17 things you didn't know about the US Air Force - We Are The Mighty
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17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force

Happy 69th BRRRRRRRRRRThday, U.S. Air Force! In a very special episode of “things you didn’t know,” Team Mighty decided to give a shout out to the youngest branch of the U.S. military and fill in the blanks to help people, civilians and non-Airmen alike, learn a few things about those who live in fame or go down in flame.


1. The Air Force tracks Santa.

On December 24, 1955 a newspaper ad told kids that they could call Santa at an included phone number. The number listed called the U.S. Air Defense Command. The colonel on duty ordered his team to give all kids Santa’s “current location.” This tradition now handles calls from over 200 countries.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force

2. The Air Force shares its birthday with the CIA.

Both were founded on September 18, 1947.

3. The Air Force used to be in the Army.

On Aug. 1, 1907, the U.S. Army Signal Corps formed the Aeronautical Division, which later evolved into the U.S. Army Air Force. The National Defense Act of 1947 created an independent Air Force.

4. An Airman first broke the sound barrier.

In 1947, then-Air Force Capt. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in his Bell X-1 rocket-powered aircraft, kicking off a race of pilots who competed to do the next big thing, eventually leading to outer space and a man on the moon.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force

5. Airmen welcome their new commander by stomping on his or her roof.

A “roof stomp” is an Air Force tradition where airmen welcome a new commander or celebrate a special occasion by climbing up on the commander’s roof and making noise while others are banging on the windows and doors. Kind of like an episode of “The Walking Dead” but without the zombies.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force

6. The Air Force built a supercomputer out of Sony Playstations.

The Air Force Research Lab built a supercomputer called the Condor Cluster to analyze HD satellite imagery. The supercomputer is made up entirely of 1760 Playstation 3’s. It’s the 33rd most-powerful computer in the world.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Looks like they’re watching Terminator 2. Appropriate.

7. Airmen get hairier every spring.

Every year, Airmen participate in a Mustache March, a tradition where airmen grow mustaches throughout the month of March to honor Air Force legend, WWII and Vietnam veteran, and triple ace Brig. Gen. Robin Olds.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force

8. An Ace isn’t just a good pilot. They’re the best combat pilots.

An “ace” is a pilot who has shot down five or more enemy aircraft. The top jet ace in U.S. Air Force history is Joseph C. McConnell, a “Triple ace” who shot down 16 MiG fighters during the Korean War over a four month period, bagging three on his last combat mission of the war. His record still stands.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
That’s a lot of stars. (U.S. Air Force photo)

9. Airmen respect North Dakota.

At the height of the Cold War, North Dakota was home to so many USAF nuclear weapons that if it seceded from the Union, it would have been the third largest nuclear power in the world.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
That’s not North Dakota, that’s South Dakota, but you probably didn’t notice because we’re not in a nuclear war.

10. Some Airmen took the “Live in Fame” part of the Air Force song to heart.

Johnny Cash, George Carlin, Willie Nelson, Morgan Freeman, Hunter S. Thompson, and James Stewart are just a few celebrities who were Airmen. Stewart flew missions in World War II and Vietnam and rose to the rank of Brigadier General while still working in Hollywood.

11. An Air Force tour in Korea made Chuck Norris the man he is today.

While Chuck Norris was stationed in Korea, he realized he wasn’t physically able to do his job as an Air Policeman (now called Security Forces) and developed an interest in martial arts. This is also where he earned the nickname Chuck.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
And he still drops in for visits.  (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder)

12. The Air Force boasts two Presidents.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force

Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush served as airmen. Reagan served in WWII when the branch was still the Army Air Forces. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard before transferring to the Air Force Reserve during the Vietnam era.

13. “Air Force One” isn’t a plane.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
It’s not Nelly’s shoes either.

It’s the radio call name for any U.S. Air Force plane carrying the President of the United States. The same as the Marine helicopter carrying POTUS is Marine One.

14. The Air Force’s F-117 fighter uses aerodynamics discovered from bumblebee flight.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Pictured: USAF Honeybee

15. Air Force weathermen are special forces.

They go through Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Air Force Basic Survival School, Air Force Water Survival Training, Air Force Underwater Egress Training, Combat Control School at Pope Field, North Carolina, and Special Tactics Training at Hurlbert Field. They work primarily with Air Force and Army Special Operations Forces but can also be attached to Marine MARSOC and Navy SEAL teams.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force

16. The Air Force is the only branch to directly fight the Soviet Union.

The U.S. and the Soviet Union fought one pitched battle — a dogfight during WWII over the Serbian town of Niš. The outcome wasn’t clear and both governments classified details of the incident.

