While the original anti-tank technology was meant to have a one-off use, the modern RPG is a reloadable weapon, with a shaped-charge explosive used by militias and official military forces alike.
“The Russians were extremely impressed by the panzerfaust,” said Will Fowler, an explosives expert, in the video below. “It was the basis for their RPG-2 program which went on to the now-famous RPG-7.”
When an RPG is fired, it leaves the barrel at 383 feet per second. An additional rocket fires and deploys stabilizing fins as the shell spins toward a target.
The RPG’s cone shape forms a jet of explosive energy outward when the shell strikes its target. That’s where the weapons gets its armor-penetrating power.
The RPG is a simple, cheap, and efficient system that can completely destroy a soft-skinned vehicle and can cause grievous harm to some up-armored ones.
Troops who encounter an RPG round in combat are lucky to survive to tell the tale.
“When I was in Iraq, the RPG was a deadly weapon,” Staff Sgt. Matthew Bertles, a U.S. Army M240 gunner, told the show Weaponology. “An RPG struck my 240, blew me back, destroyed our vehicle, and injured me.”
The Roman Empire had one of the best militaries of ancient times. It steamrolled over the Carthaginians, Greeks, Egyptians, Gauls, more than held their own against many other forces for centuries.
So, how did the world’s most powerful government organize its deadly legions? Well, it started with a group of eight men known as a contubernium – which was a little smaller than a typical infantry squad (usually nine personnel). Ten contuberniums, plus the command staff, formed a century of 85 men.
Six centuries – about 540 men – made up a cohort. This unit was roughly the size of a present-day infantry battalion. Ten cohorts, plus attachments including a force of cavalry, made a legion of about 6,000 men, roughly the size of a brigade.
The legions were the largest force in the Roman military. Only citizens could serve in the legions but the Roman military also had cohorts of auxiliaries which allowed non-citzens to serve in the Roman army.
These auxiliaries were usually slingers, archers, and additional cavalry. Many Roman citizens, who had to provide their own equipment, served as infantry.
After 25 years of service in the Roman army, legionnaires and auxiliaries could look forward to a generous retirement. Those who weren’t citizens gained Roman citizenship and all that meant, plus a plot of land and a generous retirement bonus.
“It was like a smear,” he said. “It was like a smear on a microscope slide, and eventually occupied a fourth of my field of vision. After fifteen minutes, it went away.”
Stewart had had another episode of temporary blindness just ten days earlier. He went into a Gulf War Illness chat group, looking for someone who might have experienced the same thing before, worried he might be facing a stroke.
The VA medical center did blood tests and an FMRI, all of which came back inconclusive.
“The doctor told me there was no such thing as Gulf War Illness,” Glenn said. He instead offered Glenn a psychological evaluation.
“Making a statement like that is ignorance,” Glenn said. “There is a lot of research and lots of studies done on it.
“I wanted to slap him.”
Stewart is right; there is a lot of research supporting the existence of what he and many other Gulf war vets experience on a daily basis, 25 years after their war ended. They suffer without any acknowledgement from the government agency meant to take care of them.
The illness is described as a multi-symptom, chronic condition experienced by 250,000 of the 700,000 U.S. troops deployed to the Persian Gulf region during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. They experience symptoms ranging from chronic fatigue to various cancers. Fibromyalgia and bowel disorders are two big indicators of the disorder. Stewart suffers from both, but the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t recognize the illness by that name.
The VA calls their condition “chronic multisymptom illness” or “undiagnosed illness.” According to the VA’s Public Health page, the VA prefers “not to use the term ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ when referring to medically unexplained symptoms reported by Gulf War veterans because symptoms vary widely.”
The VA presumes that specific disabilities diagnosed in certain veterans were caused by their military service. If a veteran is diagnosed with a presumptive condition, the VA is forced assume the condition service-connected, then veteran is then entitled to medical or disability benefits associated with that diagnosis. Because the VA doesn’t use an umbrella term for Gulf War Illness, many veterans find themselves without compensation or connection for related illnesses that don’t have presumptive status.
Former VA epidemiologist Steven Coughlin resigned from the VA in 2012, citing serious ethical issues around the dissemination of false information about veteran health and withholding research about the link between nerve gas and Gulf War Illness.
