From the formation of the Air Force in 1947 to today, the flying branch’s sexiest assets have always been its fighters. These soaring agents of death intentionally fly into fights in one of the planet’s most unforgiving environments.
Here are 8 of the machines that defined Air Force fighter history:
1. P-51 Mustang
The P-51, renamed in 1948 to the F-51 when the Air Force changed its plane designation system, was one of the fighters that the U.S. Air Force inherited when it morphed from the Army Air Force. The beloved Mustang variant served with distinction in the Korean War, but mostly as a close-air support asset, not as a fighter.
One of the main reasons that later F-4 variants couldn’t redeem themselves in American service is that the F-15 Eagle overshadowed the F-4 from day one. The Eagles boast powerful engines that gave it nearly unprecedented speed as well as “look down, shoot down” radar, powerful missiles, and a 20mm Gatling gun. The F-15 is still in service with the U.S. and feared by adversaries around the world.
7. F-16 Fighting Falcon
With a long combat radius, all-weather, and day and night capabilities, the F-16 is prepared to fly, fight, and win everywhere. While the F-16 is a capable strike aircraft, its greatest value may reside in its capabilities as one of the world’s premier dogfighters.
8. F-22 Raptor
The reason that the F-16 isn’t the world’s premier dogfighter is that the F-22 exists. The Raptor can sneak up on its prey and watch it for minutes without the enemy ever knowing it was there. Or, it can shoot down opposing fighters from outside of its adversaries detection and engagement ranges.
Currently, the plane is serving as a sensor platform in Iraq and Syria where it detects enemy air defenses and guides friendlies around them, but it could eradicate other fighters in the sky on a moment’s notice.
Let’s face it. As 2016 has shown, we live in a dangerous world.
Furthermore, there are real problems and challenges at the Pentagon, like $125 billion in “administrative waste” over the last five years.
In less than a month, a new team takes charge, which is to be lead by retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to serve as Secretary of Defense.
So, what are some of the challenges that “Mad Dog” and his team will face?
1. Getting the nuclear house in order
Most of America’s strategic delivery systems are older than music superstar, sometime actress, and veteran serenader Taylor Swift.
Of the two that are younger than her, only one isn’t “feeling 22” as the hit song puts it. In fact, in some case, very outdated tech is being used. How outdated? Try 8-inch floppy disks in an era when a micro SD card capable of holding 128 gigabytes costs less than $40.
Don’t get us wrong, most civilian employees at the Department of Defense do a lot of good. But as the active duty military dropped from 1.73 million in Sep. 2005 to just under 1.33 million in Sep. 2016, the civilian workforce increased from 663,866 to 733,992, according to Pentagon reports.
California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert noted in a Washington Examiner op-ed that the ratio of civilian employees to uniformed personnel is at a historical high.
There was $125 billion of “administrative waste” over the last five years. That money could have bought a lot of gear for the troops. This needs to be addressed as soon as possible, with Iran and China, among other countries, getting a little aggressive. The DOD’s business is to fight wars, and a little refocusing on military manpower might be needed.
3. Acquisition Reform
It is taking longer to deliver weapon systems to the troops, and they are getting more expensive.
Do we have to look to the 1970s for acquisition reform? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The Air Force announced the B-21 Raider earlier this year. But it might not be in service until the mid-2020s at the very earliest — and the B-52 isn’t getting any younger. The F-35 has taken almost 15 years to reach an initial operational capability after the winner was chosen in 2001.
By comparison, Joe Baugher notes that the F-111 took about five years from the selection of General Dynamics to the first planes reaching operational squadrons — and that drew controversy back then.
4. Cyber warfare
With some of the hacks that have gone on, it’s amazing that so many people find this a snoozer. Keep in mind, this October, a massive cyberattack cost companies over $110 million — enough to buy a F-35B.
And the Pentagon needs to tighten its defenses — this past June, over 130 bugs were found when DOD offered “bug bounties” to so-called “white hat” hackers. While it’s nice a lot of the bugs were found… did the “white hats” miss any?
5. Old Equipment
Age isn’t just striking the nuclear force. Many of the systems used for conventional warfare are old as well. In a commentary for the Washington Examiner, Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA) noted that many F-15 Eagle fighters are over 30 years old. To put this into context, take a look at how old three music superstars are: Taylor Swift is 27, Ariana Grande is 23, and Ke$ha is 29. It’s past time for recapitalization.
An Air Force veteran has been caught and charged with trying to provide support to ISIS.
Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, an American citizen, was a former avionics specialist and Air Force veteran.
“Pugh, an American citizen and former member of our military, allegedly abandoned his allegiance to the United States and sought to provide material support to ISIL,” Assistant Attorney General Carlin said in a press release from the Department of Justice.
“Identifying and bringing to justice individuals who provide or attempt to provide material support to terrorists is a key priority of the National Security Division.”
“As alleged, Pugh, an American citizen, was willing to travel overseas and fight jihad alongside terrorists seeking to do us harm,” said Assistant Director in Charge Rodriguez.
“U.S. citizens who offer support to terrorist organizations pose a grave threat to our national security and will face serious consequences for their actions. We will continue to work with our partners, both here and abroad, to prevent acts of terrorism. This investigation demonstrates the importance of law enforcement coordination and collaboration here and around the world.”
Pugh flew from Egypt to Turkey in order to cross the border into Syria; however, Turkish authorities denied him access to the country and he was forced to return to Egypt. He was subsequently deported from Egypt back to the US.