17. The Air Force has an official band.

They do more than Souza marches, they drop singles and shoot music videos.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGdWkl9M_TYfeature=youtu.be

NOW: 32 Terms only Airmen understand

OR: 9 Reasons you should have joined the Air Force instead

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The US is amping up its cyber war force

A decade ago, he was a young Army soldier training Iraqi troops when he noticed their primitive filing system: handwritten notes threaded with different colors of yarn, stacked in piles. For organization’s sake, he built them a simple computer database.


Now an Army reservist, the major is taking a break from his civilian high-tech job to help America’s technological fight against Islamic State extremists, part of a growing force of cyberexperts the Pentagon has assembled to defeat the group.

“The ability to participate in some way in a real mission, that is actually something that’s rare, that you can’t find in private sector,” said the 38-year-old Nebraska native who is working at U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland.

“You’re part of a larger team putting your skills to use, not just optimizing clicks for a digital ad, but optimizing the ability to counter ISIS or contribute to the security of our nation.”

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter expressed frustration that the United States was losing the cyberwar against Islamic States militants. He pushed the Cyber Command to be more aggressive.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
The files are in the computer. It’s so simple. (Dept. of Defense photo)

In response, the Pentagon launched an effort to incorporate cyber technology into its daily military fight, including new ways to disrupt the enemy’s communications, recruiting, fundraising, and propaganda.

To speak with someone at the front lines of the cyber campaign, The Associated Press agreed to withhold the major’s name. The military says he could be threatened or targeted by the militants if he is identified publicly. The major and other officials wouldn’t provide precise details on the highly classified work he is doing.

But Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command, said the major is bringing new expertise for identifying enemy networks, pinpointing system administrators or developers, and potentially monitoring how the Islamic State’s online traffic moves.

He “has the ability to bring an analytic focus of what the threat is doing, coupled with a really deep understanding of how networks run,” Nakasone said, describing such contributions as “really helpful for us.” He outlined a key question for the military: “How do you impact an adversary that’s using cyberspace against us?”

The military services are looking for new ways to bring in more civilians with high-tech skills who can help against IS, and prepare for the new range of technological threats the nation will face.

Nakasone said that means getting Guard and Reserve members with technical expertise in digital forensics, math crypto-analysis and writing computer code. The challenge is how to find them.

“I would like to say it’s this great database that we have, that we’ve been able to plug in and say, ‘Show me the best tool developers and analysts that you have out there,'” Nakasone said. “We don’t have that yet. We are going to have one, though, by June.”

The Army Reserve is starting a pilot program cataloging soldiers’ talents. Among 190,000 Army reservists, Nakasone said there might be up to 15,000 with some type of cyber-related skills. But there are legal and privacy hurdles, and any database hinges on reservists voluntarily and accurately providing information on their capabilities.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Marines with I Marine Expeditionary Force and sailors with 553 Cyber Protection Team, monitor network activity during I MEF Large Scale Exercise 2016 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Aug 22, 2016. (Photo: Marine Corps)

Normally, Nakasone said a reservist’s record includes background, training, assignments, and schools attended.

“I would like to know every single person that has been trained as a certified ethical hacker,” he said.

The Army has been steadily building cyber mission teams, as part of a broader Defense Department undertaking. Of the 41 Army teams, just over half come from theArmy National Guard and Army Reserve.

Nakasone said officials were still working out costs.

“The money will come,” he said, because building a ready cyber force is necessary.

The Army major said others in the civilian high-tech industry are interested in helping.

Many would like to participate “in something bigger than themselves, something that has intrinsic value for the nation,” he said.

The major said he has signed up for a second one-year tour in his cyber job. He is looking at options for staying longer.

“I find what I’m doing very satisfying, because I have an opportunity to implement things, to get things done and see them work and see tangible results,” he said. “I’m not making as much as I was on the civilian side. But the satisfaction is that strong, and is that valuable, that it’s worth it.”