“There is no consistent evidence of a higher overall incidence of cancer in veterans who were deployed to the Gulf War than in non-deployed veterans,” Robert Jesse, then the VA’s acting undersecretary for health, wrote in a letter Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman, who requested information on adding the increased incidence of brain cancer, lung cancer, and migraines in Gulf War veterans to the VA’s list of presumptive conditions.
“What they’ve done is used the overall population of deployed veterans during Desert Storm,” he said. “If you use the whole population, it does not show an increase of cancers, but if you look at Khamisiyah, there are significant increases of cancers.”
Khamisiyah is the site of a munitions industrial center in Iraq, where demolition of conventional and chemical munitions just after the end of the 1991 Gulf War exposed as many as 100,000 service members to Sarin nerve gas. For those near Khamisiyah, the rate of brain cancer was was more than twice as high as unexposed veterans.
Burning oil wells are believed to be the cause of increased lung cancer deaths, a rate 15% higher than those who did not serve in the 1991 Gulf War, is considered by the VA to be “inconclusive” because the VA did not know how many of the those afflicted were smokers.
The VA’s research not only contradicts the Institute of Medicine’s findings, it contradicts the VA’s own research on brain cancer. That study was backed by a similar one in the American Journal of Public Health. Furthermore, migraines and chronic fatigue were found in Gulf War veterans in a National Institute of Health study just one year before the 2014 ruling.
That same year, Georgetown University found the first physical traces of Gulf War Illness, evidence showing atrophy in the brainstem, which regulates heart rate. Another group showed atrophy in cortical regions adjacent to pain perception. This shows Gulf War veterans’ have abnormalities in the bundle of nerve fibers connecting the brain areas involved in the processing and perception of pain and fatigue.
“Our findings help explain and validate what these veterans have long said about their illness,” Rakib Rayhan, a Georgetown University researcher, said. The study’ lead researcher, Dr. James Baraniuk, added “Now investigators can move from subjective criteria to objective MRI and other criteria for diagnosis and to understand the brain pathology.”
While Georgetown’s findings are the latest evidence, studies as far back as 2003 found Khamisiyah veterans are at increased risk for hospitalization from circulatory diseases, specifically cardiac dysrhythmias.
In the face of what should be considered overwhelming evidence from multiple, separate studies and institutions, the VA still doesn’t recognize Gulf War Illness, so veterans with symptoms that don’t fall in the presumptive category are still denied treatment and compensation for their issues. That includes Glenn Stewart, who says his illness “robbed him of his life.” Stewart now runs a YouTube channel about his struggles with his condition and his fighting with the VA.
“You got a a whole bunch of veterans sick, in pain, and dying due to Gulf War Illness,” he said. “They feel that no one is going to help them and are losing hope. Some of these people will take their own lives. It is not that I will commit suicide or want to die, but I look forward to dying because it will end my daily pain and torture.”
Let’s face it, today’s soldiers and Marines have a lot weighing on them.
Between gear, ammo, and weapons, some are carrying over 100 pounds. But how do you reduce that burden?
Barrett Firearms, which created the mighty M82A1 and M107 .50-caliber sniper rifles, has managed to do just that by improving the M240 medium machine gun. Now, the M240 is based on the FN MAG, which is is a classic machine gun used by many NATO allies.
This gun even replaced the M-60, which was the backbone of squad firepower for the U.S. military through Vietnam and Desert Storm.
The question comes: How do you improve a machine gun used by just about all of the Western world? The Army has developed the M240L, which uses titanium to lighten the gun, but they kept the riveted design, albeit with a 5-pound weight reduction.
However, Barrett managed make its 240LW medium machine gun five and half pounds lighter than the M240B without the use of exotic materials. The secret was in how they made the receiver. Barrett machined the receiver from forgings and welded them together, according to a brochure handed out at the National Defense Industry Association’s 2017 Armament Systems Forum.
Not only did this reduce the number of components from 64 to two, it also helped take about five and half pounds off the machine gun. The change also has boosted the reliability of the gun – by removing the rivets – which can be shaken loose by firing thousands of rounds.
There’s also less metal, due to the fact that there is no need to overlap the metal components.
