8 of the Air Force's greatest fighters throughout history - We Are The Mighty
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8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history

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

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Ben Bloker)

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.

3. P-80

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(Photo: U.S. Air Force B. Butcher)

The P-80 flew during World War II but wasn’t deployed to combat until Korea where it became one of America’s early champions against the rampant MiG threat from China.

4. F-86 Sabre

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Chris Massey)

America’s other great champion in MiG Alley fights over North Korea and Manchuria was the F-86 Sabre, a swept-wing jet fighter capable of breaking the sound barrier and going toe-to-toe with the best MiGs of the day.

5. F-4 Phantom

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(Photo: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

The Phantom got a bad reputation in the Vietnam War where early variants lacked a cannon and used unreliable air-to-air missiles. But the powerful A-4 got improvements over time that made it more than capable of going up against anything the Soviets could throw at it. The A-4 is still in service in the Middle East where two Israeli F-4s interrupted an Egyptian attack of 28 planes, shooting down seven MiGs with no F-4s lost.

6. F-15 Eagle

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman John Hughel)

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

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby)

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

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Senior Airman Ashley Williams)

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.

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This is the story behind the Red Army’s most iconic WWII photo

It was the Red Army’s “Iwo Jima” moment, Soviet troops fixing the flag of the Soviet Union on top of the most infamous symbol of the Nazi rise to power. On May 2, 1945, Soviet photographer Yevgeny Khaldei snapped the now-famous photo of Alyosha Kovalyov and Abdulkhakim Ismailov raising the hammer and sickle over the Reichstag.


8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Photo by Yevgeny Khaldei

But the truth behind the photo, who was in the photo, and who actually raised the Soviet victory banner, was clouded in the fog of war and muddled by the Russian propaganda machine for decades. The first to raise the flag were a Kazakh, Lt. Rakhimzhan Koshkarbaev and Pvt. Georgij Bulatov, a Russian from Sverdlovsk.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Koshkarbaev received the Order of the Red Banner for storming the Reichstag with his troops.

At first, the Kremlin announced that Georgia-born Meliton Kantaria and Russian Mikhail Yegorov were the men in the photo. The men were hailed as heroes and lived the rest of their lives in the glory created by Soviet propaganda.

Only after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 did the truth come out. Kovalyov and Ismailov were really the ones who hoisted the flag on the building… in the photo. But they weren’t the first to raise one. One story has it that a Sergeant Mikhail Menin, part of a five-man fire team led by Vladimir Makov raised a flag on the building first.

In 2007, the Russian Institute of Military History announced that honor went to Koshkarbaev and Bulatov. The only problem was they hoisted the red banner at 10:30 at night. No one believed these two, however – it was too dark for photos.

A documentary film titled “The Motherland Calls” about Kazakhs in the Great Patriotic War (the Soviet term for WWII), relayed anecdotal evidence from other Red Army veterans that described Koshkarbaev and other men from the 674th regiment moving on the parliament building – including the Soviet filmmaker and combat cameraman Roman Karmen.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Karmen in the Red Army.

Karmen recalled filming “the Kazakh officer” as a Red Army combat cameraman in Berlin.

“You see, we received an order from Moscow: the Victory Banner over the Reichstag should be hoisted by representatives of Georgia and Russia, but it was difficult to stop. I was told to cut the frames [of Koshkarbaev], but they are preserved, in the archives.”

Kovalyov and Ismailov were pressured by the the KGB to stay quiet about their role in the flag raising. Bulatov was found hanged in his apartment in 1955.

Soviet leadership began pressuring their troops to capture the building in preparation for the International Workers Day celebrations for May 1st. The Soviets tried to drape red banners on the building via aircraft, but came up short when the banners were caught on the girders of the roof.

But as of May 30th, the Nazis still controlled the Reichstag.

The German parliament building, Hitler’s rubber stamp, was defended by 1,000 Nazi troops, so Soviet leadership ordered nine divisions to attack the building. Red Army troops used mortars fired horizontally to punch through bricked-up doorway throughout the building. They fought room by room until Soviet fire teams could make their way to the stairs and the roof of the building.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Photo by Yevgeny Khaldei

By May 2nd, the only Germans left in the building surrendered from the basement. That’s when the photographer Yevgeny Khaldei made his way up to the roof and enlisted Kovalyov and Ismailov to help raise the now-famous red banner. He burned through a whole roll of film taking the image.

The last surviving Red Army veteran who stormed the Reichstag died in 2015.

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Army veteran and filmmaker shows a different side of war in “Day One”

Any time someone sets out to make a war film, he or she risks getting swept up into the action, the combat, the inherent drama that comes with the subject. The truly great war movies recognize the smaller elements, the ironies and subtleties of life during conflicts. Day One, a short film from U.S. Army veteran turned filmmaker Henry Hughes, is such a movie.


8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Hughes at the 42d student Academy Awards

“We’re not having a lot of success in getting telling the soldier experience story,” says Hughes, an American Film Institute alum. “I don’t think we’ve changed much how we look at war and the stories that come out of it. Troops are portrayed as either victims or heroes. We still think war is ironic, that we go in and we’re surprised by the things that we find in war. Maybe there’s some bad things about it, and we’re like ‘oh that’s a surprise!’ But it’s not a surprise. War is a very mixed bag, but it can be spiritual and it can be fun and it can be dangerous and it can be morally wrong at times and it can also be one of the things you’re most proud of because you do some really good things.”

Day One is based on Hughes’ own experience with his translator while he was an infantry officer in 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The movie follows a new female translator’s first day accompanying a U.S. Army unit as it searches for a local terrorist in Afghanistan. Her job brings up brutal complexities as gender and religious barriers emerge with lives hanging in the balance.