In the US, Joint Terrorism Task Force agents conducted a search of Pugh’s electronic devices on January 14, 2015. On his laptop, the agents found internet searches for information pertaining to how to cross into Syria, parts of the Turkish border controlled by ISIS, and downloaded ISIS propaganda videos.
Pugh was arrested on January 16, 2015 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He has been in custody since his arrest.
The US has been leading a military coalition against ISIS since August 2014. The anti-ISIS coalition has carried out airstrikes against the militant organization in both Syria and Iraq.
ISIS has recorded brutal execution videos of its captives since it conquered vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq in June 2014. In August 2014, ISIS released a video showing the execution of US journalist James Foley. This was the first video the group released of the execution of a western hostage.
The heroic airman who helped subdue a terrorist on a high speed train in France last month got some awesome surprises during his visit to the Jimmy Kimmel show on Tuesday.
Airman Spencer Stone, 23, appeared on the show and talked about what happened on Aug. 21, when a terrorist attempted to attack a high speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. Stone, along with his friend Anthony Sadler and Army National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, subdued the gunman and thwarted a potential massacre.
“I hit the ground with him [and] I was kind of reaching for the gun, I couldn’t find it,” Stone told Jimmy Kimmel. “So I just put him in a rear naked choke just to protect myself … Right away he pulled another handgun, pointed at the back of my head, click, pulled the trigger. It didn’t work either. So God was with me on that one for sure.”
After retelling the story of the train attack, Kimmel noted that Stone was a fan of the Golden State Warriors. “We have a visitor outside who wants to say hello,” Kimmel said, as video cuts to Warriors guard Klay Thompson. He drove up in a Chevy Camaro and made his way to the studio, presenting Stone with a jersey and his hat.
Iraq’s prime minister on July 4 congratulated his fighters on “the big victory in Mosul” — even as fighting with Islamic State militants continued in Mosul’s Old City neighborhood where Iraqi forces are about 250 meters from the Tigris River and facing increasingly brutal resistance.
Haider al-Abadi spoke during a press conference in Baghdad, less than a week after he declared an end to IS’ self-styled caliphate after Iraqi forces achieved an incremental win by retaking the landmark al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City.
“Praise be to God, we managed to liberate [Mosul] and proved the others were wrong, the people of Mosul supported and stood with our security forces against terrorism,” al-Abadi said.
His remarks came on the third anniversary of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s sermon at the al-Nuri Mosque, from where he declared an Islamic caliphate on IS-held lands in Syria and Iraq.
Also during the press conference, al-Abadi added that he has given instructions to rebuild and stabilize areas of the city already freed from the militant group.
Inside Mosul’s Old City, civilians fleeing Iraqi advance are increasingly desperate. The elderly and weak are carried across mounds of rubble in blankets. Soldiers — increasingly fearful of the Old City’s inhabitants after a string of suicide bombings — hurry the groups along.
A middle-aged woman with a gaunt, pale face fainted as she fled past the destroyed al-Nuri Mosque. Two soldiers carried her to the roadside and tried to revive her with cold water.
Largely cut off from food and water for months, humanitarian groups are reporting a spike in the number of displaced people suffering from malnutrition and dehydration.
“None of the previous battles were like this,” said Iraqi Maj. Faris Aboud, working at a small field hospital just outside the Old City.
“In a single day we received 300 wounded,” Aboud, a father of three continued. “For me, seeing the wounded children is the hardest, we see children who have lost their entire families under the rubble, they have no one now.”
Lt. Gen. Abdel Ghani al-Asadi, of Iraq’s special forces, said earlier in the day that Iraqi forces are just 250 meters (yards) from the Tigris River, in the western half of Mosul. The Tigris divides the city roughly into its western and eastern half, which was liberated from IS militants back in January.
IS militants who remain trapped in just a few hundred meters of territory in the Old City are now in a “fight to the death,” al-Asadi said, adding that IS fighters are increasingly resorting to suicide bombings and that he expects the fighting to get even heavier as they are pushed closer to the river.
Iraqi forces marked a significant victory this week when the Rapid Response Division retook Mosul’s main hospital complex on the city’s western side.
The building that once held the city’s best medical facilities now sits devastated by the fight. For weeks, a handful of IS snipers perched in the main hospital’s top floors held back hundreds of Iraqi forces.
Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul, the country’s second largest city, in October. IS overran Mosul in a matter of days in 2014. At the height of the extremists’ power, they held nearly a third of Iraq.
A man who asked to only be referred to as Abu Abid, for fear for his family’s safety, was waiting to get a spot on a truck after fleeing the Old City.
“That place, it was absolute death,” he said. “We will never be the same. Once the fear has been planted in your heart, you can’t get rid of it.”
“This allows the aircraft to identify a threat and actively prosecute that threat through avoidance, deception or jamming techniques,” Mike Gibbons, Vice President of the Boeing F-15 program, told Scout Warrior in an interview a few months ago.
These updated EW capabilities replace the Tactical Electronic Warfare Suite, which has been used since the 1980s, not long after the F-15 first deployed. The service plans to operate the fleet until the mid-2040’s, so an overhaul of the Eagle’s electronic systems helps maintain U.S. air supremacy, the contract announcement said.
Boeing won the initial contract for the EPAWSS project last year and hired BAE Systems as the primary subcontractor.
