4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time - We Are The Mighty
Articles

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Three U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 30 aircraft from the 80th Fighter Squadron fly in formation over South Korea during a training mission on Jan. 9, 2008. (DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Quinton T. Burris, U.S. Air Force)


The F-16 Fighting Falcon was originally designed to be a daytime air superiority fighter, but over the decades of its service life it has evolved into a all-weather multi-role attack platform.  The first F-16 rolled off the manufacturing line in 1976, and ultimately over 4,500 aircraft followed it.

The Fighting Falcon (a.k.a. the “Viper” in aggressor squadron circles) remains technologically advanced and lethal throughout its full range of mission areas, which is remarkable considering the legendary Col. John Boyd and his “fighter mafia” first conceived of the airplane in the late ’60s.

Here are four design features that were years ahead of their time when they first hit the fleet and remain so today:

1. Fly-by-wire flight controls and side-stick controller

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

Unlike every airplane built before it, the F-16 was designed to be aerodynamically unstable until it reaches supersonic airspeeds. As a result there is no mechanical linkage between the stick and the moving parts of the airplane. A computer interface is required to interpret pilot inputs and move the flight controls accordingly, technology known as “fly-by-wire.” Because the F-16 is designed for high-G loading, the stick is mounted on the side of the cockpit instead of in the center to make it easier on the pilot’s right arm.  It barely moves; full throw is only one-eighth of an inch.

2. Bubble canopy

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

The pilot sits up very high relative to the canopy rail in the F-16, giving him superior visibility in all quadrants, including at six o’clock. The bubble canopy is designed to enhance this feature, and new pilots talk about feeling like they’re going to fall out of the airplane at first. Unlike other fighters there is no canopy bow forward of the pilot, so the forward view is completely unobstructed. The net result is a fighter that gives pilots an advantage in the dogfighting arena where “lost sight means lost fight.”

3. Reclined ejection seat

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

Because the F-16 is designed to pull 9 Gs or more (compared to 6.5 for most other American fighters) the ejection seat is tilted 30 degrees back (compared to around 12 degrees other ejection seat aircraft) for superior G tolerance by the pilot. Pilots sit almost like their riding a reclining bicycle, with knees up high, which makes for a very comfortable ride while killing MiGs and other bad guys.

4. Multi-function displays

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

The F-16 was one of the first military aircraft with a “glass” cockpit instead of the legacy “steam gauges,” which allows a pilot to tailor his displays for a particular mission as well as personal preference. MFDs also allow software upgrades with very little trouble, which has helped to keep the Fighting Falcon relevant and in the fight for decades.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
The F-16 isn’t just used by the Air Force. The Navy uses F-16Ns as aggressor aircraft at Top Gun.

Now: 6 superheroes who were also Air Force officers

Articles

The first secretary of war may have been America’s greatest blue falcon

Secretary of War Henry Knox was a hero of the American Revolution, the father of the American artillery corps and the namesake of a major U.S. base.


Too bad he was a huge blue falcon, otherwise known as a “buddy f-cker.”

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Henry Knox, painted here without his distinctive blue wings. (Portrait: Public Domain)

Veterans of the Revolutionary War were promised large land bounties in exchange for their service, but crazy rules were placed on the land bounties that limited soldiers’ abilities to actually settle on it or farm. Most vets were forced to sell the land cheap to speculators.

Since they couldn’t move to or farm their actual lands granted by bounty, many vets began going to plots that they believed to be unowned or free. They build farms and improved this land with the belief that they could buy it or use their land bounty to claim it down the road. Land speculators, including Henry Knox, found out about the improved lands and bought them out from under the veterans.

Then the speculators evicted the settlers or charged exorbitant rents. In Henry Knox’s case, this meant that he was buying up land in Maine and throwing out men who had previously served under him.

Joseph Plumb Martin moved to Maine on rumors of free land. But Knox bought the deed to his land and started charging huge rents. Knox fought Plumb and other veterans in court and sent surveyors to assert his claims.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Henry Knox shows his true colors. (Portrait: Public Domain. Graphics: WATM Logan Nye)

Martin and others who’d been blue falconed by Knox went bankrupt. Martin later testified that he had, “no real nor personal estate, nor any income whatever, my necessary bedding and wearing apparel excepted, except two cows, six sheep, one pig.”

In Henry Knox’s defense, some of the lands the veterans were living on belonged to his wife’s family before the war. Knox’s father-in-law was a land speculator and loyalist who wanted America to stay a part of Britain. When the Revolution turned against him, he and his family — but not Knox and his wife — fled the colonies. Knox’s wife then inherited much of the land and Knox enforced her claims.