Will the 240LW make an impact with the United States military? That remains to be seen, but it does show how Barrett manages to be very innovative when it comes to designing – or improving – small arms.
A new short film created by the U.S. Air Force has been nominated for an Emmy Award.
Produced by Airman Magazine, the two-minute video captures the harrowing challenges airmen face during SERE training. “The Perfect Edge” compares the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape program that airmen undergo to the process of forging a survival knife, and the parallel is visually striking.
It features real footage of participants engaging in the intense wilderness survival and physical training exercises at SERE, along with narration by Senior Airman Joseph Collett, an instructor at the school.
Army Gen. Robert Abrams endorsed the decision to spare Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl prison time after Bergdahl plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior charges in 2017. Roberts, the convening authority in the court-martial and the head of U.S. Army Forces Command, approved the sentence, which had reduced Bergdahl in rank from sergeant to private and ordered a fine.
The term “Navy SEALs” is a household phrase in America today — one that brings forth images of America’s finest breaching Osama bin Laden’s compound in Zero Dark Thirty, or training in iconic green face paint. Because of the anti-terror unit’s lethal combat skills incredible military record, many people forget that the SEALs actually came from very humble beginnings. The PBS documentary “Navy Seals: The Untold Story,” details the history of this iconic military force that many civilians — and even military veterans — know little about, despite their popularity in film, literature and pop culture today.
Only about 2,000 men serve today on active-duty as Navy SEALs. All are volunteers.
Recruits go through vigorous Navy SEAL training Photo: YouTube
But long before they earn the title, they need to make it through Hell Week, “a non-stop, grueling set of obstacles that pushes the human body — and spirit — to the breaking point.”
Retired UDT/SEAL Vice Admiral Joe Maguire says of Hell Week: “We do hell week, first and foremost, so you can have confidence in yourself. You stay up for 120 hours during the week , and you get about three or four hours of sleep. The reason you get three or four hours of sleep is because we’ve done studies and we’ve found that if you don’t get that amount of sleep, you’ll die if you’re up for 120 hours.”
Their elite status among special ops is very elite: Less than 10,000 men in history have ever been Navy SEALs.
And especially in a post-9/11 world, small groups of SEALs have taken on terrorist enemies like the Taliban, Iraqi insurgents, Al Quada, and Osama bin Laden.
But how’d they start? Their forefathers were naval special warfare swimmers, better known as frogmen.
The nickname apparently comes from their British colleagues, and how they “looked in their newly fashioned green wet suits.”
SEAL is an acronym, meaning SEA, AIR, and LAND, which “is how and where they operate,” the narrator says.
He continues: “The SEALs were born in World War II, of two oceans, for two kinds of demolition work. In the Pacific, their predecessors swam in in advance of US Marines and Army troops, removing underwater obstacles to make amphibious landings possible. In the Atlantic teams were needed on the beaches of France to blow open the gateway to Europe for D-Day.”
After the NCDU’s success at D-Day, the Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) was created in the Pacific. These men would work entirely underwater, and were dubbed the “Naked Warriors.”
UDT men would swim to the beach wearing only swim trunks, a K-bar knife, a slate, and a pencil to take reconnaissance and depth soundings of the beach. They would then swim back to their watercraft and relay the information they obtained. These men made a huge impact on the success of missions such as Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
News of the heroic and daring “Frog Men” soon reached civilian ears, and Hollywood was quick to create lighthearted propaganda films such as “The Frogmen”, shown above, which in turn encouraged hundreds of young men to pursue a life of service with this elite new American squadron.
To learn more about the formation of this legendary military force, watch the full documentary below:
Although thousands upon thousands of well-meaning Americans on Facebook and Twitter are asking people to pray for the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, the grunts aren’t suffering any casualties in Afghanistan. They’re home at Camp Pendleton, preparing to deploy to sea.
The latest hoax seems to have broken out on Facebook in late February before dying down in mid-March. It has come roaring back in recent days, however, triggering a flood of social-media support for the “Darkhorse” battalion that once suffered heavy losses in Afghanistan but isn’t actually in combat now.
“We are asking everyone to say a prayer for ‘Darkhorse’ 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines and their families. They are fighting it out in Afghanistan and have lost nine Marines in four days. Please repost this,” reads the typical message being circulated on social media.
