5 things we'd love to do with the Army's surplus battleship ammo - We Are The Mighty
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5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

Popular Mechanics dug this gem out of the list of contract requests from a government website this week: The U.S. Army is soliciting a contract for someone to destroy 15,595 naval artillery rounds originally designed for the 16-inch guns of massive ships like the USS Iowa.


The Army has maintained the shells since the Navy retired the massive battleships that fired them, but these things can’t be safely stored forever and the military needs them gone.

Hiring a responsible contractor with a proven track record is the best way to do this, but WATM came up with these 5 more entertaining ideas:

1. Host history’s best Independence Day party

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
It would look like this, but near a beach while you and your mildly intoxicated buddies got to watch from the shore. (Photo: U.S. Navy PH1 Terry Cosgrove)

So, the Army is looking for solutions in October, which is exactly the right month to start planning the perfect party for July 4th. Especially if the plans involve a few thousand 16-inch artillery shells. Pretty sure those require permits or something. Be sure to tell the permit office that the fireworks will explode over the water or an open, uninhabited area. And that they’re pretty lethal loud.

2. Blowing up a mountain, like in Iron Man

Remember that scene where Tony Stark is showing off the Jericho missile and he blows up an entire mountain range? Pretty sure everyone reading this would pay at least $15 to see a mountain disappear. Call me Army. We could turn a profit on this.

3. Play a real life game of battleship

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
I would tune into this show for literally every episode. (Meme: courtesy Decelerate Your Life)

The Navy is already getting rid of some old ships, and the Army has found itself with way too many naval artillery shells, meaning this is the perfect time to hold a full-sized game of battleship. Pretty sure the TV ratings could pay for the cost of towing the ships into position.

4. Give drill sergeants really accurate artillery simulators

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
That smoke in the back is coming from an artillery simulator. That’s not realistic enough training for our fighting men and women. (Photo: U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. David J. Overson)

Right now, drill sergeants and other military trainers use little artillery simulators that make a loud whining noise and then a sharp pop to teach recruits to quickly react to incoming indirect fire. They’re great, but it really ignores that sphincter-tightening boom that comes with real incoming fire.

Now imagine that drill sergeants threw the artillery simulator and then were able to remotely detonate an actual, buried battleship shell 100 yards away. Right? No one gets hurt, but it would teach those kids to get their heads down pretty quick.

5. Create claymore mines that shoot grenades

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
This is what it looks like with 1.5 pounds of C4. Someone has to try this with battleship shells and their little grenade submunitions. (Photo: U.S. Army Capt. Adan Cazarez)

Stick with me here. Claymore mines are brutally effective. A C-4 charge sends 700 steel balls flying in an arc at enemies. But the Army currently needs to get rid of 835 warheads that contain grenade submunitions and a whole bunch of other warheads filled with Explosive D.

So, how about we cut the grenades out of the submunition warheads, and duct tape them in rows around the Explosive D warheads? Sure, it would probably break a few treaties to use them in war, but it’s perfectly legal for a government to create an awesome piece of performance art on a military range. Probably.

(h/t Doctrine Man and Popular Mechanics)

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This former paratrooper is cycling across America for vets

Devin Faulkner is an infantry veteran of the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team who is pedalling across America on a bike in an effort to raise money for veteran causes.


The 24-year-old began his journey Jun. 4 in San Francisco with the intent of riding to New York across 3,900 miles, mostly avoiding major highways and sticking to roads filled with people and other cyclists.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
Devin Faulkner takes a short pit stop on Jun. 6, his second day of riding. Photo courtesy Devin Faulkner via his blog.

Faulkner left a job at Monster Energy to attempt his trip. Faulkner began at Monster as a photography intern assigned to cover military and veteran activities. This quickly led to him getting involved with the Warrior Built Foundation, a veteran-ran group sponsored by Monster which provides vets with recreational therapy through racing events, camping trips, and vehicle fabrication.

While working for Monster with Warrior Built Foundation and other veteran groups, Faulkner found himself thinking back to an idea he had mentioned to his old medic, a ride across the entire continental U.S.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
Devin Faulkner during training in the U.S. Army. Photo courtesy Devin Faulkner

And now he’s doing it in what is tentatively planned as a 48-day ride. Faulkner planned the route by looking at weather concerns and finding roads frequented by other cyclists.

“So, my original plan,” Faulkner told WATM, “was to ride from San Bernadino, California, where I live, to New York … but then I thought about, ‘This is June. It’s hot out there. There’s no way I’m built to survive in Arizona on a bicycle without water.'”

So Faulkner looked North and used Strava heat maps to find roads commonly ridden by other cyclists. The final route leads through Nevada and Utah east through Chicago and across to New York. He is hoping to finish in about seven weeks but is leaving himself open to stopping in cities to speak with veteran groups along his route, potentially delaying his arrival in New York.

To keep costs low, he’s carrying a tent and sleeping wherever he can find a spot to pitch it.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
Everything Devin Faulkner will have for the ride is packed on his bike. Photo courtesy Devin Faulkner via his Go Fund Me page.

Unfortunately, he faced trouble even before he could leave for the trip. Faulkner is coming off of two injuries. The first came during a training ride when he moved to avoid a car and struck an obstacle on the road, hurting his wrist and delaying his training. Right after he was able to return to training, he was hurt again when he was riding a motorcycle to work and was sideswiped by a car.