But, other land was purchased out from under veterans and Knox didn’t hesitate to kick his former soldiers out.

And this wasn’t the only time Knox had “b f-ed” his troops.

While most soldiers at Valley Forge were fighting starvation and cold, Knox was partying at Washington’s table, eating lavish meals and watching entertainment.

Articles

The Royal Navy is using US troops to crew their ships, but this time we won’t go to war over it

The United Kingdom’s Navy is experiencing a big manpower shortage brought on by years of intentional recruiting shortfalls. As a result the British approached the U.S. to help fill the gaps, but the needed help came from the Coast Guard not the Navy.


The first time the Royal Navy used American Navy personnel it resulted in the War of 1812. Now, more than 200 years later, the discussion is much more amicable. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft explained the situation at a recent event:

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft and First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff of the U.K. Royal Navy Adm. Sir George Zambellas discuss the future relationship between the U.S. Coast Guard and U.K. Royal Navy. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley)

“Sixteen years ago, the Royal Navy was looking at budget challenges and they figured that one way they could meet budget is if they bring in no new personnel accessions,” Zukunft said. “They did that for three years. So now, over 16 years later, you’ve got this big hole in the Royal Navy in sea-going ratings, engineers and electricians.”

The Royal Navy’s First Sea Lord, the head of all Naval personnel for the UK, Adm. Sir George Zambellas, personally asked for Coast Guardsmen to support the Royal Navy’s operations. He offered to pay all permanent change of station costs and put the troops and their families up to “live the great European lifestyle.”

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
U.S. Coast Guard First Class Cadet Holly Madden logs a reading in the engine room aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class NyxoLyno Cangemi)

The Coast Guard agreed. The Royal Navy will soon host 36 enlisted men and women from to support its Type 23 Frigate operations. The UK needed machinery technicians and electrician’s mates first and foremost. This is actually not the first collaboration, as the Royal Navy and U.S. Coast Guard have been longtime partners, especially through Joint Interagency Task Force South, a key counter-trafficking task force in the Caribbean.

When Adm. Zunkunft asked Lord Zambellas why he didn’t ask for sailors from the U.S. Navy, the First Sea Lord replied:  “Well, you have old ships, we have old ships. Yours aren’t under warranty, ours aren’t under warranty. When they break, far away from home, the first thing you do is call is the duty engineer to come down and fix it. You don’t call a contractor.”

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
This is what happened the first time the UK started using U.S. troops on board its ships. (Library of Congress)

Articles

Hitler’s last gasp against the Soviets turned into an 8-day butcher fest

The Battle of Kursk in World War II was Adolph Hitler’s last great attempt to take down the Soviet Union. With his army struggling around the world and slowly losing ground to the Russians, the Führer ordered his armies to hold the line at Kursk in the western Soviet Union. Additionally, they were to launch a massive offensive to reverse the tides and serve as a beacon to German forces around the world.


Operation Citadel, as it was named, called for two German Army groups with hundreds of thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks to use a pincer attack to cut off a large Russian salient, a 100-mile deep and 160-mile wide section of Soviet territory that jutted into the German lines. This would give the Germans control of important rail lines and hopefully destroy five Soviet Armies, about 30 divisions worth of soldiers.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
A German Tiger tank rolls forward in the Battle of Kursk. (Photo: German Army archives)

The leader of the operation, Field Marshal Erick von Manstein, wanted to launch the offensive as quickly as possible because he believed the Russians would see it coming. Hitler went to the battlefield to personally discuss the plans with Kluge and insisted that the operation be halted until more Tiger tanks were available.

So the calendar crawled forward from February to July of 1943 with no offensive actions from the Germans. Meanwhile, the Soviets turned the lines into some of the most well-defended territories in the war. They planted over 2,200 anti-tank mines and 2,500 anti-personnel mines per mile of the front while citizens and soldiers dug 3,000 miles worth of trenches and positioned 20,000 artillery pieces. Soviet tanks arrived as well, bringing Soviet armor up to 5,000 or so.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Soviet soldiers man an anti-tank rifle in the chaos of the Battle of Kursk. (Photo: RIA Novosti archive)

On July 5, 1943, 38 German divisions with approximately 570,000 soldiers, 3,000 tanks, and thousands of planes finally headed east for the counteroffensive. Soviet planes with inexperienced pilots were on their way to attack German airfields and the two forces stumbled into each hour in the early morning. The Battle of Kursk was on.

