On June 5th, seven veterans of the Battle of Midway joined about 1,000 people aboard a retired US Navy aircraft carrier to mark the 75th anniversary of the turning point in World War II’s Pacific Ocean theater.
Two F/A-18 Hornet fighter planes, blocked by clouds, thundered above the USS Midway, a Navy carrier that was commissioned in 1945 to commemorate the battle. The carrier was decommissioned in 1992 and has been in a military museum in downtown San Diego since 2004.
Well-wishers lined up to shake hands with 102-year-old Andy Mills and other wheelchair-bound Midway veterans after a 90-minute ceremony that recounted how the landmark battle unfolded. One Midway veteran came from hospice care.
The 1942 battle occurred six months after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor after Navy code breakers broke complex Japanese code to reveal a plan to ambush US forces. The Japanese planned to occupy Midway, a strategic U.S.-held atoll 1,300 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor, and destroy what was left of the Pacific fleet.
When Japanese planes began bombing Midway, American torpedo planes and bombers counter-attacked in waves, bombing and sinking four Japanese carriers on June 4. The fighting continued for another three days before the United States proved to be victorious.
Adm. John Richardson, chief of U.S. naval operations, told the audience that a string of “effective but decisive” actions led to a victory with razor-thin room for error.
“In hindsight, when you review the Battle of Midway, you can see like a series of strokes of amazing luck. And when you put those strokes together, it’s like a miracle occurred at Midway. It trends towards the miraculous,” he said.
Anthony J. Principi, who served as secretary of veterans affairs from 2001 to 2005, wrote in the Military Times that that Navy commanders made “coordinated, split-second, life-and-death decisions.”
“We won because luck was on our side, because the Japanese made mistakes and because our officers and men acted with great courage amidst the chaos of battle,” he wrote.
The Midway, which has more than 1 million visitors a year, has hosted college basketball games, parties during the Comic-Con pop culture extravaganza, and TV tapings for shows like ABC’s “The Bachelor.”
In August, 1995, a series of events occurred that would just seem implausible today. A Taliban MiG fighter intercepted a Russian Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD, forcing it to land at Kandahar International Airport in the middle of a nationwide Civil War. The crew and its passengers were taken prisoner by the Taliban. They were held for a year while the Russian government tried to negotiate their release with the help of a U.S. senator
The 1990s were a crazy time. Even with our post-9/11 goggles off, it seems inconceivable that any number of the above could happen – just try to imagine these crazy things:
A Taliban MiG fighter
Forcing a Russian plane to land
Russian government negotiating
A U.S. Senator helping Russia
It’s all true, of course. In 1994, the Taliban exploded out of Kandahar and, by the time of this incident, controlled much of the country south of Kabul. When the Airstan plane was flying over, the Taliban were still deadlocked against the Afghan government of the time, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani.
It must have been an awkward ask for Rabbani, who spent years fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, only to ask them for weapons in trying to keep it away from other Afghans.
Even Jiffy Lube makes you keep the keys on the dashboard, guys.
The Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD was carrying a load of 30 tons of weapons from Albania bound for the legitimate Afghan government when it was intercepted by a Taliban MiG-21. It was an old fighter, even in the 1990s, but was still enough to bring down the Ilyushin II.
Upon landing, the crew of seven was taken into custody by the Taliban — but the story doesn’t end there. As negotiations between the Russians and the terrorist group began to stall, American Senator Hank Brown stepped in to facilitate the talks, not only buying the Russians time, but also the crew. It didn’t hurt that the Taliban wanted some of their people freed in exchange for their prisoners.
For over a year, the Russian aircrew prepared for their daring escape. Brown managed to get the Taliban to agree to let the Russian Airstan crew maintain their captured aircraft to ensure it was in working order when the time to take off finally came. Brown visited the crew and let them know they would be maintaining it.
But not only did the crew perform its routine maintenance, they also slowly but surely prepared it for their flight home. They finally got their big chance one day, just over a year after being captured. When half of the Taliban who regularly guarded them left the group to attend evening prayers, the crew tricked the others into leaving their weapons outside the plane.
They overpowered the remaining three guards and started the engines.
By the time the Taliban noticed the plane was getting ready for take off, it was already taxiing down the runway. They tried to block their takeoff using a fire truck, but to no avail, the Russians were airborne well ahead of the truck’s position on the runway. The Taliban missed catching the escaping Russians by a mere three to five seconds.
The crew had done the impossible and the Taliban were not able to scramble intercepting aircraft in time to catch them.
They left Taliban airspace as fast as possible and set course for the UAE. By the time they landed, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was waiting by the phone to congratulate them. They made it home to Russia shortly after. The crew is said to celebrate their escape from the terrible event like a second birthday. The Taliban are brutal to prisoners, and the crew of the Airstan Ilyushin Il considered the entire country a prisoner of the terror group.
“My heart really goes out to these people. I’ve seen what a poverty-stricken and miserable standard of living they have. They’re still fighting because they’ve nothing left to lose,” a member of the crew told the BBC.