Still, Faulkner was set on beginning his ride on time and climbed back onto the bike just in time to leave for his trip.

All money he raises on the ride is going to post-traumatic stress and groups, such as Warrior Built, that seek to help veterans suffering from PTSD.

Supporters can contribute to Devin’s ride through his Go Fund Me page and can follow his trip through his blog, Downshift With Devin.

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Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)

The M1 Abrams main battle tank gets a lot of attention and respect. As well it should; it has a very enviable combat record – not to mention a reputation that is simply fearsome.


After all, if you were facing them and knew that enemy shells fired from 400 yards away bounced off the armor of an M1, you’d want to find some sort of white fabric to wave to keep it from shooting at you.

But the Abrams doesn’t operate alone. Often, it works with the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, or BFV. The “B” could also stand for “badass” because the Bradley has done its share of kicking butt alongside the Abrams, including during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
An M2A2 Bradley in action during a mission in Iraq. (U.S. Air Force)

Incidentally the Bradley took a lot of flak early on, pun intended. People called it a “coffin ready to burn.” U.S. News and World Report placed it on their list of America’s 10 Worst Weapons. Even the legendary “60 Minutes” took its shots at the vehicle.

That said, the Bradley proved `em wrong in Desert Storm. Here are some of the reasons why:

Chain Gun Firepower

The Bradley has the M242 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, and can hold up to 900 or 1500 rounds, depending on whether you are in the M2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle or M3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle. This chain gun can handle just about any battlefield threat. Opposing armored personnel carriers or infantry fighting vehicles, dismounted infantry, trucks, just about anything on the battlefield short of a tank can be taken out. That sells the M242 short. In Desert Storm, one Bradley even took out a T-72 with that chain gun!

An Anti-Tank Missile, Too!

But the Bradley didn’t forget the fact that tanks are on the battlefield. It has a two-round launcher for the BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided (TOW) missile. The BGM-71E TOW has a range of about two and a third miles, and carries a 13-pound shaped charge. This is enough to rip just about any tank to shreds. The BGM-71F attacks the top of a tank with two explosively formed projectiles.

Oh, and the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle can stow five reloads for its launcher. The Cavalry Fighting Vehicle carries ten — almost enough to take out an entire company of tanks.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment conducts a combat patrol in Iraq. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

The Grunts

The Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle can carry up to seven grunts in the back. What can grunts bring to the table? Plenty. With M4 carbines, M249 squad automatic weapons, M203 grenade launchers, M320 grenade launchers, the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile, and a host of other weapons, the grunts can add to the vehicle’s already impressive punch.

The Cavalry Fighting Vehicle carries two grunts, but they have access to the same weapons that the grunts in the Infantry Fighting Vehicle do.

Versatility

The Bradley also comes in the Bradley Linebacker version. This Bradley, designated the M6, replaced the TOW launcher with a four-round launcher for the FIM-92 Stinger. Now, the Bradley could hunt aircraft and helicopters. It retained the M242, though, which still gives it the ability to handle ground targets.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
Hard-charging grunts in an M6 scan the sands of Balad for insurgents. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Acosta)

The M7 Bradley Fire Support Vehicle replaced the M113-based M981, and while it still has a 25mm gun, it uses a sophisticated navigation system (a combination of GPS and inertial navigation) to serve as a reference point. The TOW system has been replaced with something far more deadly: the means to provide laser designation for anything from Hellfire missiles, to Copperhead laser-guided artillery rounds, to Paveway laser-guided bombs like the GBU-12 and GBU-24.

Other versions of the Bradley are used for command and control and for combat engineers. In short, this vehicle can do a lot.

Toughness

The Bradley has not been easy to kill. During Desert Storm, only three were lost to enemy fire. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, about 150 Bradleys were lost from all causes. Still, the vehicle still allows the crew and grunts inside to survive.

It Keeps Up

One problem with the M113 armored personnel carrier has been the fact it couldn’t keep up with the M1 Abrams. The Bradley never had that problem — and was able to fight side-by-side with the M1, allowing such feats as the 24th Infantry Division’s advance of 260 miles during the 100-hour long ground war of Desert Storm.

The combat record of the Bradley also speaks volumes. In Desert Storm, Bradleys destroyed more enemy vehicles than the Abrams.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
The M2 Bradley has seen a lot of desert miles. (National War College Military Image Collection)

It Keeps Getting Better

The Bradley isn’t standing still. Like the M1 Abrams, it has received upgrades thoughout its career. By 2018, the new versions of the Bradley will be entering service, bringing a more powerful engine, new shock absorbers, and an improved power-management system, among other improvements.

So, before you dismiss the badass Bradley, keep these things in mind. The United States Army bought over 4,600 of these vehicles — and it has outlasted two efforts to replace it in the Future Combat Systems XM1206 and the Ground Combat Vehicle Infantry Carrier Vehicle. Not a bad track record for this vehicle!

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Listen to the famed “Rebel Yell” as yelled by real Civil War rebels

The Library of Congress hosts a number of historical treasures, including, as a writer for the Smithsonian Magazine discovered in the library’s archives, a video from the 1930s that shows actual Confederate veterans doing their famed “Rebel Yell.”