Historians debate the exact numbers of troops and vehicles in the battle due to the fact that military leaders on each side exaggerated their numbers, but by almost every count Kursk was the largest tank battle ever fought.

The Germans had much to celebrate in the first four days. They quickly established air superiority and, despite the heavy defenses at Kursk, both the north and south advances in the pincer attack were moving forward slowly but steadily.

Josef Stalin himself was concerned about the air situation at Kursk and became agitated when he learned that the Germans still held the advantage. Both sides used dive bombers and other ground attack planes to hit enemy tanks on the ground as well as help direct artillery and conduct reconnaissance.

It was an air victory on July 9 that allowed the Soviets to first gain the initiative. The Soviets had been picking away at German pilots for the first few days and finally were able to force the Stukas to drop below 500 sorties, half of what they launched on the first day of fighting. Importantly, many of those killed were heroes of the Third Reich like Karl Fitzner and Bernhard Wutka, both Knight’s Cross holders.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Soviet soldiers advance behind a T-34 tank through thick smoke. (Photo: public domain)

On the ground, the fighting was truly hellish. Columns of oily smoke rose from burnt out wrecks as shells and bombs burst among the tanks on both sides. Russian infantrymen were known to launch near-suicidal attacks through the smoke, running up to German tanks with mines in their hands and hurling them under the enemy treads.

While the Soviets were losing more men and material than the Germans, the Germans were running out of fuel and men more quickly. When von Manstein asked for reinforcements, Hitler finally decided that they were losing too many men to reclaim too little territory.

He ordered the Panzer units to withdraw on July 13 and the Soviets resumed their own march west towards Berlin. While the German tanks that survived the battle were able to delay Soviet advances, they were never able to regain the initiative. The Allies invaded Italy the next month, and by the next summer, they were knocking down the doors of Fortress Europe.

Articles

This Navy SEAL’s intense boot camp prepares actors for movie combat

The reviews for “Suicide Squad” are in, and they’re a mixed bag, to put it politely. The film disappointed critics, but fans were more forgiving. What’s not in question, however, are military skills on display in the movie. That success is owed to Kevin Vance (of Vance Brown Consulting), a former Navy SEAL and professional military advisor for the film industry.


4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback there,” says Vance. “In terms of the gear we brought in, we had so much support. SS Precision, Vickers Tactical — the list goes on and on.”

He doesn’t judge what’s “good” and “bad.” That’s not his job. He can, however, understand the decisions made by the studios. Vance believes they tried to make a movie for the fans of the comic, like filmmaker Kevin Smith (who called it “dope“).

“I just know David Ayer and the film he wants to make,” the Navy veteran says. “He’s made so many great films over the years and has such a unique perspective. If he sucker-punches you while he tells his story, so be it. He’s not going to do it simply for effect. He’s going to do it to kind of smack you and wake you up”

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
David Ayer on set. (Vance Brown photo)

Filmmaker David Ayer is a Navy veteran who hired Kevin Vance to train the cast of a previous film, 2014’s “Fury.” That film was about a U.S. Army tank crew in World War II. In the film, the experienced crew looses their bow gunner and gets a reluctant replacement.

“What was fascinating to me was Wardaddy’s (Brad Pitt) job was to really dismantle this young man’s sense of decency,” says Vance. “The resistance to becoming a functioning soldier was going to get everyone killed. The sense of decency is what he to break apart.”

Vance put the entire cast – Brad Pitt, Shia LeBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, and Jon Bernthal – through a rigorous WWII-style basic training, complete with canvas tents, cots, and lanterns to protect from the cold, North Atlantic winds in the open countryside.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

“I wasn’t there to train those guys to be soldiers,” the former SEAL recalls. “I was there to put them in a state of mind. I was there to make them fatigued, miserable, cold, hungry, pissed-off. I broke them down physically and mentally to build them back up. They suffered together to create a functioning group inside that tank.”

They did learn to work as a team in a real Sherman tank, Brad Pitt commanding.

“They’re tight because of it now,” Vance says. “They all still talk to one another; they do dinners together. I’m not saying that’s just because of me. That’s guys bonding.”

military advisor (Flag) and Will Smith (“Deadshot”) in 2016’s “Suicide Squad.”

“Suicide Squad” was a much different animal in terms of mechanics, actor training, and weapons training. The film was about individuals being individual characters working together. Vance and his fellow military veterans had two weeks and $50,000 in blank ammo to drill the stuntmen and actors to move like operators.

