This 'Whale' saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War - We Are The Mighty
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This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War

When armchair historians discuss naval aviation during the Vietnam War, the focus usually turns to the F-4 Phantom. That’s the multi-service plane flown by the Navy’s only aces of the war — Randall “Duke” Cunningham and Willie Driscoll.


And of course there’s the A-6 Intruder, made famous in the novel and movie “Flight of the Intruder.”

One plane, though, probably deserves more attention than it’s earned.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
The RA-3B Skywarrior decked out in camouflage and displaying its various reconnaissance package options. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

That plane is the A-3 Skywarrior – often called the “Whale” due to its size. It certainly was big – more than 76 feet long, and with a 72-foot wingspan and a maximum takeoff weight of 82,000 pounds.

The A-3 had a range of 2,100 miles and could carry 12,800 pounds of payload.

While the Skywarrior did some bombing missions early on, it shined in the electronic warfare and tanker missions. The Navy turned 85 planes into KA-3B tankers, and 34 were also given jamming pods to become the EKA-3B.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
The KA-3B could carry a lot of av gas. (Photo from Wikimedia)

These planes not only could pass a lot of gas to the planes in a carrier’s air wing, they helped to jam enemy radars, blinding them to an incoming attack until it was too late.

Other Skywarrior variants included the RA-3B reconnaissance plane, the ERA-3B electronic aggressor platform, and the EA-3B electronic intelligence version.

As a tanker, the KA-3B and EKA-3B didn’t just enable planes to strike deeper into North Vietnam. These tankers also gave planes gas to get back home – in some cases after suffering serious damage. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that as many as 700 Navy and Marine Corps planes may have been saved by the Whale’s tanker capabilities.

That statistic might be the most important. When an EB-66E bomber was shot down during the Easter Offensive of 1972, it resulted in a massive rescue effort to retrieve the lone survivor, Lieutenant Colonel Iceal “Gene” Hambleton, that resulted in the loss of five aircraft, with 11 Americans killed in action and two more captured.

The last A-3 variants, EA-3Bs, managed to see action during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 with VQ-2 before they were retired. E-3 airframes, though, flew in private service as RD for avionics until 2011.

Not bad for a plane that first flew in 1952!

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force’s new handgun

The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 SIG Sauer Modular Handgun System to security forces units as part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative and its effort to modernize weapon systems and increase warfighter lethality.

The M18 replaces the M9 Beretta, which has been in use for more than 30 years. This new weapons system is also projected to replace the M11-A1 Compact used by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Army M15 General Officer pistol used for military working dog training.


The modular design of the M18 provides improved ergonomics, target acquisition, reliability and durability to increase shooter lethality.

A key benefit of the M18 is that it can be customized to individual shooters with small, medium or large handgrips.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War

The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Vicki Stein)

“This is going to help shooters with smaller hands. It also has a much smoother trigger pull, leading to a more accurate, lethal shooter,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Maner, 37th Training Support Squadron armory noncommissioned officer in charge at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, who had an opportunity to test the weapon. “The M18 is a smaller platform weapon, but it gives the shooter more capabilities over the bulkier, larger M9 pistol.”

“The M18 is a leap forward in the right direction for modernizing such a critical piece of personal defense and feels great in the hand. It reinforces the muscle memory instilled through consistent shooting,” said Master Sgt. Casey Ouellette, 341st Military Working Dog Flight Chief JB San Antonio-Lackland. “It’s more accurate and, with a great set of night sights and with their high profile, follow-up shots have become easier than ever before.”

So far, more than 2,000 M18s have been delivered to JB Andrews, Maryland, the Air Force Gunsmith Shop, Air Education and Training Command Combat Arms Apprentice Course at JB San Antonio-Lackland, two regional training centers (Guam and Fort Bliss, Texas), Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. All security forces units are expected to have their full authorization of M18s by 2020 with the remainder of the Air Force to follow.

“Once all security forces units have been supplied the new weapon, we will supply special warfare airmen, Guardian Angel/(pararescue) communities, OSI and other high-level users,” said Master Sgt. Shaun Ferguson, AFSFC Small Arms and Light Weapons Requirements program manager. “Aircrew communities and other installation personnel will be issued the handgun as well based on requirements.”

Articles

The inside joke names that soldiers have for different unit patches

For nearly 100 years, U.S. Army soldiers have designed and worn unit patches. And for roughly same amount of time, soldiers have made fun of each other’s patches.


The tradition of Army patches dates back to 1918 when the 81st Infantry Division deployed to Europe wearing a shoulder insignia they had designed for training exercises in South Carolina. Other units complained about the unauthorized unit item to Gen. John Pershing who, rather than punishing the 81st, authorized the patch and recommended other units design their own.

Since then, units have designed and worn patches that motivated soldiers, honored the unit lineage, and encapsulated military history. This is a sampling of some of those patches, along with the alternate names that soldiers remember them by.

1. “Leaning Sh-thouse” — 1st Theater Sustainment Command

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

The arrow is supposed to symbolize the ability of the command to fulfill its mission quickly and effectively, but soldiers decided it looked like an outhouse dropped on a hill.