As the rumors circulated in March and April, the battalion was training for a future deployment with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Between March 24 and April 4, for example, 3/5 Marines underwent a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation at Camp Pendleton.
This week, elements of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit have been participating in a Composite Unit Training Exercise — “COMPTUEX” — off the coast of Southern California aboard the Navy’s amphibious assault ship America.
The urban legend about 3/5 Marines currently suffering major combat losses in Afghanistan has roots in truth.
Deployed to Afghanistan’s restive Helmand Province in 2010-11, 3/5 Marines and the 1st Combat Engineers suffered 25 deaths and nearly 200 wounded. Some of the most brutal fighting was concentrated near the district of Sangin, triggering widespread support on the social media from well-wishers at the time.
After the Darkhorse Marines rotated home, calls for prayers for their safety continued to flare up in late 2012, both the summer and late winter of 2013, the summers of 2014 and 2015, late December of 2015 and then again two months ago, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune analysis of Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Twitter and Facebook followers often have demanded to know why the “mainstream media” or “MSM” refused to cover the old story, failing to realize that the Union-Tribune and other news outlets reported extensively about the Darkhorse battalion’s real deployment of 2010-11 in Afghanistan.
Internet rumor-slayer Snopes.com updated a special page on the Darkhorse dilemma on May 1, pointing to articles about the earlier deployment in the Union-Tribune and its sister paper the Los Angeles Times. Snopes rated the latest eruption of 3/5 prayer requests “outdated.”
One Vietnam veteran called the diminutive Tokay Geckos the “reception committee” for incoming American soldiers in country, “the only ones in Vietnam who were telling you the truth.”
The lizard is a true gecko, native to Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The animal is nocturnal, so its distinctive call is heard only at night. It was this sound that prompted U.S. troops to informally dub it the “F*ck You Lizard.”
The Tokay Gecko can get pretty big for a gecko lizard, sometimes up to more than a foot in length. They were said to come out just when the jungles got pitch dark. Said another Vietnam veteran, who was stationed near the Cambodian border:
“Just when everyone was dozing out. You’d hear ’em in your sleep all night. You’d wake up in the morning, with fuckyou fuckyou fuckyou… echoing in your head.”
Good news for those Americans itching to be introduced to the nighttime mating call: someone introduced the Tokay Gecko to Florida and Hawaii. It’s best not to approach the animals, though. Tokay geckos are described as “the meanest lizard you will ever see,” “the reptilian pit bull” that will not hesitate to bite and clamp down.
It’s unlikely that Vietnam veterans are interested in being reunited with the sound. In the words of a Vietnam vet on Reddit, “The jungle was telling me something. F*ck me. I got it.”
In addition to having the best uniforms (yes, I said it), the Marine Corps absolutely kills it when coming up with recruiting slogans.
There is simply no denying the power behind the Corps recruiting messages, from the simple “let’s go!” to “first to fight.” We looked back on some of the most iconic slogans that have driven men and women to enlist for the last 240 years. Here they are:
1. “The Marines are looking for a few good men.”
Who doesn’t want to be among a select few “good men?” This phrase, or some variation of it, has appeared on quite a few recruiting posters throughout Marine history. But this one wasn’t created in an advertising boardroom. The roots of “a few good men” go back to 1799 with Marine Capt. William Jones plea in the Providence Gazette, according to About.com:
“The Continental ship Providence, now lying at Boston, is bound on a short cruise, immediately; a few good men are wanted to make up her complement.”
You’ll find this phrase on recruiting posters throughout Corps history, or as the title of the classic film starring Jack Nicholson. But perhaps its biggest impact came from this 1985 TV commercial:
2. “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.”
Eventually, the Marine Corps decided to shorten up its famous phrase and add “the proud” to the mix. It seems to have been quite effective, since “the few, the proud” is still used heavily in modern recruiting efforts. This recruiting slogan was so popular that the internet actually voted to place it on the “walk of fame” for advertising slogans on Madison Ave. in New York City in 2007.
“This slogan reflects the unique character of the Marine Corps and underscores the high caliber of those who join and serve their country as Marines,” Maj. Gen. Richard T. Tryon, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, said at the time.