“Having a female interpreter definitely changed my perspective of fighting, particularly having been on two deployments,” Hughes says. “The first time, it feels very new and romantic and exciting. The second time, you aren’t seeing a lot of impact in the way you would like and so you start wondering if you’re doing the right thing. In this instance, I had this Afghan-American woman with me at all times, and she was the person I communicated with locals to and she had access to the Afghan women in a way that I have never had before.”

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history

“In my first deployment we didn’t even look at the women,” Hughes continues. “I remember that was a thing we did as a company. When we were on a trail and a woman came by, we would clear the trail, turn out, and allow them to walk by. Now all of a sudden, I mean I’m not face to face with these women but my interpreter would tell me she just spoke with a woman that would give us a very different perspective from what we would usually get. It’s interesting in that way.”

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history

Hughes’ Army perspective spans more than just his time as an Army officer. He was also a military brat, following his dad with the rest of the family, living in Germany and Texas. As an officer in the 173d, he went to Airborne and Ranger School, Armor School, and Scout Leaders Course to prepare for his time in Afghanistan during 2007 and 2008 and then again in 2010.

I’m very interested in exploring the military stuff because it is such a hyperbolic life.” He says. “Things are just so condensed and so strange and powerful. It’s like the meaning of life is life hangs in balance sometimes. You get that moment in the military and most people don’t ever work in those types of absolutes.” 

Hughes has always been the artistic type. He went to a high school that had a TV studio, which inspired the creative side of his personality. He’s also come to believe that the military is the perfect place to start a filmmaking career.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history

“You take so many lessons from your military experience and apply them into filmmaking because it is so team-oriented and team-based. The ability to communicate and draft up a single clear mission or objective. Those skills that I learned as a young officer are paying massive dividends now, being creative.” 

Hughes also believes a good storyteller must step out of his or her comfort zone to empathize with the characters and relate them to the audience.

“With trying to express yourself artistically, you have to be a little bit more vulnerable. ‘What is actually at play here,’ as opposed to ‘How do I accomplish this?’ I think you have to be a little bit more introspective whereas in the military, we’re very external and action-driven. It’s just analysis but we all do tons of analysis in the military too. I think it’s a good thing.”

Watch ‘Day One’ here.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history

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This is who would win a dogfight between an F-15 Eagle and Su-27 Flanker

The F-15 Eagle – an air-superiority fighter that has dominated the dogfight arena sine it was introduced into service, then later emerged as a superb multi-role fighter.


The Su-27 Flanker– Russia’s attempt to match the Eagle.

Which is the deadliest plane? To decide that, we will look at combat records, their avionics systems, their armament, as well as their performance specs to see who’d come out on top.

1. Combat Records

There’s no better way to judge a plane then how it has done in combat. Forget the specs you see on a sheet of paper, forget what it looks like. Just judge it by its record.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
An F-15 Eagle departs during the mission employment phase exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Dec. 7, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

The F-15 has seen a lot of action. Perhaps the most important number is: “zero.” That is how many F-15s have been lost in air-to-air combat. This is an incredible feat for a plane that has been in service for 40 years and seen action in wars. In fact, the F-15 has shot down over 100 enemy planes with no losses.

The Su-27 family has seen much less action. Su-27s flown by the Ethiopian Air Force that saw combat in the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea scored at least two and as many as 10 air-to-air kills. The Flanker has also seen action over Syria, Chechnya, and Georgia, scoring one confirmed kill over Chechnya in 1994.

Advantage: F-15 Eagle

2. Avionics

In the modern age of aerial combat, the plane’s electronics matter. Radar serves as eyes and ears, while electronic countermeasures (ECM) try to keep the other side deaf and blind.

The F-15 uses the AN/APG-63(V)3, an active electronically scanned array, or AESA, radar. This highly advanced system gives the Eagle a pair of very sharp “eyes” that locate targets up to 100 miles away and direct its radar-guided AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles. The Eagle also has the AN/ALQ-135 ECM system, which is very useful against opposing radars, whether on missiles or aircraft.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
The avionics suite inside an Su-27 Flanker. (Photo from Wikimedia)

The Su-27’s avionics center around the N001 Mech radar, capable of tracking bomber-sized targets at 86 miles. For a target the size of the F-15, though, the range is only 62 miles. That is a difference of 38 miles – almost two-thirds of the Mech’s range. The Flanker doesn’t have internal jammers. Instead, there is the option to use two Sorbtsiya pods.

Advantage: F-15 Eagle

3. Armament

The F-15 can carry up to eight air-to-air missiles. The usual load is four AIM-120 AMRAAMs and four AIM-9X Sidewinders. It also carries a M61 20mm Gatling gun with 900 rounds of ammunition. The AIM-120D now in service has a range of 99 miles, while the AIM-9X can reach out to 22 miles. The AMRAAM is a “fire and forget” missile.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history

The Su-27 carries six R-27 (AA-10 “Alamo” missiles), which have a range of up to 80 miles. These missiles use semi-active guidance, meaning the Flanker has to “paint” its target to guide the missile. That means flying straight and level – not the best idea in aerial combat.

The Flanker also carries up to four R-73 missiles (AA-11 “Archer”), which has a range of up to 19 miles, and has a GSh-30 30mm cannon.

Advantage: F-15 Eagle

4. Performance

The F-15 has a top speed of Mach 2.5, a combat radius of 1,222 miles, and can maneuver in a dogfight, pulling up to 9 Gs.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman John Hughel)

With three 600-gallon drop tanks and two 750-gallon conformal fuel tanks (Fuel And Sensor Tactical, or “FAST” packs), the F-15’s range is 3,450 miles. In short, this plane has long “legs” and it can be refueled in flight by tankers.