2. “Broken TV” — 3rd Infantry Division

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Army Spc. Luke Thornberry

The three lighter stripes symbolize the three major campaigns the division fought in during World War I while the darker stripes symbolize the loyalty of the soldiers who gave their lives. Once TVs were invented, the similarity between a broken set and the patch was undeniable.

3. “Four Lieutenants Pointing North” — 4th Infantry Division

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Army Markus Rauchenberger

4th Inf. Div. wants you to see their patch and relate the four ivy leaves to fidelity and tenacity. The Army sees it and just thinks about lieutenants getting lost on the land navigation course.

4. “Crushed Beer Can” — 7th Infantry Division

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

This is supposed to be an hourglass formed from two 7s, a normal one and an inverted one. Of course, it really does look more like a can someone crushed in their grip.

5. “Flaming Anus” — 9th Infantry Division

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Army Steven Williamson

You see it. You know you do.

6. “Gaggin’ Dragon” — 18th Airborne Corps

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

Their mascot is a Sky Dragon so they went with a big scary dragon … that needs someone to administer the heimlich.

7. “Electric Strawberry” — 25th Infantry Division

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth

Based out of Hawaii, 25th’s patch is a taro leaf, native to Hawaii, with a lightning bolt showing how fast the division completes its missions. Since no one knows what a taro leaf is, most soldiers call it the electric strawberry. They also sometimes get called “Hawaii Power and Light.”

8. “Days Inn” — 41st Infantry Division

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Army Steven Williamson

Like 3rd Infantry Division’s, there was nothing odd about this patch when it was adopted in World War I. Still, if you’re only familiar with the hotel chain, this patch feels like copyright infringement. Some soldiers from this unit volunteered for service in Afghanistan in 2008, an experience chronicled in Shepherds of Helmand.

9. “Alcoholics Anonymous” — 82nd Airborne Division

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Army D. Myles Cullen

The 82nd Airborne Division was named the All-American Division after a contest held in Atlanta, Ga. The patch’s two A’s are meant to call to mind the “All-American” nickname, but many people are, of course, reminded of the alcoholic support group. This wasn’t helped by the division’s reputation for hard drinking.

10. “Choking Chicken” — 101st Airborne Division

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The 101st was originally based out of Wisconsin and they based their unit patch off of “Old Abe,” a bald eagle carried into combat by the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. While Abe was a distinguished bald eagle, the unit patch could easily be seen instead as a chicken with corn stuck in its windpipe.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Sebastian Stan stars as US official who risked his career to honor a fallen hero in ‘The Last Full Measure’

Airman 1st Class William “Pits” Pitsenbarger was a Pararescueman during the Vietnam War. Less than a year after receiving orders, he would go on to fly nearly 300 rescue missions and save over 60 men before sacrificing himself to aid others during one of the most brutal battles of an already harsh war. When offered the chance to escape on the last helicopter out of the combat zone, Pits stayed behind to protect the lives of others and was later killed by Viet Cong snipers.

The Last Full Measure is the long-awaited story of how the men he saved would try to procure him the Medal of Honor — and the dark reason why the American government resisted.

Check out the final trailer, released today:


“The sacrifices of the fallen will never be forgotten,” intones Christopher Plummer, who plays the father of William Pitsenbarger. The Last Full Measure, written and directed by Todd Robinson, also stars Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, and William Hurt.

“Todd Robinson’s riveting drama chronicles one man’s sacrifice and valor on the battlefield, and we believe it also highlights an aspect of American patriotism overdue for recognition. Everyone should know about William Pitsenbarger’s bravery and life, and it’s a privilege to bring this film to theaters where it should be seen,” said Roadside’s Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff, as reported by Deadline.

Pits was initially posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, becoming the first enlisted Airman to receive it, before it was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War

William “Pits” Pitsenbarger

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Medal of Honor Citation

“Airman First Class Pitsenbarger distinguished himself by extreme valor on April 11, 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, while assigned as a Pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was aboard a rescue helicopter responding to a call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an on-going firefight between elements of the United States Army’s 1st Infantry Division and a sizable enemy force approximately 35 miles east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than one hundred feet through the jungle, to the ground.

On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded, prepared casualties for evacuation, and insured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. Through his personal efforts, the evacuation of the wounded was greatly expedited. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day were recovered, Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get one more wounded soldier to safety. After several pick-ups, one of the two rescue helicopters involved in the evacuation was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Airman Pitsenbarger stayed behind, on the ground, to perform medical duties.

Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During a subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched the assault, the evacuation was called off and Airman Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pull them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time, he was wounded three times. Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible.

In the vicious fighting which followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and airman Pitsenbarger was finally fatally wounded. Airman Pitsenbarger exposed himself to almost certain death by staying on the ground, and perished while saving the lives of wounded infantrymen. His bravery and determination exemplify the highest professional standards and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.”