Long before the Corps found its footing with one of the best-known military slogans around, it went with simplicity. And there’s probably nowhere better to go for gung-ho phrases than what your enemy calls you. According to Marine Corps lore (with a heavy focus on “lore”), the Germans nicknamed the Marines “teufelhunden,” or “devil dogs,” after encountering them during the Battle of Belleau Wood, France, during World War I.
“The term very likely was first used by Marines themselves and appeared in print before the Battle for Belleau Wood,” Marine Corps History Divison’s Bob Aquilina told Stars Stripes. “It gained notoriety in the decades following World War I and has since become a part of Marine Corps tradition.”
While the nickname wasn’t actually legit, there’s no arguing that it made a solid recruiting poster and had significant staying power, since Marines still refer to themselves today as “devil dogs.”
4. “First to fight.”
Both a recruiting slogan and an enduring mantra of Marines, “first to fight” comes from the Marine Corps hymn of the late 1800s. In 1929, the Corps officially adopted the hymn and immortalized the words of “first to fight for right and freedom” in the memories of future generations of Marines.
Potential recruits began seeing “first to fight in France” during World War I, and they still do. Marine Corps Recruiting Command still uses the phrase in promotional materials today: “Marines are first to fight because of their culture and because they maintain a forward-deployed presence near various global hotspots.”
5. “Tell that to the Marines!”
The Marine Corps has a flair for taking an insult and turning it into something of a badge of honor. Sailors used to call them “gyrenes” as an insult, and then they adopted it. Then they started calling them “jarheads,” and that insult was flipped into a term of endearment.
So goes the phrase “tell that to the Marines.” It was originally an insulting way for sailors to chide British Royal Marines for believing any crazy story that they heard, according to The Marine Corps Historical Center. But with James Montgomery Flagg’s 1917 recruiting poster of an enraged man throwing a newspaper to the ground, the insult was recast as a challenge: if there is evil happening in the world, tell it to the Marines, because they will take care of it. Take that, squids.
6. “We don’t promise you a rose garden.”
One of the best recruiting slogans paired with a photo of a crazed drill instructor made “rose garden” one of the most legendary recruiting posters ever made for the Marine Corps. Sometime during the sixties/early 1970s, the Corps really distinguished itself from the other services with its messaging, and it has endured ever since.
Unlike other services that told potential recruits about awesome job opportunities, GI Bill money, or adventure, the Corps promised only pain, extreme challenges, and sacrifice. The messaging attracted a certain kind of recruit: One who was only interested in earning the title of Marine.
7. “If everybody could get in the Marines, it wouldn’t be the Marines.”
This classic line also played heavily alongside the “rose garden” campaign that ran from 1971 to 1984. Again, the Corps was sending the message that it was an exclusive club that only a select few could make it into. Of course, as a smaller service, the Corps has to be more exclusive, but this slogan also has the added bonus of throwing shade at the Army.
Not everyone can get into the Army, but this slogan hinted that it’s much easier to get into the Army than the Marines.
8. “The Marine Corps builds men.”
Last but certainly not least is the recruiting slogan that spanned three decades. A series of recruiting posters bearing the phrase “The Marine Corps builds men” with images of Marines and Marine life first popped up around the time of the Korean War in the 1950s. The campaign continued all the way into the early 1980s, according to The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.
Taiwan is pursuing a two-pronged upgrade to its armed forces as people on the island worry about recent shows of force by powerful rival China during a political stalemate.
Last week, the Taiwanese navy signed a memorandum of understanding with two local companies to develop submarines over the next four years. Construction of the vehicles, ideal for warfare against a stronger adversary, could reach $85.8 million, though the final price is not set, the defense ministry spokesman said.
Taiwan’s ambition to design its own submarines stems partly from China’s pressure against other governments to avoid selling the island any arms.
Last week the Taiwan president called the submarine project “the most challenging aspect” of a broader plan to foster an independent local defense industry, per a local media report.
Taiwan now operates two Dutch-designed Hai Lung submarines, bought in the early 1980s, and two Guppy II-class submarines dating back to 1946. China has the world’s third most powerful armed forces overall, with Taiwan in 19th place, according to the GlobalFirePower.com database.