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These are the 5 most lethal weapons in the Japanese military

Japan has been making a comeback as a carrier navy, but they’re small compared to those of other Western powers. Overall, Japan had perhaps the most modern navy in East Asia during the Cold War, and did so while mostly respecting its constitution that renounced war.


But now, with China getting aggressive around the Senkaku Islands and in the South China Sea, Japan is stepping up its preparations. What are their best weapons? Here’s a listing from one video.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
JS Izumo underway in 2015. (Wikimedia Commons)

1. Izumo-class “helicopter destroyers”

Japan’s most modern “carriers” are among the biggest game-changers in the region. Vessels similar to this have operated small detachments of AV-8B Harriers but mostly deploy helicopters. And this isn’t the first time Japan has set its sights on bantam-weight carriers — its powerful Kido Butai dominated the seas during the initial stages of World War II.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
A Soryu-class submarine arrives at Pearl Harbor for a visit. (US Navy photo)

2. Soryu-class diesel-electric submarines

Even more quiet than the carrier comeback has been Japan’s submarine force. In this case, Japan has perhaps the most modern diesel-electric submarines in East Asia. The Soryu-class vessels could also be getting new batteries that would greatly increase submerged performance.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
JS Atago in 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jennifer A. Villalovos)

3. Atago-class guided-missile destroyers

This is Japan’s version of the Arleigh Burke Flight IIA guided-missile destroyers. They’re about the same size, both have 96 vertical launch cells in two Mk 41 vertical-launch systems, and both can carry a couple of Seahawk helicopters. Two-to-four modified versions are planned to be added to the fleet in the coming years.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
A U.S. Marine V-22 Osprey ascends the USS Bataan in Aqaba, Jordan, to begin a demo flight in support of Eager Lion 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mickey A. Miller)

4. V-22 Osprey

A planned purchase of the hight-tech tiltrotor aircraft is more rumor than fact. It should be noted that Japanese troops have been training on the Osprey since 2013. The Hyuga, a “helicopter destroyer” that is slightly smaller than the aforementioned Izumo, has operated this tilt-rotor aircraft. This could be a game-changer in a Senkaku Islands conflict.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is displayed in the U.S. corral at the Paris Air Show June 20, 2017 at Le Bourget, France. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

5. F-35 Lightning

This is a future purchase for Japan and will likely replace some of Japan’s F-4EJ and F-15J fighters. The F-35A is definitely headed over to Japan, but don’t count out a F-35B purchase, especially with reports Japan is considering purchasing the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship design. That could make the Wasps a match for the Liaoning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3G5lQ-GkFM
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7 whacky life lessons we learned from ‘Team America’

In 2004, the creator’s of the animated “South Park” show Matt Stone and Trey Parker made audiences break out in laughter when they produced a satire film about an elite counter-terrorism team of marionettes that was tasked with saving the world from corrupt leader Kim Jong-il.


In the laugh-out-loud comedy “Team America: World Police” With the help of a newly recruited Broadway actor, Gary Johnston, the team will travel the world attempting to stop terrorists from destroying many innocent countries with their WMDs.

Although this film is fiction (believe it or not), it raises many solid points on how our world is run.

Related: 8 life lessons from ‘Major Payne’

Check out our whacky list of valuable lessons we learned from watching those life-like puppets on a string.

1. The best time and place to propose marriage is right after a firefight

There’s nothing more romantic than a couple in love that enjoys killing terrorists together.

The proposal.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
How many karats do you think that diamond weights? (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

The reaction and acceptance.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Love is precious, isn’t it? (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

2. Spying is really acting

This whole time we’ve been fighting the war on terror, the CIA should have just sent a member of SAG-AFTRA behind enemy lines to resolve the entire conflict.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
It’s not the worse idea ever… okay, maybe it is. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

3. Tell a woman what she needs to hear

And nothing more if you’re trying to hook up with her.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
(Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force

And he seals the deal!

We can’t show what happens next, but use your dark military humor to figure it out.

4. Even North Korean dictators get ronery from time to time

Kim Jong-il has some vocal pipes on him.

5. We shouldn’t always rely on computers

After Team America is temporary defeated, the world’s greatest computer “I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E.” had one job: decoding and analyzing what the terrorists were going to do next. It failed us when we needed it the most.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
G*ddammit! (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

Also Read: 6 pearls of wisdom we learned from War Daddy in ‘Fury’

6. When you want someone to take you seriously

Give them this look.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
When people whip out their serious face, they mean business. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

7. If you need to become bigger, faster, and stronger in a short amount of time…

We’re going to need a montage.