Overall, the US Air Force is vigorously upgrading the 1980s-era F-15 fighter by giving new weapons and sensors in the hope of maintaining air-to-air superiority over the Chinese J-10 equivalent.
The multi-pronged effort not only includes the current addition of electronic warfare technology but also extends to super-fast high-speed computers, infrared search and track enemy targeting systems, increased networking ability and upgraded weapons-firing capability, Air Force and Boeing officials said.
“The Air Force plans to keep the F-15 fleet in service until the mid-2040’s. Many of the F-15 systems date back to the 1970’s and must be upgraded if the aircraft is to remain operationally effective. Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Rob Leese told Scout Warrior a few months ago.
The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variants. A key impetus for the upgrade was well articulate in a Congressional report on the US and China in 2014. (US-China Economic and Security Review Commission —www.uscc.gov). Among other things, the report cited rapid Chinese technological progress and explained that the US margin of superiority has massively decreased since the 1980s.
As an example, the report said that in the 1980s, the US F-15 was vastly superior to the Chinese equivalent – the J-10. However, Chinese technical advances in recent years have considerably narrowed that gap to the point where the Chinese J-10 is now roughly comparable to the US F-15, the report explained.
Air Force and Boeing developers maintain that ongoing upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that this equivalence is not the case and that, instead, they will ensure the superiority of the F-15.
Among the upgrades is an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processer in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII.
“It is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput, translating into faster and more reliable mission processing capability for an aircrew,” Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Scout Warrior.
High tech targeting and tracking technology is also being integrated onto the F-15, Gibbons added. This includes the addition of a passive long-range sensor called Infrared Search and Track, or IRST.
The technology is also being engineered into the Navy F-18 Super Hornet. The technology can detect the heat signature, often called infrared emissions, of enemy aircraft.
“The system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology,” Navy officials said.
IRST also provides an alternate air-to-air targeting system in a high threat electronic attack environment, Navy, Air Force and industry developers said.
The F-15 is also being engineered for additional speed and range, along with weapons-firing ability. The weapons-carrying ability is being increased from 8 up to 16 weapons; this includes an ability to fire an AIM-9x or AIM-120 missile. In addition, upgrades to the aircraft include adding an increased ability to integrate or accommodate new emerging weapons systems as they become available. This is being done through both hardware and software-oriented “open standards” IP protocol and architecture.
The aircraft is also getting a “fly-by-wire” automated flight control system.
“Fly by wire means when the pilot provides the input – straight to a computer than then determines how to have the aircraft perform the way it wants – provides electrical signals for the more quickly and more safely move from point to point as opposed to using a mechanical controls stick,” Gibbons explained.
Along with these weapons upgrades and other modifications, the F-15 is also getting upgrades to the pilot’s digital helmet and some radar signature reducing, or stealthy characteristics.
However, at the same time, the F-15 is not a stealthy aircraft and is expected to be used in combat environments in what is called “less contested” environments where the Air Force already has a margin of air superiority over advanced enemy air defenses.
For this reason, the F-15 will also be increasing networked so as to better support existing 5th-generation platforms such as the F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials said.
The intent of these F-15 upgrades is to effectively perform the missions assigned to the F-15 fleet, which are to support the F-22 in providing air superiority and the F-35 in providing precision attack capabilities, Leese said.
“While these upgrades will not make these aircraft equivalent to 5th generation fighters, they will allow the F-15 to support 5th generation fighters in performing their missions, and will also allow F-15s to assume missions in more permissive environments where capabilities of 5th generation fighters are not required,” Leese added.
Gibbons added that the upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that the fighter aircraft remains superior to its Chinese equivalent.
“The F-15 as a vital platform that still has a capability that cannot be matched in terms of ability to fly high, fly fast, go very far carry a lot. It is an air dominance machine,” Gibbons explained.
As the U.S. Navy crews of two riverine command boats were being held on Iran’s Farsi island by members of the Revolutionary Guard, their captors began to interrogate the group, demanding to know where the Navy “mothership” was.
The ten crew members insisted on the truth — that there was no mothership, and the 50-foot boats were making a transit of 250 nautical miles from Kuwait to Bahrain on their own.
Reportedly, the captors were incredulous, telling the group they didn’t believe the boats could make the distance on their own.
“Yeah,” at least one of the Navy crew members reportedly laughed. “I wish you could tell my people that, because we told them these boats can’t do that.”
This exchange, revealed for the first time in a Navy command investigation made public Thursday, highlights many of the key findings regarding the circumstances that led to the 15-hour detention of the ten sailors Jan. 12.
The 170-page probe found shoddy training, poor preparation, communication gaps and leadership failures all were to blame for the international incident, which was manipulated into a propaganda victory by the Iranians.
Among other discoveries, the investigation found that members of the riverine boat crews had been up all night before the planned transit attempting to repair the poorly maintained boats, a violation of policies requiring ample rest before journeys of that length.
They determined that the sailors had unknowingly passed through Saudi Arabian territorial waters before accidentally entering Iranian territorial waters. And they found the sailors had committed multiple code-of-conduct violations while detained, demonstrating a lack of understanding of policy and insufficient training.
In all, the investigation recommends that eight Navy officers and petty officers be held accountable for leadership and conduct failings in the incident.
