In the 1950s and 60s the U.S. Air Force tested flying rockets and ramjets powered by nuclear reactors.
If it weren’t for breakthroughs in chemical propulsion that occurred at about the same time, the nuclear missiles based throughout the U.S. and Europe could well be nuclear warheads sitting atop nuclear reactors.
At its most basic level, rockets and ramjets work by superheating air and propelling it out the back of the engine. Conventional rockets and ramjets use chemical combustion to heat the air. The nuclear engines were designed to superheat the air using a heat exchanger hooked to a nuclear reactor.
The research into the rocket engines was dubbed “Project Rover,” and the ramjet research was dubbed “Project Pluto.”
Project Rover’s initial successes allowed NASA engineers to briefly consider nuclear power for the first manned missions to the Moon, but the vibration problems were not worked out in time. Rover’s engine then got the nod for a possible mission to Mars, but the mission was canceled. Without any immediate mission requirements, Rover was declared a technical success and shut down.
The nuclear rocket engine idea has been revived a few times since then, mostly when engineers start to seriously strategize manned missions to Mars. It was also briefly revived as a method of getting the Strategic Defense Initiative ballistic missile shield into orbit.
Project Pluto was even more successful from a technical standpoint. Each ramjet test reactor achieved every one of its major goals, and a number of the tests were declared flawless.
Like the Rover, all the tests were conducted on the ground. Also like Project Rover, Pluto was shut down in favor of chemical propulsion. America had found a way to strike the Soviet Union from across the world without having to fly nuclear reactors over their own land and troops.
Both concepts and their accompanying research are mothballed, waiting for a mission to potentially revive them.
There are a few things the United States military does to maintain its global supremacy. First and foremost, it maintains a standing, professional force where every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine has a function that keeps the force moving – and is paid well to do it.
It also constantly innovates, keeping abreast of the latest developments in military technology from almost every point of view. Once equipped with the latest and greatest tech, the United States places able commanders among those troops and trains them on how to operate.
The Black Army of Hungary operated on the same principles more than 300 years before the United States won its independence from Great Britain.
King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary reigned supreme in Eastern Europe and the Balkans in the mid-1400s and the Black Army is one of the reasons why. A visionary leader, Matthias recognized the importance of securing his national borders, returning order and making the locals realize who’s boss.
He managed to kick Czech mercenaries out of Hungary, fight the Holy Roman Emperor to a draw, and would have kicked the Ottoman Turks out of Europe except he saw Christian Europe do nothing to help him – so he let them stay.
Matthias’ Black Army was the secret to his success. They were well-paid mercenaries whose sole job was training for, fighting and winning battles for the Hungarian king. They were making some four to five times more money than the average peasant paid in taxes and were equipped with gunpowder weapons long before they were adopted by other armies.
When Matthias rose to power, Hungary was using the same means of raising troops as every other principality in Europe, which was drafting peasants from noble lands. At best, the King could force every nobleman and his personal guard to field their full army, but could only do it for 15 days at a time and could not leave Hungary.
Eventually, Matthias told the wealthy kingdom of Venice that he would wage a holy war against the Ottomans if they would cover the costs. They agreed and the mercenaries he purchased formed the core of the Black Army.
Matthias reformed the Hungarian tax code and currency policies to increase his income and make it easier to levy more taxes to fund his professional army. When the lords revolted against the higher taxes, the Black Army just kicked the crap out of them, and they were uniquely positioned to do that.
Unlike many other armies, the Black Army promoted its troops based on merit and their military experience translated to increased real-world training. They would effectively use this experience and training to succeed where so many other amies had failed, capturing Vienna from the Holy Roman Empire, the only time the city would fall until the Second World War almost 500 years later.
The audacity of a well-paid, well-equipped, and well-trained standing army with good leadership. Who would have thought?
The Black Army made no distinction about nationality. At its height, its ranks were filled with 28,000 troops, coming from across Europe to fight for cold, hard florins. Czechs, Germans, Serbs, and Poles joined Hungarians in defending and securing Matthias’ reign and Hungary’s borders. Taxes were high, but peace and stability reigned with Matthias.