He was also posthumously awarded the rank of Staff Sergeant. Other awards and medals include the Air Force Cross, the Airman’s Medal, and two Purple Hearts. His name can be found on Panel 06E Line 102 of the Vietnam Wall.

Following the battle, Pitsenbarger’s fellow PJ’s and soldiers who he saved in combat embarked on an over 30 year effort to upgrade his Air Force Cross to a Medal of Honor. In the trailer, William Hurt, who plays a fellow PJ, describes the situation as “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Finally, in 2000, Pitsenbarger received the Medal of Honor in a cermony attended by his parents, fellow veterans and the Secretary of the Air Force. The Last Full Measure will release in theaters on January 24th, 2020.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Islander helped recover the bodies of fallen Marines he’d hidden from the Japanese 60 years earlier

On August 18, 1942, U.S. Marine Corps Raiders assaulted Japanese positions on Makin Island (today known as Butaritari). The Raiders were a WWII-era elite unit trained for special amphibious light infantry combat. Their mission was to destroy Japanese installations and gather intelligence as well as divert attention from the landings on Guadalcanal. This small raid on a Japanese seaplane base was among the first American offensive operations of the Pacific War. It didn’t end well, and many of their bodies weren’t found for years.


 

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War

 

The Raiders met strong resistance but killed a number of Japanese defenders, destroyed two ships, and took out two planes attempting to land in a nearby lagoon. All went well until it came time to be extracted via submarine. Mechanical problems and an unexpectedly strong surf kept 11 of the 18 extraction boats from beating the surf. Eventually, more would make it to the submarine but the raid would end with 18 Marines killed in action and 12 more missing. The raid failed to return any meaningful intel but it was a successful test of coastal raider tactics.

The Americans had to leave in such a hurry they were unable to take the bodies of the dead with them. They asked the Butaritari men on the island to bury the bodies of the dead so the Japanese couldn’t find them. Locals wound up burying the Marines after the U.S. withdrawal.

In 2000, U.S. Department of Defense search teams came looking for the bodies of the Marines because they received a tip from one of the then-teenagers who found the bodies on a coral island so long ago. Now an old man, he showed the search team where to look.

Survivors from the raid. Bodies of many others weren't recovered for years

Fifty-eight years after the last living Marines were extracted from the atoll by submarine, the graves of the fallen were found. The graves were dug with respect and were intact according to the burial customs of the Butaritari. They were still clothed, complete with helmets, rifles, grenades, and dog tags. Marines in full dress blues arrived via C-130 and carried the flag-draped coffins from an island airstrip to accompany the remains as they were repatriated to the United States.

 

As the Marines carried the 19 Raiders aboard, the old Butaritari man who pointed out the gravesite began to sing the Marine Corps Hymn. The man didn’t speak English or even understand what he was saying, but the Marines taught him the song as a boy and he remembered it 60 years later.

 

The first enlisted Marine to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II was Clyde Thomason, who was killed at Makin Island. Thomason was repatriated with the others in 2000 while 11 of his fellow Marines remain missing.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War

Articles

Oldest Navy Pearl Harbor salvage diver dies

In the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the battleships USS California (BB 44), USS West Virginia (BB 48), and USS Nevada (BB 36) were severely damaged while the battleships USS Arizona (BB 39) and USS Oklahoma (BB 37) were sunk.


Four of those ships would eventually be salvaged, three of which returned to service, thanks to the efforts of brave Navy divers.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the oldest living diver to have worked on that immense project, 103-year-old Ken Hartle, died on Jan. 24. He had been a ship-fitter when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and as a result, was unable to join the Navy until 1943 when his skills were necessary to repair ships that had suffered battle damage.

He later volunteered to be a Navy diver.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
The USS West Virginia during salvage operations. Photo: US Navy

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command website, Navy divers carried out over 4,000 dives, covering 16,000 hours to salvage the ships at Pearl Harbor. The operations were not without risk. The Union-Tribune report listed a number of dangers Hartle and fellow divers faced, including getting trapped in wreckage, the “bends,” and attacks from sea creatures — all while wearing uninsulated canvas suits and using 200-pound copper helmets and having breathable air pumped down to them.

Hartle was nothing if not a survivor. During his life, the Union-Tribune reported that he was kicked by a mule at age 3, stabbed in the neck during a brawl at age 9, survived a rattlesnake bite, a scorpion sting, a car accident that threw him several hundred feet, six bypass surgeries, two bouts with cancer, and a fall while trimming trees at age 97.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Cmdr. Daniel M. Colman, commanding officer of the Pearl Harbor-based Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One (MDSU) 1, address attendees during a change of command ceremony at the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island. Colman was being relieved by Cmdr. John B. Moulton. The MDSU-1 mission is to provide combat ready, expeditionary, rapidly deployable Mobile Diving and Salvage Detachments (MDSD) to conduct harbor clearance, salvage, underwater search and recovery, and underwater emergency repairs in any environment. The suit to Colman’s left is similar to one used by Ken Hartle, who died Jan. 24 at the age of 103, during salvage operations at Pearl Harbor in World War II. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist David Rush)

A memorial service for Hartle will be held on Mar. 4.