“I was there to get these guys functioning on a level that the audience can truly appreciate, that our peers will appreciate, and then create scenarios where other movies have not performed,” Vance says. “We build this foundation of physical skills then move into this other space which the actor truly needs to perform well – and that’s that mental space.”

To Kevin Vance, that means combat mindset, leadership, and the emotional, psychological, or physical scars a character would have. Vance and his colleagues provide the actors with historical examples and personal examples from their real-world warfighting colleagues so they can take what they want and need for their character.

“Will Smith’s character [Deadshot] is very different from, say Flag [Joel Kinnaman] or Lt. Edwards [Scott Eastwood],” Vance says. “We’re all looking of that life-test. We’re looking to truly challenge ourselves. I didn’t know what that was. I just got very, very lucky when an old book landed on my lap in college when I was 19.”

That book was about scouts and raiders during World War II. It piqued Vance’s interest so much, he read more and more, eventually coming across books about Navy SEALs. One day he met a Vietnam veteran who inspired and educated him. One thing led to another, and Kevin Vance joined the Navy and served as a SEAL from 1994 to 2003. The frustrations of bureaucracy and war led Vance into entertainment.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

“We used to have we called the ‘vent book,'” he recalls. “Guys can work out and vent. Guys can use conversation these different ways. So we created this book which turned into, something turned it into something really funny. It’s like how would you fight the war if you were Dirty Harry?”

The SEALs on Vance’s team got really creative with the vent book. Vance know some video game producers with the blessing of his team, decided to pitch the book to see where it led. That turned into Vance and his fellow Team guys writing a “Medal of Honor” game for Electronic Arts.

When I asked Kevin Vance for advice he could give separating military members on working in Hollywood, he was quick to remind me that his case is unique, he’s a “lucky guy,” and that he just came from a 48-hour shift at the local firehouse.

“If you’re getting out of the military, first thing first is to have a plan,” he says. “Don’t make Hollywood your plan A. Hollywood is not a structured environment like the military is, like a fire department is. You’re left to your own devices in a world that is unpredictable and unreliable.”

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

Vance says success in the film industry is also hinged highly on people skills and mission focus. The military from the garrison to the battlefield is one and the same with movies from set to screen. Veterans could use that same decisive skills set to engage, inform, and aid their own communities.

“I think people are hungry for a challenge,” he says. “Look at things like Mud-Runs, challenges you can pay to get.  We ask 19-year-olds, men and women, to be soldiers, to be ambassadors, and spend a significant period of their adult years overseas. The people in our country need help. They need true leaders. We need people who can inspire other people and motivate other people. That’s what this generation of veterans has to offer.”

Articles

The Army is looking for a pistol holster that can do everything

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the Pentagon — led by the Army — is looking for a new handgun to replace the 1980s-era Beretta M9.


The latest from the program office is that the Army is still in “source selection,” which means program managers are still trying to decide which companies will be finalists for a pistol that’s supposed to fit a wide range of troops, be convertible between a compact, subcompact, and full-size combat pistol, and be more accurate and maintenance-free than the existing M9.

While the specs for the so-called XM17 Modular Handgun System program have been on the streets for some time, the Army has just released an outline of how that pistol should be carried when attached to a trooper’s hip or anywhere else on his or her body.

According to a solicitation distributed to industry, the Army is looking for a holster that can be attached to a variety of items, including body armor, a utility belt or a trooper’s waistband, can work with a suppressed pistol or without, can fit a handgun with a laser sight and keep the handgun secure during combat operations.

In short, the Army’s looking for a holster that can do just about everything.

“Compact variant users may need to carry their handguns in an overt/tactical method in the course of their duties and it would be necessary for the full-size holster to accommodate the compact variant,” the Army notice says. “In the event a new handgun is needed, the existing holster will need to holster or adapt to holster the new weapon to ensure soldiers have a holster system available for use.”

Program officials suggest what they’ve dubbed the “Army Modular Tactical Holster system” could use a single attachment point and hold different shells to fit different-sized pistols or ones designed to for accessories like suppressors or flashlights. Shooting with pistol suppressors often requires pistols to be fitted with slightly longer barrels and higher sights in order for the shooter to properly zero in on his target, and a flashlight adds significant bulk to the slide.