Transit gone wrong
According to the investigation, the transit of the two riverine boats, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 began in the afternoon Jan. 12. The boats were ordered to transit from Kuwait to Bahrain to support an upcoming military exercise, a longer distance than the crews, or anyone from the squadron, had ever covered before in the vessels.
The boats planned to meet up with the Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy before sunset to refuel, and altered their course as soon as they got underway to reach the cutter faster, but without notifying anyone of their plans, according to the investigation.
From the outset, communications were a problem. The second riverine boat, 805, eventually established satellite communication with officials from the parent unit, Task Force 56.7, in Bahrain. The lead boat, 802, never established satellite communication.
Shortly into the journey, just before 3:30 p.m. local time, the boats unknowingly entered and passed through Saudi Arabian territorial waters. Just after 3:45 p.m., they entered Iranian waters around Farsi Island, which lies between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Persian Gulf. The Monomoy, monitoring the journey, notified task force officials that the boats appeared to be in Iranian territorial seas.
Fewer than 30 minutes after the boats entered the region, boat 802 discovered a loss of lube oil pressure. The two boats decided to go “dead in the water” to investigate the engine issue, just 1.5 nautical miles south of Farsi island.
Minutes later, two small Iranian boats approached, crew-mounted weapons pointed at the riverine boats. Some of the riverine crew members went to man their own crew-mounted weapons, but the captain of the lead boat, a Navy lieutenant and the only officer in the group, waved them off in an attempt to de-escalate.
As Iranian troops racked their weapons and pointed AK-47s and .50-caliber guns at the sailors, the officer made another attempt to extricate the boats from the worsening situation, ordering the lead boat’s coxswain to accelerate through the Iranian boats in a getaway attempt. But the coxswain disregarded the order, telling investigators later that he thought members of the crew would be killed if he followed it.
Two additional Iranian boats arrived, and members of the guard boarded the riverine boats, tearing down the American flags they were flying and hoisting Revolutionary Guard flags in their place. They blindfolded the sailors, taking their personal belongings and tying their hands together with pieces of Iranian flag, according to the report.
Then the guided the two riverine boats to Farsi island, where the sailors would spend their brief period as detainees.
The ten sailors were kept together in a room, where they were first interrogated together, then one-by-one, in sessions ranging from 15 minutes to two hours. Iranian captors would bring in food and attempt to film the sailors with a video camera as they ate. The lead boat captain resisted these efforts to film the crews, but ultimately told the sailors they should eat because it wasn’t clear when their next meal was coming.
In perhaps the most significant misstep during this period of detention, the lead boat commander agreed to read scripted remarks on camera in front of an Iranian “news crew” in which he apologized for the mistake of ending up in Iranian water and said the incident was “our fault.” He did this in exchange for the promise of release, the investigation found, against military code of conduct rules for such situations. Unbeknownst to him, the release of all the sailors had already been secured by the U.S. government and their departure from Farsi island was imminent.
Because of unit upheaval and reorganization in previous years, Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 and its parent unit, Coastal Riverine Group 1, found themselves undermanned and overtasked. The crews of the two command boats had missed key skills training periods due to operational commitments, the investigating officer found, and were lacking navigation training as well as training needed to prepare them to operate in the Middle East during their deployment.
Poor communication meant that the then-commander of Task Force 56, Capt. Kyle Moses, didn’t realize the units were inadequately prepared for deployment, the investigator found. On top of that, the investigation determined, the task force fostered a “can’t say no” command climate, meaning that lower-ranking troops fell in line rather than raising important concerns.
Neither Moses, nor the commander of Task Force 56.7 in Bahrain, nor the Kuwait detachment officer-in-charge, understood the poor condition of the riverine command boats, neither of which was fully operational, the investigation found. Neither task force had a sense of ownership of the boats, officials said.
This lack of leadership and training was considered by investigator to be an extenuating factor in the conduct of the riverine boat crews, which made a series of bad choices starting with “blindly” deviating from course at the outset.
The two boat captains did not understand proper procedure for addressing an engine failure underway. They failed to keep their weapons manned while dead in the water to guard against a surprise attack. Both captains failed to exercise self-defense when the Iranians demonstrated hostile intent, the investigation found, due to a lack of understanding of how to do so. The lead boat captain surrendered both boats to the Iranian authorities, the probe found. While the military code of conduct acknowledges that troops may be captured, it forbids surrender if they have the means to resist.
And while detained, the crews showed some confusion about what they were permitted to say. The investigator found some volunteered pieces of information apart from name, rank and serial number, including the top speed of the riverine boats and the fact that the parent command owned a third boat. The sailors’ comment about telling their command the boats couldn’t make the journey demonstrated lack of trust in their chain of command to the detaining forces, the investigator said, and could have been used for propaganda purposes.
Discipline and recommendations
Despite the missteps of the captain of the lead boat, the investigating officer accounted for his junior rank and lack of fleet experience and oversight, recommending only that a copy of the investigation be forwarded to his commander for appropriate oversight.
“He was placed in a difficult position, albeit one in which his own actions placed him and nine other sailors in danger,” the investigating officer wrote. “His deployment to the Fifth Fleet area of operations lacked any form of oversight and he lacked basic mentorship and development from his entire chain of command. Left to his own devices, he emulated the poor leadership traits he witnessed firsthand within his own chain of command.”
The report also recommends discipline for the commander of the second boat and the coxswain who disobeyed the order to accelerate away, asking that the investigation be forwarded to their chain of command for action.