Articles

How a Soviet jump jet lead to a version of the Joint Strike Fighter

The F-35B is a short takeoff, vertical landing fighter intended to replace the AV-8B Harrier, but it uses a very different system to achieve its V/STOL capability than the Harrier.


This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
PACIFIC OCEAN– A F-35B Lightning II hovers before landing aboard the USS America (LHA 6) during the Lighning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration, November 19, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Thor Larson/Released)

The Harrier uses vectored thrust, having four nozzles tilt to get the jet to take off vertically. It works well, and the Harrier did win the Falklands War for the British in 1982. But why does the F-35B use a different system? It’s an interesting tale – and to tell it, we must look to the Soviet Union.

Now, this tale kind of goes back to when the F-35 was merely the X-35, one of two competitors for the Joint Strike Fighter title. There was a rival from Boeing, which had acquired McDonnell-Douglas who had teamed up with British Aerospace to make the AV-8B.

Boeing’s plane was the X-32, but it quickly got the nickname “Monica.” And no, not the one played by Courtney Cox on “Friends.”

Like the AV-8B, the X-32B used vectored thrust to achieve its V/STOL capability. The approach was proven and worked well.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
The X-32 takes off for Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, from Little Rock AFB in 2001. The X-32 was one of two experimental aircraft involved in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. The program is intended to provide a universal air attack platform for all branches of the American armed services. (DOD photo)

Lockheed’s X-35B, though, went with a very different approach. The F-35B uses a lift-fan that gets power diverted from the main engine, while the rear nozzle also can vector downward.

This was not the first time someone decided not to use vectored thrust to gain V/STOL capability. The Yak-38 Forger, the Soviet Union’s only operational V/STOL multi-role plane, used a pair of additional lift jets for its V/STOL capability.

Now, the Forger was a notch or two below the Brewster Buffalo in terms of being a decent combat plane. It had a top speed of 795 miles per hour, a range of roughly 800 miles, and could carry two tons of bombs. No internal gun was present, and the only air-to-air missiles it could use were the old AA-2 “Atoll” or the wimpy AA-8 “Aphid.” Neither, it should be noted, were all-aspect missiles.

Modern avionics? Well, the Yak-38M that saw service never had them. The Yak-38MP was to get the same suite used on the MiG-29 Fulcrum, but the end of the Cold War meant that bird never flew.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Right side view of a Soviet Yak-36 Forger aircraft on the deck of a Soviet aircraft carrier.

But it was an effort to replace the Yak-38 that arguably lead to the F-35B being the way it is. Yakovlev began to design the Yak-141 Freestyle as the limitations of the Yak-38 became obvious. The end of the Cold War meant that the program never left the prototype stage.

But the data was acquired by Lockheed in 1994.

So, why did Lockheed buy that data when Yakovlev’s only operational V/STOL fighter was a piece of junk? The answer is that vectored thrust compromised the combat flight performance of the AV-8B.

Lockheed’s way of powering the lift fan worked out well. They didn’t need two extra jets on the Forger, and they ditched the thrust-vectoring. The X-35 won the competition, beating out the X-32.

So, in one sense, the Yak-38’s legacy now includes the F-35B Lightning II.

MIGHTY CULTURE

In a changing world environment, the Air Force learns to adapt

The Air Force is changing.

Air Force senior leaders are aware of the need to not only adapt, but retain the service’s competitive edge over our enemies.

“All of us have to come together to understand the threat and be clear-eyed on the competition that we face,” said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson. “A changing world environment, strategic competition and peer competitors are the catalysts that make this change so immediately important.”


Great Power Competition

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Part of this change is the emphasis on Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, the internet of the joint warfighter that connects all platforms and people and accelerates the speed of data-sharing and decision-making in all five domains: land, air, sea, cyber and space.

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett says JADC2, “more seamlessly integrates the joint team in a battle network that links all sensors to all shooters.”

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett delivers remarks during the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium, in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 27, 2020. The three-day event is a professional development forum that offers the opportunity for Department of Defense personnel to participate in forums, speeches, seminars and workshops with defense industry professionals.

U.S. Air Force // Wayne Clark

With the creation of the U.S. Space Force, the Air Force is showing intent to dominate space, allocating .4 billion from the 9 billion budget proposal to ensure superiority in space, provide deterrence and, if deterrence fails, provide combat power.

“Space is essential in today’s American way of life,” Barrett said. “Navigation, communication, information all depend on these aging, vulnerable, though brilliant, GPS satellites.”

The Air Force has already begun replacing these older satellites with new, defendable GPS satellites.

With the budget proposal comes a continued effort to increase the number of squadrons in the Air Force to 386, ensuring the ability to generate combat power and improve readiness.