(zxxz996, YouTube)Can you think of any others? Comment below.
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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists wait before performing static line jumps as the door of a C-130 Hercules, assigned to Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., opens over the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nev., March 11, 2016. SERE specialists lead the Air Force emergency parachuting program and conduct extensive testing of parachuting systems. They are uniquely suited to analyze the operating environment to plan for evasion, captivity and recovery considerations.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum

Airmen, carrying 35-pound rucksacks, participate in the 2016 Bataan Memorial Death March with 6,600 other participants March 20, 2016, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The 27th annual march was 26.2 miles long and served as a reminder for today’s generation of the harsh conditions World War II veterans endured during their 60-mile march to a prisoner-of-war camp in the Philippines.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Harry Brexel

ARMY:

A Soldier rushes to his next position during the third day of testing at the Expert Infantry Badge qualification held on Fort Jackson, S.C. March 31, 2016.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton

A Soldier, assigned to 1-2 SBCT, 7th Infantry Division, conducts aerial radiological survey training from a 16th Combat Aviation Brigade UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 24, 2016.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Northrup

NAVY:

SOUDA BAY, Greece (March 25, 2016) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), departs Souda Bay, Greece, following a scheduled port visit. Donald Cook is forward deployed to Rota, Spain, and is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
U.S. Navy photo by Heather Judkins

NORFOLK (March 30, 2016) An MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter from the Blackhawks of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15 conducts an aerial refueling exercise with a Lockheed Martin KC-130 tanker. Navy and Marine Corps aviators regularly conduct training in order to maintain mission readiness.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor N. Stinson

MARINE CORPS:

A U.S. Navy Corpsman assigned to Field Medical Training Battalion East (FMTB-E), checks on members of his squad during a final exercise (FINEX) at Camp Johnson, N.C., March 1, 2016. FINEX is a culminating event at FMTB-E which transitions Sailors into the Fleet Marine Force.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton

U.S. Marines with the Marine Corps Engineer School (MCES) at Courthouse Bay, participate in tug of war competition during a field meet at Ellis Field on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, March 17, 2016. The MCES holds a field meet annually in order to promote camaraderie and competition.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler W. Stewartg

COAST GUARD:

Chief Petty Officer Mark Wanjongkhum and Chief Warrant Officer Michael Allen, both from Surface Forces Logistics Center, walk around the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy while in dry dock at Vigor Shipyard in Seattle, March 31, 2016. Healy will return to the water this week after three months of maintenance.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford

A C-27J Medium Range Surveillance airplane sits on the runway at Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Thursday, March 31, 2016. The C-27J is the newest Coast Guard aircraft to join the fleet and will be used in maritime patrol, drug and migrant interdiction, disaster response, and search and rescue missions.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Chief Petty Officer NyxoLyno Cangemi

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Meet the ‘Angel of Death’ who’s trolling and killing ISIS fighters

Ayyub Faleh al-Rubaie, who’s best-known as Abu Azrael (“Angel of Death”), is a legendary Shia militiaman whose bravery and reputation have also earned him the title of “Iraq’s Rambo.” He’s become the people’s champion in resisting ISIS in Iraq.


His methods and appearance match the brutality of the Islamic State, for instance, he’s been shown holding axes, waving swords, and even abusing the corpses of ISIS fighters. He also has a flair for social media publishing viral posts and inspiring tribute fan pages and groups. Abu Azrael has even coined his own catchphrase when addressing ISIS “illa tahin,” which means “grind you into dust,” according to the France 24 video below.

Watch Abu Azrael inspire a nation to resist ISIS:

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This Somali war criminal has been guarding Dulles Airport for the last 20 years

As if you needed another reason to avoid what is widely considered the DC-area’s worst option in terms of airports, a CNN investigation revealed that one of Dulles International Airport’s security guards is a Somali man wanted for war crimes.