Discipline is also recommended for Task Force 56 Commander Moses, the Task Force 56 chief staff officer, the commanding officer and executive officer of Coastal Riverine Squadron 3, and the Kuwait officer-in-charge at the time of the transit.
The Navy announced that CRS-3 executive officer Cmdr. Eric Rasch had been relieved from his post in May. Moses was relieved earlier this month. Actions regarding the other officers have not been made public to date.
The investigating officer also recommended an immediate operational training and readiness stand-down for Task Force 56 to ensure adequate training and readiness, as well as the implementation of monthly live-fire training and a review of policies and procedures for maritime operational centers.
In view of the confusion surrounding who was in charge and the chain of command once the riverine boats got underway and the lack of familiarity with the boats’ capabilities, the investigator recommended developing a career track “specifically for the competitive selection and detailing of post-department head surface warfare officers to officer-in-charge billets at the coastal riverine squadrons.”
The report casts a strongly unfavorable light on the actions of the Iranian guards, who the investigating officer found accosted and detained U.S. sailors in an innocent passage through territorial waters, against international norms. The riverine boats were inappropriately searched and communications wires cut, the probe found. And many of the sailors who were interrogated had their personal space invaded during periods of questioning as Iranian interrogators sought to intimidate them into giving up information.
These findings appear to run somewhat counter to remarks from Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the sailors’ release and thanked Iranian authorities for their quick response.
“All indications suggest that our sailors were well taken care of, provided with blankets and food and assisted with their return to the fleet,” Kerry said Jan. 13.
In a largely damning report, there are a few commendations. The investigating officer recommended that the No. 2 gunner aboard the second riverine boat — the only female sailor among the ten detained — be recognized for her quick thinking in activating an emergency beacon while “kneeling, bound and blindfolded” at Iranian gunpoint, in a brave but ultimately thwarted attempt to call for help.
The commanders and crews of the cutter Monomoy and the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, which coordinated to track the captured sailors and provided assistance on their return, were also recommended for special recommendation.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson was expected to discuss the findings of the investigation on Thursday.
Not all war movies are created equal. While box office returns don’t necessarily mean the movie was good or bad (for example, Iron Man 3 is the 10th highest grossing movie ever), they are an indication of what does or doesn’t pique people’s interest – although you might personally find a correlation between the two in this list.
Here are 13 military movies Hollywood probably wishes it could take back in order of the least to the worst offenders. (Loss estimates include marketing costs and adjustments for inflation.)
How could Director Peter Berg have known casting Rihanna was not the best idea? When the audience and critics think the movie is “not fun,” “crushingly stupid,” and would prefer to spend the time actually playing the game instead. And word of mouth didn’t save it at the box office.
Peter Berg told The Hollywood Reporter that his 2013 film “Lone Survivor” would allow him to “buy back his reputation.”
Roger Ebert called “Gods and Generals” a film “Trent Lott would enjoy,” referring to the Senator’s praise of segregationist Strom Thurmond. Noted author Jeff Shaara, whose Civil War-based books are highly praised and widely read, said the movie is nothing like his book and he has no idea how he could “let them butcher the book like that.” (But that didn’t keep him from holding onto the money he was paid for the film rights to the book).
Air Force movies don’t do well at the box office. No one has expressed a desire to see an Air Force movie since Gene Hackman and Danny Glover in “BAT*21,” and that was 1988. Someone should have told Cameron Crowe to make this movie about Marines … and not to cast Emma Stone as an Asian woman.
This might be the exception on this list. “K-19” was actually well-received, even by Russian submariners who were part of K-19’s crew. The only thing the Russian Navy veterans didn’t like was being portrayed as a bunch of drunken, incompetent Russian stereotypes.
Like the great general himself, “Alexander” enraged people from Greece all the way to India. Historians and critics both agree that this movie is both way too long and needs more fighting — unless those critics and moviegoers are American, in which case, the biggest concern seems to be that Alexander the Great might have been gay.
This is the story of the Raid at Cabanatuan on the island of Luzon in the Philippines during WWII. General Roger Ebert praised the film, saying “Here is a war movie that understands how wars are actually fought.”
Of course, Ebert was never a general, he’s just referring to the realistic depiction of combat in the film. He also said, “it is good to have a film that is not about entertainment for action fans, but about how wars are won with great difficulty, risk, and cost.”
There’s no movie magic like a Korean War epic funded by a cult. The film’s star told the world he did it for the money, the actress portraying the love interest decided to quit being a movie star after shooting wrapped, and the movie’s Washington, D.C. premiere was picketed by anti-cult activists.
Called one of the most inaccurate war movies ever made, “Windtalkers” also tries to tell the story of WWII Navajo code talkers through the eyes of a white guy. (Come to think of it, it’s actually surprising that here’s only one Nicolas Cage movie on this list).
A robot plane (stop laughing) is based in downtown Rangoon (which hasn’t been called that since 1989). After it’s hit by lighting, it becomes more alive (stop laughing, this is serious) and one of the pilots trying to stop it gets shot down over North Korea. Some more stuff happens, and then they discover the plane has feelings.
The marketing for this movie used the line “you will never forget.” And you won’t. You’ll remember how great this movie could have been if every character had been played by Billy Bob Thornton. “The Alamo” is number 2 on this list, but number 1 in terms of epic disappointment.
Colin Farrell strikes again. Even Bruce Willis couldn’t create any interest in this WWII movie. Basically, a captured American officer is punished in the POW camp by having to bunk with the enlisted. The prisoners use a trial to distract the guards from a coming attack on an ammo factory.