Interestingly, the Army called for a retention system that did not have to be “activated” by the soldier like some holsters used by law enforcement where a lever is flipped over the handgun’s hammer or slide.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
A U.S. Air Force airman holsters a 9mm pistol at the Combat Arms Training and Maintenance range at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Oct. 30, 2015. Holsters like this one require the user to manually flip a retention bar over the slide to keep the handgun from falling out or being easily grabbed by an opponent. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Derek Seifert)

“Soldiers require the ability to draw handguns from holsters and re-holster with one hand reliably when transitioning from another weapon system, or when presented with a lethal force engagement with little or no warning when only armed with a handgun,” the notice says. “This requires that Soldiers be capable of drawing the weapon quickly with one fluid motion, attain a proper firing grip from the holster, engage enemy targets, holster the weapon and potentially repeat the process during the same engagement or in successive engagements. … Soldiers must be able to conduct draw and re-holster with one hand and without looking or glancing away from their near-target environment.”

All of this is to avoid the problem experienced with the popular Blackhawk! Serpa holster that many claim contributes to negligent discharges.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
The Serpa holster requires the user to press down on a release button with his trigger finger to draw the weapon. Some argue that configuration contributes to negligent discharges and the Army wants no part of it for the AMTH. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

“No retention buttons, switches, levers, etc. will use the soldier’s trigger finger to release the handgun,” the Army says.

The Army also wants the AMTH to work both outside and inside the waistband for concealed carry environments.

That’s surely an ambitious list of specs for a do-all holster. And to top it off, the Army wants the base holster (without any accessory shells or attachments) to cost less than $100.

And industry has until early October to tell the Army what it’s got that can meet the AMTH’s lofty goals.

Articles

This is how a military death can affect generations of families

A U.S. Air Force C-124 Globemaster II on its way to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, crashed into Gannett Mountain in November 1952, killing all 52 service members on board.


The wreckage of the crash was found but was soon covered by deep snow — the remains of those aboard lost to the world for the next 60 years.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
The wreckage site of the C-124 Globemaster is only accessible by helicopter for about two weeks in June. It has been carried by Alaska’s Colony Glacier some 16 kilometers from Mount Gannett where the crash occurred. The glacier is slowly pushing into Lake George, where the remains and wreckage embedded in it could be lost. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John S. Gordinier)

Also Read: A green beret reportedly killed in Vietnam may have been found alive 44 years later

Now the slowly melting ice and snow has uncovered the wreck of the doomed Military Air Transport Service plane. It was found two miles away from the spot of the crash, slowly moved over the years by the receding Colony Glacier.

“The glacier essentially held these things in a capsule,” Elizabeth Feeney, a spokeswoman for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, told the Los Angeles Times. “Many of the things that we get back are easily identifiable.”

JPAC has since recovered the remains of 31 of the missing 52 passengers and crewmembers from the Gannett Mountain Crash.

This includes Col. Noel Elmer Hoblit, whose remains were returned to his family in 2012. Hoblit was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Then-Capt. Noel Hoblit, U.S. Air Force.

Hoblit’s granddaughter, Heidi Noel Hoblit-Graham, says her grandmother, Virginia, and her family were never the same after the crash.

“My grandmother was, towards the end of her life, an alcoholic,” Graham recalls. “The crash gave her post-traumatic stress and she became a different woman.”

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

Both of Graham’s grandparents were 45 at the time of the crash. Heidi Graham eventually found a box of letters her grandfather sent to her grandmother. The box also included jagged newspaper clippings, hastily cut out and put away.

“It was life-changing to read through these love letters, through every newspaper article that my grandmother saved,” Graham says. “Maybe she felt like she had to to save the memory but couldn’t go back and face it herself. Maybe she thought she would be able to one day, but she just never did.”

She never remarried, never even dated again.

Hoblit’s remains were buried on what would have been his wedding anniversary. Two of his sons, retired Air Force Col. Jerry Hoblit and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Fred Hoblit — who joined the service because of their father’s legacy — were at Arlington to receive his flag.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
More than 100 family members, friends and military service members gather to remember U.S. Air Force Col. Noel Elmer Hoblit during a funeral on May 21, 2015, at Arlington National Cemetery. Col. Hoblits two sons, U.S. Air Force Col. Jerry Hoblit and Lt. Col. Fred Hoblit, remembered the life of their father during a funeral with family and friends at the Arlington National Cemetery.

“My dad has early stages of dementia and he knows it,” Graham says. “He just turned 80, he knows that he’s not quite firing on the same really high intellect that he once did. He asked me to be his person to help plan this stuff.”