The yell was used as a battle cry by Confederate soldiers, usually during charges. It was never recorded during a battle because audio recording technology was in its infancy during the war. The first known recordings were created in 1859 and 1860, just before the Civil War started. The first popular audio recording device wasn’t invented until 1877, 12 years after the war ended.

So, recordings of Civil War veterans from the early 1900s are likely the closest modern people can come to knowing what Union soldiers heard as a Confederate charge barreled at them. Listen to the yell in the video below:

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This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

They called him “the East European.”


He was a former Delta Force operator who’d taken a career turn into the shadowy world of “non-official cover” intelligence operations for the Army. He lived in the shadows — traveling around the world to build and maintain his cover as a businessman, with members of his former unit wondering where he’d gone.

But on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the East European executed a daring mission on behalf of America’s top commando units, driving into the heart of Saddam Hussein’s power and surveilling his most fearsome tool of the Iraqi dictator’s oppression.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
The East European conducted clandestine electronic surveillance deep inside Baghdad with no official cover. (DOD photo)

The stunning story of the East European is detailed in Sean Naylor’s book “Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command.” The operator is said to have been an original member of Delta Force and was on the ill-fated Eagle Claw mission to rescue American hostages in Tehran. Born in Eastern Europe, the elite commando was said to be a “funny, outgoing guy with a heavy accent,” Naylor writes.

The operator left the assaulter side of Delta and worked in the Training, Evaluation and Operational Research office of the unit, which among other things develops high-tech gadgets for Delta commandos to use on covert missions. Later, the East European descended into the shadowy world of a NOC.

These intelligence agents, Naylor writes, were playing a dangerous game. They could infiltrate countries where Americans dared not travel under a realistic cover, but if they were caught, they had no ready support and no diplomatic immunity like CIA officers do. The East European had traveled to Iran in hopes of recruiting military sources there and had even worked inside Iraq in the 1990s as part of the United Nations’ search for WMD. His cover was maintained by a U.S.-allied country in Eastern Europe, and he’d even had access to that country’s embassy in Baghdad, Naylor explained.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
Inspectors and other IAEA staff prepare for the resumption of inspections in Iraq 18 Nov, 2002. (Photo Credit: Mark Gwozdecky / IAEA)

But it was after the attacks on 9/11, that the East European was given his most dangerous mission yet.

It was a typical drive from Amman to Baghdad for the American agent, but the vehicle he was driving into Saddam’s capital wasn’t typical at all. The SUV that would carry him into the city was bristling with surveillance equipment implanted by the National Security Agency. The super-secret listening devices were designed to capture cellphone and handheld radio traffic and send the signals back to the U.S. for analysis, Naylor writes.

The East European simply parked the SUV in front of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad and left it there. Military intelligence operatives hoped to get tips on Iraqi military positions just before the invasion and track the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein.

“If you were trying to establish every time that Saddam Hussein’s personal security detail drove around Baghdad, this was a way of doing that,” a Joint Special Operations command officer told Naylor. “The Iraqis were notoriously poor at OPSEC.”

After leaving the vehicle at Iraqi intel HQ, the East European walked the streets of Baghdad with a special GPS device, tagging targets in the Iraqi capital for airstrikes.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
The East European pinpointed targets deep inside Baghdad for U.S. bombers during the ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign. (Photo from Democracy Now)

“Such missions entailed enormous risk, not only from the Iraqi security services if the agent was compromised, but from the bombing campaign itself,” Naylor wrote. “Protecting him required careful, up-to-the-minute planning of the airstrikes.”

So if it wasn’t the Mukhabarat that could bring death and destruction to the East European, it was American bombs.

The East European quietly exfiled from Iraq after the invasion and served several more years in military-related intelligence services. But that drive into the heart of Baghdad shows that the feats of Hollywood superstars like Jason Bourne aren’t entirely the stuff of fiction.

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This is the most powerful sidearm ever issued by the US military

In 1846, American firearms legend Samuel Colt teamed with Capt. Samuel Hamilton Walker to produce the most powerful sidearm ever issued to the U.S. military – the Colt Walker 1847.


Walker, a Texas Ranger (no joke) and officer in the militaries of both the Republic of Texas and the United States when Texas entered the Union, served in the American West’s many armed conflicts. He fought the Indian Wars and the Texian War of Independence as well as the Mexican-American War.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

After he was discharged from the Texas Rangers, Walker self-funded a trip to New York to meet Colt. The duo based their design on the five-round Colt Paterson revolver. Walker and Colt would add a sixth round to the chamber, along with a stationary trigger and guard. With that, they created the most powerful black powder handgun ever made.

With a 9-inch barrel and .44 caliber round, this weapon had an effective range of 100 yards and the muzzle energy of a .357 Magnum. At only 4.5 pounds, the Colt Walker 1847 was the most powerful U.S. military sidearm ever issued and the most powerful pistol until the introduction of the Magnum .357 in 1935. Walker himself carried two of his own pistols into Mexico during the war with the U.S. mounted rifles.

When one of his troops killed a Mexican soldier with the pistol at Veracruz, a medical officer reportedly remarked that the hand cannon shot hit with equal force and range as a .54-caliber Mississippi Rifle.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
(Warner Bros.)