Yusuf Abdi Ali has lived in the area of Alexandria, Virginia for the past 20 years. He has been employed by the airport, one of an estimated 1,000 war criminals living and working in the United States.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
CNN video still of Ali on duty at Dulles

Everyone employed by Master Security, Dulles’ security contractor, undergoes “the full, federally mandated vetting process in order to be approved for an airport badge,” the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority told ABC News. The process includes a background check by the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration. Master Security employees working at Dulles must also be licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state in which Dulles is located.

“We have verified that all of these processes were followed and approved in this instance,” MWAA said in a statement.

Ali is the subject of a lawsuit from The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) on behalf of his alleged victims. He is accused of torturing people, burning villages, and conducting mass executions during The Somali Civil War from 1986 – 1991. Ali denies all accusations listed in the CJA lawsuit.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Yusuf Abdi Ali in a Canadian Broadcasting Company documentary about his a

Ali was a military commander under the regime of Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. He fled Somalia after the fall of the regime, eventually ending up in the United States in 1996.

The suit was dismissed by a circuit court which found the case lacked jurisdictional authority. A higher ruling allowed the suit to proceed and it is now waiting for review by the Supreme Court to determine if foreigners living in the U.S. can be held accountable for crimes committed abroad.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Ali in uniform under the Barre regime.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials estimate at least 360 arrests of human rights violators in the U.S. in the past 12 years. ICE has also deported more than 780 such cases. According to CNN, they currently have 125 active investigations. Ali’s airport credentials have been revoked and he is on administrative leave pending an ongoing investigation.

 

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Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

With the rhetoric about global trade deficits heating up on the campaign trail, it might appropriate to momentarily shift our focus away from the asymmetric threats of the Taliban and ISIS and look at the world of conventional warfare. Here’s how the world’s three most powerful militaries stack up in 4 major categories:


1. Stealth fighters

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane

While America holds the current stealth jet lead with the only fielded fifth-generation fighter, Russia and China are both gunning for it. There are only 187 F-22s, and the F-35 that is supposed to be joining them is running into all sorts of problems in the test phase, including the hi-tech helmet that is supposed to put all kinds of info in the pilot’s visor that doesn’t work right yet.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Photo: Xinhuanet

Meanwhile, China is developing four stealth fighters. The J-31 debuted in air shows in 2014 and is the most advanced current threat, and the J-20, which may have just entered full-scale production, is probably a match for the F-35 if not the F-22. The two newest designs, the J-23 and J-25, are mostly rumors and Chinese propaganda right now.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Photo: Rulexip CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing only one stealth fighter but it has capabilities that some put on par with the F-22. The T-50 will likely enter service in late 2016 or early 2017. Also known as the PAK FA, it’s less stealthy than the Raptor but more maneuverable. The F-22 would likely get a jump on the Russians in a war, but would be in serious trouble if it was spotted first.

Likely winner: As long as the other planes are still more hypothetical than real, the F-22 remains the clear victor. Still, Raptor drivers can’t rest easy knowing that multiple aircraft are being developed with the primary mission of bringing them down, and those planes are being developed with engineers who have the F-22’s schematics.

2. Tanks

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy J. Fowler

The U.S. Army fielded the first M-1 Abrams in 1980. But the tank has undergone so many upgrades, including those to the armor, drivetrain, and weapons systems, that everything but the shell is new. It has a 120mm main gun, great electronics, remote-operated weapon stations, and an armor configuration that incorporates uranium, kevlar, reactive, and Chobham armor layers.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing the prototype T-14 on the Armata platform, but right now it relies on the T-90A, which is still an awesome tank. One even survived a direct hit from a TOW missile in Syria. Originally fielded in 2004, the T-90A features an autoloader, reactive armor, a remotely-operated machine gun, and a 125mm cannon. The crew can fire anti-tank guided missiles from the main gun.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Photo: Max Smith Public Domain

Like Russia, China fields a few varieties of tanks and has new ones in development. It’s go-to for tank-on-tank engagements is the Type 99. It features a 125mm smoothbore gun with auto-loader that can also fire missiles. The tank has been upgraded with reactive armor and is thought to be nearly as survivable in combat as Western or Russian tanks.

Likely winner: Strictly looking at the gear in a one-on-one fight, it’s a draw. But America has more top-tier tanks and a better history of training crews, plus (Ukraine notwithstanding) U.S. forces have more recent combat experience than their rivals.