“This budget moves us forward to recapitalize our two legs of the [nuclear] triad and the critical nuclear command and control that ties it all together,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War

Gwynne Shotwell (center), SpaceX Chief Operating Officer, briefs Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force (left) and David Norquist, Deputy Secretary of Defense, on SpaceX capabilities during the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) demonstration at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 18, 2019. During this week’s first demonstration of the ABMS, operators across the Air Force, Army, Navy and industry tested multiple real time data sharing tools and technology in a homeland defense-based scenario enacted by U.S. Northern Command and enabled by Air Force senior leaders. The collection of networked systems and immediately available information is critical to enabling joint service operations across all domains.

U.S. Air Force // Tech. SGT. Joshua J. Garcia

During her speech at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in February, Barrett stated, “Our priorities can be summed up simply. We need a modern, smart, connected, strong Air and Space Force to deter and defend against aggression and preserve precious freedom and peace.”

The Air Force is changing, but as Wilson puts it, “The threat has changed; now we’re looking through a lens that is an existential change, and an existential threat out there.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.


Articles

16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters

When natural disaster strikes at home or abroad, America usually sends its military to aid in rescue and recovery. Engineers, search and rescue, and logistics specialists pour into the area to save as many people as quickly as possible.


Here are 17 photos that show what that’s like.

1. Troops are rushed to the area, usually via cargo aircraft.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris

2. In the crucial first hours, disaster survivors can be rescued from collapsed or flooded structures. Engineers carefully shore up crumbling buildings and cut through obstacles.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Tania Reid

3. During hurricanes and tsunamis, there’s a good chance some survivors will have been swept to sea. Trained swimmers work to extract them.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Krystal Ardrey

4. Survivors are transported to safe areas in military aircraft and vehicles.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Blackwell

5. When possible, the Navy sends its hospital ships to the disaster zone. The USNS Mercy and USNS comfort are floating hospitals with capacity for 1,000 patients each.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Blackwell

6. Field hospitals are set up to receive and treat the injured or sick after the disaster.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Justyn M. Freeman

7. As survivors are being evacuated to care facilities, equipment, food, and other necessities surge in.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Roy A. Santana

8. If the local transportation network has been damaged, the U.S. military finds workarounds. Here, a group of Air Force combat controllers direct air traffic at Toussaint L’Ouverture Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there knocked out the control tower.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios

9. As supplies come in, they are moved overland to shelters and distribution centers.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

10. Sometimes, engineers have to prevent additional damage from aftershocks or continuing flooding.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

11. The engineers can operate 24-hours-a-day to get ahead of rising water.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

12. Sandbags and materials can be dropped into place by helicopters, vehicles, or carried in by troops.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

13. When helicopters are used, the crew chief directs the pilots in order to get the materials in the right spot.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Air National Guard Airman Megan Floyd

14. Clearing roads allows for more vehicles to move supplies and evacuees.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit

15. If invited by local government officials, troops will help patrol disaster areas.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Army National Guard Sgt. Brian Calhoun

16. As the situation begins to stabilize, the military will assist with clean up as well. Eventually, they’ll be released back to their normal missions.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Stefanie Pupkiewicz

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US is now buying this air defense weapon from Israel

When we talk about American arms deals, usually the United States is the seller, and almost everyone else is the buyer (if they know what’s good for them). But this time, Israel has the technology that everyone in the air defense arena should aspire to, especially in terms of protecting people from missile attacks.


The Israelis have had to perfect their surface-to-air missile tech, especially when it comes to intercepting missiles and rockets while in mid-flight. The Jewish state has been taking random rocket, mortar, and missile attacks from anti-Israel terrorist organizations like Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip to Israel’s south and Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, to Israel’s north. Currently, the system is a short-range interceptor system, but its effectiveness is its primary selling point.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the Iron Dome’s high rate of success can be repeated almost anywhere, given that the system is a mobile, all-weather system. In 2011, before its widespread deployment, the Iron Dome successfully intercepted four of the five rockets fired by Palestinian militants at the city of Beersheba. The next year, when IDF troops invaded the Gaza Strip, Hamas Qassam rockets were successfully intercepted 75-90 percent of the time, with some 300 rockets being fired at Israel.

This kind of success rate far outpaces the U.S. Patriot missile batteries, which is around 50 percent most of the time but can be as high as 75 to 85 percent. Given this success and the dire need for short-range anti-missile batteries in NATO-allied Europe, the 7 million deal is an easy win for both parties. Israel’s Iron Dome beat out similar weapons from Boeing and General Dynamics Land Systems’ Stryker during short-range air defense operation demonstrations at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War

Israel’s Iron Dome Missile Defense System intercepts an incoming projectile during 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense.

(Photo by Emanuel Yellin)

The United States currently used its THAAD missile defense system to protect Europe from short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missile threats but does not have short-range surface-to-air defense systems in place as of now. The best part about the Iron Dome deal for the United States is the all-weather mobility the system offers as well as the ability of the Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles to fire at multiple targets simultaneously, at different ranges.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

More funny memes scraped from the darkest corners of the internet – you know, Facebook. Got your own great memes? Bring them to our page and “Like” us while you’re there.