The Su-27 has a top speed of Mach 2.35, a range of 2,193 miles, and is capable of some amazing aerobatic feats, notably the Pugachev Cobra. Like the F-15, it can pull 9 Gs in a maneuver. The Flanker can carry drop tanks and be refueled while flying.

Advantage: Draw

So, who wins? While the F-15 Eagle is an older design, its advantages — particularly avionics — put the Su-27 at a huge disadvantage. Russia has other planes in the Flanker family (the Su-35), but they are few and far between.

So, how might the engagement between four United States Air Force F-15s and four Su-27s from BadGuyLand go?

Well, the F-15s would probably detect the Su-27s first. Once in AMRAAM range, the Eagle pilots will open fire, most likely using two missiles per target. The Flankers would be obliterated.

If it got to close range, though, the engagement is likely to be a lot less one-sided. Here, the AA-11 and AIM-9 are equal, and both planes can pull 9 Gs.

The skill and training of the pilots will be decisive. In this case, we will assume that BadGuyLand’s dictator, Sleazebag Swinemolestor, hasn’t quite trained his pilots well, and some were selected for their political liability. In this mix-up, the Eagles shoot down three Flankers for the loss of one fighter – the first F-15 lost in air-to-air combat.

Either way, though, it is a safe bet that the F-15 still comes out on top.

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Here’s what an Army medic does in the critical minutes after a soldier is wounded

When a soldier is wounded on the battlefield, medics get the call.


Medics are sort of like paramedics or emergency medical technicians in the civilian world, except paramedics and EMTs are less likely to carry assault rifles or be fired at by enemy forces. When everything goes wrong, soldiers count on the medics to keep them alive until they can be evacuated to a field hospital.

Also Read: Inside ‘Dustoff’ — 22 Photos Of The Army’s Life-Saving Medevac Crews 

Ninety percent of soldier deaths in combat occur before the victims ever make it to a field hospital; U.S. Army medics are dedicated to bringing that number down.

To save wounded soldiers, the medic has to make life or death decisions quickly and accurately. They use Tactical Combat Casualty Care, or TCCC, to guide their decisions. TCCC is a process of treatment endorsed by the American College of Surgeons and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.

First, medics must decide whether to return fire or immediately begin care.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Since the Geneva Convention was signed, the Army has typically not armed medics since they are protected by the international law. But, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have mostly been fought against insurgencies who don’t follow the Geneva Convention and medics have had many of their markings removed, so they’ve been armed with rifles and pistols.

When patients come under fire, they have to decide whether to begin care or return fire. The book answer is to engage the enemies, stopping them from hurting more soldiers or further injuring the current casualties. Despite this, Army medics will sometimes decide to do “care under fire,” where they treat patients while bullets are still coming at them.

Then, they treat life-threatening hemorrhaging.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Photo: US Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

Major bleeding is one of the main killers on the battlefield. Before the medic even begins assessing the patient, they’ll use a tourniquet, bandage, or heavy pressure to slow or stop any extreme bleeds that are visible. If the medic is conducting care under fire, treatment is typically a tourniquet placed above the clothing so the medic can get them behind cover without having to remove the uniform first.

Now, they can finally assess the patient.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Photo: US Army Spc. Evan V. Lane

Once the medic and the patient are in relative safety, the medic will assess the patient. Any major bleeds that are discovered will be treated immediately, but other injuries will be left until the medic has completed the full assessment. This is to ensure the medic does not spend time setting a broken arm while the patient is bleeding out from a wound in their thigh.

During this stage, the medic will call out information to a radio operator so the unit can call for a medical evacuation using a “nine-line.” Air evacuation is preferred when it’s available, but wounded soldiers may have to ride out in ambulances or even standard ground vehicles if no medical evacuations are available.

Medics then start treatment.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Medics have to decide which injuries are the most life-threatening, sometimes across multiple patients, and treat them in order. The major bleeds are still the first thing treated since they cause over half of preventable combat deaths. The medics will then move on to breathing problems like airway blockages or tension pneumothorax, a buildup of pressure around the lungs that stops a soldier from breathing. Medics will also treat less life-threatening injuries like sprains or broken bones if they have time.

Most importantly, Army medics facilitate the evacuation.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Army medics have amazing skills, but patients still need to get to a hospital. Medics will relay all information about the patient on a card, the DA 7656 and the patient will get on the ambulance for evacuation. The medic will usually get a new aid bag, their pack of medical materials, from the ambulance and return to their mission on the ground, ready to help the next soldier who might get wounded.

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6 things military veterans will love about History’s ‘Six’

The second season of History’s Six is underway and there are a few new faces. Olivia Munn joins the cast as CIA officer Gina Cline. Walton Goggins returns as Richard “Rip” Taggart, who was dramatically rescued in the last season. Led by Barry Sloans’ Joe “Bear” Graves, the team will hit Eastern Europe (even as far as Chechnya) this season to track down a terror network.

Veterans are hard to please when it comes to depicting military life and veterans onscreen. We demand accuracy. We demand realism. Most of the time, we find ourselves disappointed. History’s Six will not disappoint you.

Suspend your disbelief for a moment, fellow veterans. To be perfectly fair, there’s a lot to like and a lot to overlook when it comes to Six — just like any other show on television. Not everyone is going to be a fan. But there is so much more to like from Six. Even the most discerning veteran will find that Six is better than they expected.


1. The realism is relative — and that’s okay

This is something vets have a hard time getting over. Every veteran knows Hollywood gets a lot wrong about the military. There are some egregious examples out there. Some of those make it look like they don’t even try — looking at you, Basic. There are some in which the producers take a few too many liberties for dramatic license, like Jarhead. Despite solid source material, there were just a few things that would never happen in the Marine Corps.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
If you’re an NCO who actually fired an M60-E3 in the air with your shirt off while surrounded by hundreds of Marines at a bonfire, I apologize.

A lot of the screen gems that veterans love are, in some way, dramatized or unrealistic. Full Metal Jacket is an anti-war movie, but vets embraced it as their own, whether they supported the Vietnam War or not. Heartbreak Ridge has little to do with the realistic Marine Corps, beyond the depiction of U.S. forces dialing in artillery support on Grenada using a credit card. So lighten up, Francis.

2. “Ripped from the headlines” stories

Last season, the show took on Boko Haram, the Sub-Saharan terror organization that was behind the Chibok School Girls Kidnapping (of “Bring Back Our Girls” infamy). The group continues its kidnapping and terror reign in the country to this day. One the show, the SEAL team’s leader was kidnapped by Boko Haram and they spent the season dealing with the aftermath and rescue of Walton Goggins’ character “Rip.”

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
You might learn something.

This season takes the team to Eastern Europe to track a clandestine jihadist cell led by a mysterious figure known as “Michael.” If you haven’t been paying attention to the news, Eastern Europe is the front line to a new Cold War, where Russian and American intelligence agencies work to take down terrorist organizations like ISIS and a resurgent al-Qaeda. Russian security services have been fighting this battle for years. It was only a matter of time before American special operators got involved.

3. Olivia Munn’s character is a great addition

Look, I actually heard someone say, “SEAL Teams don’t have women.” And they don’t. Not yet. History isn’t depicting a female SEAL — she’s a CIA operative and there are many, many female CIA operatives in the real world. History’s SEAL Team Six is getting their “Maya.”

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
That’s a Zero Dark Thirty reference, y’all. And If you didn’t know, the real-life ‘Maya’ is so hardcore she makes you look squeamish. All of you.

4. The cast were trained by SEALs

Remember that realism thing we were talking about? You are guaranteed to see some outstanding trigger discipline in the cast of Six. Actors Barry Sloane, Kyle Schmid, Edwin Hodge, Juan Pablo Raba, and the rest of the cast went through their own boot camp run by actual Navy SEALs.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
In case you didn’t know, this is what a Navy SEAL looks like (but we don’t know if it was Jocko Willink who trained them).

The cast of Saving Private Ryan had to go through Capt. Dale Dye’s bootcamp just once, so you might think the cast of Six would only have to do it once, too. Nope. They’re going for every freaking season.

5. It’s about family

Most shows, at their cores, are about some kind of family. But what Six does well is that infuses the family drama that comes with being in a tight-knit family unit. Some media outlet somewhere said it was like a “soap opera,” but anyone who’s ever been in a large family — or a large military workcenterknows that routinely going to work with people you live with is a soap opera in itself.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Imagine all the stupid fights you had with a sibling. Now imagine deploying with them. See what I mean?

6. Action shows are awesome – when done well

I love a good action movie or TV show. I hate a bad one. There’s nothing worse than watching bad lines being read by some marginal actor only to be rewarded by thirty seconds of action maybe every twenty minutes (if you’re lucky). Go watch a recent Steven Seagal movie on Netflix and tell me I’m wrong.

The action in Six is really well-executed, the cast is pretty great, and the visuals are well-done, too.

Season two just started. You have plenty of time to catch up.

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These 4 Gurkha stories will make you want to forge your own kukri knife

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  Nepal, a tiny Himalayan country country bordering India and Chinese Tibet, was one of many countries invaded by the British Empire. But the British were never able to colonize tiny Nepal. The reason the largest Empire in history couldn’t completely subdue a small mountain country? Gurkhas.

Gurkhas have long been known as the world’s fiercest and most skilled warriors, earning the respect (and often fear) of friend and foe alike. Even the British, who decided that trying to fight more Gurkhas wasn’t worth the effort, wanted the Gurkhas on their team, and Nepalese warriors have been fighting for the crown ever since.

1. Afghan Ambush

The Gurkhas have been fighting with the United Kingdom for 200 years. Today’s war in Afghanistan is no exception.

In 2008, a team of Gurkha warriors were crossing an open area when they were ambushed by Taliban fighters. One of their own Yubraj Rai, was shot and wounded. Like many armies, the Gurkhas don’t leave men behind.

In the face of overwhelming enemy fire, Captain Gajendera Angdembe, Rifleman Dhan Gurung, and Manju Gurung carried their buddy across 325 feet of open ground. One of them even used a dual wield with his rifle to return enough fire for the group to get out of there.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Rifleman Dhan Gurung returned fire using two rifles at the same time.

2. WWII Burma

In 1944, Agansing Rai, a Gurkha fighting the Japanese in Burma, came across a ridge as his platoon moved through the countryside.  The ridge was designed to be protected from any combination of armor and infantry. Leading up to the ridge was an open field and on the ridge were dug-in Japanese defenders, hiding in dense Jungle.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Agansing Rai was award the Victoria Cross for his actions and leadership that day.

Rai led his platoon against the heavy machine guns and a number of 37mm anti-tank emplacements, knocking them all out while taking some serious casualties. A ridge designed to stop tanks and infantry couldn’t stop a small Gurkha force.

3. A Commander Joins His Gurkhas

Colonel Peter Jones was fighting in Tunisia with his Gurkha battalion in 1943. As his frenzied men charged the Nazi German-manned machine guns at Enfidaville, Jones started taking out the positions with a Bren gun.

The Gurkhas charged the Nazis with their Kukri knives and fought them in hand-to-hand combat. They killed 44 Nazis, breaking the German lines and causing them to flee before advancing further.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Yeah, I’d flee too.

4.The Cold War Turns Hot in Borneo

Indonesia, supported by Communist China and the Soviet Union, was opposed to the creation of Malaysia by the Western powers, especially the United Kingdom. So Gurkhas patrolling the island jungles were ready for anything the Communists were willing to throw at them — especially the Gurkhas.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Gurkha troops patrolling the dense Borneo jungles circa 1965.

Captain Rambahadur Limbu was in enemy territory when he and his unit met an enemy advance. He repelled them using only grenades, then went back into friendly territory to alert his superiors about the advance.

With one of his friends dead and the other wounded, Limbu went into the enemy-controlled area of the battlefield, back and forth across 100 yards of no man’s land — twice — to pull out the wounded and retrieve his dead friend.

Learn more about these ferocious fighters in the video at the top.

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‘Man’s best friend’ saves another veteran

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history


Candace Colburn faced some challenges in her career. As an African-American female, the 28 year old Airman is a minority among minorities. These are not her challenges, though, they’re just her demographics. Staff Sergeant Colburn, stationed at the 802d Security Forces Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, is the model of today’s USAF Security Forces troops.

“My personal experience has been awesome,” Colburn says. “I know people always have their points of view – some people might say because I’m a minority people may treat me differently. Or because I’m a female, I might get lighter treatment. But I’ve been afforded my opportunities because of my abilities.”

She owns her challenges as much as she owns the rest of her career. After I interviewed her, Candace sent me a fact sheet about herself. The struggles she faced are listed before her successes.

“I’m a cop – a K9 handler, but I want to go to OSI (Office of Special Investigations) to be an investigator,” she says. “I got picked up to be on the base Tactical Response Team. I went SWAT School, Basic Combat Medic School, I trained Emirati forces in UAE… I’ve had so many opportunities because of the military. No one ever treated me different because I was a girl – in fact, my kennel master took it upon himself to research if women were allowed in air assault school because he thinks I should go.”

Colburn and the 802d recently sat with former Air Force combat photographer Stacy Pearsall as a part of Pearsall’s Veterans Portrait Project (VPP). The VPP honors veterans from every conflict, hearing their stories, thanking them for their service and preserving their image for generations to come. In 2008, the first year of the VPP, she photographed over 100 veterans. Since then, she’s made portraits of nearly 4000 more. See more of the VPP here.

Growing up in Newark, Delaware, Colburn always wanted to be a Marine, but her father wasn’t having it. Her Dad told her if she were to enlist, he wanted her in the Air Force. If that was the way, so be it, but she wanted to be a dog handler – which requires three years time in service. At age 22, she joined the as Security Forces and was soon deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, where her challenges really started.

“We were mortared everyday,” Colburn recalls. “But I’m an adrenaline junkie. I loved my time there. I even volunteered for the Balad Expeditionary Strike Force, a tactical response team, so I was both in and outside the wire all the time. I always challenge myself. My Iraq deployment was my favorite, because UAE and Qatar were too easy… it was too easy to become complacent.”

Her experience would leave a lasting impression. Like many returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the signs and symptoms were most visible when she returned to her home duty station.

“I don’t know how I fell into alcoholism,” she says. “My life started changing after Iraq and I started drinking. Mental Health told me I had signs of post-traumatic stress but I soon PCSed and fell out of following up on treatment. When I admitted I had a problem, I was scared I would lose my Security Forces job.”

Rather than lose her job for her issues, the Air Force worked with her, sending her to rehab and then through the Air Force Drug Demand Reduction Program (ADAPT) program. Colburn won’t take all the credit, though.

“It was my dogs who helped me recover,” Colburn says. “I don’t know why I love dogs, they comfort me… they got me through a lot in life. I graduated ADAPT early because I made so much progress because of my dogs.”

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history

After three and a half years as a dog handler, three deployments, and three special assignments with the Secret Service supporting the President and Vice-President, Staff Sergeant Candace Colburn lives on a farm with her own dogs, Sonny and Gunner, near San Antonio. She commutes to her unit at Lackland, Texas to work with Kormi, her partner.

“In my experience,” Colburn says, “alcoholism is not something to handle on your own. I’m a very strong person but it took an outsider to see that I wasn’t okay. You have to be strong enough to say ‘I need help’.”

For more information about the Veterans Portrait Project or to donate to keep preserving the images of American veterans visit: http://bit.ly/1unnLV4

NOW: A dog’s love can cure anything – including PTSD

OR: 11 steps to turning a puppy into a badass military working dog

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13 Legends of the US Coast Guard

In a service whose mission includes rescuing lives in peril, it’s hard to pick and choose legends among so many heroes. The Coast Guard’s history is filled with ordinary men who rose to the challenges presented by extraordinary circumstances. Here is a list of 13 folks who embodied the Coast Guard ethos:


1. Douglas Munro

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The ultimate hero of the Coast Guard is arguably Douglas Munro. As he commanded a group of Higgins boats at the Battle of Guadalcanal, Munro coordinated the evacuation of more than 500 Marines who came under heavy fire, using his boat as a shield to draw fire. During the evacuation, he was fatally wounded, but his last words were, “Did they get off?”

2. Thomas “Jimmy” Crotty

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Lt. Thomas “Jimmy” Crotty was the first Coast Guard prisoner of war since the War of 1812 and served at the front lines of the Battle of Corregidor as the Japanese took the Philippines. A 1934 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy where he was an accomplished athlete, Crotty served as an skilled cutterman before being attached to a Navy mine warfare unit. After several different positions in the Pacific Theater, Crotty found himself attached the Marine Corps Fourth Regiment, First Battalion, as the Japanese forces attacked the last American stronghold. One eyewitness report says that Crotty supervised army personnel manning a howitzer dug-in until the American surrender on May 6, 1942. Crotty was captured by the Japanese and taken to Cabanatuan Prison, where he died of diphtheria.

3. William Flores

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

On January 28, 1980, the USCGC Blackthorn collided with a tanker in Tampa Bay, Florida. Seaman Apprentice William Flores, just eighteen years old and a year out of boot camp, stayed on board as the cutter sank, strapping the life jacket locker open with his belt, giving his own life jacket to those struggling in the water, and giving aid to those wounded on board. He was posthumously awarded the Coast Guard’s highest non-combat award, the Coast Guard Medal.

4. Ida Lewis

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

After her father had a stroke, Ida Lewis took over as the keeper of Lime Rock Lighthouse, Rhode Island. Over her 39 year career, Lewis saved 18 lives. She was one of the earliest women in the Lighthouse Service, which later was combined with four other services to become the Coast Guard. Lime Rock Light has since been renamed Ida Lewis Light, and a coastal buoy tender was named in her honor.

5-8. Bernie Webber, Andy Fitzgerald, Ervin Maske, and Richard Livesey

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The rescue of the crew of the SS Pendleton in the icy waters offshore of Chatham, Cape Cod, Mass. had been a legend told by generations of Coasties. Bernie Webber, Andy Fitzgerald, Ervin Maske, and Richard Livesey climbed aboard a 36-foot-long motor lifeboat and saved the lives of 32 sailors after their tanker split in half during a storm in February 1952. For their heroism, the crew received the Gold Lifesaving Medal and their heroic efforts were immortalized in the Disney movie, The Finest Hours.

9. Nathan Bruckenthal

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal is one of the modern Coast Guard heroes. In April 2004, Bruckenthal and a team including Navy and Coast Guard personnel intercepted a small dhow in the North Arabian Gulf. As they attempted to board, one of the terrorists aboard detonated a bomb that was powerful enough to overturn the American vessel alongside, wounding several of the men. Bruckenthal later died from his injuries, the first Coast Guard war casualty since the Vietnam War. He is interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

10-12. David Jarvis, Ellsworth Bertholf, and Samuel Call

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

David Jarvis, Ellsworth Bertholf, and Samuel Call snowshoed more than 1,500 miles to Point Barrow, Alaska to rescue hundreds of fishermen who were trapped in ice after winter came early in 1897. During the three months it took them to reach their destination they engaged with native communities along their route, healing illnesses, teaching more effective hunting techniques, and arbitrating legal disputes. For their heroism, the trio received Congressional Gold Medals. All three have Coast Guard cutters named in their honor.

13. Miles Imlay

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Coast Guard Captains Edward Fritzche (left) and Miles Imlay (right) discuss the invasion of Omaha Beach on a relief map laid out in the hold of the Samuel Chase. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Captain Miles Imlay commanded a group of Coast Guard landing craft at the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, as well as during all other major amphibious landings across the shores of Europe in World War II. Imlay was the second in command of one of the groups that landed at Omaha Beach and under constant, heavy fire, commanded a vessel off the beaches during the entire invasion to make sure that the landing craft went to the correct location. He received a Silver Star for his actions on D-Day, and the Legion of Merit for invasions in Italy.

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Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space

Even after 340 days in zero-gravity weakened his muscles, astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly successfully returned to Earth strong enough to give a fist pump and thumbs up.


Kelly’s 144 million-mile star trek ended when his Souyuz capsule landed in Kazakhstan.

“The air feels great out here,” Kelly reportedly said as he was lifted out of the capsule.

His yearlong stay on on the International Space Station (ISS) gives him more days in space than any other U.S. astronaut. While on board, he worked alongside Russian, European, and Japanese personnel, circling the Earth 5,440 times.

Mars is a 2.5 year round-trip journey. Trouble starts with muscular atrophy.

Maintaining muscle is tough in zero gravity. Astronaut calf muscles compared after a six month mission on the ISS show even after aerobic exercise five hours a week and resistance exercise three to six days per week, muscle volume and power both still decrease significantly. In one of the more extreme cases, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield returned to Earth after two months and had to undergo strength training for a few weeks to re-acclimate to Earth’s gravity.

Kelly is part of a NASA experiment on the effects of extended time in space on the human body. It just so happens his brother Mark is also an astronaut, but more importantly, he’s a genetic twin. Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was the control subject on the ground. Both gave blood, saliva and urine samples, ultrasounds and bone scans, received flu shots and more, to be compared when Scott returned.

While in space, Kelly sent more than a thousand tweets, including beautiful images of Earth.

And he watched as the newsworthy events of the year unfolded from his high perch.

He stood with France after the terrorist attacks in Paris, even though his feet couldn’t reach the ground.

And he saw epic sunrises we on Earth could only dream.

Welcome home, Captain Kelly.

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6 joys of being a lower enlisted not on holiday block leave

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a sweet moment for everyone in the military. Stateside troops have come home for momma’s cooking and haven’t worn out their welcome yet and even deployed troops shift down into first gear.


But then there’re the troops still on the installation who, for whatever reason, are saving their leave days will enjoy what is, essentially, a free week off. As with everything in the military, your personal experiences may differ, but these are the six joys we’ve experienced of being a lower enlisted not on holiday block leave.