Founded more than 130 years ago, Sears is one of the most recognizable brands in America.
With everything from power tools, to appliances and auto parts — and a myriad other products for every American home — Sears has been a part of making life better for generations.
But the company has gone well beyond simply supplying consumers with the products they need and has played a key role in helping America’s veterans have a safe place to live. For almost a decade, Sears has sponsored the Heroes at Home initiative where it has helped raise more than $20 million to rebuild 1,600 homes across the United States.
This year, Sears teamed with the non-profit Rebuilding Together to construct wheelchair access ramps for vets in need. Dubbed the “Heroes at Home for the Holidays” program, Sears shoppers donated more than $700,000 to support the campaign, exceeding the program’s goals.
According to the Center for Housing Policy and the National Housing Conference, 26 percent of post-9/11 veterans (and 14 percent of all veterans) have a service-connected disability and face housing accessibility challenges as they transition from military to civilian life.
“We’re thankful for the incredible generosity of our Shop Your Way members and associates who have carried on Sears’ long tradition of supporting our nation’s veterans and military families,” said Gerry Murphy, Chief Marketing Officer, Sears. “The holidays are not only about giving, but giving back. Our members have proved once again that simple, small gestures by many can result in immediate, long-term impact for America’s veterans.”
See a video of the first Heroes at Home for the Holidays ramp project which was built with the help of celebrity designer Ty Pennington for Air Force vet and non-profit director Missy Melvin and her veteran care facility.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is now paying a veteran $500,000 to settle a lawsuit, in which the veteran alleged he suffered heart damage because of delays in care.
John Porter, an Air Force veteran who served in the Vietnam War, sued the VA in 2016, saying that the staff at the Des Moines, Iowa VA medical center failed to inform him for years that he was suffering progressive heart failure, The Associated Press reports.
Porter recounted that he first went to the Des Moines VA in 2011 because he was beginning to feel chest tightness. Subsequent tests revealed that he might be suffering from heart problems. Another test three weeks later indicated that his heart was only performing at half the ideal level, according to the text of the lawsuit. Still, no one informed Porter that the test was essentially showing progressive heart failure, even though he continued to experience fatigue and dizziness.
It was only when Porter visited a VA hospital in Phoenix three years later in 2014 that doctors examined old tests from the Des Moines facility and told Porter the results.
How does director Joss Whedon follow the success of the first Avengers movie, that $220 million budget ensemble cast epic that grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide?
“With the smallest thing I can think of,” Whedon said at a recent gathering of the cast at the Disney Studios in Burbank, California. “What little moments are there between these characters that I haven’t gotten to do yet? What conversations have they not had? It’s never the big picture stuff – although that’s cool too – it’s how can I get inside their hearts? What’s funny about them? I write reams and reams of paper just thinking about the tiniest part.”
But “tiny” is not the first word one might use to describe the sequel, “Avengers – Age of Ultron.” It is a big movie in most ways that picks up where “Avengers” left off, taking the interpersonal and witty aspects of the team to the next level while hurtling full tilt across the screen for the duration.
“I read the script, and I said, ‘This is great; let’s go shoot it,'” said Robert Downey, Jr., who returns as Tony Stark/Iron Man. “It’s a Swiss watch to begin with, and Josh really created some great new situations for Tony to be in.”
James Spader plays Ultron – the evil robot who’s trying to use artificial intelligence to destroy the world – and the actor found the Whedon’s production process a challenge to keep up with.
“I really was just trying to hold on and stay on the train that was moving very quickly,” Spader said. “I arrived in London and within the first half hour they put on a suit and all this gear and I went through a range of motion and within 15 minutes I was watching me on a monitor move around this big room as Ultron. That pace was what it was throughout the entire project.”
Jeremy Renner returns as Hawkeye, a character who many fans felt got short shrift in terms of screen time in the first movie. But that’s not the case in “Age of Ultron.”
“I speak in this movie, which is awesome,” joked Renner. “And I become part of the team, which is awesome, and dive into some killer aspects of the character.”
As Renner’s Hawkeye role grew so too did that of Black Widow, played once again by Scarlett Johansson.
“There some sense of normal in a way at the beginning of Avengers 2,” Johansson said. “But at the end she let her guard down. . . She had this moment of false hope. She put in the work and there should be some kind of personal pay off, but she realizes her calling is a greater one. That’s not something she’s necessarily thrilled about, but that’s what’s most heroic about her.”
Johansson (who was pregnant during the shooting of the film) also allowed that her action sequences were the result of a multi-person effort. “There’s a team around me that is super supportive in helping all of Widow’s fight moves and badass motorcycle riding happen. All that work being seamless takes a lot of choreography and team spirit.”
Mark Ruffalo reprises his role as Dr. Banner who turns into The Hulk when provoked, and when asked what methods he draws on acting-wise to differentiate between the two forms, he joked, “I was helped out by the fact that I’m green and huge. That helped with the distinction between the two characters. I can’t take full credit for that except for the accent I was using, maybe.”
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige summed up the state of the Avengers brand by reflecting on how far it’s come in the last ten years or so: “It started with the notion of making these movies ourselves and becoming Marvel Studios, and then it continued with Robert in ‘Iron Man 1’ and having Samuel L. Jackson come in in the end and say, ‘You’re part of a bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet,’ thinking that most people wouldn’t know what that meant . . . but the world got it much more quickly than I anticipated.”