3. Surface ships

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

With the largest Navy in the world, America has any surface fight in the bag if it happens in the middle of the ocean. The crown jewels are the Navy’s 10 full-sized aircraft carriers and 9 landing helicopter docks. But the Navy’s technological advantages and sheer size might not be enough to overcome China’s missiles or Russia’s diesel subs if it had to fight in enemy waters.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Photo: Public Domain George Chernilevsky

Russia still struggles with force projection, but the launch of Kalibr cruise missiles at ground targets in Syria proved that Russia has found a way to give even their small ships some serious bite. An anti-ship version of the missile is thought to be just as capable and, if fired in a large enough salvo, may be able to overcome U.S. ship defenses like the Phalanx. Russia also fields the Club-K missile system, a land-attack and anti-ship cruise missile system that can be hidden in shipping containers.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
A Chinese destroyer pulls into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 2006. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales

China is pushing for a maritime revolution in both its Coast Guard and the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Coast Guard is used to establish sovereignty in contested waters and is getting the world’s largest and most heavily armed Coast Guard ships. The Navy features hundreds of surface ships with advanced missiles and other weapons in addition to great sensors.

Likely winner: The U.S. Navy is still the undisputed champ across the world but it would take heavy losses if it fought China or Russia at home. A full-scale invasion might even fail if planners aren’t careful.

4. Submarines

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian G. Reynolds

The U.S. Navy has a staggering 14 ballistic missile submarines with a combined 280 nuclear missiles that can each wipe out an enemy city, four guided missile submarines with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, and 54 nuclear attack submarines. They’re technologically advanced, heavily armed, and stealthy.

Russia has only 60 submarines but those are very capable. Russia’s nuclear subs are at or near par with their Western counterparts for stealth while their diesel boats are some of the quietest in the world. Russia is also working on new submarine weapons including a 100-megaton, city-killing nuclear torpedo. To top it all off, their crews were already good but are getting better.

China has only five nuclear attack submarines, 53 diesel attack submarines, and four nuclear ballistic missile submarines, but they’re working on more. China’s subs are easy to track, but the U.S. and its Pacific allies are deploying sophisticated listening devices to keep track of them anyway.

Likely winner: The U.S. submarine fleet wins for both power projection onto land and sub-on-sub combat, but the gap is narrowing. Chinese and Russian innovations and the rapid construction in new shipyards will make the ocean a more dangerous place for American submariners.

Bottom line: ‘Merica!

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Blimp program halted after that one broke loose and terrorized Pennsylvania

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
One of the JLENS airships. (Image: Raytheon)


The Pentagon has suspended its multi-billion dollar trial blimp program outside of Washington, DC, after one of the blimps broke loose and floated around the country, The Los Angeles Times reports.

The rogue blimp, which eventually landed in Pennsylvania after being trailed by F-16 fighter jets from New Jersey, was part of the Army’s trial JLENS program — Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor Systems — which was built and designed by Raytheon.

Before the blimp escaped, the JLENS program was taking part in a three-year operational exercise that was intended to determine the program’s utility. However, following the escape, the Army has said that it will halt the program until it completes an investigation into what had happened.

“It’s going to be a complete and thorough investigation, and it takes time,” Army spokesman Dov Schwartz told The Times.

This suspension of the program was reiterated by Army Maj. Beth R. Smith — who said, on behalf of NORAD, that “[f]uture actions regarding the JLENS exercise will be made following the conclusion of the investigation.”

The loose blimp caused major disturbances throughout the northeast of the US. The blimp had an estimated 6,700 feet of cable dangling from behind it. As the blimp slowly lowered toward the ground, the dangling tether knocked down power lines and caused power outages for more than 20,000 people.

The blimp also disrupted air traffic, necessitating the two trailing F-16s to update the FAA with the blimp’s location.

Before breaking loose, the blimp was tethered alongside another JLENS airship in the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. The blimps were intended to be responsible for defending against possible cruise-missile attacks and other potential threats to Washington, DC, and other East Coast cities through the use of high-detailed radar imaging.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Image: Raytheon

The two JLENS blimps were designed to operate in concert. One of them provides constant 360-degree scanning, covering a circular area from North Carolina to central Ohio to upstate New York, even as the blimp remains stationary over suburban Baltimore. The other focused on more specific targets. Together, the blimps were intended to track missiles, aircraft, and drones in a 340-mile radius.