The only other army in Europe not made up of peasants carrying sticks was the French Army of Louis XI, and even it was no match for the Black Army and its storied leadership. Unfortunately, the leadership was the life and death of the Black Army. When Matthias died in 1490, his successor allowed for tax reforms that forced the army to disband.
Hungary’s defenses, its army, and borders eventually fell into disrepair. The Kingdom of Hungary’s golden age was over. In 1526, the Ottomans completely destroyed the Hungarian Army.
The US military is unquestionably the world’s strongest force with the world’s largest defense budget.
But throughout the 2000s, the Pentagon spent $51.2 billion on 15 major programs “without any fielded systems to show for it,” according to a new Center for Strategic and International Studies report.
The abandoned projects are largely the result of a lack of funding attributed to the Budget Control Act and sequestration.
Sequestration, indiscriminate budget cuts across the board that affect every portion of the military equally, is currently the greatest threat to the US military, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Business Insider.
Below are a series of the military’s modernization projects that were canceled partially because of a lack of funds:
Future Combat Systems
Sunk Costs: $18.1 billion
Follow-On: The project was ultimately superseded by the Ground Combat Vehicle program, which was also ultimately canceled.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
A weapons load team from the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron prepares to load a weapons system while being inspected by a standardization load crew from the 35th Maintenance Group during a quarterly weapons loading competition at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Dec. 30, 2015. The objective of the weapons load crew competition was to gauge how quickly and efficiently teams of Airmen are able to arm an F-16 Fighting Falcon.
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Peters, 41st Rescue Squadron special missions aviator, loads ammunition into an HH-60G Pave Hawk, Jan. 7, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The Pave Hawk helicopter features two crew-served .50 caliber machineguns, one located on each side. Peters was loading the weapons as part of a training mission.
An army jumpmaster, assigned to Special Operations Command South, issues commands during an airborne operation over Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Jan. 12, 2016.
Soldiers assigned to 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, prepare to hook a tracked amphibious vehicle to a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, from 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, during sling load training at Fort Wainwright Alaska, Jan. 12, 2016.
A soldier, assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, guides a Stryker armored vehicle during railhead operations at Konotop, Poland, Jan. 11, 2016.
Soldiers assigned to the New York Army National Guard, conduct tactical training at a NYPD training facility and range at Rodmans Neck in the Bronx, N.Y., Jan. 9, 2016.
UH-60 crew chief, assigned to the Colorado National Guard, conducts preflight checks on a MEDEVAC helicopter in preparation for a blizzard response exercise at Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, Colo., Jan. 9, 2016.
OKINAWA, Japan (Jan. 12, 2016) Ensign Frank S. Sysko assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 holds his breath while he exits a mud-filled trench during a jungle warfare training evolution hosted by Marines with the Jungle Warfare Training Center (JWTC). The JWTC endurance course tests the Seabees will, stamina and the ability to work together as a team. NMCB 3 is deployed to several countries in the Pacific area of Operations conducting construction operations and humanitarian assistance projects.
SOUDA BAY, Greece (Jan. 13, 2016) A diver assigned to Mid Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center Norfolk, performs repairs on USS Carney (DDG 64) Jan. 13, 2016. Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U. S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 10, 2016) Aviation ordnancemen inspect ordnance on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations, and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
SOUDA BAY, Greece (Jan. 9, 2016) Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) prepare to shift colors during sea and anchor detail before pulling into Souda Bay, Greece Jan. 9, 2016. Ross is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
Marines’ tents stand below Mt. Fuji during Exercise Fuji Samurai Jan. 7 aboard Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Gotemba, Japan. Exercise Fuji Samurai is held at CATC Fuji during the month of January and includes countless fire and maneuver drills and other combat-based training evolutions that take place over a period of approximately two weeks.
Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 don Mission Oriented Protective Posture suits and gas masks during Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear decontamination and reconnaissance training aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, Jan. 13, 2016.
Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team members patrolled the waters of the Potomac River in support of last night’s State of the Union address.
The first group of women enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard began their 10-weeks of basic training at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May on January 15, 1974. Thirty-two women were in the initial group and formed Recruit Company Sierra- 89.
Russia’s Tsar Bomba is the single most physically powerful man-made explosion in human history. And it will probably remain that way forever.
On October 30, 1961, at 11:32 Moscow time, the 50 megaton behemoth detonated over the Mityushikha Bay nuclear testing range above the Arctic Circle. By comparison, the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by the U.S. was the Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb over Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954, which yielded the same energy as 15 megatons of TNT. The blast produced by the Tsar Bomba is the equivalent to about 1,350 – 1,570 times the combined energy of the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, according to John D. Bankston in his book “Invisible Enemies of Atomic Veterans and How They Were Betrayed.”
Or as the Discovery Channel video below puts it, “It contained the equivalent of 58 million tons of TNT or all the explosives used in World War II, multiplied by ten.”
The explosion was so powerful that the modified Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bomber—Russia’s version of the B-52—was almost knocked out of the sky. The mushroom cloud it produced was about 40 miles high, over seven times the height of Mount Everest.
The bomb destroyed all the buildings in a village 34 miles away from ground zero and broke windows in Norway and Finland. The explosion’s heat caused third-degree burns on people 62 miles away. One test participant saw the flash through his dark goggles and felt the bomb’s pulse 170 miles away. The bomb’s shock wave was observed 430 miles from the ground zero, and its seismic activity was measurable even on its third passage around the Earth.
This Discovery Channel video shows rare footage of the Tsar Bomba’s detonation:
On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.
Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.
Entering Shok Valley
The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.
The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.
Combat breaks out
After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.
Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.
The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.
“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”
The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.
Three-story explosion and sniper warfare
As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.
“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”
The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.
Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.
Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.
Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.
Planning to leave
American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.
Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.
Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.
Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.
Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire
Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.
Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.
Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.
One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.
After the battle
Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.
In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.
Sure, we all know about the F-16 Falcon, the F-15 Eagle, the Su-27 Flanker, the MiG-29 Fulcrum… all those modern planes.
But in the 1970s and the early 1980s, the mainstays of the tactical air forces on both sides of the Iron Curtain were the Phantom in the west and the Flogger in the east.
The F-4 Phantom was arguably a “Joint Strike Fighter” before JSFs were cool. The United States Air Force, United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm, West German Air Force, and numerous other countries bought the F-4.
According to Globalsecurity.org, the F-4 could carry four AIM-7 Sparrows, four AIM-9 Sidewinders, and the F-4E had an internal cannon. The plane could carry over 12,000 pounds of ordnance.
Like the F-4, the MiG-23 was widely exported — and not just to Warsaw Pact militaries. It was also sold to Soviet allies across the world — from Cuba to North Korea. It could carry two AA-7 radar-guided missiles, four AA-8 infra-red guided missiles, and had a twin 23mm cannon.
Globalsecurity.org notes that the Flogger can carry up to 4,400 pounds of ordnance (other sources credit the Flogger with up to 6,600 pounds of ordnance).
Both planes have seen a lot of combat over their careers. That said, the MiG-23’s record has been a bit more spotty.
According to the Air Combat Information Group, at least 33 MiG-23s of the Syrian Air Force were shot down by the Israeli Air Force since the end of 1973. Of that total, 25 took place in the five-day air battle known as the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot. The total number of confirmed kills for the MiG-23s in service with the Syrian Air Force against the Israelis in that time period is five.
ACIG tallied six air-to-air kills by Israeli F-4s in that same timeframe (Joe Baugher noted 116 total air-to-air kills by the Israelis in the Phantom), with four confirmed air-to-air losses to the Syrians. That said, it should be noted that by the late 1970s, the F-4 had been shifted to ground-attack missions, as Israel had acquired F-15s and F-16s.
There is one other measure to judge the relative merits of the F-4 versus the MiG-23. The F-4 beats the MiG-23 in versatility. The MiG-23 primarily specialized in air-to-air combat. They had to create another version — the MiG-23BN and later the MiG-27 — to handle ground-attack missions.
In sharp contrast to the specialization of various Flogger designs, the F-4 handled air-to-air and ground-attack missions – often on the same sortie. To give one example, acepilots.com notes that before Randy “Duke” Cunningham engaged in the aerial action that resulted in three kills on May 10, 1972 – and for which he was awarded the Navy Cross – he dropped six Rockeye cluster bombs on warehouses near the Hai Dong rail yards.
In short, if the Cold War had turned hot during the 1970s, the F-4 Phantom would have probably proven itself to be the better airplane than the MiG-23 Flogger. If anything shows, it is the fact that hundreds of Phantoms still flew in front-line service in the early 21st Century.
Built in 1985, the Kuznetsov, a 55,000-ton behemoth, is a veteran of a full four deployments and the Russian Navy’s flagship. It’s powered by diesel fuel generators. Serving on the ship is akin to punishment for Russian sailors, who coined the phrase, “If you misbehave, you’ll be sent to the Kuznetsov.”
The carrier’s boilers are also defective to the point where the central heating system is inoperative and crewmen must bring their own heaters. This does not keep the pipes from freezing in extreme temperatures. Instead of fixing the system, the Russian Navy simply closed half the ship’s latrines and stopped running water to 60 percent of its cabins. Half the ventilators are also in need of repair, so the ship reeks of mold and mildew.
To further the discomfort, the cafeteria on board the carrier seats 150 people, for a crew of almost 2,000. Remember that the command closed half the latrines? There are 25 operational ones for 2,000 crewmen. The Russian sailors say they’re in formation ten times a day, for 35 minutes each time. That’s almost six hours of formation every day.
The Kuznetsov in its natural habitat: drydock
Comparatively, the U.S.’ oldest carrier is the Nimitz, build in 1975. The Nimitz is a nuclear-powered carrier, the flagship of its strike group. It is home to more than 6,500 sailors and has an unlimited endurance time and distance. Nimitz-class carriers have a life expectancy of 50 years and will not be replaced until at least 2025. (And they don’t deploy with deepwater tugs.)
Those in America worried about the military capability and force projection of Russia, China, and others can rest at ease. China’s first homegrown carrier uses the same terrible power source as the Kuznetsov as well as similar air assets, like a bow ramp which launches fighters into the air while limiting the weight and armament the planes can carry.
Benavidez was a close friend of Leroy Wright and felt that he owed his life to him from an earlier incident in which Wright saved him. His attempt to repay the deed by rescuing Wright led to the insane heroics that almost cost him his life, even Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in talks with the Trump administration to keep American troops in Iraq after the fight against the Islamic State group in the country is concluded, according to a U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government.
Both officials underlined that the discussions are ongoing and that nothing is finalized. But the talks point to a consensus by both governments that, in contrast to the U.S. withdrawal in 2011, a longer-term presence of American troops in Iraq is needed to ensure that an insurgency does not bubble up again once the militants are driven out.
“There is a general understanding on both sides that it would be in the long-term interests of each to have that continued presence. So as for agreement, yes, we both understand it would be mutually beneficial. That we agree on,” the U.S. official said.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
The talks involve U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Iraqi officials over “what the long-term U.S. presence would look like,” the American official said, adding that discussions were in early stages and “nothing has been finalized.”
U.S. forces in Iraq would be stationed inside existing Iraqi bases in at least five locations in the Mosul area and along Iraq’s border with Syria, the Iraqi government official said. They would continue to be designated as advisers to dodge the need for parliamentary approval for their presence, he said.
He said al-Abadi is looking to install a “modest” Iraqi military presence in Mosul after the fight against the Islamic State group is concluded along with a small number of U.S. forces. The forces would help control security in the city and oversee the transition to a political administration of Mosul, he said.
The U.S. official emphasized that there were no discussions of creating independent American bases in Iraq, as such a move would require thousands more personnel. He said the troops levels would be “several thousand … similar to what we have now, maybe a little more.”
Currently, the Pentagon has close to 7,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules. The forces include troops training Iraqi forces, coordinating airstrikes and ground operations, and special forces operating on the front lines.
The news comes as Iraqi forces are struggling to push IS fighters out of a cluster of neighborhoods in western Mosul that mark the last patch of significant urban terrain the group holds in Iraq, nearly three years after the militants overran nearly a third of the country.
Such an agreement would underscore how the fight against IS has drawn the U.S. into a deepening role in Iraq.
At the height of the surge of U.S. forces in 2007 to combat sectarian violence that nearly tore Iraq apart, there were about 170,000 American troops in the country. The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.
The U.S. intervention against the Islamic State group, launched in 2014, was originally cast as an operation that would largely be fought from the skies with a minimal footprint on Iraqi soil. Nevertheless, that footprint has since grown given Iraqi forces’ need for support.
During a visit to Iraq in February, Mattis and Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, described an enduring partnership between the U.S. and Iraq.
“I imagine we’ll be in this fight for a while and we’ll stand by each other,” Mattis said.
Townsend, who was standing by Mattis, declined to say how long the United States will stay in Iraq.
But, he said, “I don’t anticipate that we’ll be asked to leave by the government of Iraq immediately after Mosul.” He added, “I think that the government of Iraq realizes their very complex fight, and they’re going to need the assistance of the coalition even beyond Mosul.”
The talks over a longer-term U.S. presence has greatly concerned Iran, which in turn is increasing support to some of Iraq’s Shiite militia forces, said Jafar al-Husseini, a representative from Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shiite militia group with close ties to Iran.
“Iraq’s security forces and the Popular Mobilization Forces (mostly Shiite militia groups) have the ability to protect ( Iraq’s) internal roads and borders, so why is al-Abadi using American security partners?” al-Hussein asked.
Al-Abadi has long struggled to balance Iraq’s dependence on both the U.S. and Iran. Both countries are key security and economic partners for Iraq, yet are often at odds with each other when it comes to regional politics and security in the greater Middle East.
Over the nearly three-year-long fight against IS, Iraqi forces closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition have retaken some 65 percent of the territory the extremists once held in the country, according to the U.S.-led coalition. But Iraq’s military is still in the process of rebuilding and reorganizing after it was largely gutted by widespread corruption under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Klapper reported from Washington. Associated Press Writer Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.
Time and again in my line of work, people ask me, “What did you do to prepare?” I usually respond with some sort of reference to steel genitalia, eating large amounts of bacon, and shooting nails from my eyes. That usually wows people.
After the hilarity that is EVERY encounter with me, I give them an answer that always seems to underwhelm. “I try to be as strong as I can. All the time. I just want to be the strongest guy out there. That’s my number one goal. Then it’s cardio and mobility.”
Seriously, that’s it.
If you want, I can get into long physiological discussions about how stronger people are less taxed by the same effort expressed on an event by a weaker person. There are so many examples out there, I won’t even bother to ham-handedly try to quote them or paraphrase a saying they came up with.
Do you wanna geek out and banter about the Krebs Cycle? Wanna quote grip strength tests designed by dudes that don’t lift trying to extrapolate the best anaerobic exercise for slow twitch muscle fiber performance? Well, tough crap, I am not that good. The point is this — I can stomp on the ground and scream until I am blue in the face, but it doesn’t matter. I can only tell you what I have seen, and what I think works.
The fact of the matter is this: the stronger man nearly always wins. This isn’t story time, and Goliath wins in real life kids. The freakishly strong 30-year-old whips the young buck more frequently than he doesn’t. The underdog is a great story — but there is a reason why he is the underdog. It’s cause no one thinks he can win, and he most likely won’t. Think Vision Quest: could Louden Swain really beat Shute? Uh, hell no. That dude carried logs up and down steps like, all day, like a damn boss. Plus, Shute looked like he was about 195 pounds as a high school wrestler, and Matthew Modine’s character dropped to 168 pounds to fight him… sorry, I digress.
After covering what I do to prepare, the conversation progresses. Next comes, “What is the typical military member/SOF Operator?” Well, I can’t tell you that. I’ve seen huge, jacked, 225-pound football players quit, cry, and fail. I have seen un-athletic, uncoordinated 155-pound 18-year-olds dig deep and carry those 225-pound guys. There is a single commonality amongst all those that make it, compared to those that don’t, strictly physically speaking. That commonality is strength.
Across the board, the men and women that pass tough selections and outperform their peers in the military are simply stronger than their peers. I did not say “bigger,” I said stronger. Stronger in all tasks, globally stronger. Can you throw on one-third of your bodyweight in armor and gear and carry your friend 400m at a dead sprint? No? Well then, Turbo, I don’t care what your marathon time is.
“Well, fine then. Describe your ideal team mate” is usually what follows next. Which is weird, that people want me to talk about my dream teammate, which is a guy.
Anyway, give me a 180-200-pound guy that can squat, deadlift, press, clean, and snatch close to the “accepted” standards for athletic performance. Add in cardio to his regimen — sprints, preferably. Every once in a while, with safety in mind, force him to work longer than 40 minutes. It should be taxing. Every single gym session works him toward a common goal — mobility, flexibility, strength, power, explosiveness, and injury prevention. If any workout doesn’t directly benefit (without excluding) those tenets, then don’t do it. Strength is priority numeral uno. Cardiovascular/cardiorespiratory conditioning is second, tied with mobility and injury prevention. Everything else — aesthetics, fad training ideas, things you read in muscle and fitness about your abs- throw them away. Let’s not get cute until we are in the top 10 percent of our weight class.
In the current fitness enthusiast world we find ourselves today, I almost always get the following retort next: “BUTBUTBUT what about functional strength? Big guys aren’t the only useful ones. Who cares how much I can lift in the gym real life is where you need it, I have mad cardio and sick abzzzz blah blah blah.”
I will put this as plainly as I can. Being globally stronger, stronger as a whole person, will translate to “functional capability”. I could not give a rat’s ass if a teammate of mine can’t do a nifty “fitness trick” like a double under, or a handstand pushup, or a muscle up. Why would I? Can you give me a real life task where a double under directly translates? Let me head you off here — we took care of “cardio” already. Double-unders are a barely useful parlor trick.
If you cannot pick me up wearing my kit and all my gear — I weigh 260 pounds loaded down — then you are useless, and you don’t get a spot. Sorry, but this is real life. You don’t get to scale real life. I don’t care if you can take half of your bodyweight and move it from ground to overhead 30 times reeeeaaaaallly fast. How fast can you lift 140 percent of your bodyweight to your shoulder and run 100 meters to cover? Oh, you can’t? Then stop with all the “functional fitness” crap to support your point as it applies to the SOF environment. Or produce the science and vetted studies to back up your point. Pro tip — those studies don’t exist.
I want to break this down to brass tacks. In my experience, both in the military and the SOF community, stronger people really are harder to kill. I can tell you from first hand experience, and from second and third hand experience. If you focus 80 percent of your energy to making yourself as strong as you can be, you will be more useful, around for longer, and more likely to be a success in this small focus group.
I liken it to fighting — good fighters want to be stronger later in the fight. Ask an experienced fighter how it is to fight someone that is truly stronger than they are. It is unnerving. Better fighters do this with strength training.
In the end, I always use this analogy: “You can always dig deep and find bigger lungs. In the fight, in the heat of the moment, a true warrior can find a couple more steps, another sprint. That’s going to be there. But strength? You can’t just find a 100-pound PR when you need it. If you can’t lift 280 pounds off the ground and you need to move 350 — well, get as amped up as you would like. Your double unders aren’t going to help you now.”
And if you train to be able to run away, to simply exist as opposed to being strong enough to finish the fight, well, then run away is all you got. And that’s not the business we are in.
