of France’s men would always try to woo her but she would just keep making money off their drunk asses.
3. Ulysses S. Grant
The stories of the 18th President of the United States and his drinking were historic when he was still a young officer. As a Captain, his drinking from the night before lead to a forced resignation by then Colonel Robert Buchanan. The two had mutual animosity for many years before then.
“I wish some of you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals,” remarked Abraham Lincoln on Grant’s alcoholism.
The outbreak of the American Civil War brought him back into the fold where he would then rise to General of the Army with Major General Buchanan underneath him. At the age of 46, Grant won the 1868 election in a landslide and urged for the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment and the proper treatment of Native Americans.
2. George S. Patton
The Father of American Armor himself shared his love with his armored divisions with a mixed drink he called “Armored Diesel.” He said it would build camaraderie within the division and pride.
The drink was made with many different bourbons, whiskeys, and scotches, however, the Patton Museum officially lists his drink as being: bourbon, shaved ice, sugar, and lemon juice.
“You can’t run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn’t fight its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag.” — Patton on swearing.
Patton was also very close with another great WWII leader and alcohol enthusiast, Winston Churchill.
Which brings us to…
1. Winston Churchill
There may be no military leader with a more celebrated and documented history with alcohol than Winston Churchill. Professor Warren Kimball of Rutgers authored several biographies on him saying, “Churchill was not an alcoholic because no alcoholic could drink that much!” He was amused when people said he had a “bottomless capacity” for alcohol.
“I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.” —Churchill on drinking in moderation.
He would drink heavily during every meal, including breakfast. In pure amazement, the King of Saudi Arabia said that “his absolute rule of life requires drinking before, during, and after every meal.”
Who would you grab a beer with? Let us know in the comment section.
There has been a lot of web chatter over the last few months about whether the F-35 Lightning II is an ace maker or a total grape. Most of the discussion has centered around a 1v1 test hop that pitted an F-35 against an F-16, and the outcome of that event varies by URL.
One thing is true: In spite of the fact the post-9/11 wars haven’t featured anything in the way of air-to-air engagements (Google “Aces of the Taliban” and see what you get), dogfights aren’t necessarily dead. If the F-35 ever goes up against an enemy with a real air force, eventually it will be forced into the visual arena. And regardless of how much stealth and other high-tech gee-wizzery the program hangs on the airframe, the airplane will always be subject to the laws of physics. (Okay, that’s two true things.)
In spite of the variety of opinions, several common themes have emerged that suggest the best way to fight the F-35 in the event stealth and BVR weapons don’t do the trick.
1. You’re going to be pulling Gs, so make sure your helmet fits
The F-35 is designed with a super-Gucci helmet (that costs $500,000) that’s supposed to do all kinds of cool stuff that basically makes a heads-up display old news. But it won’t work right if it doesn’t fit. Reports indicate that the F-35 pilot in the 1v1 with the F-16 was wearing a helmet that was so big that his head spun freely inside of it, which probably didn’t help with the accuracy of the symbology or, for that matter, just keeping sight.
Also remember the F-35 helmet works with cameras throughout the airframe to give the pilot the ability to see through the fuselage (like Space Ghost), although if you’re looking at your opponent through the bottom of your jet you’re probably getting your ass handed to you.
2. Drive your opponent ‘one-circle’ and get him slow
Web wisdom indicates that the F-35 is a ‘bleeder,’ which means it dissipates airspeed in a hurry when in a hard turn, so it would be a bad idea to try a two-circle power fight against an airplane that doesn’t have that problem — like a well-managed F-16. After the merge the F-35 pilot should mirror the direction the opponent turns and work hard to keep the ranges close. The ultimate goal is to get the opponent beat down so the fight turns into one where the guy who can maintain the highest alpha wins — because that guy on paper is the F-35.
Word on the streets is the F-35 has great pitch authority at low airspeed, and this makes sense when you consider the shape of the airplane and how much the horizontal stabs deflect at full throw.
3. Use your sensor and missile superiority to get the first shot
If you complete the previous steps well, you will be the first guy to get nose on. Don’t pass up a valid shot.
4. Be careful when you try to bug out
The F-35’s energy addition rate is average, and it’s top end speed is below average, so bugging out can’t be an afterthought. Remember: you only have one engine, and old fighter pilots have a saying about stealth technology — it doesn’t work against bullets.