There were some drawbacks to the design, including that sometimes the cylinders blew up in the shooter’s hand due to the amount of powder used — which was twice the amount used in similar weapons of the time. Colt recommended using 50 grains of powder, instead of the prescribed 60. Lard was sometimes used to keep all the cylinders from exploding at once.

Walker was killed leading troops through Huamantla, Mexico, during the Mexican-American War. Colt, who was bankrupt when he met Walker, rebuilt his business and reputation beginning with the Colt Walker 1847.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

The Colt Walker’s legacy lives on in the hearts of firearms enthusiasts and American historians. In 2008, an original model, with original powder flask, fetched $920,000 at auction. That model was sold by Montana’s John McBride, whose great-great uncle was a Mexican War veteran.

Watch below as two European enthusiasts load and shoot a reproduction of the Colt Walker 1847.

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5 terribly hilarious gifts to scuff up a basic trainee

One of the great mysteries of the civilian world is the need for people to send care packages to new troops going through Basic Training or Boot Camp.


It’s not only counter-productive (the idea of isolated training is to transition a civilian into the military by specifically denying basic comforts and stimulating stressful environments such as combat), but it could also get them smoked — their Drill Sergeants or Instructors will go through every piece of mail.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
This is what motivation looks like. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Reece Lodder)

Even if they are sent say, a stick of gum, their asses will be ridiculed and then sore from the insane amount of PT they’re about to do. If you really want to show that you love and care, wait until they’ve finished training and send it while they’re deployed.

But this list isn’t for the sweet and caring types. No. This is for the a-holes that warned them it wouldn’t be easy. This is for the a-holes that told them repeatedly to join another branch.

Why not show that you truly care about your young recruit by also helping their trainers mess with them? Get in on the fun! Be creative. Get in on the fun! Be creative. Just be sure to show up their graduation and have a laugh at their expense with their Drill Sergeant/Instructor.

1. Gear from another branch

Want to instill loyalty to the branch of service they enlisted in? Send a USMC t-shirt to the Army private. An Air Force hoodie to the Marine recruit.

Bonus points if they even joined the same branch as you. They’ll love their branch through Stockholm Syndrome.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

2. Cute childhood things

Want to make sure their nickname in Basic is ‘Princess’? Send them a cheap Disney blanket from Wal-Mart.

Who knows? They might actually be forced to keep it instead of the Olive Drab green blanket for maximum hilarity.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

3. Snivel gear

Basically, if they aren’t issued something. They can’t have it.

Mess with them by sending a scarf and a hand written note saying “Stay warm! 3”

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

4. Baked Goods

Quickest way to make sure they get their sweat stains the floor? Send them some homemade treats.

Oh. They won’t get to touch a single one. Drill Sergeant will more than likely eat them in front of their face and tell them how they tasted.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

5. Anything, uh, “Not Safe For Work”

There’s an article on MarriedtotheArmy.com where they give actual, thoughtful, smoke-free care packages. In it, they have a story about a girl sending used panties, which were promptly displayed to embarrass the young soldier.

Same goes for sex toys. Just imagine the look on the Drill Sergeants face when they find that…

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

There are a million different ways to mess with someone going through Basic Training or Boot Camp. Please let us know your favorites in the comment section!

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This is how the bow evolved throughout the history of warfare

The bow often takes center stage in period pieces any time before the invention of gun powder. From modern portrayals in the Hunger Games series to those in a Roman epic, the bow is a weapon that has shaped the course of human history more than any other weapon. You would be hard-pressed to find a roleplay video game without one. Even Greek Gods wielded them in battle. The family tree of this weapon grows at the crossroads of human warfare.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
Even blue aliens a billion miles away are skilled archers (20th Century Fox)

Origin of the bow and arrow

Bow and arrow, a weapon consisting of a stave made of wood or other elastic material, bent and held in tension by a string. The arrow, a thin wooden shaft with a feathered tail, is fitted to the string by a notch in the end of the shaft and is drawn back until sufficient tension is produced in the bow so that when released it will propel the arrow. Arrowheads have been made of shaped flint, stone, metal, and other hard materials.

Britannica

Like other weapons of war, the bow started with the humble beginning as a hunting tool. It was invented in Africa 71,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found bows on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. The Native Americans in North America are believed to invented the bow and arrow independently and it spread south to the rest of the Americas. Arrows are expensive and only wealthy countries could reasonably keep their armies equipped. This was true until the bow took its logical next step in its evolution.

The Long Bow

The Longbow first arrived in Europe around 3,000 B.C. and appeared in the battle of Somerset, England in 2,690 BC. The weapon gets its name from, well, being long. At six feet, it was as tall as the archer wielding it. It had a max effective range of 320 meters. They were the armor-piercing rounds of their day, able to penetrate anything up to and including plate armor. The weapon has become synonymous with the English although it was invented by the Welsh. It is romanticized in literature, movies and video games because it is a good weapon. Its biggest disadvantages were that it took years for a soldier to learn to use effectively and the cost of training.