The author of this article is an active duty special operator. We are protecting his identity by only using his first name. This article first appeared in The Havok Journal on 26MAR14.
From the start of the Hermit Kingdom’s missile quest, the country likely imported the fuel from China, its largest producer. It is currently made by a number of countries, including Russia. But UDMH was the cause of the worst ICBM disaster in Russian history, the Nedelin Catastrophe.
In 1960, the second stage engine of a Soviet R-16 ignited at Baukonur Cosmodrome, killing 150 people.
A Soviet Field Marshal ordered that repairs be made to the fuel tanks of the rocket without draining the propellant. Right before the launch, an errant communications signal set off the second stage of the rocket, igniting the propellant in a gigantic fireball.
The fire from the fuel reached a temperature of 3,000 degrees. Field Marshal Mitrofan Nedelin, who ordered the rocket repairs in the first place, was among those incinerated.
UDMH is also responsible for the one of the worst ICBM disasters in American history. The liquid fuel in the missile silo of a Titan II rocket exploded near Damascus, Arkansas, after its tank was punctured by a falling tool. That was in 1980.
That tank was filled with Aerozine 50, a mix of hydrazine and UDMH.
Luckily, only one airman was killed at Damascus. The United States has since stopped producing the chemical and uses stable solid fuels, something that will take the North Koreans another decade to do on their own.
The New York Times reports that there are no known efforts to disrupt North Korea’s ability to obtain UDMH. State Department officials and North Korea experts believe that the North could produce the fuel domestically if its supplies from abroad were cut off.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) – PCU stands for Pre-Commissioning Unit – completed its sea trials earlier this month. This was supposed to have happened a while ago – in fact, the Navy retired USS Enterprise (CVN 65) in 2012 based on the assumption the Ford would be ready in 2015.
The Gerald R. Ford, like the Littoral Combat Ship and the Zumwalt, had its design hiccups. But it also has a number of new technologies – major advances over the Nimitz-class that has been a bulwark for America since 1975.
So, what makes this $10.44 billion carrier so special? Why spend $26 billion to make a whole new design? Well, here is some of what we got for it:
1. More Flight Deck Space
The Gerald R. Ford’s flight deck has been re-designed to help generate at least 25 percent more sorties per day than the Nimitz-class carriers can. Among the ways this was done was to reduce the number of aircraft elevators from four to three. The carrier’s island has been moved back by 140 feet, and it is 20 feet shorter. They also moved it three feet more from the center.
The Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System is perhaps the biggest change on these vessels. The traditional method to launch planes for decades has been the steam catapult. While it has done the job, there is a huge price paid by the aircraft. Really, the entire carrier launch and recovery cycle has been a case of officially-sanctioned Tomcat, Hornet, Phantom, Hawkeye, Viking, and Greyhound abuse.
Or, in a shorter version, carrier planes get the sh*t beat out of them.
EMALS is different. According to a 2007 DefenseTech.org article, it allows much more precision in terms of how much force is used to launch a plane. This lessens the stress on the airframe, allowing a combat plane to last longer. That precision also allows it to launch lighter and heavier planes than the current steam catapults.
There are other benefits, too, including fewer steam pipes around the ship, and reduced maintenance requirements.
3. Advanced Arresting Gear
The carrier landings – really controlled crashes – are another item that new technology will change. Like EMALS, this system is intended to reduce the stress on airframes. This system has been plagued by trouble, drawing fire from the DOD’s Inspector General. The San Diego Reader reported that the IG claims the system is still “unproven.”
4. New Reactors
The carrier is also debuting the new A1B reactors from Bechtel. The big change here is that the plant delivers 300 percent of the electrical output that the reactors on board the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and her sisters can. GlobalSecurity.org notes two other benefits: The A1B requires less manning, and it has about half of the pipes, valves, condensers, and pumps. This cuts the maintenance requirements a lot.
All in all, if everything works, the Gerald R. Ford will be able to do more than a Nimitz can do, while having less crew on board.