It was an emotional experience for the two sons. Their father had a grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery for years. Then their mother was interred there. Now they’re finally in the same place.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Col. Jerry Hoblit and Lt. Col. Fred Hoblit at the funeral of their late father, Col. Noel Elmer Hoblit on May 21, 2015, at Arlington National Cemetery. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young, Jr.)

“I think that that was an important thing for my dad,” Graham says. “I think my uncle was so broken from having lost his father that I don’t think he’s ever really recovered.”

Many families have since been reunited with their loved ones’ remains since the glacier started to recede in 2012. But time is running out for the families of the nearly two dozen remaining crewmembers and passengers.

The wreckage is moving into a 600-foot-deep lake. Once the wreck is in the lake, the rest of the bodies will not be recoverable.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
A Joint Task Force-Alaska Team from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Fort Wainwright recovers debris on Colony Glacier near Anchorage, Alaska, on July 12, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“The lake is too deep,” Graham says. “They don’t have the technology to be able to go that deep and get the remains and because it’s moving, they’re only able to go up there for two weeks out of the year in the summer to find remains.”

Articles

General Mattis’ thoughts about those ‘too busy to read’ are as awesome as you’d expect

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Wikimedia Commons


In the run up to Marine Gen. James Mattis‘ deployment to Iraq in 2004, a colleague wrote to him asking about the “importance of reading and military history for officers,” many of whom found themselves “too busy to read.”

His response went viral over email.

Security Blog “Strife” out of Kings College in London recently published Mattis’ words with a short description from the person who found it in her email.

Their title for the post:

With Rifle and Bibliography: General Mattis on Professional Reading

[Dear, “Bill”]

The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.

Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.

With [Task Force] 58, I had w/ me Slim’s book, books about the Russian and British experiences in [Afghanistan], and a couple others. Going into Iraq, “The Siege” (about the Brits’ defeat at Al Kut in WW I) was req’d reading for field grade officers. I also had Slim’s book; reviewed T.E. Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”; a good book about the life of Gertrude Bell (the Brit archaeologist who virtually founded the modern Iraq state in the aftermath of WW I and the fall of the Ottoman empire); and “From Beirut to Jerusalem”. I also went deeply into Liddell Hart’s book on Sherman, and Fuller’s book on Alexander the Great got a lot of my attention (although I never imagined that my HQ would end up only 500 meters from where he lay in state in Babylon).

Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun.

For all the “4th Generation of War” intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc, I must respectfully say … “Not really”: Alex the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq, and our leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying (studying, vice just reading) the men who have gone before us.

We have been fighting on this planet for 5,000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. “Winging it” and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of incompetence in our profession. As commanders and staff officers, we are coaches and sentries for our units: how can we coach anything if we don’t know a hell of a lot more than just the [Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures]? What happens when you’re on a dynamic battlefield and things are changing faster than higher [Headquarters] can stay abreast? Do you not adapt because you cannot conceptualize faster than the enemy’s adaptation? (Darwin has a pretty good theory about the outcome for those who cannot adapt to changing circumstance — in the information age things can change rather abruptly and at warp speed, especially the moral high ground which our regimented thinkers cede far too quickly in our recent fights.) And how can you be a sentinel and not have your unit caught flat-footed if you don’t know what the warning signs are — that your unit’s preps are not sufficient for the specifics of a tasking that you have not anticipated?

Perhaps if you are in support functions waiting on the warfighters to spell out the specifics of what you are to do, you can avoid the consequences of not reading. Those who must adapt to overcoming an independent enemy’s will are not allowed that luxury.

This is not new to the USMC approach to warfighting — Going into Kuwait 12 years ago, I read (and reread) Rommel’s Papers (remember “Kampstaffel”?), Montgomery’s book (“Eyes Officers”…), “Grant Takes Command” (need for commanders to get along, “commanders’ relationships” being more important than “command relationships”), and some others.

As a result, the enemy has paid when I had the opportunity to go against them, and I believe that many of my young guys lived because I didn’t waste their lives because I didn’t have the vision in my mind of how to destroy the enemy at least cost to our guys and to the innocents on the battlefields.

Hope this answers your question…. I will cc my ADC in the event he can add to this. He is the only officer I know who has read more than I.

Semper Fi, Mattis

Articles

4 urban myths with military roots

Urban legends, old wives tales, myths, and folklore all come from somewhere. In the 20th century, the military was an important facet in the lives of many, especially during WWII and the Cold War years. Some of the lore was bound to find its way into civilian life, here are just a few you may have heard:


1. Carrots help your night vision

While it’s true carrots are good for your eyes, because they’re loaded with beta carotene and thus vitamin A. That’s where the ocular benefits end. In the thousands of admonished children and thousands of unfinished dinner plates between WWII and today, the idea of carrots being good for you morphed into a super power where you gain the ability to see at night.