The Composite Bow

Composite bow is a type of traditional bow made of horn, wood, and sinew which are laminated together and is similar to the “laminated bow” which is made only of layers of wood. Most of the composite bows are recurve bows (when not stringed they curve opposite of the archer) that have wooden core with horn on the belly, facing the archer, and sinew on the back. Wooden core is made of multiple pieces, joined with animal glue in V-splices. Horn is used on the inside because it can store more energy than wood in compression. Sinew, placed on the back of the bow is soaked in animal glue. It is obtained from the lower legs and back of wild deer and is used because it will stretch farther than wood which again stores more power.

HistoryofArchery.com

The invention of the composite bow is believed to have been ushered in the 1700s B.C. by the Shang Dynasty in China. Parallel thinking and engineering saw a proliferation of composite bows across the Mediterranean and Europe. The Mongol composite bow changed the course of history in one fell swoop in the hands of Genghis Khan. His version of the bow was designed to be shot on horseback. Everything in the Mongol culture was centered around the horse. The world wasn’t ready when the Great Khan forged the largest empire in history with it. You could either join the Mongols or have total war upon your people: The original “Plata o Plomo”.

The Crossbow

The crossbow, leading missile weapon of the Middle Ages, consisting of a short bow fixed transversely on a stock, originally of wood; it had a groove to guide the missile, usually called a bolt, a sear to hold the string in the cocked position, and a trigger to release it.

Britannica

There is a lot of debate whether crossbows are bows in the modern era especially when it comes to hunting. In the United States, some hunting seasons in different states prohibit the crossbow when bows are allowed. Other states restrict them to when rifles are allowed or restrict them altogether. Historians are also conflicted on when a crossbow was a bow and when it split into two separate categories. Crossbows are usually just as regulated as firearms and bows are considered sports equipment.

So, at this point in the evolutionary timeline of the bow, we can see it has become something new. While it may not fall under archery perfectly because even though it is a kind of bow, it is not a bow itself. It shares more history with the bow but the function of a crossbow is closer to rifle – with matching laws. Crossbows also have a PR problem across borders. In Brazil they’re considered a toy yet in the U.K. they’re associated with poachers but in America they’re used for hunting or zombies.

Feature image: Warner Bros.

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F-35 forward deploys to Bulgaria

Two F-35A Lightning IIs and about 20 supporting Airmen arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base April 28 from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England.


The F-35As are participating in the first training deployment to Europe. The aircraft and total force Airmen are from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

“The United States and Bulgaria have a strong and enduring relationship,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the Third Air Force commander, during a press event after the arrival. “We routinely train through joint and combined initiatives like Operation Atlantic Resolve and in flying exercises like Thracian Eagle, Thracian Summer and Thracian Star. Our commitment to Bulgaria is but an example of our unwavering support to all allied nations.”

Similar to the aircraft’s visit to Estonia on April 25, this training deployment has been planned for some time and was conducted in close coordination with Bulgarian allies. It gives F-35A pilots the opportunity to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw

“I have to say that for us, this makes us very proud,” said Maj. Gen. Tsanko Stoykov, the Bulgarian Air Force commander. “Our efforts have been appreciated and we are trusted as a reliable ally and it immensely contributes to the development of the bilateral relations between our two counties and our two air forces.”

This is the first overseas flying training deployment of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35As. The deployment provides support to bolster the security of NATO allies and partners in Europe while demonstrating the U.S. commitment to regional and global security.

Related: Israel’s F-35s may have already flown a combat mission against Russian air defenses in Syria

“We are grateful to our Bulgarian friends for their support in making today possible,” Clark said. “Your cooperation helps prepare the F-35 for its invaluable contribution to our alliance. We look forward to many more years of our shared commitment and partnership.”

This training deployment signifies an important milestone and natural progression of the Joint Strike Fighter Program, allowing the U.S. to further demonstrate the operational capabilities of the aircraft. It also assists in refining the beddown requirements for the F-35A at RAF Lakenheath in order to enhance Europe’s ability to host the future capabilities of the Air Force and coalition team. Also, it helps to integrate with NATO’s infrastructure and enhance fifth-generation aircraft interoperability.

The aircraft and Airmen began arriving in Europe on April 15, and are scheduled to remain in Bulgaria for a brief period of time before returning to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment.

The KC-135 is from 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is providing refueling support for the deployment to Bulgaria.

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Here’s how NORAD will be tracking Santa’s Christmas trip this week

A joint command between the U.S. and Canada, NORAD’s primary mission is to detect and respond to threats in and around North American Airspace. But once a year, NORAD uses its sensors to track Santa’s progress. Interested parties can keep track of where he is by checking social media, calling the hotline, checking email, or visiting the special website.


Here’s the tech that makes the Christmas Eve operation possible:

Santa’s departure

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
Photo: flickr/Josua

NORAD coordinates with Santa’s elves to get real time intel on Santa’s departure time. This ensures that when Santa’s sleigh enters monitored airspace, NORAD isn’t surprised. The North Warning System is made up of 47 radar stations strung across northern Canada and Alaska that are designed to find and identify objects entering NORAD airspace. The NWS only covers the northern most part of the continent, so the radar operators quickly hand off tracking to teams watching satellite coverage.