Feige pointed down the table at the cast and said, “It’s the greatest ensemble ever assembled in cinematic history, and it just keeps getting better and better.”
A distant, flashing image of blue sky, rolling mountains and snowy rivers visited itself upon an injured soldier flying away from a violent firefight on the ground below – just barely beyond view from the naked eye.
This vivid, yet paradoxical scene is what former Green Beret Dillon Behr recalls seeing when looking down in a weary, half-conscious state from a Black Hawk helicopter while being evacuated from a near-death combat encounter in the mountains of Afghanistan.
“I was able to look back in the valley below and see a lot of my teammates still there fighting. It was a beautiful scene from a distance, yet what had just happened down below was basically hell on earth,” Behr explained.
This violence, heroism and near death for Behr is now known as the famous battle of Shok Valley in Afghanistan, 2008; the mission on that April day was called “Operation Commando Wrath.”
Behr was part of a 12-man US Special Forces A-team tasked with taking out a high-value enemy target up in the mountains; his unit was joined by another supporting 12-man Green Beret A-team and about 100 Afghan Commandos. Behr was part of the 3rd Special Forces Group, ODA 3336.
While Green Berets are, among other things, experienced with helicopter rope drops and various kinds of airborne attack raids typically employed in assaults of this kind, Behr’s unit was forced to climb the side of a mountain and attack on foot, due to the rugged terrain and relative inexperience of supporting Afghan Commando partners.
Behr recalled the combat scene on the mountain, at an elevation of about 1,000 feet, as dreary with gray rocks, some small trees and not much vegetation. The uneven terrain was accompanied by some snow on the ground and a partially iced-over river. Concrete-like looking mud huts and small villages were scattered in rows and villages along ridges of the mountainside.
Having completed Special Forces training, selection, and preparation, Behr had spent years preparing for the life-and-death combat scenario he knew he was about to encounter.
He was a trained fighter, trainer and teacher working as part of a close-knit group focused on a specific attack mission. Behr was an intelligence and communications specialist, yet like all Green Berets, he was first and foremost a fighter, equipped and ready to respond to fast-evolving combat situations.
“As we started climbing, we encountered insurgents… around 200 enemy combatants. They had the high ground and had us surrounded,” he recalled.
During a subsequent, fast-ensuing firefight, Behr and his fellow Green Berets used what rocks, small trees and ditches they could find to both avert enemy gunfire and launch counterattacks.
“We had intelligence that a high value target was going to be there, someone traditionally hard to track down. We did not know there would be so many fighters and enemy forces there. We happened upon a much larger meeting of enemy combatants than we had expected,” he said.
At one point during the unfolding 7-hour firefight, Behr was abruptly thrown to the ground by a larger caliber bullet cutting through the side of his pelvis. The bullet blew out the ball and socket of his hip.
“It was like being struck by a car or baseball bat and being electrocuted at the same time,” he said.
This near-fatal strike, unfortunately, was only the beginning of Behr’s effort to stay alive. While fellow A-Team Green Beret intelligence specialist Luis Morales was tending to his injury, a second bullet ripped through Behr’s bicep and continued on to hit Morales in the thigh.
Behr described the painful sensation of feeling a bullet cut through the muscle in his bicep as minor compared to the initial hit to his pelvis… a scenario which can make it seemingly impossible to imaging the magnitude of pain he experienced upon first being shot.
As he fought to stay conscious and his teammates scrambled to stop the bleeding, Behr himself was focused on the survival and safety of his fellow Green Berets under attack.
“I have vivid memories of laying there almost helpless and being concerned about a building across the valley that had direct access to our team. If someone was to shoot from there, we were pretty exposed. I remember directing some people on the team and having them take that out with a large bomb,” he said.
US air support then arrived to destroy attacking insurgents; shrapnel from a bomb mistakenly struck Behr, perforating his intestines.
When confronting what he thought was certain death, Behr thought of his fellow Soldiers and family back home in Illinois.
“There was a point where I thought I was going to leave this world. At one point I thought I was not going to make it, so I said a prayer to myself and felt a calm come over me. Then, all of a sudden, Ron Shurer, the medic on our team, slapped me across the face and said ‘wake up you are not going to die today,'” he said.
The intensity of the firefight, volume of enemy bullets and massive scale of the attacks are still difficult for Behr to recall and describe, the sharpness of certain powerful and violent memories have found a permanent resting place in his mind. Then, at the very moment Behr thought he might have an opportunity to live, the attacks worsened.
Just after telling Behr he would not die, Shurer himself took a bullet in the helmet right above his face. Fortunately, the bullet bounced off his helmet.
“It could have been much worse,” Behr said.
Four Americans were critically injured and MEDEVAC’ed to Landstuhl Army Medical Center and then Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Two Afghan Commandos were killed, including an interpreter.
In total, 11 Silver Stars and one Air Force Cross were awarded for the events of that day.
“The heroic part is what my team did and how they kept it together under heavy enemy gunfire. They risked their lives to get me and the other injured guys on the team off of that mountain. They were dragging and dropping me over the ledges and trying to catch me off of the ledges,” Behr explained.
Life After Near-Death in Combat
Despite this accumulation of combat trauma and near death experience, Behr has made an astounding recovery. Following medical treatment, Behr went on to earn a Masters degree in Security Studies at Georgetown University before starting a non-profit gym for injured Soldiers at Walter Reed.
When asked how he was able to go on after his combat experience, Behr said “I don’t know what else to do. We’re given abilities and skills and it is a shame to waste them. Even after we leave the military, we have a responsibility to become leaders in our communities.”
These days, after working for a period as a cyber security threat intelligence analyst at Discover, Behr now works as a professional liability and cyber liability broker for Risk Placement Services, a Washington D.C.-area firm.
In a manner quite similar to his fellow Green Berets, known as “Quiet Professionals” often reluctant to discuss the perils of combat, Behr does not wish to highlight his war zone activities. He does, however, say the experience has changed him forever.
Behr is now married to a former Red Cross volunteer who helped him recover from his injuries.
“I value relationships more than I ever did previously,” Behr said.
Behr is also involved with the Green Beret Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping Green Berets and their families. You can visit the Green Beret Foundation website here.
PARIS — U.S. allies are happy to have the A-10 Warthog attack aircraft back in Europe to counter a resurgent Russia, airmen here at the Paris Air Show said.
The Defense Department brought the Cold War-era tank busters stateside in 2013 as part of a consolidation of bases and equipment in Europe. But it sent them back to the continent as part of a theater security package earlier this year — including countries in the former Soviet bloc — in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and support for pro-Russian separatists.
The planes have been a welcome sight during training exercises involving NATO forces in the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia and Romania, among other countries, according to crew members.
“It’s pretty amazing because that’s what this jet was designed for — Russian tanks — so it’s pretty wild that we’re helping them out for the original cause,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Marcus Nugent, a crew member who works on the aircraft’s avionics systems, said on Tuesday at the Paris Air Show, held at the historic Le Bourget airfield outside the city.
“They’re small countries, they’re small forces, so seeing us out there with them,” he added. “They love it just as much as we love it — maybe a little more — so it’s pretty awesome. The way Russia’s been acting — it keeps people at ease on both sides.”
Tech. Sgt. Teddy McCollough, an A-10 weapons maintainer with the 355th Air Force Maintenance Squadron, agreed. “They absolutely love our presence there,” he said. “You can feel how gracious they are for us being there.”
About 300 airmen and 12 A-10s with the 355th Fighter Wing in February departedDavis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona for Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany as part of a security theater package. The Air Force also deployed 12 F-15Es in March in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The units have traveled across Europe taking part in a wide range of exercises and working with NATO partners. U.S Air Forces in Europe Commander Gen. Frank Gorenc said Monday at the Paris Air Show that the additional airmen and aircraft have helped reassure our NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression.
A-10 pilots Capts. Joseph Morrin and Paul Wruck with the 354th Fighter Squadron said they have benefited from the time training with joint terminal air controllers from across NATO on calling in airstrikes.
“We get to do close air support training with our allies and get to see how they do business and show them how we do business, and all of us together as an overall CAS team get better,” Morrin said.
“I would say the biggest threat on my mind is what’s happening with Russia and the activities of Russia, and indeed that’s a big part of why I’m here in Europe and having those discussions,” she said. “It’s extremely worrisome on what’s going on in the Ukraine. We’ve seen the type of warfare, which someone dubbed it hybrid warfare, which is somewhat new. So I would put that at the top of my list.”
The A-10 is known as the pre-eminent close air support aircraft in the U.S. fleet with its low, slow-flying gunship’s snub-nose packed with a seven-barrel GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun that fires 30mm rounds designed to shred the armor on tanks, combat vehicles and other targets.
“I love this aircraft,” he said. “I love the gun system. It’s reliable. It has few hiccups. When it does, it’s usually minor. It holds a lot of rounds, 1,150 rounds — that’s a lot. It’s a beast.” He added, “When they go and fly day-to-day missions, they usually do shoot, do some target practice. I just make sure it’s clean, lubed up and ready to go.”
The Air Force has proposed retiring its fleet of almost 300 Warthogs by 2019 to save an estimated $4.2 billion a year and free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a stealthy multi-role fighter jet and the Pentagon’s most expensive acquisition program.
Congress rejected the service’s request to begin the process of divesting the A-10 this year and approved $337 million in funding to keep them in the inventory. While lawmakers did allow the Air Force to move up to three dozen of the planes to back-up status, they blocked the service from sending any to the bone yard in Arizona.
Morrin said his unit tries not to get caught up in the debate and the politics surrounding the issue.
“We let them do the debating and we keep flying,” he said.
Morrin explained that the A-10 pilot community is still not sure what the potential retirement of the A-10 would mean for their careers. A-10 pilots have not been told what aircraft they would fly next, but there is hope that many would fly the F-35, Morrin said.
“We might have to go back to flight training for a while. We just really don’t know,” Morrin said. “They haven’t told us because it’s not official yet. It’s sort of the expectation though that since the F-35 is the future that we’d go there and then take our CAS knowledge to the table and make sure that community is well versed in it.”
As the Air Force pushes to retire its fleet of A-10 attack aircraft, Boeing Co. doesn’t want the planes to waste away in the Arizona bone yard — it wants to sell them abroad.
The company has begun discussions with the service about potentially selling the Cold War-era gunship to U.S. allies, according to Chris Raymond, a vice president at the company.
“We need to see what they want to do first, and then we’d certainly want to try to help market some of those around the world, if they choose to want to do that,” he said.