Their daring escape was the subject of a Russian film, Kandagar, in 2010.
The F-35 has become notorious for its stratospheric price tag, along with the plane’s host of mechanical and software problems.
The cost of the US’s fifth-generation fighter has already risen to approximately $400 billion with a projected lifetime operating cost of $1.5 trillion. The Marines are still set on launching the F-35 in the near term despite its incomplete software package.
These problems apply to the F-35’s helmet as well. Each F-35 helmet costs over $400,000, the Washington Post reports. And like the F-35, the helmet has had its own run of development setbacks and cost overruns.
Each visor is designed to function as a heads-up display that will work in conjunction with six high resolution cameras embedded in the skin across the F-35. Ideally, during flight the pilot would be able to see through the walls of the jet as images from the cameras are displayed in real time across the visor surface.
“When the helmet’s tuned correctly to the pilot’s eyes, you almost step into this other world where all this information comes in. You can look through the jet’s eyeballs to see the world as the jet sees the world,” Al Norman, an F-35 test pilot, told The Washington Post.
This enhanced situational awareness would allow the pilot to see enemy aircraft and targets on the ground that the sides of the cockpit might otherwise obscure. The visor also displays critical information about speed and altitude.
But the helmet, like the rest of the F-35, ran into operational problems.
According to testing from the Department of Defense, turbulence and buffeting of the aircraft could cause significant display issues within the helmet.
The report stated that during basic offensive and defensive maneuvers the conditions negatively effected the display, a problem that could have “the greatest impact in scenarios where a pilot was maneuvering to defeat a missile shot.”
In addition, the Post noted that the helmets suffered from night-vision and streaming issues that caused motion sickness among pilots. Fortunately these problems have largely been resolved, although the green glow associated with the night vision is still a persistent issue.
A Russian fighter jeopardized the safety of the airmen aboard a US Navy surveillance plane during an “unsafe” intercept over the Mediterranean Sea June 4, 2019, 6th Fleet said in a statement.
A Russian Sukhoi Su-35 intercepted a US Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft off the coast of Syria, making multiple passes near the American plane. The second of the three interactions “was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” the Navy said.
The intercept lasted 28 minutes.
“This interaction was irresponsible,” 6th Fleet explained, adding that the US expects Russia to abide by international standards. “The U.S. aircraft was operating consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity,” the Navy further stated.
A US Navy P-8 Poseidon.
(Photo by Darren Koch)
Russia has denied engaging in any form of misconduct. “All flights by Russian aircraft were conducted in accordance with international rules for the use of airspace,” the Russian defense ministry argued, according to Russia’s state-run TASS News Agency.
Moscow claims that it detected an air target in international waters above the Mediterranean approaching its Tartus naval base, in Syria; Russia has supported Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s brutal civil war. The Su-35 was dispatched from Hmeymim Air Base to identify the aircraft. The Russian defense ministry said that the aircraft returned to base after the US aircraft changed course.
Last year, the US Navy accused the Russian military of conducting two “unsafe” intercepts above the Black Sea.
In one incident in January 2018, a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter closed to within 5 feet of a US Navy EP-3 Aries aircraft before crossing directly in front of it. In November 2018, the Russians again got “really close” to another US aircraft.
“There’s just absolutely no reason for this type of behavior,” a Department of Defense spokesman said at the time.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Alyssa Clark running on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. (Courtesy photo)
Even before Italy locked down in response to the coronavirus, Alyssa Clark could tell something more severe was coming.
“It was probably mid-February where we started having [authorities say] if you’ve traveled in this region, you need to make sure that you are reporting where you’ve been … and if you have any fevers or coughs, reporting it,” said Alyssa, who until recently lived in Quadrelle, a town near the headquarters of US Naval Forces Europe-Naval Forces Africa in Naples, with her husband, Navy Lt. Codi Clark.
“We started to have a premonition that it was going to get a lot worse, and then Northern Italy was really slammed, and they started imposing pretty harsh restrictions on March 9,” which was the “last day of freedom,” Alyssa said in a May 22 interview.
Across Italy, authorities clamped down. As the country’s hospitals strained with patients, politicians confronted residents who disobeyed the stay-at-home orders.
“We could not walk, run, or travel in a car except to go to and from work or to and from the grocery store, and we had to carry papers with us,” Alyssa said. “We could be stopped by police at any time and be fined if we were not moving within those restrictions.”
Alyssa Clark running on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. (Courtesy photo)
A Morale, Welfare and Recreation fitness specialist with Naval Support Activity Naples, Alyssa was the only one in her building at the military complex’s Capodichino location.
Isolation may have been important for public health, but for Alyssa, an ultra-marathoner who’s run everything from 32-milers to multi-day stage races of more than 150 miles, just sitting at home wasn’t appealing.
“I am a competitive ultra runner, and I always have a very set racing schedule. I had some big goals for this year and then everything started getting canceled,” Alyssa said. “So I was looking for the next project that I could take on.”
“I was toying with a few ideas and kind of randomly thought, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be interesting to try to run a marathon every day while we’re under lockdown?'”
‘Oh, this is a possibility’
The original plan was to run a marathon every day until people could run outside again. “Then I started looking up what the world record is for consecutive days running a marathon, and I started getting closer and closer to that and thinking, ‘Oh, this is a possibility.'”
For women, that record is 60 days straight. She ran the idea by Codi, who said it was “pretty feasible” for her. “And it just has continued to snowball,” Alyssa said.
Insider spoke to Alyssa just hours after she finished her 53rd marathon, another four- to five-hour hour outing on a small treadmill.
“We have an upstairs room that we don’t use very often, so it just has a couch and a TV that doesn’t really work,” Alyssa said. An open door let in sunlight and a Velcro sticker kept her iPad fastened to the treadmill so she could watch “easily digestible” shows like “Love is Blind” and “Too Hot to Handle.”
“Luckily I had an AC fan on me, and then I have my nutrition set up next to me and a water bottle,” Alyssa said. “Pretty basic, but it works.”
Staying energized was a challenge, especially for Clark, who has a compromised immune system. “I have ulcerative colitis,” Alyssa said. “I actually had my colon removed when I was 14. That’s a whole other story.”
Now gluten-free, Clark eats rice cakes with peanut butter and bananas before running and has gluten-free waffles while on the treadmill.
“I often eat snickers bars — it’s a very good source of energy and sugar,” Alyssa said. “Ultra-marathoners love drinking Coca-Cola, so oftentimes that will be a good pick-me-up.”
So is sugar-free Red Bull. “I actually did about one of those every marathon for quite a while,” she added.
Alyssa Clark on a run before lockdown. (Courtesy photo
Running marathons is taxing — running them on a treadmill even more so.
Alyssa is very specific about her shoes, using ones she trusts and that offer a lot of cushion. “I’ll rotate two pairs, and I’ll probably throw in another pair by the end, and I was using a couple of pairs to start. So I probably used three to four pairs of shoes.”
In addition to stretching, Alyssa said she uses lotion to help with recovery after running. “I’ve been starting to have a little bit of quad pain that I seem to have wrangled, but I’ve been icing that a bit,” she added.
Mentally, the trick to running long distances is not to think about the long distances, Alyssa said.
“I’m never sitting there thinking about the whole 26 miles when I begin. I’m thinking about at mile 8, I’m going to eat something. At mile 13, I’m going to have a Red Bull or something that is enjoyable,” she said. “Then, ‘Hey, I’m already halfway through.’ OK, I’m going to get to mile 16. Then I have 10 miles to go. That’s great. I can do that.”
“I also have a lot of external motivation from people reaching out to me saying that they’re going on runs, that they haven’t been on a run forever and I’ve been motivating them to get out, and also other people saying, you’re inspiring me to get healthier to keep going during this lockdown that’s really challenging, and so that really has helped me keep going when things get tough,” Alyssa added.
Marathon 61 and beyond
Days after speaking, Codi and Alyssa left Italy for the US and their next duty station, but Alyssa kept after the record, setting a goal of completing a marathon each day before midnight Italian time.
“We will be flying out on Tuesday [May 26] to go to Germany. So I will do one Tuesday morning before we leave, and then in Germany before we leave the next day I will do another one on the Air Force base, and then we’ll fly to Virginia,” Alyssa said.
“The next day I will run one in Virginia, and then we will drive to Charleston and I will run one or two in Charleston and then eventually we’ll get to Florida,” Alyssa added, praising her husband for helping make sure she could continue the runs during the move.
“The hard part with this is it’s not a 20-hour event or a 12-hour-a-day event. It’s only a four- to five-hour a day event,” Codi said in the May 22 interview. “So my job during this time has been to force her to attempt to stay in bed and put her feet up and do that kind of focus on recovery.”
Alyssa finished her 60th marathon in Norfolk, Virginia, on the last weekend of May. Marathon 61, and with it the unofficial women’s world record for consecutive days running a marathon distance, came the next day in Charleston, South Carolina. Marathon 62 followed amid protests across Charleston, Clark said in an Instagram post.
Marathon 63 came on Monday evening, after five days of travel, with the couple having finally reached their new duty station in Panama City Beach, Florida. Tuesday and Wednesday brought marathons 64 and 65.
Alyssa’s most recent marathons went the same way her first did: step after step, minute after minute.
“None of these happen by trying to jump into running 10 miles right away. It’s breaking it down, doing what you can, and being consistent. Consistency is the key to success,” Alyssa said when asked for advice to prospective marathoners.
But passion is important, and no one should feel compelled to take up long-distance running, she said.
“Find something you enjoy, because that’s way more important than forcing yourself to do something you don’t love. I love running. I get to do four hours of what I love every day, and that is incredible.”
Unless their name is Remy and they’re adept at preparing French cuisine in an animated Disney movie, rats are often viewed negatively by humans. Despite this, rats have served humans as medical and scientific test subjects including cancer research and space travel. However, one rat has gone above and beyond in his service to the human race.
Magawa is a seven-year-old male African giant pouched rat working in Cambodia where he employs a very special skill. Trained by the Belgian-registered APOPO charity, Magawa has the ability to detect landmines and alert his human handlers to their presence. APOPO specializes in training rats to detect both landmines in the earth and tuberculosis in human sputum samples. The rats are referred to as HeroRATs and are certified for their specialized task after a year of training.
The HeroRATs are trained to detect specific chemical compounds found in explosives. This means that they are not distracted or confused by scrap metal and are more efficient at locating buried landmines. When they do find a landmine, the rats are trained to scratch the earth in order to alert their human handlers. The HeroRATs “significantly speed up land mine detection using their amazing sense of smell and excellent memory,” said APOPO’s chief executive Christophe Cox. “This not only saves lives, but returns much-needed safe land back to the communities as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.” According to the HALO Trust, the world’s largest landmine clearance charity, landmines and other unexploded ordnance in Cambodia have resulted in over 64,000 injuries and 25,000 recorded amputations since 1979.
Magawa was born and raised in Tanzania, weighs 2.6 pounds and measures 28 inches long. Though he and his African giant pouched rat brethren are significantly larger than other species of rat, they are small and light enough to step on the landmines that they are seeking without detonating them. Magawa is capable of clearing a tennis court-sized field in just 20 minutes. APOPO says that the same field would require up to four days for a human to clear with a traditional metal detector. Magawa has sniffed out 39 landmines and 28 unexploded munitions and cleared over 1.5 million square feet of land in his four-year career.
Magawa sniffs for explosives (PDSA)
For his incredible accomplishments and service, Magawa was recognized by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a British animal charity founded in 1917 during WWI. The PDSA presented Magawa with their Gold Medal on September 25, 2020. The medal bears the inscription “For animal gallantry or devotion to duty” and has been awarded to 30 animals, of which Magawa is the first rat. “Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women, and children who are impacted by these landmines,” said PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin. “Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people.”
Although he is the most successful mine-detecting HeroRAT, Magawa works just one half hour in the mornings. “He is very quick and decisive,” said Malen, Magawa’s main handler, “but he is also the first one to take a nap during a break.” Malen’s last name has been withheld for privacy. In his downtime, Magawa enjoys running on his wheel and is partial to snacks of bananas, peanuts, and watermelons. “He is very special to me,” Malen said of Magawa. The two have been working together for four years.
As HeroRATs generally have a field career of four to five years, Magawa is nearing retirement. APOPO says that once they enter retirement, they are given plenty of play and exercise. In the meantime, a PDSA spokesperson expects that Magawa will receive a more practical reward in addition to his medal. “I hear he’s partial to bananas and peanuts,” Emily Malcolm said, “so I’m sure he will be getting a few extra treats.”
During the Cold War air-to-air warfare was alive and well. The Soviets had a huge air force, and their fighters were a viable threat to NATO aircraft. As a result, American fighter crews trained extensively in matters pertaining to shooting down other airplanes.
We trained using Top Gun’s “defense in depth” theory that was built around the idea that no matter how many forward-quarter, long-range missiles a fighter was carrying, there was a good chance the threat would make it into the visual arena. This arena had many nicknames – “getting into the phone booth” or “putting the knife in your teeth” – but was (and still is) best-known as “dogfighting.”
The first trick of a dogfight is getting sight of your opponent. The oft-repeated maxim is “You can’t shoot what you don’t see.” That trick gets trickier when fighting multiple aircraft at the same time, what we call a “many v. many” or “Battle of Britain” scenario.
I was a Tomcat radar intercept officer (the guy in the backseat like “Goose” in the movie “Top Gun”). The problem of dogfighting multiple aircraft at once was made easier in the F-14 because there were two of us in the airplane. Good crew coordination allowed the pilot to go after one bandit while the RIO made sure no other threats were in a position to take a shot.
Dogfighting is the most exhilarating part of tactical aviation. The hard turns, the crush of the G forces, and the intensity of the comms over the radio between wingmen make it a wild, heart-pounding experience. And because of the variables – different pilots flying different airplanes in different conditions – every dogfight is unique.
To simulate the threat aggressor squadrons existed at all the major fighter bases. The squadrons flew American assets that supposedly replicated the flying qualities of Russian airplanes. For instance, an F-5’s characteristics were a lot like those of a MiG-23, and the A-4 was somewhat like a subsonic MiG-21.
Those of us in fighter commands at the time – the mid-1980s – dreamed of going up against the real thing. And one day while conducting training out of Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada we found out that our dream was going to come true – sort of.
We were scheduled to participate in a secret program called “Constant Peg.” In the late ’70s the U.S. Air Force had come into the possession of a few Soviet aircraft that Israel had captured from Syria. Over the years that inventory grew to more than a dozen airplanes acquired from places like Pakistan and China.
The Constant Peg aircraft were assigned to the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron – “The Red Eagles” – based at Tonopah in the Nevada desert, a place I’d never heard of until the day of our first missions when pilots from the Red Eagles came to Fallon to brief us.
The Red Eagle reps reviewed the performance characteristics of the aircraft we’d be flying against. In our case that day we were doing 1 v 1s against a MiG-23 (what they had designated the YF-113 for OPSEC purposes) and a MiG-21 (what Constant Peg designated the YF-110).
As much as the brief focused on the dogfights it emphasized the admin around the mission, specifically the fact that, although we would be dogfighting closer to Tonopah than Fallon, in case of an aircraft emergency in no case were we to consider Tonopah a suitable divert field unless the emergency was so serious that not landing at Tonopah meant we’d crash. And if we would end up landing at Tonopah we were warned that we’d wind up spending at least two weeks there before we’d be allowed to fly back.
These rules struck us as pretty intense, but we figured it was what a secret program like Constant Peg demanded.
A few hours later we launched and flew south until we rendezvoused with the MiG-23. It was surreal to see an airplane we’d only seen in photographs for years before that, and the airplane looked smaller than we’d expected.
We went through the choreography of the dogfight as we’d planned, taking advantage of the fact that the MiG-23 was a “bleeder” in terms of turn rate, which meant that the airplane lost a lot of airspeed (compared to the Tomcat) when attempting hard turns. We also did a speed demo that showed us trying to outrun the MiG-23 was potentially a bad idea.
Then we joined up with the MiG-21 and did another dogfight, this one quicker than the first because we needed to conserve some gas to get back to Fallon. Again, it was surreal to fly formation on an enemy aircraft, studying the details that the Red Eagle pilot pointed out to us (in cryptic terms for OPSEC purposes) over the radio. The MiG-21 wasn’t as fast as the MiG-23, but it had a better turn rate.
When we got back from the flight my pilot and I debriefed over a classified phone with the Red Eagle pilots we’d flown against. After we hung up, we went over the high points with each other, both remarking that it had been very cool to go against the real airplanes for once.
Then my pilot, who was the squadron operations officer and senior to me, said something that struck me as curious: “I’ll bet Constant Peg isn’t the only thing going on at Tonopah,” he said. “There’s something else there they care about more than MiGs.”
I didn’t give the comment another thought until months later when the Air Force finally admitted that “the secret test aircraft” that had crashed in the middle of the Nevada desert in 1984 killing the pilot who also happened to be a three-star general – too senior for normal test flights – had actually been a MiG-23.
I asked my operations officer what he thought about the Air Force admission, and again he hinted at the idea that there was something else bigger going on a Tonopah. “They would’ve stuck with the original story otherwise,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they offered up the MiGs hoping the press would stop digging beyond that.” I asked him to put a finer point on the thought, but he just shrugged and said he didn’t know anything more.
Just less than three years later the operations officer’s hunch was proved correct as the U.S. Air Force introduced the F-117 Nighthawk – the first stealth fighter – to the world. It turned out that the Air Force had been developing that amazing new capability since the late 1970s conducting test flights mostly at night out of Tonopah. Those involved with the program were stationed hundreds of miles away at Nellis Air Force Base outside of Las Vegas and would fly in on a special airliner at the beginning of the work week and fly back home at the end of it. Families had no idea what their service members did during that tour.
The F-117 carried the day during Desert Storm in ’91, and the world watched in wonder as DoD released the cockpit footage that showed bombs hitting exactly where the crosshairs were placed while the airplanes penetrated enemy defenses totally unseen by radars.
Even more amazing, especially when considering how information flows in today’s internet age, is how the Air Force managed to keep the Stealth Fighter a secret all those years. (There were a couple of reports of UFOs made by locals over the years, but the Air Force managed to dismiss those.)
Not only was Constant Peg great training for American fighter crews, it provided a cover for the super-secret development of the F-117 – a stroke in sneaky brilliance that saw to the success of a platform that is arguably the most effective and revolutionary in the history of highly classified programs.
After the Cold War, the United States discarded a number of weapon systems. Politicians sought to cash in a “peace dividend” to placate voters who were happy to see the fall of the Soviet Union. With “the end of history,” we could afford those cuts, right? Less than ten years after the Soviet Union dissolved, we were proven wrong on 9/11. Our troops arguably paid the price for those cuts.
One of the systems that was retired very hastily was the OV-10 Bronco. It looks kind of funky – not attractive in the traditional sense – especially with that tail arrangement and the over-sized cockpit that looks a little bit like a greenhouse. But it was used as a platform for American forward air controllers from 1969 to 1995. The plane is still in service in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Venezuela. The Bronco can carry up to 3,600 pounds of bombs, rockets, and missiles, and originally came with four 7.62mm M60C machine guns. With a top speed of 288 miles per hour and a range of almost 1,400 miles, an OV-10D can stick around for a long time.