1. Even if he had a full magazine and you were standing still (Via Sh*t My LPO Says).

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Don’t stand in front of anything expensive though. No telling which direction he’ll miss.

2. Video game logic in the real world.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
The delay in air support would be fine if cheat codes worked.

SEE ALSO: These are the boats you didn’t know the Army had

3. This is why you’re supposed to use the metric system (Via Sh*t My LPO Says).

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Metric: The only way your superiors won’t confuse themselves with conversions.

4.  AAFES: One stop shop with ok prices and acceptable products.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Support the warfighter.

5. Some Marines still care about fashion (via Marine Corps Memes).

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Seriously though, soft shoe profiles would be less annoying if the guy still looked mostly right.

6. The Navy may be the most powerful maritime force in history …

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
… but the Coast Guard is the oldest! Wait, this doesn’t feel like a great slam.

7. The Air Force is always looking down at the other forces (Via Team Non-Rec)…

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
… feet. The other forces’ feet. It’s the only way they can find the beat.

8. Cadets: The “lease to buy” method of joining the military.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
At least she doesn’t expect hot chocolate and marshmallows if it rains. She doesn’t, right?

9. Works great until you get in-country and can’t get signal (via Marine Corps Memes).

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Then you have to get assigned to a base with Wi-Fi.

10. When the speaker says, “Any questions,” he’s just checking the box (Via Air Force Memes and Humor).

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
You’re not supposed to actually ask questions.

11. When you’ve been looking for the platoon leader for hours (Via Team Non-Rec) …

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
… and finally find them trapped somewhere.

 12. It’s a trap, but you still have to open the door (Via Team Non-Rec).

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
But maybe find your own metal face mask before you open up.

13. Brace yourselves (Via Sh*t My LPO Says)!!

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Administrative bullsh*t is coming!

NOW: The 7 people you meet in basic training

AND: The 18 funniest moments from ‘Generation Kill’

popular

How the fallout of the Iran Deal may spark an all-out Middle East war

Just an hour after President Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement, Israel hit an Iranian site in Syria with a missile strike. The next day, the IDF hit more than 50 sites controlled by the Iranian Quds force in response to claims of missile strikes within Israel in a massive escalation.

What comes next may not be all that surprising.


Israel retaliating with overwhelming firepower is nothing new. Since its birth, whenever Israel comes under attack, its policy has been to hit back hard enough to discourage the attacker from ever wanting to strike again. The effect works in the short term, but the resulting peace has never been permanent.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
With a few notable exceptions.

The difference today is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing no less than four corruption scandals, for at least one of which Israeli police have recommended a indictment. At one point in 2018, half of Israelis believed the embattled Prime Minister should resign. But security is big in Israel – so big in, fact, that Netanyahu and the ruling Likud Party saw a huge surge in popularity between missile strikes on Syria.

The party is pulling in its highest polling numbers in a decade, according to Tel Aviv-based public opinion expert, Dahlia Scheindlin.

Netanyahu’s job security depends on his ability to handle military matters that seem to come to Israel every so often. But will a few missiles fired from Gaza be enough to beat the charges in Israel’s Supreme Court? Maybe not. That’s why Iran is such a blessing to Israel’s Bibi-Sitter.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War

What’s more, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, seems pretty sick of Palestinians missing opportunities for peace with the Jewish state, reportedly telling them to “make peace or shut up.” Warming relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel could mean closer military ties and a new partner for the Saudis in the ongoing ideological war against the Islamic Republic. A new, powerful alliance will embolden both countries.

Iran, for all its rhetoric, has never been to war with Israel but its strategy for keeping terrorism and fighting out of Iranian borders is to project power and influence into neighboring countries and fight its enemies there, instead of the streets of Tehran. This does not earn Iran many friends in the region, but it works, considering there have been relatively few attacks inside Iran compared to neighboring nations.

Meanwhile, some Iranians took to Twitter (with the hashtags #ThankYouTrump and #WeAreHostages) to thank President Trump for leaving the Iran Nuclear Agreement, in the belief that renewed U.S. sanctions will hurt the regime enough to cause widespread unrest and, eventually, regime change.

The idea of starving out Iran and its ability to sell oil was once enough to bring the Islamic Republic to the negotiating table, but that doesn’t mean it will work again. The Iranian economy isn’t entirely dependent on oil (though oil accounts for 80 percent of its revenue) and maintains a large regional economy. But banking restrictions will hurt the economy — and the regime — even further. By 2012, Iranian currency lost 40 percent of its value, making simple, daily purchases too expensive for many Iranians and led to widespread food and medicine shortages.

So, who do Iranians blame: the regime or the West?