The myth started in WWII, as German bombers struck British targets at night during the Blitz. British authorities ordered city wide blackouts in an attempt to lead the bombers off course or hope they would strike off target. The British fought off the German Blitz because of a new technology which allowed them to see the bombers coming from far off. It wasn’t carrots, it was radar.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
But cabbage will still totally clean you out.

The radar RAF fighter pilots had on their planes allowed them to detect bombers before they crossed the English Channel. One pilot, John Cunningham, racked up and impressive 19 kills at night.In an effort to keep the radar technology under wraps, the British Ministry of Defence told reporters pilots like Cunningham ate a lot of carrots.

The British public ate it hook, line, and sinker. Victory gardens began producing carrots to augment food supplies and alleviate shipping issues. BBC radio would broadcast carrot dessert recipes (this is why carrot cake is a thing, when it definitely should not be) to get the public behind carrots as a sweetener substitute.

2. You lose most of your body heat through your head

Your mother never let you out of the house on a cold day without warning you to wear a hat, but this old wives’ tale comes from an experiment the military conducted on body heat loss. They put people in arctic survival suits and put them in Arctic conditions. The survival suits only covered the people from the neck down, so there was nowhere for the heat to escape, except up through the head (You try explaining this to your mom).

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
MOM, I swear to god it comes out of my feet.

The amount of heat loss from your body depends on the temperature outside, how much surface area your skin has and how much skin you have exposed to the elements.

3. The military puts saltpeter in food to curb sex drives

This one even made it to the lore of boarding schools and colleges. You had no problems before you went to boot camp or boarding school. Now it seems like your libido took a vacation. What changed? It must be the food!

The logic for this is astounding. If there really is saltpeter in the food at basic training, then this must mean Taco Bell is an aphrodisiac (pro tip: it’s not, though the food quality standards are probably similar). The problem has less to do with the food and more to do with the campaign hat. It’s your drill sergeant is stressing you out.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

Even if the services put saltpeter in the food, the medical truth is saltpeter doesn’t even suppress sex. It doesn’t help your libido either. Saltpeter is an ingredient in gunpowder and in that way it helps things go bang but it will never help or hurt your ability to go bang.

4.  Civilians tie yellow ribbons to support the troops

At least it didn’t start out that way. There was a John Wayne film produced in 1949 called “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” in which the female lead actually did wear a yellow ribbon for her cavalry officer lover. But the real custom of tying a yellow ribbons around things came from the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
That’s not the tying I meant.

In 1972, Tony Orlando and Dawn produced a song called Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree, which was pretty popular. by 1979 the symbolic act resurfaced en masse as the hostages were held for 444 days. The practice came around again in 1991 during Desert Storm and was associated with deployed U.S. troops ever since.

 

 

NOW: The 6 craziest military myths

OR: The 4 biggest myths Marines keep telling themselves

Articles

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time


Last week an Oregon judge ruled that Jamie Shupe, an Army vet, can legally be considered “nonbinary.”

Up to that point, Shupe considered himself female, although he doesn’t identify with either sex.

“It feels amazing to be free from a binary sex classification system that inadequately addressed who I really am, a system in which I felt confined,” Shupe said.

Shupe was male at birth, but he started transitioning to a female in 2013, more than a decade after retiring from the military as a sergeant first class.

“Oregon law has allowed for people to petition a court for a gender change for years, but the law doesn’t specify that it has to be either male or female,” said civil rights attorney Lake J. Perriguey, who filed the petition, according to CNN.

“The law just says, ‘change.’ Historically, people have asked for a gender change from male to female and the other way around, but Jamie is the first to ask for the gender of “nonbinary,” Perriguey said.

It’s unclear what the ruling will have nationally, but it certainly has the potential to complicate the Pentagon’s already-challenging gender integration efforts. Special operators are just now adjusting to the idea of having females in their ranks. Are they ready for nonbinaries?

Articles

10 ways Ernest Hemingway was a next-level American warrior

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.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

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 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

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.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

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.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

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.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

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.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

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.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

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.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

“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.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

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.”

NOW: 5 Cocktails with military origins

OR: The 14 best military nonfiction books of all time

Articles

300 Marines heading back to Helmand

The US Marine Corps has returned to Helmand, the restive province in southern Afghanistan where it fought years of bloody battles with the Taliban, to help train Afghan forces struggling to contain the insurgency.