Santa’s flight

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
Santa, the world’s most experienced pilot, usually flies his sleigh but rode in a jet to festivities with the US Air Force on Dec. 5, 2015. Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st First Class Ashleigh S. Pavelek

After radar operators confirm Santa has entered NORAD airspace, a group of satellites known as the Defense Support Program begin tracking the flight. DSP was launched to detect the infrared signatures emitted by ballistic missiles so the missiles could be intercepted before striking North American cities.

DSP satellites are so sensitive, they can actually see the unique infrared signature of Rudolph’s nose. According to NASA and NORAD, Rudolph’s nose gives off about the same amount of heat as a small missile launch, which explains how the reindeer stay warm in the arctic atmosphere.

Santa’s honor guard

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
Painting: Creative Commons Gene W. Ritchhart

Once NORAD began tracking Santa, they realized that jet pilots could be given the unique experience of getting to fly with their hero. Every year, select Canadian and U.S. pilots are granted the chance to escort Santa. Canada launches CF-18 pilots to greet Santa while the U.S. hangs out in F-15s, F-16s, and F-22s.

Santa slows to run with the fighter jets, allowing the pilots to wave to Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph.

Santa Cams

Of course, NORAD doesn’t want just pilots to get a glimpse of the world’s jolliest elf, so they installed a number of high-speed cameras around the world to track Santa’s progress and feed live video to children through the NORAD Santa website. The camera’s provide much of the tracking information for Santa’s journey outside of North America.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
This teddy bear covered down on a phone station during the NORAD tracks Santa mission 2013. Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh

To track Santa this Christmas Eve, check out the website or download the phone app, “NORAD Tracks Santa.” You can also keep tabs through Twitter, Facebook, or by calling volunteers at 1-877-HI-NORAD.

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14 amazing yet little-known facts about the Korean War

We call it “the Korean War;” the North Koreans call it the “Fatherland Liberation War.” Whatever you call it, on June 25, 1950, North Korean tanks rolled across the 38th Parallel, the border that separated the Communist-controlled and supported North from the capitalist and Western-backed South. It was the first test of Western adherence to the Cold War doctrine of containment, a strategy to stem the forced spread of Communism worldwide.


5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

It was a brutal war that pitted the Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China, and North Korea against the United Nations, led by the United States and South Korea. The war started with a wildly swinging pendulum of momentum that almost drove Western forces into the Sea of Japan. They were saved only by a heroic UN stand at the Pusan Perimeter and one of the most daring amphibious landings in history at Inchon. The Western counterattack drove the Communists all the way to the Yalu River, the North Korean border with China. The subsequent Chinese intervention pushed the then-heavily outnumbered Americans back to the original border and a subsequent two-year stalemate until an armistice ended the fighting in 1953.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

It was in Korea that some of the most legendary American military heroes said their most famous lines, made their most famous stands, and overcame seemingly insurmountable odds. The Korean War came just after the long, good fight of World War II, at a time when the world was weary of war. Just a few years later, the cultural fabric United States would be forever altered with coming of the war in Vietnam. Being sandwiched between and subsequently overshadowed by these other two, the Korean War has come to be called the Forgotten War, both by historians and the men who fought there. In an effort to relegate that nickname to the dustbin of history, here are some facts about the Korean War you may not have already known.

1. A U.S. Army sergeant in Moscow was the catalyst

Stalin prevented a war on the Korean Peninsula since the end of World War II, for fear of an all-out war with the West. When the KGB recruited an Army NCO from the code room at the U.S. Embassy, they discovered the U.S. had moved the bulk of its forces in the region to Japan. Stalin now believed the U.S. would not move to defend Korea and gave North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung the green light to invade the South. Stalin was wrong. The Army sergeant’s identity was never discovered.

2. The South was far from Democratic

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
Rhee with Gen. Douglas MacArthur

The first President of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, jailed or assassinated his political opponents. He also had an active secret police force to root out North Korean agents, but they detained, tortured, and killed many innocent civilians. Days after the start of the Korean War, he ordered the Bodo League Massacre, killing more than 100,000 suspected communist sympathizers and their families. Rhee was ousted when thousands of protesters overran the Blue House in 1960.

3. The U.S. knew about the North’s military buildup

The nascent CIA noticed the North Koreans moving their army toward their Southern border but thought it was more of a defensive measure. They reported to Secretary of State Dean Acheson that an invasion was unlikely. They didn’t know the Soviets already broke American military and diplomatic codes and knew the U.S. couldn’t mount an effective response to an invasion.

4. It was technically a “police action”

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

President Truman never asked Congress for a declaration of war, and Congress didn’t offer one. That was back when we cared about these kinds of things. Instead, Truman placed the fighting under the aegis of the United Nations, since Korea itself was a construct of UN agreements. For the first time since WWII, U.S. troops fought in combat at Osan, thirty miles South of Seoul.

5. The U.S. dropped more ordnance on Korea than in the entire Pacific during WWII

The Korean War absolutely devastated North Korea, and this memory is a major reason why so much animosity still exists to this day. The United States dropped 635,000 tons of bombs on the North, compared to 503,000 pounds dropped on the entire Pacific Theater in WWII, killing an estimated 12-15 percent of the population. Curtis LeMay estimated an even higher proportion – he claimed 2o percent.