As Benjamin Netanyahu can attest, nothing is better to rally public support for your government than a good war. For Iran, survival of the regime depends on the severity of the war — and the Iranian regime needs a really good enemy right now for a war they have a chance to win. Iran can’t beat the United States, but it can beat Israel. It can definitely beat Saudi Arabia.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War
Saudi Arabia can’t beat Houthi Rebels in Yemen after three years and a coalition of 23 countries helping them. It needs Israeli help against Iran.
(VOA News)

Rallying around the flag is one of the oldest political tricks in the book. A wave of patriotism overtakes a population in the face of a perceived threat while the leaders of dissenting opinions tend to fall silent rather than become victims of the oncoming wave. But in the face of the Israeli Prime Minister’s corruption charges and the threat of looming economic demise in Iran, the two regional powers seem destined to clash in a bloody diversion from domestic woes.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Pentagon’s biggest enemy isn’t China or Russia

Our military is faced with a conflicting dichotomy. On one hand, we tout that we are the most technologically advanced military force on the planet. On the other, the Pentagon states that we need to upgrade our defenses to keep up with the looming threats. Depending on which briefing you attend, you may hear that the Department of Defense (DoD) is operating under a very tight budget; meanwhile, the news media points out the United States spends more on defense than any other nation in the world.

So what gives? What is really happening?


To fully grasp the intricacies of the U.S. military’s budget and expenditures, we must take a holistic look at the budgetary process.

Who’s Really in Charge of the Military?

Each year, the service components draft their needs and submit them in a prioritized list to the Secretary of Defense. These lists are consolidated and given over to the president. The president, not being a military man, relies on the suggestions and vision of the service chiefs. In January of every year, the president submits his budget proposal (for the next year) to Congress.

The House and Senate each have their own Armed Services Committee, who eventually reconcile the two agendas; they determine what the military is authorized (how much they’re allowed to have) and what the military is appropriated (what they’re allowed to purchase that year). Once reconciled, Congress votes on the National Defense Authorization Act late in the calendar year. The NDAA then becomes law; the military must purchase those designated items.

This begs the question: who determines what the U.S. military will be comprised of? Sadly, it appears that the commander-in-chief merely makes recommendations; it is the Congress who has the final say.

Unfortunately, two flaws can be spotted in this system. First, it may be possible that a member of Congress may skew military appropriations in order to curry favor with their constituents. For example, Senator Susan Collins from Maine successfully petitioned to build the third Zumwalt-class destroyer to keep her state’s Bath Iron Works shipyard in business; at the time, it was a ship the Navy did not want. Second, once the appropriations are issued, it becomes a monumental fight to change them. What if a service realized that they need to change what they are purchasing because of a new threat? It would face the huge task of convincing Congress of the need to change the purchasing strategy mid-stream. It may prove more difficult than the effort itself.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War

DoD

The Push for Technology

There’s a consensus among military analysts that posits the technological advantages of our adversaries. They assert that Russia and China have already surpassed the United States in terms of technological abilities. In these analyses, they credit foreign missiles with absolute reliability and perfect accuracy while discrediting our own.

This trend has spurned the admirals and generals into action; there is a palpable emphasis in developing futuristic weapons to not only meet the challenge, but to far exceed it. At this point, I will concede that there is value in developing weaponry for the future. However, I will dispute the overwhelming emphasis currently placed upon it. If one is focused on a futuristic battle, you may not be prepared for the near-term skirmish.

The DoD budget for Fiscal Year 2021 stands at 8 billion in total. Of that, 4.3 billion is being spent on Research, Development, Testing, Evaluation (RDTE); this is the highest value in our country’s history. This money will be spent on the development of weapons that do not yet exist. Items such as laser rayguns, howitzers with global reach, and deflector shields sound good in theory, but the technology isn’t mature enough to make them a reality.

Each service component has a number of pet-projects that are purely hypothetical at this point: the Air Force’s B-21 stealth bomber concept boasts unmatched abilities, when it hasn’t even flown yet; the Navy’s electromagnetically driven catapults and elevators still haven’t proven their worth; the Army’s search for a robot that can autonomously carry an infantryman’s load hasn’t reached fruition; and all of the services are constructing massive databases to help each keep track of maintenance and availability at extreme cost.

I do not believe these programs should be canceled, but they should not be the national priority. These programs should be relegated to the “back burner” until technology can catch up to the promised capabilities.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War

DoD

The Value of Our Current Force

Right now, the U.S. military is, by far, the strongest force on the planet. Let’s review recent history.

In 1991, the U.S. military dismantled the Iraqi army in 96 hours. Later, in 2003, the US military crushed the Iraqi army in less than weeks, while using only two divisions as the spearhead. In Afghanistan, the U.S. military forced the Taliban government to fall within three months. Since that time, the United States has held control of Afghanistan longer than the Russians or Alexander the Great ever did.

Think about that.

Those are astounding time frames. But like any sports team, all the competitors would like to defeat the champion and claim the title. So, the United States must be vigilant to keep the hyenas at a distance. Because of that, I propose that Washington maintain its current force as its primary effort, while slowly developing its future capability as a secondary effort.