As of the end of 2014, the JLENS project cost the government $2.8 billion. Congress had approved another $43.3 million for the first year of the JLENS operational test.

Despite the supposed capabilities of JLENS, the program had been plagued with roadblocks even before one of the blimps managed to escape.

According to a previous investigation by The Los Angeles Times, the blimps have faced such issues as being unable to distinguish friendly and threatening aircraft, being grounded by bad weather, and being incapable of providing continuous surveillance for 30-day periods.

 

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This machine gun was big with Green Beret, CIA agents, and the cast of ‘Star Trek’

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force


It’s another weekly episode of Star Trek: The Original Series: The title – “Bread and Circuses.”

This time, Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy beam down to Planet 892-IV, a planet identical to Earth in almost every way – except Rome never fell.

Along with scantily clad space babes and gladiatorial games there are gun-toting Roman legionnaires. Not only did Rome never fall in this story, but apparently Denmark rises to become supplier of submachine guns to the empire, and a pretty badass submachine gun at that.

They are toting the Madsen M-50 9-millimeter submachine guns by Dansk Industri Syndikat. Its simplicity and ease of maintenance are stellar even if its popularity back on Earth was somewhat limited.

The M-50 is an open bolt, blowback submachine gun that fires only in full-auto at a cyclic rate of 550 rounds per minute. It has a 32-round box magazine and is slightly more than 30 inches long with the stock unfolded.

However, it’s most unusual feature is the way the operator field-strips the weapon. A barrel nut holds two halves of the hinged sheet metal receiver together – when the operator closes the stock and removes the barrel nut, he can open the receiver like it is clamshell housing, exposing the inner parts of the gun.

All the parts such as the bolt, operating spring and guide, and the barrel easily remove for cleaning. When finished, the person cleaning the weapon just reverses the process and snaps the sides of the receiver shut and replaces the barrel nut.

Besides, it looks exotic and foreign – probably one of the reasons movie and television armorers loved using it.

In the original Planet of the Apes films the M-50 was mocked-up in a futuristic shell to make the gun look even more alien – perfectly suited for a world where apes carried the guns and made the laws.

Also in 1968, the film Ice Station Zebra portrayed Soviet paratroopers carrying the gun, no doubt because of its foreign look.

Even legendary cinematic Italian crime families packed the gun. In The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Corleone “made men” are carrying M-50s as they provide security around the various family compounds depicted in the movie.

But “movie gun” was not what the Madsen’s manufacturer intended. In a world full of cheap, mass-produced World War II submachine guns like the M-3 “Grease Gun” or the Sten,  the Madsen put up with a lot abuse without jamming.

The Special Forces Foreign Weapons Handbook describes it as a “well-made weapon” that “incorporates low-cost production features, sturdiness and simplicity of disassembly seldom found in weapons of this type” and that it possessed a stock that was “one of the most rigid types available and the weapon can be fired as easily with the stock folded as it can with the stock unfolded.”

Latin American military and police units used it widely. During the 1950s, Dansk Industri Syndikat sold thousands of M-50s to Latin American countries including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, and Venezuela.

Brazil also purchased the gun, but then produced its own licensed version called the M-953 or the INA – for Industria Nacional de Armas of Sao Paulo.  The Brazilian makers of the INA originally chambered the weapon in .45 ACP, a caliber popular with most of their nation’s armed forces and police.

However, during the early 1970s Brazil’s defense ministers decided that 9-millimeter Parabellum would be a better choice in ammunition. They eventually ordered a massive conversion program to re-chamber the weapons in 9-millimeter as well as add a select-fire modification.

Special Forces and CIA operators during the Vietnam War frequently carried the M-50 or armed the “indigs” with the gun.

In South Vietnam, Green Berets frequently placed the weapon in the hands of the montagnards, the indigenous hill people who defended villages against the Viet Cong and served as rapid response forces alongside special operators.

Small enough to be secreted inside their woven pack baskets, M-50s gave the montagnards real firepower as they scouted hills and trails for Viet Cong activity.

Despite obvious interest in the M-50, sales of the weapon were good but not great. Its biggest competition was the veritable flood of surplus submachine guns from World War II that inundated the military market during the 1950s.

So, it became a movie gun – whether it was in “space, the final frontier” (at least as it was portrayed on television) or in dozens of movies on the big screen.