The navy has not fixed on a number of submarines to develop as part of the agreement signed Tuesday, the defense ministry spokesman said.
“Because in the past, Taiwan has the technology to build boats, we hope to make use of this domestic industry,” said senior Taiwan legislator Lee Chun-yi. “We hope we can use the construction (of submarines) to encourage domestic industries, and there’s a definite help for Taiwan’s defense sector.”
Separately, U.S. President Donald Trump may approve a sale of advanced weapons to Taiwan in the first half of the year according to media reports from Washington.
“Without speaking to any specific cases, we can say that under long-standing U.S. policy, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are … based on an assessment of Taiwan’s defense needs,” said Sonia Urbom, spokesperson for The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which unofficially represents U.S. interests in Taipei.
“Defensive arms are helpful for Taiwan’s security,” Lee said. “We hope for them and welcome them. We also all hope the United States can have a closer military dialogue and that the United States will approve this package as soon as possible and let Taiwan process it as soon as possible.”
Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said Monday the government would urge Washington to make the arms sale.
The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama stopped an arms sale to Taiwan in December. Some analysts expect Trump at least to unblock it. The United States may sell advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to Taiwan in the next package, news reports from Washington say.
“I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as urgency,” said Ross Feingold, Taipei-based analyst with an American political consultancy. “The time has come to make a decision and the Obama Administration decided to punt, and now the Trump Administration is following up in a reasonable and appropriate time frame.
“A better question would be what’s going to come next because we are simply approving things that were on the table and under discussion already,” he said.
Chinese officials fume when other countries, especially the United States, sell weapons to Taiwan. Taiwan is looking to Trump because he risked China’s anger by speaking to Tsai by phone in December and his staff has taken a tough line against Beijing’s military expansion at sea.
China temporarily cut off some exchanges with the United States in 2010 when Obama approved a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan. After Washington announced a $1.83 billion package in 2015, China formally protested to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Some see Obama’s decision to stop an arms deal in December as a goodwill gesture toward China, and say approval by Trump would risk China calling off any cooperation with the United States on containing North Korea.
People in Taiwan have been particularly on guard since the Liaoning aircraft carrier, the only ship of its type in the Chinese navy, sailed around Taiwan in December and January. Taiwan is just 160 kilometers away from China at its nearest point.
This month China flew 13 aircraft east of Taiwan, near Okinawa. Taiwan’s defense ministry is also watching as Beijing builds military infrastructure in the disputed South China Sea.
“China is doing some activities in the South China Sea recently, and even though they’re not always directed toward Taiwan, in the Pacific region it’s stronger and stronger, so people in Taiwan feel that without the ability to resist we will be diminished in terms of bargaining position,” said Ku Chung-hua, a standing board member in the Taipei-based political action group Citizens’ Congress Watch.
Taiwan frets because the Communist leadership claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island despite opinion polls showing most Taiwanese oppose China’s goal of eventual unification. The two sides talked regularly from 2008 to 2015 but stopped after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year.
Tsai takes a more guarded view of relations with China than her predecessor and Beijing is seen using military displays as well as diplomatic and economic measures to pressure Taiwan back into talks. China has not renounced the use of force, if needed, to reunify with the island.
Taiwan’s parliament would need to allocate money separately for a U.S. arms package, but the China threat is marshaling public support in favor, analysts say. The existing military budget for this year comes to $10.24 billion, or 2.05 percent of the Taiwan GDP.
“With the cross-Strait situation not only stagnant, but in some respects deteriorating, this is as good a time as any both to garner domestic support within Taiwan to purchase weapons and to hope for a sympathetic ear in Washington,” said Alan Romberg, East Asia Program director with American think tank The Stimson Center.
On Jul. 19, 2017, the Air Force posted a request on FedBizOpps, the U.S. government’s contracting opportunities site, looking for price quotes on how much it would cost to acquire 12 each fresh frozen normal human Synovial tissue and Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) samples. So why do they want Russian DNA?
The samples must be free of sexually transmitted diseases and musculoskeletal injuries. The most interesting part was the requirement that all the samples be from Russia and be Caucasian – Ukrainian blood, RNA, and tissue samples will not be accepted. This recently raised a few eyebrows in Russia.