For a moment, let’s set aside the on-going technological revolution. The major weapons systems in the U.S. arsenal are sound, combat-proven, and worthy of keeping. Sure, they will require upgrades to keep pace with technological developments, but they are largely superior to most nations’ weapons. Our weapons systems cannot be allowed to fester or grow obsolete while we chase new futuristic weapons that are years from production. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said, “You go to war with the army you have, not the one you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

The reality is that new weapons are prohibitively expensive and take too much time to build; because of the costly price tags of the new weapons, the Pentagon invariably ends up buying fewer new weapons and ends up lagging behind our adversaries in terms of the sheer total number of systems; during these extensive construction times, we must maintain our current force structure by funding the “in-place” weapons systems.

Conspiracy Theory

Political doves often create conspiracy-laden theories that accuse the most outlandish plots. One of them touts that the average citizen does not truly comprehend how much the weapons manufacturing industries fuel the U.S. economy overall. True, the military-industrial complex affects many jobs in many states, but the funding of programs just to create “jobs” eventually hurts the military. It is sometimes necessary to cancel a project and shift its money to another more worthwhile project. This may hurt some Congress-members, and it may mean shifting funding to another defense company, but in the end, the United States will benefit from the security gained from a good piece of military hardware.

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War

DoD

The Way Forward

To unravel the convoluted budgetary process and streamline defense acquisition, the president should request a special meeting with both Congressional Armed Services Committees to appeal for one-time special monetary powers to shift defense spending toward ‘at risk’ military capabilities. Funds would have to be shifted on an emergency basis, with the aim of purchasing the best items now rather than perfect items far in the future. The president should propose:

1) The RDTE value should be reduced by 10 percent for one year. Research could still continue with the remaining .9 billion, although some delays could be expected. The .4 billion could be used elsewhere.

2a) Purchase another eight F-15EX fighters for id=”listicle-2645629724″.2 billion, as the Air Force did last year. This would serve to augment the F-15 fleet during the slow expansion of the F-35 acquisition.

2b) Along a similar vein, initiate the purchase of sixteen F-16V Block 72 fighters for id=”listicle-2645629724″.3 billion. Just the addition of the AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) will be a great improvement of the Viper’s potential, given that the F-16 will still be flying beyond 2030.

3) Purchase another Virginia-class Block V submarine with the additional Virginia Payload Module for .75 billion. This would help in the Navy in two ways: the VPM capability will assist with the aging SSGN line of ships, which will retire soon; it will bring up the submarine production schedule, which had slowed over the last two years. This will alleviate concern of the shrinking attack submarine numbers. Further, insist that all future acquisition of Virginia-class attack submarines be equipped with the VPM missiles to ameliorate the retirement of SSGNs.

4) Disburse id=”listicle-2645629724″ billion to change the structure/composition of the Littoral Combat Ship. To date, twenty LCS ships have been laid down. These ships are misfits within the Navy, not truly fulfilling any particular mission. The president should insist that the remaining ships in the class (fifteen hulls) be re-configured as mini-arsenal ships. Using the current hull design, the super-structure would have permanently installed VLS systems to house the Naval Strike Missile, the Harpoon Block 1C anti-ship missile, the Standard Missile 2 missiles or the Standard Missile 6; all of these guided by the SPY-1F Aegis radar; however, this would most likely eliminate the helicopter landing pad in the stern of the ship. In short, the last fifteen LCS ships would be turned into offensive weapons systems and serve as an interim frigate until a new ship design is introduced.

5) Implement a significant change to an Army major acquisition program. Currently, three Services use a variant of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. The Army, however, insists on building its tilt-rotor from scratch. This is costly and time-consuming. The commander-in-chief should bring the Army into the DoD fold by demanding the purchase of the latest CV-22 version to replace the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program. This would save billions in developmental research. As an incentive, the commander-in-chief would offer id=”listicle-2645629724″ billion to this effort. The Army would benefit from the improvements made by the other Services, while taking advantage of an active production line.

6) Purchase another Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyer, specifically designed to fulfill the air defense role, for billion. The Arleigh Burke is the workhorse for the Navy, and should continue for the foreseeable future. The Flight III design serves as the stopgap until the Navy can fill the role that aging cruisers are struggling with.

7) Lastly, the Army must complete upgrading its ground combat vehicles. Usually, this is a multi-year project. But in the light of increased adversaries, it should be completed sooner. 0 million is needed for sixty upgraded Stryker double V-hull combat vehicles with heavier weapon systems; 0 million would convert 168 Bradley vehicles to the new M-2A4 configuration; 0 million would purchase twenty-nine new M-1A2C Abrams tanks (about a battalion’s worth); all part of on-going programs.

Conclusion

The transfer of developmental funding to active, “ready” programs would require Congressional buy-in. But time can also be an enemy; thus, to keep our strategic advantage, it is worth the venture to shift our defense dollars to more meaningful projects. By shifting billion dollars, the president could ease the burden upon the Navy to restore its ship-building schedule; it would help the Air Force keep its fourth-generation fighters ahead of contemporaries; and bring the Army forward in its long-term upgrading process. This shift may slow the development of futuristic weapons, or it may invigorate the program managers to operate more judiciously.

A shift of billion dollars is a small number to Congress. But it is a valuable number in terms of maintaining our decisive edge over our enemies.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.