6. It featured the first all-jet dogfight

On November 8, 1950, 1st Lt. Russell Brown engaged a MiG-15 in his F-80 Shooting Star. The MiG was clearly a superior fighter and this discovery led to the development of the F-86 Sabre. It wasn’t superior enough to allow the MiG to win the dogfight, however. Lt. Brown downed the Communist jet. The skies over Northwest Korea featured many dogfights in the war years and soon became known as “MiG Alley.”

7. Frostbite was one of the most prevalent injuries

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

Thousands suffered from frostbite, while many suffered from trench foot or a combination of both. Temperatures during some of the coldest fighting were as low as -54 degrees fahrenheit. The MASH unit (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) was just one of many battlefield medical innovations designed to stay close to the front and save the lives of more combat injured troops.

8. Seoul changed hands four times

The South Korean capital sits just 35 miles from the North-South border. It was first captured by the North Koreans on June 28, 1950, just three days after the North invaded. It was retaken by UN forces that September. The Chinese seized the city in January 1951 but lost it two months after that.

9. The first year was the deadliest

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

Roughly a quarter of all Americans killed during the Korean War died between August and December 1950, during the battles of the Pusan Perimeter, the Chosin Reservoir, and Kunu-ri Pass. 178,426 UN troops died in Korea, compared to more than 700,000 Communists. The first American, Pvt. Kenneth Shadrick died near Osan.

10. Army Special Forces created an army of their own

The 8240th Army Unit, Army Rangers and other soldiers with experience in partisan warfare from World War II raised and advised local partisan armies in Korea on how to fight behind enemy lines and sabotage the Communists. The 8240th would advise more than 38,000 partisan fighters.

11. It was more than just Americans and Koreans fighting Communists

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
Ethiopian troops fighting in Korea

Being a UN police action, other countries joined the coalition of forces fighting to keep the South safe for capitalism, if not democracy. Significant forces came from Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries, especially Australia and Canada. Turkish forces faced their biggest military challenge since World War I at the Battle of Kunu-ri Pass. Other countries who gave significant troops included Ethiopia, Colombia, Thailand and the Philippines.

12. Generals weren’t far from the fighting

These days, you don’t hear much about general officers in the thick of the action unless they’re visiting a combat unit or are on some sort of tour or inspection. That wasn’t true during the Korean War. General Douglas MacArthur went to Korea himself during the Battle of the Pusan Perimeter to assess the situation there and determine how to proceed (the Inchon Landing is what he came up with).

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
From left to right: Puller, MacArthur, and OP Smith

Army General William F. Dean was among the last to retreat from Taejon as the North advanced. He wanted to make sure all his men and material made it out as orderly and safely as possible. While trying to help a wounded troop, Dean was knocked unconscious and captured by the Communists.

As the war raged on in and around the peninsula, a slew of Generals would find themselves in combat. Oliver P. Smith directed the breakout of the Marines surrounded at the Chosin Reservoir and led them back to the port of Hungnam. Chesty Puller was still racking up awards and decorations in Korea. He was promoted to Brigadier General after landing at Inchon and fighting at the Chosin.

13. The Korean War never ended

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

Armistice talks took more than two years to complete. The real hang-up was over the repatriation of POWs. Eventually, the North conceded and an armistice was signed. The signatories didn’t end the war, however, just the fighting. The war continues to this day.

14. Korean War veterans are becoming just as rare as WWII vets

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

The conflict itself fizzled out quietly. The men who fought in Korea didn’t come home to parades or parties and kissing in Times Square. The job of fighting the Communists fell to the generation who bore the burden of combat without hesitation or complaint, even after the world forgot the heroism they displayed or the people they kept safe. At the rate of an estimated 500 per day, they are slowly and silently passing into history, just as their war did.

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This is the amazing way the Navy rescues trapped submariners

The crews of submarines around the world face the very real and terrifying possibility that their submarine could fail and become stuck at the bottom of the ocean. While a surface vessel that suffers a mechanical failure at sea can be reached by most other surface vessels, something special is needed to rescue crews thousands of feet under the surface.


That’s why the Navy has the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System, a three-part system that can reach a distressed submarine stuck 2,000 feet beneath the surface and recover the submariners inside. The SRDRS can be deployed anywhere in the world within a maximum of 72 hours.

Many civilian and military vessels can carry the SRDRS and the system can be rapidly installed on any appropriate ship, known as a “vessel of opportunity.” Once an appropriate vessel is identified near the rescue site, the SRDRS is flown, driven, or shipped to a port where it can meet the vessel. The Undersea Rescue Command, which operates the SRDRS, is stationed near both a port and a C-5 capable airfield so the unit can rapidly deploy anywhere in the world.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
The Atmospheric Diving System 2000 allows divers to quickly reach 2,000-foot depths and return without needing to decompress. Photo: US Navy courtesy photo

When the Navy crew and the system arrive at the submarine site, a diver wearing the Atmospheric Dive System 2000 is lowered to where the submarine rests on the bottom of the ocean. The ADS2000 allows a single sailor to dive to the sub and inspect it. If the diver sees signs that the crew are still alive inside the hull, he’ll signal the surface to let them know to launch the rescue mission. He’ll also begin removing any blockages or debris near the submarine’s hatches.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
The pressurized Rescue Module Falcon is raised from the water after an exercise near San Diego, California. Photo: US Navy Mass communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexia M. Riveracorrea

Next, the remotely-operated Pressurized Rescue Module, the Falcon, is lowered into the water and descends to the submarine. When it reaches the sub, it links with the hull on the sub and seals a skirt around the hatch. Then, it pumps air into the skirt, creating an open tube with breathable air. The sailors are then able to climb from their submarine to the PRM through the air chamber. Sixteen sailors can be carried by the PRM at once.

Once 16 sailors are safely aboard the PRM, it delivers them to the 32-seat Submarine Decompression Chamber where they are able to remain at their previous pressure until they reach the hyperbaric systems on the surface vessel. This prevents the decompression sickness they would face if they simply rushed to the surface.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
A U.S. Navy sailor sits in one of the Navy’s two 32-seat submarine Decompression Systems. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom

Meanwhile, the PRM returns to the submarine to rescue another 16 sailors. Because the PRM has a tether that provides it power from the surface, it can ferry survivors from the submarine around the clock until it has rescued everyone. The Navy’s previous system, the Mystic-class Deep Submergence Resce Vehicles, used batteries that required charging between rescues.

The Mystic class of vessels was developed after the loss of the USS Thresher and her crew.

For distressed submarines at lower depths, usually 850 feet or less, the Navy can deploy the Submarine Rescue Chamber Flyaway System instead. The SRCFS is a diving bell that is lowered to the submarine via a cable attached to the sub by a diver. Sailors climb into the chamber and are raised to the surface.

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How Marines honor their fallen heroes — on the battlefield and at home

By WATM guest Christian Bussler


“You are there for your brothers, and that’s all that really matters.”

It was that one line from the trailer of the upcoming movie “Last Flag Flying” that caught my attention and transported me back to another place and another time — Al Anbar province, September 2005.

At the time, I was a Marine staff sergeant on my third combat tour in three years. I had just returned to Iraq after being wounded by an IED the year prior.

On this deployment, I was to be the top NCO for all Mortuary Affairs operations in and around Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq. My job was to recover our fallen warriors from the battlefields and return them home with honor.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
(USMC photo)

As unassuming as that movie quote may be for anyone else, for me, those words ignited a spark. They instantly connected me to how my Marines and I felt about the fallen who were in our care back then. We would stop at nothing to return them home — because they were one of us, they were our brothers, and in the end, that was all that really mattered.

“Last Flag Flying,” which will be released in select theaters Nov. 3 and hit theaters nationwide on Nov. 22, stars Steve Carell who takes a departure from his normal funny-man roles by portraying former Navy Corpsman Larry “Doc” Shepherd who tracks down two of his Marine buddies he hasn’t seen in 30 years (played by Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston). Shepherd reveals he had been notified two days prior that his son, a Marine, was killed in Iraq.

He asks his friends for their help to lay his son to rest.

A story like this automatically kicks me square in the feels. In the short two minute trailer, I immediately recognized the two sides to this parable. One is a story of old warriors coming together to honor a son killed at war. The other is rarely depicted in movies in a time of strife. It is the human cost of warfare, the cost beyond the obvious war dead. It is the sacrifices made by their families and communities.

This is a truth that has replayed across our country close to 7,000 times over the last 16 years. The movie takes a look at this cost that has spared few communities in some way or fashion by our recent conflicts.

During my time in Iraq, my Marines and I would go to vast extremes to recover our fallen warriors. The thoughts of those families pushed us to work harder — no matter what it took or how difficult it was, we were going to get them home to their families.

Through helo crash scenes we crawled on our hands and knees, combing through the desert sands in search of remains and personal effects. We spent countless hours swinging sledge hammers to break apart the solidified parts of melted vehicles to recover the minutest fragments of DNA.

Repeatedly we put ourselves directly into harm’s way to gather our fallen brothers from the battlefields to get them home. We believed we actually worked for the families of the fallen. They would want us to go that extra mile to ensure that their loved ones were taken care of the best way we could, and we did exactly that, no matter the cost.

5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo
(USMC photo)

The connection between “The Last Flag Flying” and my experiences extends to how today we honor our fallen warriors with flags. In Iraq, my Marines and I changed the way we flagged the transfer cases of our fallen to pay them a deeper honor.

Before our tour in 2005, flags were merely taken out of a cardboard box, placed upon the transfer case, and tied down with a white cord. It just was how things were done going all the way back to whenever they first started flagging caskets. Realizing these flags were eventually given to the families, I knew we could do better. Instead we ironed and starched every flag so that they were crisp and sharp.

We also implemented a new technique so there was zero chance of the flag touching the ground. These procedures were eventually adopted by the military.

The common thread between my experience and “The Last Flag Flying” is that in our own ways, the director and I were trying to reveal the same narrative.

Quietly and largely unseen, brothers go to great lengths to care for their fallen brothers. And the story of sacrifice doesn’t just end on battlefields, it continues into the homes of our Gold Star families. It is felt on the everyday streets of our communities, and it is remembered in the resting places of our honored fallen.

WATM contributor Christian Bussler is a former Mortuary Affairs Marine and is the author of “No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor- A memoir of a Mortuary Affairs Marine,” available through Amazon.com, CreateSpace.com, Kindle and soon at your local bookstores.

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