No weapon like this has ever proved to actually exist. So what could the Air Force actually want?
1. They want to solve the Anastasia Romanov mystery.
You know what I mean. If you’re anywhere near the age of 30, chances are good you’ve heard the story of the last Tsar of Russia’s “missing” daughter, Anastasia.
It’s a well-known fact that the Tsar’s Russian Imperial family was murdered by Communists, gunned down, bayoneted, and clubbed in a basement somewhere near Yekaterinburg. Somehow, the story goes, the 17-year-old Duchess survived, escaped, and fled to America. In the intervening years, many women have come forward, claiming to be the lost Anastasia Romanov.
It might be time for the Air Force to settle the mystery once and for all. And maybe find a real claim to the throne. Who loves America.
2. Better digestion.
Have you eaten an MRE lately? Are you still waiting for it to digest? I ate a chicken tetrazzini MRE in 2006 and I’m still upset about it. But do you know who seems like they can digest anything? Russians. Especially Russian soldiers. Look at what they get served in their DFACs.
Yet, the Russian Army still runs on its galvanized steel stomach. Maybe in basic training they’ll stop putting salt peter in the gatorade and switch to hearty Russian gut bacteria.
If you’ve ever spent a day in the U.S. military, you probably know what makes the grass grow. Maybe Russian blood can help the cabbage grow, too.
4. Whatever is happening here.
Seriously, who is this woman from the meme? Is she really Russian? And what purpose will tossing tree trunks serve? Are we planning to invade Scotland and fight on their terms?
5. Seriously, a biological weapon.
It would help immensely to be able to expel ethnic Russians from Ukraine without killing Ukrainians. Or anyone else for that matter. Imagine a war where only the enemy dies.
Except the Russian Army is as genetically diverse as the American Army. Many countries in the former Soviet Union are still very friendly to Russia and fiercely pro-Russian. Non-Russians have joined its military since the days of the Soviet Union.
6. No, really. Trauma research.
Human synovial tissue is an incredibly specific request, judging by my time researching medical things and then asking my pathologist ex-girlfriend what those big words mean.
But the Air Force says, “the supplier originally provided samples from Russia, suitable for the initial group of diseases, the control group of the samples should also be of Russian origin. The goal is the integrity of the study, not the origin (of the samples).”
In this day and age, the F-111 Aardvark and its larger variant, the FB-111 Switchblade, are often forgotten. That shouldn’t be the case. Here are four reasons that these planes could still kick a lot of ass.
The F-111 was fast – with a top speed of Mach 2.5, according to GlobalSecurity.org. The FB-111 was also capable of going fast, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher. Not just at high altitudes, but also on the deck. In fact, these planes were designed to deliver a knockout punch at treetop level.
The B-2, B-1B, and B-52 get a lot of press for their huge payloads — anywhere from 51 to 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. But the F-111 and FB-111 could each carry 36 Mk 82s. That is nothing to sneeze at. During the Vietnam War, Baugher noted that four F-111s were delivering as many bombs as 20 F-4s.
Baugher notes that the FB-111 could fly over 2,500 miles with four AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missiles and internal fuel. That is a long reach – without tying up tankers like the KC-135, KC-46, or KC-10. While the AGM-69 is no longer in service, imagine what sort of distant targets could be hit by a squadron of FB-111s carrying AGM-158 JASSMs based at Aviano Air Base in Italy.
The F-111F demonstrated this range in an operational context during Operation El Dorado Canyon, when 18 planes from the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing flew from bases in England around Spain to hit targets around Tripoli. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that the mission was about 6,400 miles — the longest fighter mission in history.
The F-111 was very capable with laser-guided bombs, but the planes could also deliver unguided bombs accurately. During Desert Storm, that the F-111Es from the 20th Fighter Wing carried out attacks with conventional “dumb” bombs — and suffered no combat losses doing so.
In short, the Aardvark and the Switchblade had a lot of life left when they were sent to the boneyard in the 1990s. One could imagine that with upgrades to carry JDAMs, AGM-154 JSOWs, and even the AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER systems, that these planes would certainly be a huge assets in today’s global hotspots.