That upgrade is probably one of the biggest unanswered questions surrounding the current wars. While the Department of Defense gained a lot of plaudits for the way the MC-12 was developed and deployed to Iraq, suppose the DOD instead had kept enough Broncos around? The Philippines, who are in no great shakes militarily, have adapted their OV-10s to carry smart bombs.
The Bronco could very well make its comeback. SOCOM tested two OV-10G+ versions under the COMBAT DRAGON II program in recent years, actually conducting a few strikes against Taliban targets using SEAL Team 6 personnel. Those airframes were formerly Marine Corps birds that were briefly operated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Proposals for an OV-10X have surfaced as well. Among the proposed upgrades are replacing the M60 machine guns with M3s, faster-firing versions of Ma Deuce, as well as giving it the ability to carry a dozen Hellfires.
Last year, two Broncos were pulled from service with NASA and the State Department and sent to Iraq to fight ISIS. They flew 82 sorties, and reports about their performance were very favorable. (And to think that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) wanted to pull the plug on the COMBAT DRAGON II program.)
Now military experts are wondering if the decision in the 1990s to retire them from the Marine Corps and Air Force was short-sighted, saying that having a plane with the MC-12’s surveillance abilities with some GBU-12 or GBU-38 smart bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles would have been very effective in supporting our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Service members are awesome people — they really are. But sometimes, they can do some pretty wild sh*t. Of course you’ve heard of your unit’s token boot who bought a Mustang with an insane interest rate (you know who I’m talking about) and you’ve probably heard about the guy who creates elaborate, phallic murals in the port-a-johns, but have you heard of the soldier who legally changed his name to Optimus Prime?
That’s right — the leader of the Autobots from Hasbro’s famed line of toys served in the United States Army National Guard. During the ’80s, when the Transformers animated series and toys were very much in vogue, I’m sure a lot of kids out there felt like Optimus Prime was their daddy — and it’s very much possible that one of those kids ended up raising their right hand after 9/11.
This is his story:
Generation One Optimus Prime as showcased in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee.’
The Transformers, the animated series, premiered the same year as the first line of Transformers toys (referred to as “Generation One” or “G1”), and it garnered a strong following. Kids spent their afternoons glued to the television sets, watching their favorite toys turn from robot to vehicle and back again as they fought against (or for, depending on the robot) the powers of evil.
Plenty of the boys tuning in didn’t have father figures around, and they turned to the show’s strong protagonist, leader of the leader of the Autobots (the definitive “good guys”), Optimus Prime, for guidance.
Born in 1971, Scott Edward Nall was about 13 when the show premiered. As a boy who had lost his father only a year earlier, he admired the leadership qualities and unwavering morality of Optimus Prime.
“My dad passed away the year before and I didn’t have anybody really around,” said Nall. “So, I really latched onto him when I was a kid.”
Soldiers with the 761st Firefighting Team prepare to fight a fire during an annual training exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in June 2016.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Matthew Riley)
Later, Nall joined the Army and become a member of Ohio’s National Guard under the 5964th Engineer Detachment with the Tactical Crash Rescue Unit as a firefighter. In May, 2001, on his 30th birthday, he had his name legally changed to match that of the Autobots’ fearless leader, Optimus Prime.
Prime later got a letter from a general at the Pentagon stating that it was great to have the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. His fellow soldiers, however, may not have had the same opinion.
After he changed his name, of course, he had to update all of his forms, nametags, IDs, and uniforms. As one might expect, his friends couldn’t let it go without giving him some sh*t. According to Prime,
“They razzed me for three months to no end. They really dug into me about it.”
The resemblance is uncanny.
Optimus Prime would go on to deploy to the Middle East in 2003 and continue to serve his country.
Four members of the Thai soccer team that survived being trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks now want to be Navy SEALS.
Three boys, and the team coach, said they now aspired to the join the SEALs, whose divers swam into the cave and helped get all 12 boys and the 25-year-old coach out alive.
Asked during a press conference on July 18, 2018, about his future plans, the 14-year-old goalkeeper Ekarat Wongsukchan said: “I still want to pursue my dream to be a professional soccer player, but there might be a new dream, which is to become part of the Navy SEALs.”
Wongsukchan and three other members of the team — including the coach, Ekapol Chantawong — then raised their hand when asked how many of them wanted to be Navy SEALs.
Members of the rescued Thai soccer team, including some who want to be Thai Navy SEALs.
(Channel News Asia)
It was met with applause from the SEALs onstage at the conference as well as many members of the audience.
Six other members of the team also said they hoped to one day be professional soccer players.
Rescuers found the team huddled on a dry ledge in the partially flooded cave complex after nine days of searches.
Three Thai Navy SEALs and a doctor stayed with the boys over the ensuing week until they were extracted one by one as part of a three-day mission that ended July 9, 2018.
Sanam Kunam, a former SEAL who volunteered to help, died while placing oxygen tanks in the cave.
The team paid condolences to Kunam toward the end of the conference while holding a portrait of the diver with personal messages written around it.
Chanin Vibulrungruang, 11, the youngest of the team, said in his message:
“I would like to thank both Lt. Saman and everyone involved in this. I hope that Lt. Saman has a good sleep and I hope that he rests in peace.
“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada railed against the Department of Energy for what he described as “unacceptable deception,” after the agency transported a half-ton of weapons-grade plutonium to Nevada, allegedly without the state’s consent.
“I am beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception from [The Department of Energy],” Sisolak said in a statement. “The Department led the State of Nevada to believe that they were engaging in good-faith negotiations with us regarding a potential shipment of weapons-grade plutonium, only to reveal that those negotiations were a sham all along.”
“They lied to the State of Nevada, misled a federal court, and jeopardized the safety of Nevada’s families and environment,” Sisolak said.
During a press conference on Jan. 30, 2019, Sisolak said he did not know how the plutonium was transported or the route the Energy Department took to get to Nevada. “They provided us with no information in that regard,” he said.
Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada.
Sisolak said he would look into several options for the plutonium, which had been taken to the Nevada National Security Site.
“To put the health and the well-being of millions of people at risk … without giving us the opportunity to prepare in case there would have been a mishap along the way, was irresponsible and reckless on behalf of the department,” Sisolak said.
In a court filing, the Energy Department reportedly revealed it had completed the shipment of plutonium, but declined to provide specifics due to security reasons. It noted that the transfer was completed before November 2018, prior to an injunction the state had filed during negotiations.
The plutonium was shipped from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina in order to comply with a federal court order in the state, according to a National Nuclear Security Administration official cited in a Las Vegas Review-Journal report.
The National Nuclear Security Administration, the federal agency responsible for nuclear applications in the US military, claimed the plutonium would only be temporarily stored in Nevada before being moved to another facility in New Mexico or elsewhere, The Review-Journal reported.
Lawmakers from Nevada sought an injunction and raised questions about the safety of transporting the nuclear material, including the impact it could have on the environment. The state also claimed the Energy Department failed to conduct a federally mandated study to assess the risks in transportation, and neglected to study alternative sites for depositing the plutonium, according to The Review-Journal.
United States Department of Energy headquarters.
Sisolak said the state filed a temporary restraining order on Wednesday to prevent future shipments, and that he was seeking retribution from the Energy Department.
Throughout 2018, state and the federal officials were in preliminary negotiations for the transportation of plutonium, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford said in the press conference.
In previous group emails, Nevada officials questioned the procedure and said their analysis indicated it was “insufficient … to commence this transaction,” according to Ford.
On Oct. 30, 2018, Nevada officials met with Energy Department officials in Washington, DC, to “express the concerns regarding this proposal,” Ford said. In November 2018, the state also sent a request to the Energy Department for specific commitments and timelines.
“Now, this is all the while … they had already shipped some plutonium,” Ford said. “We’re having good-faith discussions and negotiations … but they had already shipped this plutonium.”
The Energy Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Jan. 30, 2019.
The transportation of nuclear waste is traditionally kept under close guard due to safety concerns. The Office of Secure Transportation within the Energy Department reportedly contracts hundreds of couriers to transport radioactive material using truck convoys.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are negotiating a major production deal with Netflix, The New York Times reported on March 8, 2018.
The pending deal would bring exclusive content from the Obamas to the streaming site’s 118 million subscribers. It was not immediately clear what types of content they would deliver to the site, but Eric Schultz, a former adviser to the president told the Times: “President and Mrs. Obama have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire.”
Indeed, the Obamas have continued that in the year following their departure from the White House. Additionally, Obama has sought to remain politically engaged, posting messages to Twitter, often in response to major national news.
Barack and Michelle Obama hold massive audiences on social media — 101 million for the former president and more than 10 million for the former first lady. A deal with Netflix could potentially expand their reach even further.
The Times notes that the Obamas have no plans to use Netflix as a vehicle to dish out responses to their critics.
One possible show idea, the newspaper said, could involve Obama discussing topics that were germane to his policies as president — including health care, voting rights, and immigration, The Times said.
Those topics comprise portions of the legislative agenda he exercised during his time in the White House — many of which President Donald Trump has sought to roll back since he took office.
News of the pending deal follows several big tie-ups between Netflix and some Hollywood heavy-hitters — including a $100 million agreement with Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes, and a $300 million dollar, five-year deal with Glee and American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy.
The financial terms of the potential Obama-Netflix agreement are not yet clear. In 2017, the Obamas reportedly inked a record-setting $60 million deal to write two memoirs — one each for the former two-term president and first lady.
Ivan Safronov (right), adviser to the Roscosmos State Corporation General Director, remanded in custody for two months on suspicion of treason, leaves a hearing at Moscow’s Lefortovsky District Court.
Russia has arrested a former journalist on a charge of high treason for allegedly passing military secrets to a NATO government in what some are calling a clear attack on press freedoms.
Ivan Safronov Jr., who since May has been working as an adviser to the chief of Russia’s state space agency Roskosmos, was detained and searched by armed officers of the FSB security service outside his Moscow apartment on July 7 before being taken to court, where he entered a not guilty plea. The court ordered him held behind bars until September 6.
Prosecutors accuse him of passing information to the Czech Republic in 2017 about the sale of Russian arms to the Middle East and Africa, his lawyer Ivan Pavlov said. Safronov was working as a journalist at the time covering issues related to the activities of Russia’s military industrial sector. Russia claims the United States was the final beneficiary of the information, Pavlov said.
Safronov could face up to 20 years in prison, if convicted.
His arrest — the latest in a series of law enforcement actions against Russian journalists and researchers — sparked outrage among former colleagues and prompted dozens to protest outside the FSB headquarters in Moscow.
“The experience of the last few years shows that any citizen of Russia whose work is connected with public activities — whether it is a human rights defender, scientist, journalist, or employee of a state corporation — can face a serious charge at any time,” Kommersant, the newspaper where Safronov worked for a decade until last year, said in a statement on its website.
Kommersant called Safronov a “true patriot of Russia” and said the FSB allegations were “absurd.” It also called on prosecutors to make the case as open to the public as possible, saying it’s hard for people accused of treason in Russia to get a fair trial.
Andrei Soldatov, a respected journalist who has written extensively about Russia’s security services, called Safronov’s arrest “a new level of repression” against reporters.
“I can only think of one reason why this is happening – we are being told what other topics of importance for society are now off limits for all except ‘for those who should know,'” he said in a Facebook post.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied Safronov’s arrest was linked to his work as a reporter.
“He is accused of high treason, of passing secret data to foreign intelligence. As far as we are informed, the detainment has nothing to do with the journalistic activities Safronov was involved with in the past,” Peskov said.
Pavel Chikov, a top human rights lawyer whose organization, Agora, provides legal support to Russians detained in politically motivated cases, wrote on Telegram that police also searched the apartment of journalist Taisia Bekbulatova, who is believed to be close to Safronov.
According to Chikov, after the search she was questioned as a witness in an unspecified case along with her lawyer Nikolai Vasilyev.
TASS and Interfax both quoted unidentified sources as saying Bekbulatova is being questioned as a witness in the Safronov case.
As a journalist, Safronov mainly covered issues related to the activities of Russia’s military industrial sector, including an accident last year on an atomic submarine and the nation’s military exercises.
His father, Ivan Safronov Sr., also worked for Kommersant, focusing mainly on the military industrial complex’s operations.
Safronov Sr. died at the age of 51 after he mysteriously fell out of a corridor window in his apartment block in Moscow in 2007. Police concluded the death was a suicide, though relatives and friends say they suspect foul play.
Safronov Jr. was fired from Kommersant in May 2019 after writing an article about the possible resignation of Valentina Matviyenko, the chairwoman of the Russian parliament’s upper chamber. Matviyenko continues to serve as its chairwoman.
Safronov’s firing led to a crisis at the paper after all of the journalists in Kommersant’s politics department resigned in protest. He soon joined Vedomosti, then the nation’s leading business newspaper, before quitting following an ownership change that installed a Kremlin-friendly chief editor.
In June 2019, media reports surfaced saying that Kommersant might face administrative lawsuits for making state secrets public.
It was not clear which state secrets had been made public, but one of Safronov’s articles about Russia’s plans to deliver Su-35 military planes to Egypt was removed from the newspaper’s website.
At the time, U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo warned of possible sanctions against Egypt if Cairo purchased the planes from Moscow, The Bell website said.
Kommersant Director General Vladimir Zhelonkin told the Open Media group on July 7 that there were no issues with authorities related to Safronov’s article published last year in his newspaper, adding that the article in question did not contain any data that might be classified as a state secret.
Following Safronov’s detainment on July 7, more than 20 journalists were held by police as they staged single-picket protests in front of the Federal Security Service’s headquarters in Moscow. They were demanding “transparency, openness, and detailed information” on Safronov’s case.
Other journalists continued the single-picket protests, which do not require pre-approval from the authorities.
Safronov’s arrest is at least the third of a current or former journalist in the past 13 months that has garnered national attention and raised fears of a further curtailment of media freedom.
Ivan Golunov, an investigative reporter for Meduza, was arrested in Moscow in June on drug charges that were later dropped following street protests.
Police later admitted to planting the drugs on the reporter, who worked on stories about corruption at the highest echelons of the government and security services.
Svetlana Prokopyeva, a freelance contributor to RFE/RL’s Russian Service, was found guilty this month of “justifying terrorism” for a commentary she gave to a radio station.
Prosecutors sought a six-year prison term for Prokopyeva, who linked a suicide bombing with the country’s political climate.