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This Marine better watch his footing in the new thriller ‘Mine’

After an assassination gone wrong, a Marine sniper, played by Armie Hammer, is stranded in a dry oasis after stepping on one of at least 33 million mines that occupy the desert region.


In this psychological thriller, Mike will have to battle himself, his enemies, and all the dangerous elements of his environment without lifting a foot until help arrives — 52 hours away.

Mine blasts its way into theaters and On Demand April 2017.

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Mattis warns that Syria still has chemical weapons

Syria still possesses chemical weapons, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in Israel on April 21, warning against the banned munitions being used again.


At a news conference in Tel Aviv, Mattis also said that in recent days the Syrian Air Force has dispersed its combat aircraft. The implication is that Syria may be concerned about additional U.S. strikes following the cruise missile attack earlier in April in retaliation for alleged Syrian use of sarin gas.

Mattis spoke alongside Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all,” said Mattis.

He said he didn’t want to elaborate on the amounts Syria has in order to avoid revealing sources of intelligence.

“I can say authoritatively they have retained some, it’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically and they would be ill advised to try to use any again, we made that very clear with our strike,” he said.

17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force
Shayrat Airfield in Syria (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)

Israeli defense officials said this week that Syria still has up to three tons of chemical weapons in its possession. It was the first specific intelligence assessment of President Bashar Assad’s weapons capabilities since a deadly chemical attack earlier this month.

Lieberman also refused to go into detail but said “We have 100 percent information that Assad regime used chemical weapons against rebels.”

Assad has strongly denied he was behind the attack in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s northern Idlib province, and has accused the opposition of trying to frame his government. Top Assad ally, Russia, has asserted a Syrian government airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons factory, causing the disaster.

In response to the April 4 attack, the United States fired 59 missiles at a Syrian air base it said was the launching pad for the attack.

Before meeting with Mattis in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters that Israel is encouraged by the change of administrations in Washington.

“We sense a great change in the direction of American policy,” Netanyahu said. He referred to the U.S. cruise missile strike in Syria as an important example of the new administration’s “forthright deeds” against the use of chemical weapons.

Related: US Ambassador to UN calls Syrian president a ‘War Criminal’

The Syrian government has been locked in a six-year civil war against an array of opposition forces. The fighting has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population.

Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting, though it has carried out a number of airstrikes on suspected Iranian weapons shipments it believed were bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Iran and Hezbollah, both bitter enemies of Israel, along with Russia have sent forces to support Assad.

Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal to avert U.S. strikes following a chemical weapons attack in opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people and sparked worldwide outrage.

Ahead of that disarmament, Assad’s government disclosed it had some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin, VX nerve agent and mustard gas.

The entire stockpile was said to have been dismantled and shipped out under international supervision in 2014 and destroyed. But doubts began to emerge soon afterward that not all such armaments or production facilities were declared and destroyed. There also is evidence that the Islamic State group and other insurgents have acquired chemical weapons.

Associated Press writer Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this story.

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Beware of the 19-year-old pissed off Marine

On January 30, 1968, John Ligato and about 150 fellow Marines from Alpha Company experienced hell on Earth.


They were awakened in the middle of the night by their company commander and sent to nearby Hue City in Vietnam to help the troops of an overrun compound.

Related: 8 of the most terrifying Vietnam War booby traps

When they finally arrived, they were greeted with cheers. The troops of the MACV Compound had just repelled an enemy surge within their walls.

“They had been through hell, and they thought we were there to save the day, but little did we know the numerical numbers of NVA there,” Ligato said in the video below.

Ligato and his ill-equipped company were walking into a deathtrap against nine battalions of highly-trained North Vietamese soldiers, outnumbering each man by a few hundred.

“Most of us thought we’d never get out,” Ligato said.

The odds were against them, but miraculously, they pulled through. Ligato sums up the company’s success with this quote:

Americans Adapt. We Improvise. The most ferocious fighting machine the world has ever seen is a 19-year-old pissed off Marine. Because you’ll take that kid from Detroit or Mississippi and you’ll train him in Marine Corps boot camp, and you’ll put him in a situation that’s foreign to him, and he will adapt and improvise and become that situation and deal with it.

Watch John Ligato tell his harrowing experience in this 3-minute American Heroes Channel video:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube