The Air Force's 2016 New Years resolutions - We Are The Mighty
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The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions

It’s been a long 2015, and no group is feeling it more than the U.S. Air Force, especially Air Force leadership who took quite a beating this year from a variety of sources. But, as one first shirt used to say all the time: “The good news is they can improve.”


The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
And here’s how the Air Force higher-ups usually respond to critics.

Here’s how:

Resolution 1: Stop pushing away your loved ones

In 2013, the Air Force started drastically reducing its numbers. Today, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says the USAF is the smallest its ever been. This is a tough thing to hear considering the number of Air Force general officers, including Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III, who believe the Air Force is becoming too small to succeed. He’s not wrong. The Air Force is undermanned in many critical fields and faces an estimated $10 billion budget shortfall. But they still had enough money to make really awesome commercials like this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHkjM-3lUDk

The Air Force is already working to counter that problem. The $122 billion USAF leadership requested for 2016 included slots for 4,000 new airmen. But the Air Force is threatening to cut aircraft programs to make the budget work. The service even proposed cutting 14 F-35s, which — to anyone following the F-35 controversy —is almost unbelievable.

Resolution 2: Live within your means

There’s no doubt, when you read about everything the F-35 is supposed to be capable of when it’s fully operational, the idea of having one watching your back is very reassuring. The problem is the F-35 keeps coming up with new problems. When they fix the randomly igniting engine, they find out the helmet is too big for the cockpit. The plane is supposed to be able to take out intercepting aircraft without even being in visual range and provide air superiority for the whole battle space, but it can’t do that with a weapons system that won’t fire or bombs that won’t fit. Will the F-35 even be operational when we need it?

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions

Maybe. But if it’s too expensive to fly now and we still need a fleet of new fighters, why not go with the tried and true airframes which made the U.S. Air Force the most formidable in the world? Someone in the Air Force had this very same idea. Since the Air Force will likely be unable to afford F-35s at the rate the leadership wants, they are considering supplementing their fleets by purchasing and upgrading F-15, F-16, and maybe F-18 fighters.

Resolution 3: Stop procrastinating

Those planes aren’t getting any younger. The Air Force decided it needs to upgrade critical programs like the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS). It also needs to replace aging airframes with new ones to meet ongoing operational needs, as is the case with KC-46 tanker. Then Air Force leadership decided to mess around with its fighter programs first. When it came time to develop the Long Range Strike-Bomber, the Air Force jumped at that first. Now the backlog is so great it seems overwhelming. What have we been doing this whole time?

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
Oh, riiiiight. That. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Mozer O. Da Cunha)

Well, no more. The Air Force decided to do all these things at once, as well as develop new unmanned vehicles, a new combat rescue helicopter, a replacement for Air Force One, and a new trainer aircraft. Of course simultaneously developing and updating nine aircraft programs presents significant challenges in terms of budget. But the Air Force is getting creative with its procurement solutions, like siphoning money from the Navy.

Resolution 4: Make amends with your siblings

The Budget Control Act of 2011 cut $487 billion from defense spending through 2021. It also led the way to sequestration, which implemented another slashing of defense money, this time $495 million. That’s almost $1 trillion. That means there’s a lot of competition for what’s left. After reading about the Air Force’s nine airframe initiatives, you might be surprised to know they also feel the need to upgrade or replace land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
Someone should let them know it’s not 1965.

At the same time, the Navy needs to replace its Ohio-class boomer fleet (aka ballistic missile submarines). They argue their submarine fleets are as important to the “nuclear triad” as anything the Air Force maintains. The trouble is, all three parts of the triad are way too expensive. When the Air Force awarded Northrop-Grumman the contract to develop the Long Range Strike-Bomber, it also started a full court press to get Congress to create a special fund to develop the LRS-B, which is how the Navy wanted to pay for the Ohio-class submarine upgrades. The interservice funding rivalry could touch off another “Revolt of the Admirals.” Congress can pay for both, but that solution would require a sacrificial lamb from the Air Force.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
And the might of the F-35, unsmote by the sword, hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord.

Resolution 5: Don’t fix what’s not broken

In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress ordered the Air Force to produce a reliable, independent study on how they will replace the A-10’s CAS mission while providing the necessary funds to keep the Warthog flying.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
An A-10 Thunderbolt II sits on the ramp at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn)

And then, Congress provided those funds. They allocated enough money to keep the A-10s in the air until the the Air Force completes the independent study. If they have the funds, they have a mission, and they have reliable aircraft to fulfill the mission, the Air Force should probably just leave well enough alone.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The top 10 survival skills you should know (If you want to live!)

Say you’re taking an adventurous hike off the beaten path. Your trail map isn’t making a lot of sense. The sun is starting to dip below the mountaintops and there’s a chill in the air. You brought enough supplies for a day hike, and that’s it. What do you do? Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. If night is only a few hours off and you’re too mixed up or far away to make it back to the car, get ready to spend the night in the wild. If chipmunks can do it, so can you! These are the top 10 survival skills you should have to stay safe on your accidental adventure.


1. Finding and purifying water

Feeling a bit peckish? Too bad. Snacks are not your first order of business. Even people who are slim can go for weeks without food, but only a few days without water. Prioritize what will kill you first! To find water, start simple. Listen for the sounds of fresh, flowing water. If you don’t hear anything, follow the animals. They’re better at this than you are! Look for animal tracks, or note what direction birds are flying in the early morning.

Since water flows downhill, head towards low spots and you’ll likely find water. From there, purifying it is a must. Boiling water works well, but not many people carry a pot on day hike. Instead, plan ahead and bring purification tablets or a Life Straw. Alternatively, you can use one of these methods to collect water that’s already safe to drink.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sarah Sangster)

2. Building a fire and keeping it lit

Keeping matches or flint in your backpack makes this step infinitely easier. There are multiple ways of starting a fire without either, so let’s start with the simplest. Remember that psychotic neighbor kid who liked to burn ants? That works on twigs and leaves, too. If you have a magnifying glass, a pair of glasses, or even ice, you can start a fire just by focusing the light of the sun on some dry kindling. Most of these methods are a little trickier, but they’re worth a try if you’re in a pinch.

3. Staying warm without a fire

If it’s pouring rain, building a fire will be nearly impossible. To stay warm without, try to stay as dry as you can. Water will draw heat away from your body, cooling you down faster. Layer clothing to create insulating pockets of air, but don’t let yourself get too hot either! Sweating will cool you down, so try to shed layers if you start feeling warm. It’s also a good idea to place something between your body and the ground for extra insulation.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
USMC photo by Sgt. Aaron Rooks. (DVIDS)

4. Selecting an ideal location to make camp

Head uphill and look for spots with natural shelter, like large boulders. Thick trees can also provide some protection against the wind. Avoid low areas near water since they may be prone to flash flooding, and steer clear of areas with tall grass that might be home to venomous snakes that could make your impromptu night in the woods a whole lot scarier.

5. Building an appropriate shelter

Your options for shelter depend on what supplies you have. A survival knife or hatchet and a tarp will make things so much easier. If you don’t, you can try building a simple lean-to with branches and debris that will provide at least some barrier against the elements. There are lots more options, too!

6. Navigation, with a compass and without.

Navigating with a compass should be pretty self-explanatory. If you can’t use a compass, you probably shouldn’t be wandering through the woods to begin with. If you didn’t bring one, navigation depends on what part of the world you’re in. The sun does always rise in the east, so that can give you some sense of where you are.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Air Force photo//Master Sgt. Jessica Kendziorek. (DVIDS)

7. Finding and prepping food

Fish, birds, and even non-venomous snakes make for decent meals if you can catch them. If not, try foraging. Look for edible plants and insects, but if you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it! Avoid unfamiliar plants and anything with more than six legs. Not that you wanted to eat a spider anyway. Whatever you find, cooking it will make it safer to eat and easier to digest.

8. Avoiding injury

First aid skills are important, but it’s better not to need them. Your biggest tool here is awareness. Be aware of your surroundings, and be aware of your own conditioning. Don’t push past your personal limits unless it’s 100% necessary for survival. If you push yourself to exhaustion, you’ll start slipping. In your weakened state, you’ll be less agile and more prone to injury. Your decision making skills will also suffer. Self-care in the wild is a luxury, not a necessity! Here are some more tips in case you need them.

9. Applying first aid correctly when needed

If you don’t know basic first aid, take a class before heading into the wilderness. Your backpack should have a first aid kit in it even for short excursions. These are some great tips to keep in mind if you manage to slice open your leg or burn yourself miles from a hospital. The short version: Stop bleeding with pressure and keep wounds clean and covered to prevent infection.

10. How to make rope

When you’re trying to build a shelter, rope is an exceedingly useful tool to have. Learn to make your own, or save yourself the trouble and pick up one of these paracord survival belts.

Articles

Ms. Vet Finalist Recounts Night With Justin Timberlake

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
Justin Timberlake with Corporal Kelsey DeSantis at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball on Nov. 12, 2011.


Kelsey DeSantis’ accomplished much during her enlistment, including being the honor grad of her boot camp class and qualifying as one of the few female trainers at the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. But in pop music circles she is perhaps best known for having Justin Timberlake as her date for the Birthday Ball in 2011.

“I didn’t do it because I used to wear N-Synch t-shirts or was a fan at all,” DeSantis told WATM while she prepped to compete for the title of Ms. Veteran America in mid-October of this year. “I did it because I was studying for the sergeants board and I had to know current events.”

“I had two female civilian roommates at the time and they were helping me study,” she explained. “One of them said, ‘Oh, look, Mila Kunis got invited to the Marine Corp Birthday Ball.'”

At the time Kunis and Timberlake were doing interviews to promote the movie “Friends and Benefits” that co-starred them. One interviewer brought up the fact that Kunis had been invited to the USMC Birthday Ball by a Marine in Afghanistan who’d posted a video on YouTube. Kunis claimed she’d never seen the video, which caused Timberlake to emphatically encourage her to attend, saying “you have to serve your country.”

Timberlake’s enthusiasm and the way he framed Kunis’ obligation to attend as a form of national service didn’t impress DeSantis. “He said it about three of four times – ‘do it for your country; serve your country – which made my blood boil,” she said. “I was like . . . really?”

So the young corporal decided to make a YouTube video of her own inviting Timberlake to be her date for the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. “I wasn’t even sure where the ball was being held,” she said. “I thought it was going to be in Washington when it actually was going on in Richmond.”

DeSantis had never produced a video for YouTube, but she had a basic concept in mind: she’d address the camera with the appropriate mix of directness and sass with a line of her fellow Marines standing behind her. The next day she asked one of her senior enlisted guys if he’d be in the video, knowing that if he participated she’d also get others to join. The tactic worked, and without wasting any time the group assembled and shot the video. “We did it in one take,” DeSantis said.

“You want to call out my girl Mila?” De Santis says to Timberlake in the video. “Well, I’m going to call you out and ask you to come to the Marine Corps ball with me on November 12. If you can’t go, all I have to say is, cry me a river.”

As soon as the video hit YouTube “it blew up,” DeSantis said. Her CO called her in and ordered her to take it down. She demurred, saying that her roommates had posted the video on a special Facebook page they created to entreat Timberlake to respond and she had no control over that.

The concern of higher-ups intensified when Timberlake wound up accepting. But instead of fighting it, the Marine Corps public affairs machine decided to use the pop star’s attendance as a vehicle to promote the service in a positive light.

The night proved to be very successful from all points of view, including those of DeSantis and Timberlake. They shared one dance and a hug at the end of the evening.

“He was a complete gentlemen,” DeSantis said. “You could tell he genuinely enjoyed himself.”

For his part, the next day Timberlake posted his sentiments on his blog, describing the Marine Corps Birthday Ball as “one of the most moving evenings I’ve ever had.”

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
Kelsey DeSantis at the Ms. Vet America event in Leesburg, Virginia in Oct. 2014. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

DeSantis’ enlistment ended the following year, and she left the Corps to compete as a professional mixed martial arts fighter and to pursue her passion for veteran advocacy. The MMA part of the plan was interrupted earlier this year when she found out she was pregnant.

She feared her pregnancy would jeopardize her ability to be a contestant in the Ms. Vet America event to which she’d committed after being selected as a finalist, but when she informed Jas Boothe, the event founder, Boothe replied, “Are you kidding me? This is what we’re all about.”

DeSantis was eight months along during the Ms. Veteran America event, and her proud presence on the runway among her fellow contestants was evidence that this wasn’t just another beauty pageant.

See Kelsey Desantis in The Mighty TV mini doc about the Ms. Veteran America Event here.

Articles

One of America’s oldest vets just turned 111

One of the nation’s oldest veterans has been celebrated by his Texas hometown on his 111th birthday.


Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared Thursday Richard Overton Day in the city and also gave the street he has lived on for the past 45 years the honorary name of Richard Overton Avenue.

While Overton concedes that 111 is “pretty old,” he tells KVUE-TV he still feels good. Overton mentioned that the secret to a long life is smoking cigars and drinking whiskey, two things he continues to indulge in today.

Overton was already in his 30s when he volunteered and served in the Army. He was at Pearl Harbor just after the Japanese attack.

In 2013, he was honored by President Barack Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

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First female Marines apply to MARSOC

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
Maricela Veliz | U.S. Marine Corps


Just weeks after previously closed military ground combat and special operations jobs were declared open to women, the Marine Corps’ special operations command has had its first female applicants.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of MARSOC, told Military.com the command has already received several requests from female Marines to enter the assessment and selection pipeline to become a critical skills operator. While Osterman could not specify how many women had applied, he said the first female applicant surfaced only days after the Jan. 4 deadline Defense Secretary Ash Carter set for new jobs to open.

“The very first week of January … we had one female applicant on the West Coast,” Osterman said. “Unfortunately, there was something in the prerequisite stuff she didn’t have, a [general technical] score or something. It was, ‘get re-tested and come on back,’ that kind of thing.”

Osterman said MARSOC is actively soliciting and recruiting qualified female Marines to join the command’s ranks. The command does not have, as Osterman put it, a “street to fleet” recruiting program; rather, it recruits from within the ranks of the Marine Corps.

To qualify for MARSOC critical skills operator assessment and selection, a Marine must be a seasoned corporal or a sergeant, or a first lieutenant or captain. The Marine must also have a minimum GT score of 105 and a minimum physical fitness test score of 225 out of 300, and be able to pass a command swim assessment and meet medical screening criteria.

“We’ve actively identified all the females in the Marine Corps writ large who meet all the prerequisites just like with our normal screening teams,” Osterman said. “We’ve notified or contacted every one of them and let them know, ‘it’s open, you’re eligible.'”

MARSOC submitted its broad implementation plan to the Secretary of Defense at the beginning of January after receiving input from the Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command, Osterman said. In terms of training and job skills, he said, the command does have an advantage over the Marine Corps in that there were already clear gender-neutral physical standards in place for critical skills operators, while the Corps has only recently created such standards for infantry jobs.

MARSOC’s training pipeline is notoriously grueling. After a three-week initial assessment and selection period that tests physical fitness and a range of other aptitudes, Marines enter a second, 19-day assessment and selection training phase. Applicants who make it through both AS phases can then begin a nine-month individual training course that covers survival, evasion, resistance and escape [SERE], special reconnaissance, close urban combat, irregular warfare and many other skill sets.

Osterman said Wednesday that 40 percent of Marines who enter the MARSOC pipeline go on to become critical skills operators.

“When [Marines] go into assessment and screening, it’s a very holistic psychological profile. It’s swim, it’s physical fitness, but we don’t even count the PFT as part of the evaluation. It’s much more comprehensive than that,” Osterman said. “It’s a pretty sophisticated standardization system which is nice in that, again, we already had this and it’s gender-neutral already.”

MARSOC is also making plans to prepare its leadership for the advent of female trainees and operators, Osterman said.

A December study by the Rand Corporation found that 85 percent of 7,600 surveyed operators within all of SOCOM opposed the idea of serving alongside female counterparts. Many cited fears that female operators would harm combat effectiveness and provide a distraction down range.

Acknowledging the study, Osterman said he planned to hold a town hall meeting for MARSOC leadership to discuss the implementation of Carter’s gender integration mandate and to discuss thoughts and concerns.

“The tone and tenor from my perspective is, the concern was mostly about standards,” Osterman said of the Rand report. “Our standards are as they’ve always been and we’re not changing them.”

On a personal note, Osterman said he could see benefits to having female operators downrange.

“There are things that women can do, as I’ve seen many times in Afghanistan and Iraq, where there’s a lot of value added in the combined arms kind of approach,” he said.

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That time James Howard took on 30 German fighters

Long before that fateful day in January 1944, James Howard was a man of action. After graduating college in 1937 with the intention of becoming a doctor he instead joined the Navy and became a pilot.


The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
Colonel James H. Howard, Jan. 1945. (U.S. Army Air Forces)

After just two years in the fleet Howard left the Navy and joined many other American aviators in Asia to become a part of the famed Flying Tigers. While fighting in Asia Howard flew 56 combat missions becoming a squadron commander and being credited with the destruction of six Japanese planes.

Howard then left the Flying Tigers in July 1942 when the unit was disbanded and returned to the United States. Wanting to get back in the war he joined the United States Army Air Corps and was commissioned as a Captain.

By 1943, he had been promoted to Major and put in command of the 356th Fighter Squadron based in England. His unit flew its first mission on Dec. 1, 1943, escorting bombers over Europe. Armed with the new P-51B Mustangs, this was an entirely different mission than Howard had ever flown, but his previous experiences would soon prove useful.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
P-51B Mustang. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

During the winter of 1943-44, the Eighth Air Force was working hard to establish air superiority over Europe before the upcoming invasion in the summer. This meant that heavy bombers had to strike aircraft manufacturing deep inside German territory.

For most of 1943, this had been accomplished without fighter escort over the target. Heavy losses had scaled back the number of bombing raids to Germany. But the arrival of Howard’s 356th Fighter Squadron and other Mustang outfits meant the missions could resume.

On Jan. 11, 1944, Howard was flight lead for his entire fighter group, the 354th, leading his own squadron as well as two others to protect bombers striking aircraft factories at Oschersleben and Halberstadt.

The plan called for Howard’s P-51’s to pick up the Eighth Air Forces bombers — 525 B-17’s and 138 B-24’s — after their initial escort of P-47’s and P-38’s had to turn back. They would then cover the bombers over the target and again hand off the escort to a new group of short range fighters as the P-51’s returned to base.

Also read: The 7 most intense air battles in aviation history

When the 354th Fighter Group rendezvoused with the bombers they had already completed their bombing run. However, they were being swarmed by some 500 German fighters according to an Eighth Air Force estimate.

Approaching from the rear of the formation, Howard directed fighters to different parts of the formation as his element made its way towards the lead bombers.

Almost immediately, Howard’s fighters found themselves attacked, and as they engaged the Germans, Howard soon found himself all alone heading towards the lead bomber group.

That group, the 401st, was on its 14th combat mission and had seen plenty of action. None of them, however, had ever seen anything like the display Howard was about to put on.

As Howard approached the group, he saw that they were heavily engaged by some 30 German fighters. Although only a lone fighter, Howard was undeterred; as he put it, “I seen my duty and I done it.”

Howard quickly jumped a German twin-engine fighter and sent it earthward. He then spotted an FW 190 coming up underneath him and dispatched it too. “I nearly ran into his canopy,” Howard said, “as he threw it off to bail out.”

After two quick kills, Howard started to circle back to find the rest of his formation. As he did so, he spotted an Me 109 moving in on the bombers. The German spotted him too and took evasive action.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
A captured Fw 190A. (Photo: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

A turning dogfight ensued. The German tried to dive away but Howard’s P-51 was up for the challenge. A short burst from his .50 caliber machine guns sent the Messerschmitt down in flames.

As Howard returned to altitude with the bombers he engaged more fighters. According to his own reports he probably destroyed two further fighters. According to the bomber crews that number was more like four or five.

Howard was “all over the wing, across it and around it,” the lead bomber pilot reported “for sheer guts and determination, it was the greatest exhibition I’ve ever seen. They can’t give that boy a big enough award.”

Indeed Howard was determined. For over half an hour he fought alone against the swarm of German fighters. When his ammunition was exhausted he simply dove at the Germans in the hopes of driving them off — often times it worked.

Finally, low on fuel, Howard waved his wings to the bombers and departed with a few straggling P-51’s that were still in the area.

The thankful bomber crews had dubbed Howard a “One-man Air Force” while war correspondent Andy Rooney called his feat “the greatest fighter pilot story of World War II.”

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
Howard receives the Medal of Honor. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Forces)

For his efforts that day, Howard received the Medal of Honor, the only fighter pilot in the European theatre to be so awarded. He was officially credited with four enemy aircraft shot down that day. He would later add two more, becoming an ace.

In 1945 he was promoted to Colonel and would eventually retire as a Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve in 1966.

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The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

A Pentagon spokesman said July 11 that he hopes reports of the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are true and advised the terror group to develop a “strong succession plan.”


In response to a query from Stars and Stripes reporter Chad Garland about the alleged death of Baghdadi, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the military effort against ISIS, said the US cannot confirm reports of his demise, but added that the Pentagon “hope[s] it is true.”

“We strongly advise ISIS to implement a strong line of succession, it will be needed,” the spokesman continued.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi.

A monitoring group called the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Newsweek on July 11 that it had confirmed Baghdadi is dead based on information received from the second in line for ISIS leadership.

“(We have) confirmed information from leaders, including one of the first rank, in the Islamic State in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zor,” Rami Abdel Rahman, SOHR director, said. “We learned of it today but we do not know when he died or how.”

Baghdadi allegedly died near the Iraqi border.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
US-led Coalition successfully executes a large scale, multinational strike on a weapons facility. (DoD photo from Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo.)

Reports of Baghdadi’s death follow about a month after the Russian Defense Ministry stated it possibly killed Baghdadi in an airstrike near Raqqa, ISIS’ capital city in Syria. At the time, the Syrian Observation for Human Rights claimed the Russians were simply fabricating information, and the Pentagon said it was unable to independently confirm those reports — just as it is still unable to confirm the new report from the SOHR.

Since 2014, Baghdadi has been reported dead numerous times. The State Department has placed a $25 million dollar bounty for any information leading to his capture.

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The SAS knew how to take out the Luftwaffe in spectacular fashion

Britain’s Special Air Service is full of elite special operators who know how to get the job done. In World War II, one of their tasks was breaking the back of the Luftwaffe in North Africa, and they did so in spectacular fashion.


The top-tier warriors of the SAS bolted a bunch of weapons, sometimes as many as 10 Vickers machine guns with a .50-cal. kicker, to Willy Jeeps and then conducted lightning raids through German airfields, hitting grounded planes with incendiary rounds.

See how the fights worked in the video below:

Video: YouTube/LightningWar1941
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Here’s a look at the “Davy Crockett bomb,” the world’s smallest nuke

Known as the “Davy Crockett bomb,” America’s smallest-ever nuclear weapon packed a relatively small punch when compared to its larger cousins — between a 10 and 250-kiloton yield.


But what it lacked in straight firepower, it made up for in ease of transport and delivery. It could be employed by a three-man team, and its launcher could be mounted directly on a Jeep.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
(Photo: Department of Defense)

Since it wasn’t actually a bomb, it was more properly labeled by its full name: the Davy Crockett Atomic Battle Group Delivery System. The weapon was a recoilless rifle that came in two calibers, 120mm and 155mm.

It could fire conventional warheads but its big draw was the ability to fire a W-54 warhead with a variable yield between 10 and 250 kilotons. This would have allowed American infantrymen in Eastern Europe to directly counter Soviet armored units if the Cold War went hot.

The immediate blast from the W54 would have killed tanks in the center while radiation poisoning would have killed most tank crews within a quarter mile of the epicenter.

Check out more about the weapon in the video below:

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7 life lessons we learned from the grunts in ‘Platoon’

With so many war movies out there to choose from, not many come from the direct perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was Vietnam.


Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into the highly political time in American history where the war efforts of our service men and women were predominantly overlooked as they returned home.

The son of a successful stockbroker, Stone dropped out of Yale in the 60s and joined the Army, becoming one of the first American troops to arrive in Vietnam.

Related: 7 life lessons we learned from watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’

Here’s what he taught us:

1. Respect is only earned, never issued.

Chris Taylor, played by Charlie Sheen, just landed in the “Nam” with a fresh shave and a stainless uniform. Before saying a word to anyone, he was automatically picked apart by war-harden soldiers passing by.

In war and in life, it doesn’t matter how you start the game — it’s how you finish it.

“Welcome to the suck, boot.” (Image via Giphy)

2. You have to keep up

Being in the infantry is one of the toughest and most dangerous jobs ever. You don’t have to be the strongest or the fastest, but you need to pull your own weight…literally.

Move it! Move it!  Move it! (Image via Giphy)

3. Staying positive

In the eyes of a “newbie,” the world can seem and feel like one big sh*t show — especially if you’re burning a barrel of sh*t with diesel fuel.

Finding new ways to approach a bad situation can boost morale — especially when you have a lot of time left in the bush.

Negativity can get you hurt, positivity can get you through it. (Image via Giphy)

4. We’re all the same

Regardless of what your race, religion, or education level — when it comes down to being a soldier in a dangerous combat zone, none of those aspects means a thing.

Preach! (image via Giphy)

5. Never quit

Sgt. Elias, by played Willem Dafoe, was intentionally left behind by Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) with the hope the V.C. would kill him off.

Although Elias struggled to stay in the fight, after taking several AK-47’s rounds, he showed the world he’s truly a warrior.

His back must have been killing him. (Image via Giphy)

6. War changes a man

The bright-eyed bushy-tailed boy that showed up in the beginning isn’t the thousand yard staring man who stands in front of you now.

Kill! (image via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from Gunny Highway in ‘Heartbreak Ridge’

7. Brotherhood

When you break into the circle of brotherhood, there’s no better feeling.

Safe travels. (Image via Giphy)To all of our Vietnam war veterans, everyone at We Are The Mighty salutes you.

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Here are the best US military photos of 2016

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 2016:


Air Force:

A U.S. Army crew chief assigned to 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, scans his sector as the sun sets near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., June 21, 2016. Aircraft with the 16th CAB were supporting day and night air assault training.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Army photo by Capt. Brian H. Harris

U.S. Army paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division, prepare to jump from a C-130 Hercules assigned to the 934th Airlift Wing during the Central Accord exercise in Libreville, Gabon on June 22, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball

A member of the 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron refuels a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft during forward area refueling point training at Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Feb. 11, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman

watm-best-photos-2016

A U.S. Air Force aircrew assigned to the 1st Helicopter Squadron prepares for take-off in a UH-1N Iroquois at Joint Base Andrews, Md., April 6, 2016. The flight was part of the Turkish Air Force Chief of Staff’s visit to the U.S.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan J. Sonnier

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, flies in support of Forceful Tiger Jan. 28, 2016, near Okinawa, Japan.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Maeson L. Elleman

U.S. Air Force members assigned to the 56th Rescue Squadron conduct post-flight inspections on an HH-60G Pave Hawk during exercise Voijek Valour at Hullavington Airfield, England, March 4, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez

A French Dassault Rafale receives fuel from a KC-10 near Iraq, Oct. 26, 2016. The Dassault Rafale is a twin-engine, multi-role fighter equipped with diverse weapons to ensure its success as a omnirole aircraft.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward

An F-16 Fighting Falcon flies over Aviano Air Base, Italy on Oct. 20, 2016. The 555th and 510th Fighter Squadrons deter aggression, defend U.S. and NATO interests, and develop Aviano through superior combat air power, support and training.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Krystal Ardrey

U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Machello, a paratrooper assigned to 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, places his weapon into operation during a joint forcible entry exercise at Malemute Drop Zone on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Aug. 23, 2016, as part of Exercise Spartan Agoge.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Javier Alvarez

An Afghan air force A-29 Super Tucano aircraft flies over Afghanistan during a training mission April 6, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura

ARMY:

U.S. Army Pfc. Dylan Scott, a combat medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team out of Pendleton, Oregon, watches the night sky on top of an M113 Medical Evacuation Vehicle during Exercise Saber Guardian 16 at the Romanian Land Forces Combat Training Center in Cincu, Romania.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Timothy Jackson, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Oregon Army National Guard

U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to the 54th Engineer Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct an airborne operation from a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft at Frida Drop Zone in Pordenone, Italy, June 29, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo

A U.S. Army jump master assigned to Special Operations Command South commands his chalk to “check equipment!” Jan. 12, 2016, during an Airborne Operation over Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite

U.S. Army Spc. Lucas Johnson, left, an infantryman with Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed at Vilseck, Germany, suppresses a simulated enemy with an M240B machine gun during Exercise Spring Storm in Voru, Estonia, May 14, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin

U.S. Army Spc. Benjamin Kelley, infantryman, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade clears a BGM-71 Anti-Tank Tow Missile launch tube during a weapons range day at Mielno range (north), Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland, Oct. 22, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William A. Tanner

U.S. Soldiers assigned to Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division fire a M777 A2 Howitzer in support of Iraqi security forces at Platoon Assembly Area 14, Iraq, Dec. 7, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht

Ukrainian Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 80th Airmobile Brigade fire a ZU-23-2 towed antiaircraft weapon before conducting an air assault mission in conjunction with a situational training exercise led by Soldiers from 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Nov. 28, 2016 at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr

A South Carolina Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift cargo helicopter assigned to Detachment 1, Company B, 2-238th General Support Aviation Battalion and crew based in Greenville, South Carolina support the South Carolina Forestry Commission to contain a remote fire near the top of Pinnacle Mountain in Pickens County, South Carolina, Nov. 17, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Roberto Di Giovine

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, manuever their Stryker Combat Vehicle in the Yukon Training Area near Fort Wainwright, Alaska, during the Arctic Anvil 2016 exercise July 23, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher

FORT IRWIN, CALIF. – A vehicle from Killer Troop, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, defends their position while firing a simulated Tube-launched, Optically Tracked, Wire Guided missile at a 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank in the distance at the National Training Center, Aug. 3, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Army Photo by Pvt. Austin Anyzeski, 11th ACR

NAVY:

A U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician assigned to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 participates in a Very Shallow Water (VSW) scenario during Exercise Tricrab on Naval Base Guam, May 17, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alfred A. Coffield

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2016) – Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Trevor Thompson, member of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team “The Leap Frogs,” presents the American flag during a training demonstration at Homestead Air Reserve Base. The Leap Frogs are in Florida preparing for the 2016 show season.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Navy photo by Jim Woods

PEARL HARBOR (Jan. 12, 2016) – Hospital Corpsman 1st Class James Aldridge, assigned to Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2, installs a bracket to support a new cathodic protection system on a pile.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Navy photo by Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Ben McCallum

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Dec. 21, 2016) Distinguished visitors from Spain observe operations on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike).

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class (AW) Jimmy Louangsyyotha, from Seattle, uses a feeler gauge to measure disc-break clearance on the landing gear of an F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Diamondbacks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102, in the hangar bay of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), during Exercise Invincible Spirit in the waters surrounding the Korean Peninsula, Oct. 13, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class (SW/AW) Nathan Burke

A U.S. Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) assigned to Assault Craft Unit 5 leaves shore during a loading exercise at Landing Zone Westfield aboard Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, July 12th, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

The crew of USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) pays respects to Monsoor in San Diego, Sept. 29, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Abe McNatt

Seaman Brice Scraper, top, from Dallas, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Alex Miller, from Monroe, Mich., verify the serial number of a Captive Air Training Missile (CATM) 9M, attached to an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the “Royal Maces” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27 on the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) in the Philippine Sea, Oct. 5, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke

U.S. Navy divers assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 swim with Sri Lankan navy divers during a joint diving exercise in the Apra Harbor off the coast of Guam, April 13, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alfred A. Coffield

NORFOLK (Dec. 24, 2016) A Sailor greets his daughter after returning home aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) as part of the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group (WSP ARG) homecoming from a six-month deployment in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in Europe and Middle East.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Schneider

MARINE CORPS:

U.S. Marines work together with the Norwegian Army to conduct offensive and defensive operations at the battalion and brigade-level during Exercise Reindeer II in Blåtind, Norway, Nov. 22, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Timothy J. Lutz

Marines, assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), depart the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) in combat rubber raiding crafts (CRRC) to participate in a boat raid during Valiant Shield 2016 in the Philippine Sea, Sept 19, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Williamson

Cpl. Ryan Dills communicates with other assault amphibious vehicles while traveling from amphibious assault ship USS San Diego to Royal Australian Navy Canberra class amphibious ship HMAS Canberra (L02) in the Pacific Ocean, July, 18 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Giannetti

U.S. Navy Corpsmen assigned to Field Medical Training Battalion East (FMTB-E), simulate a mass casualty scenario during a final exercise (FINEX) at Camp Johnson, N.C., March 2, 2016. FINEX is a culminating event at FMTB-E which transitions Sailors into the Fleet Marine Force.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton

U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment prepare a newly developed system, the Multi Utility Tactical Transport (MUTT), for testing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 8, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julien Rodarte

Marines assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (3/2) and Royal Cambodian Navy sailors rush to provide casualty care as part of a triage exercise in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Nov. 3, 2016, during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Cambodia 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin A. Lewis

A Sailor on the USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) directs a landing craft air cushioned vehicle aboard the USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) during a ship to shore for the Amphibious Ready Group Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise Dec. 3, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Adaecus G. Brooks

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Tanner Casares, a production specialist with the Combat Camera section, Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools, navigates through a water obstacle while conducting an obstacle course on Camp Johnson, N.C., December 12, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andrew Kuppers

OKINAWA, Japan (Jan. 12, 2016) Construction Electrician Constructionman Jacob H. Raines, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3, fights through knee-high mud and water while running a six-hour endurance course at the Marine Corps Jungle Warfare Training Center (JWTC).

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Gomez

Lance Cpl. Nick J. Padia, a gunner, writes the words “War Pig” on a window of his humvee after reaching one of their objective points at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, Australia, July 1, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III

A Marine drinks from his canteen before participating in a mechanized raid drill on Landing Zone Swallow at Camp Davis Airfield, North Carolina, August 16, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melanye E. Martinez

Lance Cpl. Ryley Sweet drives an assault amphibious vehicle onto amphibious assault ship USS San Diego, off the coast of Hawaii. The Marines are participating in the Rim of the Pacific 2016, a multinational military exercise, from June 29 to Aug. 8 in and around the Hawaiian Islands.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Giannetti

Infantry squad leaders assigned to School of Infantry West, Detachment Hawaii, provide security during the Advanced Infantry Course aboard Kahuku Training Area, September 21, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft return after a long-range raid from Combined Arms Training Center, Camp Fuji, Japan to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa as part of Blue Chromite 2017, Nov. 4, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Major Michael Cato

Marines and sailors with Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, participated in a Teufel Hunden, or Devil Dog, challenge August 12, 2016, on Camp Lejeune North Carolina.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melanye Martinez

COAST GUARD:

HAMPTON BAYS, NY – Airmen with 101st Rescue Squadron and 103rd Rescue Squadron conduct hoist training with United States Coastguardsmen from US Coast Guard Station Shinnecock December 22, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
US Air National Guard / Staff Sergeant Christopher S. Muncy

Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Tate, an aviation maintenance technician at Coast Guard Air Station Astoria, hooks up a net full of beach debris and trash to the bottom of an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter at a beach near Neah Bay, Wash.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg

A U.S. Coast Guardsman assigned to Air Station Houston looks out from an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter while conducting an overflight assessment and search for anyone in distress after recent flooding in Southeast Texas, April 19, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jennifer Nease

Passengers aboard the 561-foot Caribbean Fantasy ferry vessel use the marine escape system to awaiting lift rafts as they abandon the vessel a mile from San Juan Harbor, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Los Angeles conducts vessel manuever training near Santa Barbara on Monday, October 24, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Public Affairs Specialist Third Class Andrea L. Anderson

Coast Guard crew members from Air Station Clearwater, Florida, prepare an HC-130 Hercules airplane Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, for an overflight.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse

Justin Daulman, a parking assistant, took this photo of CG-2301 painted in retro colors in celebration of 100 years in Coast Guard aviation. Photo taken at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on July 30, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Coast Guard photo

A boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Port Canaveral, Florida, enforces a safety and security zone during a rocket launch off the coast of Cape Canaveral, June 24, 2016. The Coast Guard helps provide safety and security services for launches out of the Kennedy Space Center.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony L. Soto

Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Honolulu transport members of the Honolulu Police Department Specialized Services Division aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium offshore of Honolulu, Sept. 26, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle

Coast Guardsmen, from units across the Pacific Northwest, carry a large American flag down Fourth Avenue during Seattle’s 67th Seafair Torchlight Parade, July 30, 2016.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ali Flockerzi.

Articles

The Air Force wants to fly the B-2 Bomber into the 2050s

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester.


Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to arm the B-2 with new weapons and upgrade the aircraft to fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said.

In coming years, the B-2 will be armed with with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and an Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson

The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation.

In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.

The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.

Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others.

The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range.

The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, Maj. Kent Mickelson, director of operations for 394th combat training squadron, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“This is a GBU-28 (bunker-buster weapon) on steroids. It will go in and take out deeply buried targets,” he said.

“It is a dream to fly. It is so smooth,” Mickelson added.

In a special interview designed to offer a rare look into the technologies and elements of the B-2, Mickelson explained that the platform has held up and remained very effective – given that it was designed and built during the 80s.

Alongside his current role, Mickelson is also a B-2 pilot with experience flying missions and planning stealth bomber attacks, such as the bombing missions over Libya in 2011.

“It is a testament to the engineering team that here we are in 2016 and the B-2 is still able to do its job just as well today as it did in the 80s. While we look forward to modernization, nobody should come away with the thought that the B-2 isn’t ready to deal with the threats that are out there today,” he said.  “It is really an awesome bombing platform and it is just a marvel of technology.”

The B-2 is engineered with avionics, radar and communications technologies designed to identify and destroy enemy targets from high altitudes above hostile territory.

“It is a digital airplane. We are presented with what is commonly referred to as glass cockpit,” Mickelson said.

The glass cockpit includes various digital displays, including one showing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) information which paints a rendering or picture of the ground below.

“SAR provides the pilots with a realistic display of the ground that they are able to use for targeting,” Mickelson said.

The B-2 has a two-man crew with only two ejection seats. Also, the crew is trained to deal with the rigors of a 40-hour mission.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
The cockpit of the B-2 Spirit | US Air Force photo

“The B-2 represents a huge leap in technology from our legacy platforms such as the B-52 and the B-1 bomber. This involved taking the best of what is available and giving it to the aircrew,” Mickelson said.

The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.

The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.

“Taking off from Whiteman and landing at Diego Garcia was one of the longest combat sorties the B-2 has ever taken. The bomber was very successful in Afghanistan and very successful in the early parts of the wars in Iraq and Libya,” Michelson added.

The B-2 crew uses what’s called a “long-duration kit,” which includes items such as a cot for sleeping and other essentials deemed necessary for a long flight, Mickelson explained.

B-2 Mission

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — A B-2 Spirit drops 32 inert Joint Direct Attack Munitions Aug. 27 at the Utah Testing and Training Range here.

As a stealth bomber engineered during the height of the Cold War, the B-2 was designed to elude Soviet air defenses and strike enemy targets – without an enemy ever knowing the aircraft was even there. This stealthy technological ability is referred to by industry experts as being able to evade air defenses using both high-frequency “engagement” radar, which can target planes, and lower frequency “surveillance” radar which can let enemies know an aircraft is in the vicinity.

The B-2 is described as a platform which can operate undetected over enemy territory and, in effect, “knock down the door” by destroying enemy radar and air defenses so that other aircraft can fly through a radar “corridor” and attack.

However, enemy air defenses are increasingly becoming technologically advanced and more sophisticated; some emerging systems are even able to detect some stealth aircraft using systems which are better networked, using faster computer processors and able to better detect aircraft at longer distances on a greater number of frequencies.

The Air Force plans to operate the B-2 alongside its new, now-in-development bomber called the Long Range Strike – Bomber, or LRS-B. well into the 2050s.

B-2 Modernization Upgrades – Taking the Stealth Bomber Into the 2050s

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kenny Holston

As a result, the B-2 fleet is undergoing a series of modernization upgrades in order to ensure the aircraft can remain at its ultimate effective capability for the next several decades, Mickelson said.

One of the key upgrades is called the Defensive Management System, a technology which helps inform the B-2 crew about the location of enemy air defenses. Therefore, if there are emerging air defenses equipped with the technology sufficient to detect the B-2, the aircraft will have occasion to maneuver in such a way as to stay outside of their range.

The Defensive Management System is slated to be operational by the mid-2020s, Mickelson added.

“The whole key is to give us better situational awareness so we are able to make sound decisions in the cockpit about where we need to put the aircraft,” he added.

The B-2 is also moving to an extremely high frequency satellite in order to better facilitate communications with command and control. For instance, the communications upgrade could make it possible for the aircraft crew to receive bombing instructions from the President in the unlikely event of a nuclear detonation.

“This program will help with nuclear and conventional communications. It will provide a very big increase in the bandwidth available for the B-2, which means an increased speed of data flow. We are excited about this upgrade,” Mickelson explained.

The stealth aircraft uses a commonly deployed data link called LINK-16 and both UHF and VHF data links, as well. Michelson explained that the B-2 is capable of communicating with ground control stations, command and control headquarters and is also able to receive information from other manned and unmanned assets such as drones.

Information from nearby drones, however, would at the moment most likely need to first transmit through a ground control station. That being said, emerging technology may soon allow platforms like the B-2 to receive real-time video feeds from nearby drones in the air.

The B-2 is also being engineered with a new flight management control processor designed to expand and modernize the on-board computers and enable the addition of new software.

This involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.

The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, he added. The overall flight management control processor effort, slated to field by 2015 and 2016, is expected to cost $542 million.

Articles

This is why China is doing some ‘gunboat diplomacy’ of its own

A flotilla led by China’s first aircraft carrier has set out from the port city of Qingdao for what the military called “a routine training mission,” the country’s Defense Ministry said after a report emerged that the vessel would also make an unprecedented port call to Hong Kong early next month.


On June 25, the ministry said that the flotilla, led by the Liaoning carrier, includes the destroyers Jinan and Yinchuan, the frigate Yantai, and a squadron of J-15 fighter jets and helicopters.

It said the training mission, “like previous ones, is expected to strengthen coordination among the vessels and improve the skills of crews and pilots.”

On June 23rd, the South China Morning Post, citing unidentified sources, said the Liaoning — a refitted former Soviet-era vessel that China acquired from Ukraine in 1998 — will visit Hong Kong early next month for the 20th anniversary of its handover to Chinese rule from Britain.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
China’s carrier Liaoning. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“The People’s Liberation Army is to make its most visible appearance in Hong Kong in 20 years, marking the handover anniversary with an unprecedented port call by its first aircraft carrier,” the report said.

It said the port call will follow President Xi Jinping’s first trip to the former British colony since he became leader in 2013. Xi is scheduled to visit Hong Kong between June 29th and July 1st, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Hong Kong’s Sing Tao Daly reported that upon its arrival, the Liaoning may be open to the city’s residents for the first time.

While US warships, including aircraft carriers, have been known to make port calls in Hong Kong, such symbolic displays of military might by the Chinese Navy are a rarity.

Experts said the visit was likely part of moves by Beijing to help bolster patriotism in the Chinese enclave, especially among younger Hong Kongers who experienced the pro-democracy “Umbrella Revolution” in 2014 and ensuing battle between activists and members of the pro- China establishment.

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions

Zhang Baohui, director of the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, said Xi’s decision to visit “shows that he will not be deterred by the prospects of protests.”

“He is a very seasoned political leader and is not so easily intimidated,” Zhang said.

As for the Liaoning’s expected visit, Zhang said he believed this would mainly be used to boost patriotism in Hong Kong.

“Beijing is aware that some Hong Kongers do not want to embrace their Chinese identity,” Zhang said. “Many surveys have shown that this is particularly a problem among the younger people … such as the 20-30 age group.

Zhang said that Beijing has employed a number of measures in recent years “to try to shape the identities of Hong Kong people.”

“In that context,” he added, the visit by the “Liaoning could offer many ordinary Hong Kong people a chance to witness China’s achievements, thereby enhancing their (sense of) Chinese identity.”

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions
Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Liaoning carried out its first training drills in the Western Pacific last December, when it cruised into the waterway between Okinawa and Miyakojima Island.

The new carrier and exercises are seen as part of the Chinese Navy’s effort to expand its operational reach as it punches further into the Pacific Ocean.

China’s growing military presence in the region, especially in the disputed South and East China seas, has fueled concern in the United States and Japan.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, where it has built up and militarized a string of man-made islands. In the East China Sea, Beijing is involved in a territorial dispute over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which are known in China as the Diaoyus.

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