6. There isn’t much to do

The military never fully stops, but when there’s not much to do, well… Troops don’t end up doing much of the burdensome busywork they’re used to doing. You can’t get into the motor pool because everyone with the key is gone. You can’t go to the field or do some training exercise because no one is around to lead it. You’ll probably just lounge around the company area until CoB.

As long as there’re no incidents, troops will probably be cut loose early.

Just relax. Do nothing. (Image via GIPHY)

5. There’s noone around

Hate the lines getting on- and off-post? Hate the lines getting whatever’s discounted at the Exchange? Can’t stand that one prick in your unit? Not this week! This week, it’s basically just you and a handful of others!

Of course, you’ll be given something to do. For example, you’ll probably sweep and mop the barracks, but unlike every other time you clean it and the unit comes back from the field or someone throws a raging barracks party, it stays clean. Chances are, the last person who walked it was you, when you cleaned it.

What waiting for everyone to come back feels like… (Image via GIPHY)

4. Sure, staff duty…

Holiday staff duty ranks up there with watching that prick you hate in your unit get promoted higher than you, getting your nearly-immaculate rifle kicked back for the seventh time by the armorer, and taking a Combatives class with that roided-out monster of a Staff Sergeant who’s ready to knock you out.

Related: The 5 stages of grief as explained by Holiday staff suty

This week, though, it’s nothing. There’s no paperwork to file. Rarely do you need to call “Attention/At Ease” for a ranking officer/NCO because they probably won’t even come by. The duty officer probably won’t care if you bring a TV or computer to play video games — ask them before assuming you can, obviously.

This could be you at hour 16 of staff duty. (Image via GIPHY)

3. Your superiors become more ‘human’

51 weeks out of the year, your superior is — and should be — on your ass. Nothing personal, it just comes with the territory.

If they stay behind for block leave as well, you’ll see an entirely different side of them. They become human again. There’s just no need to keep up the “hard-ass” act constantly. Even they need to relax and enjoy the holidays doing nothing.

Your NCO finally being human. (Image via GIPHY)

2. Chow halls are far better

If you’re a cook, that is. Your work schedule probably hasn’t changed, except now you can practice all of the fun recipes you’ve been meaning to whip up.

If you’re not a cook, eating their awesome, new recipes prepared alongside the higher-quality holiday chow without the long lines keeping you from eating more than two pieces of bacon… Chow halls really do become the morale-boosting, five-star restaurants the cooks think they are.

Eat up. Chances are you’re also not doing unit PT. (Image via GIPHY)

1. Still get holiday four days

But what if you want to just relax and do nothing? Well, the back-to-back, four-day weekends got you covered. Sham for three days; four days off. Sham for another three days; another four days off. If you’re so inclined to go home for momma’s home-cooked meal, just fly home for the weekend and come back to post before Wednesday.

Save the 14 days of leave for two weeks when your unit is busy doing things.

Seriously. Don’t waste your leave days. (Image via GIPHY)

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DARPA just announced it’s one step closer to building a hypersonic space plane

The Pentagon’s research and development shop is moving one step closer toward building a hypersonic space plane that could shuttle satellites or people into space in record time.


In an announcement on Wednesday, DARPA said that Boeing, which was selected for phase one of the project, would keep working on its advanced design for the Experimental Space plane (XS-1) program with additional funding for phases two and three.

While Phase One of XS-1 was more of a drawing board/concept phase, phases two and three are all about actually building a space plane and conducting flight tests, demonstrations, and hopefully, delivery of a satellite into orbit.

Here’s how DARPA describes what it hopes XS-1 may one day pull off:

The XS-1 program envisions a fully reusable unmanned vehicle, roughly the size of a business jet, which would take off vertically like a rocket and fly to hypersonic speeds. The vehicle would be launched with no external boosters, powered solely by self-contained cryogenic propellants. Upon reaching a high suborbital altitude, the booster would release an expendable upper stage able to deploy a 3,000-pound satellite to polar orbit. The reusable first stage would then bank and return to Earth, landing horizontally like an aircraft, and be prepared for the next flight, potentially within hours.

Related: Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Since it’s DARPA, the project is focused on national security, and there’s no doubt the Pentagon could save plenty of money and time by launching satellites via a low-cost space plane. But the agency also notes in its announcement that another goal is to “encourage the broader commercial launch sector,” and it will release testing data out to companies who are interested during phases two and three.

So it looks like the military won’t be the only ones having fun flying planes into space, Mr. Skywalker.

DARPA has been behind a number of huge technological advances that have made their way to the private sector, like the Internet, a ton of the components of modern-day computing, and GPS, just to name a few.

“We’re delighted to see this truly futuristic capability coming closer to reality,” said Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO), which oversees XS-1. “Demonstration of aircraft-like, on-demand, and routine access to space is important for meeting critical Defense Department needs and could help open the door to a range of next-generation commercial opportunities.”

Check out the demo video below:

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Meet Russia’s all-women battalion of death

While much of this is well-known to the typical First World War buff, what many do not know is that Russia—and Russia alone—created all-female combat units to actively fight alongside men on the front. According to Melissa Stockdale’s article “‘My Death for the Motherland Is Happiness’: Women, Patriotism, and Soldiering in Russia’s Great War,” the most famous of these units was known as The First Women’s Battalion of Death, and it’s estimated that approximately 6,000 Russian women served in such battalions throughout the war.

To understand how these battalions came about, one must first understand some basics of the Russian domestic situation at this time.

In March of 1917, Tsar Nicholas, submitting to the fact that he could no longer fight the tides of revolution, abdicated the throne to an incredibly precarious—albeit democratic—new government. The following months saw a flood of liberal and egalitarian policies instituted throughout Russia, with women getting the vote, as well as legal entitlement to equal pay.

Meanwhile, the new government also believed that victory in the World War was vital to the country’s self-interest. Laurie Stoff, author of They Fought for the Motherland: Russia’s Women Soldiers in WWI and the Revolution, writes that this meant newly appointed Minister of War Alexandra Kerensky was now faced with the mammoth task of breathing life into a war effort of which the majority of Russians—especially Russian soldiers—wanted no more part. Insubordination rates and violence against officers (especially officers with aristocratic backgrounds) were at an all-time high, and after three years at the front in often horrific day-to-day conditions, most of Russia’s soldiers simply wanted to go home.

Kerensky’s answer to low morale was the creation of what he called “shock battalions,” or “battalions of death,” which he envisioned as brigades of the most disciplined, exemplary Russian fighters. They would theoretically be deployed to various places along the front to awe and inspire war-weary soldiers.

Kerensky’s vision of these shock battalions coincided almost exactly with an idea brought forward by a peasant-woman-turned-soldier named Maria Bochkareva (while by no means common, there were a number of known incidents of individual women serving in otherwise all-male units throughout Europe during this time). Bochkareva asserted that a disciplined, exemplary battalion of Russian women could serve to “shame” the weary and unmotivated soldiers at the front.

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Wikimedia

While Bochkareva earnestly believed in a woman’s ability to fight, The Ministry of War mostly saw her proposal as the perfect propaganda tool to compliment their shock battalions—if even women, they reasoned, were answering their country’s call to arms, then surely men would feel obliged to follow suit. Thus, Kerensky gave his permission for the First Women’s Battalion of Death to be formed, led under Bochkareva’s command.

According to historian Richard Abraham, The First Women’s Battalion of Death was made public in late May with a major publicity campaign throughout St. Petersburg, and within a matter of weeks the Battalion had over 2,000 female recruits from a diverse range of backgrounds and education levels.

Enlistment was open to women aged eighteen and older, with women under the age of twenty-one required to have permission from their parents to join. According to Stockdale, the recruits were also made to swear an oath in which they promised everything from “courage and valor” to “cheerfulness, happiness, kindness, hospitality, chastity, and fastidiousness.” After these initial requirements were met, as well as the passing of a health evaluation, the women were marched off to training grounds to begin the process that would turn them from “women to soldiers.”

8 of the Air Force’s greatest fighters throughout history
Wikimedia

This process first entailed the shaving of their heads, ridding the women of one of their most “impractical” and outwardly feminine features. As no uniforms for women existed, the recruits were administered clothes designed for men that were often ill-fitting on the female frame; this proved especially problematic in regards to footwear, as their boots were often impossibly over-sized. To further enforce their new identities, Bochkareva discouraged and punished excessive smiling and giggling—behavior she considered overly-feminine—and instead encouraged spitting, smoking, and cursing among her recruits.

Along with these physical transformations, the women also began a grueling daily training process designed to prepare them for battle. The recruits rose at five o’ clock each morning and drilled until nine o’ clock at night, at which point they slept on bare boards covered by thin bed sheets. Their training consisted of strenuous exercises, marching drills, lessons in hand-to-hand combat, and rifle handling.

Any behavior deemed “flirtatious” or at all feminine was strictly prohibited, and Bochkareva was known to punish even minor transgressions with corporal punishment. She stomped out any signs of traditional femininity not only in an attempt to make “warriors of the weaker sex,” but also in order to curb government anxiety that female soldiers at the front would result in illicit sexual relations. As one official stated, “Who will guarantee that the presence of women soldiers at the front will not yield there little soldiers?” Bochkareva thus deemed the sexlessness of her soldiers as a mark of her own professional dedication and triumph.

Stockdale states that while on the home front these female soldiers were publicly celebrated, their reception in combat was decidedly less welcome. Upon arriving at the front, the Battalion was met with boos, jeers, and an overall sense of resentment by male soldiers. Not only did the deep-rooted misogyny of the military complex and culture at large shine through, but in general, the exhausted men were antagonistic to anything that they perceived as an attempt by their leaders to prolong the fighting.

Even when the Women’s Battalion proved itself both disciplined and courageous under fire, male soldiers remained angered and insulted by their presence. Within just a few months, Bochkareva was forced to disband the unit, allowing her women to join groups elsewhere wherever they saw fit. In her memoir, Yashka, My Life As A Peasant, Exile, and Soldier, Bochkareva, wrote:

“They could not stand it much longer where they were. They were prepared to fight the Germans, to be tortured by them, to die at their hands or in prison camps. But they were not prepared for the torments and humiliations that they were made to suffer by our own men. That had never entered into our calculations at the time that the Battalion was formed.”

Upon the ultimate Bolshevik takeover in the fall, Russia withdrew from the war altogether, and the ill-fated women’s battalions faded into practically less than a footnote in Russian history. Some scholars speculate that this is because the battalions were so closely associated with the military propaganda of the old regime, whereas others assert that it had more to do with the Russian people’s desperate desire to return to some sense of normalcy after years of international and internal warfare.

Stockdale writes that the women soldiers themselves had an extremely difficult time readjusting after their return home. Their close-shaven heads made them instantly recognizable as former members of female battalions, and they were easy targets in the mist of the Bolshevik fervor taking hold of the country; there are eye-witness accounts of former battalion members getting beaten, sexually assaulted, and even thrown off moving trains during this period.

Remarkably, many of the former battalion members continued in their desire to fight, with a large number joining both the revolutionary and anti-revolutionary armies on individual bases in the years to come.