Many of the 300 Marines coming to Helmand as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support training mission are veterans of previous tours in the province, where almost 1,000 coalition troops, mostly US and British, were killed fighting the Taliban.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dustin D. March)

When they left in 2014, handing over the sprawling desert base they knew as Camp Leatherneck to the Afghan army, the Marines never expected to return. The fact that they are back underlines the problems Afghan forces have faced since being left to fight alone.

Lists

The 8 most elite special forces in the world, according to BI Defense

Elite special forces are some of the best-trained and most formidable units a country can boast.


They go where other soldiers fear to tread, scoping out potential threats, taking out strategic targets, and conducting daring rescue missions.

These really are the best of the best.

Although it’s extremely difficult to rank these forces relative to one another, there are some units that rise above the rest in their track record and the fear they instill in their adversaries. These soldiers have been through rigorous training exercises designed to weed out those who can’t hit their exacting standards.

In a world where the importance of the sheer size of a country’s military forces is no longer a guide to their effectiveness, these soldiers are the ones states look to in order to get the job done.

8. The Special Services Group, SSG, in Pakistan is better known in the country as the “Black Storks” because of the commandos’ unique headgear. Training reportedly includes a 36-mile march in 12 hours and a five-mile run in 50 minutes in full gear.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Photo: YouTube screen shot

In October 2009, SSG commandos stormed an office building and rescued 39 people taken hostage by suspected Taliban militants after an attack on the army’s headquarters.

7. Spain’s Unidad de Operaciones Especiales, or the Naval Special Warfare Force as it has become since 2009, has long been one of Europe’s best-respected special forces. Originally established as the volunteer Amphibious Climbing Company unit in 1952, it has since followed the SAS’s example to become an elite fighting force.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Photo: YouTube

Earning the UOE green beret, however, is a big ask with the failure rate of candidates averaging between 70% and 80%. It’s not uncommon for 100% of would-be new recruits to be rejected.

6. Russia’s Alpha Group is one of the best-known special forces units in the world. This elite antiterrorism unit was created by the KGB in 1974 and remains under its modern-day counterpart, the FSB.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Russian special forces, and the Alpha Group in particular, came under criticism during the 2002 Moscow hostage crisis in which 129 hostages died from the effects of the gas used to knock out militants who had seized a theatre.

5. Of all the counterterrorism forces in the world, few can compete with France’s National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN). The group is 200 strong and trained specifically to respond to hostage situations. They claim to have freed over 600 people since they were formed in 1973. It is against French law to publish pictures of their faces.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Photo: YouTube

One of the most extraordinary episodes in the GIGN’s history was the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979. Because of the prohibition on non-Muslims entering the holy city, a team of three GIGN commandos briefly converted to Islam before helping the Saudi armed forces to plan the recapture of the mosque.

4. Israel’s Sayeret Matkal is another of the world’s most elite units. Its primary purpose is intelligence gathering, and it often operates deep behind enemy lines. During the selection camp (Gibbush), would-be recruits endure hardcore training exercises while being constantly monitored by doctors and psychologists. Only the strongest get in.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Photo: YouTube

In 2003, Israeli taxi driver Eliyahu Gurel was kidnapped after transporting four Palestinians to Jerusalem in his cab. But the Sayeret Matkal unit located and rescued him from a 10-meter-deep pit in an abandoned factory in a suburb of Ramallah.

3. The British Special Air Service (or SAS as they are more commonly known) are the infantry counterparts to the SBS. Their insignia bears the famous phrase “Who dares wins.” Asked about the importance of the SAS’s role in the fighting that followed the Iraq war, US Gen. Stanley McChrystal responded: “Essential. Could not have done it without them.”

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Photo: YouTube

2. The UK equivalent of the Navy SEALS is the Special Boat Service. The selection process involves a grueling endurance test, jungle training in the rainforests of Belize, and combat survival training, which involves intense interrogation of candidates. And you get only two attempts to pass.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Photo: YouTube

1. Last up, the US Navy SEALs. To join their ranks, you have to be able to do a minimum of 42 push-ups in two minutes, 50 sit-ups in two minutes, and run 1.5 miles in 11 minutes. And that’s before training starts.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

BONUS: The US Marines are hardcore in their own right. Below, a US Marine drinks the blood of a cobra during a jungle survival exercise with the Thai Navy as part of the “Cobra Gold 2014” joint military exercise.

4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time
Photo Credit: Cpl. Isaac Ibarra/USMC

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.