The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to the 79th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., waves at the boom operator after a mid-air refueling during Red Flag 16-3 over the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nev., July 27, 2016. Red Flag is a realistic combat exercise involving multiple military branches conducting training operations on the 15,000-square-mile test and training range.
A C-130H Hercules, from the 179th Airlift Wing at Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base, Ohio, takes off to perform an airdrop during exercise Slovak Warthog, July 27, 2016, at Sliač Air Base, Slovakia. Members of the U.S. and Slovak armed forces joined together for the exercise to demonstrate joint operations with a variety of aircraft.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 101st Airborne Brigade, fire a Javelin Anti-Tank Missile system during a large-scale platoon live-fire exercise at Fort Campbell, Ky., July 29, 2016.
Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, provide cover during a combined arms live fire exercise on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 8, 2016.
ARABIAN GULF (Aug. 8, 2016) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Dakotah Emmerth, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike), guides an E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 onto the catapult. Ike and its Carrier Strike Group are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
OAK HARBOR, Wash. (Aug. 9, 2016) Lt. Erik Dippold, a Navy pilot assigned to EA-18G Growler Airborne Electronic Attack Aircraft with Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133 is welcomed home by his wife and daughter at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. VAQ-133 conducted an eight-month, regularly scheduled, 7th Fleet deployment aboard the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) supporting stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
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.
A Marine with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, provides cover fire for his squad during the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Integrated Experiment (MIX-16) at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., August 5, 2016. The experiment was conducted to test new gear and assess its capabilities for potential future use. The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab (MCWL) identifies possible challenges of the future, develops new warfighting concepts, and tests new ideas to help develop equipment that meets the challenges of the future operating environment.
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 Coast Guard’s first production MH-60T “Jayhawk” helicopter (tail number CG 6028) completed its first search and rescue operation off the North Carolina coast OTD in 2009.
“On the contrary, both Russia and Turkey will point to the murder as reason why they should cooperate more closely in fighting terrorism,” geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, president of the political risk firm Eurasia Group, told Business Insider on Monday.
“Erdogan will surely express great regret to the Russian, and acknowledge that Turkey must do more in their domestic security environment,” Bremmer said, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “That means more crackdowns at home, but not a sudden blowup with Moscow.”
The death of the ambassador, Andrey Karlov, immediately prompted comparisons to the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 that led Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia, which ultimately sparked World War I.
But statements released by Russian and Turkish officials in the aftermath of Karlov’s death suggested Moscow and Ankara were determined not to let the incident derail their rapprochement.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said in a statement that the government would not allow the assassination to harm Russian-Turkish relations.
Erdogan echoed Yildirim’s sentiment, calling the attack “provocation” aimed at damaging Turkey’s normalization of ties with Russia. He said that Turkey and Russia will jointly investigate the assassination, reiterating that “intense cooperation with Russia” over Aleppo was “helping to save lives.”
“I call out to those who are trying to break this relationship,” Erdogan continued, “Your expectations are wasted.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, called the assassination an attempt to “undermine” Russia-Turkey ties and derail Moscow’s attempts to find, with Iran and Turkey, a solution for the Syria crisis.
The Kremlin, which declared the assassination a terrorist attack, said talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, over Syria would take place as planned in Moscow on Tuesday.
“Ankara and Moscow will likely seek to avoid a diplomatic crisis over Karlov’s assassination,” said Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Washington, DC-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Russia will, however, likely step up military actions in Syria and seek revenge against those connected with the assassin.”
The Turkish government, meanwhile, was apparently preparing to blame a domestic opposition movement, known as the Gulenists, for the attack. The movement is led by Turkish preacher Fetullah Gulen, who has lived in exile in the US since 1999.
The mayor of Ankara alleged in a tweet shortly after the attack that the gunman was a Gulenist and that his declarations about Aleppo were merely a distraction — a narrative that was repeated and expanded upon by Turkish media in the aftermath of the assassination. A senior Turkish senior official later told Reuters that Ankara’s investigation will focus on the gunman’s links to the Gulen network.
Mark Kramer, the program director of the Project on Cold War Studies at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, said he thinks Russia and Turkey are preparing to blame “certain forces — i.e., the United States— that supposedly are trying to derail the Russian-Turkish normalization.”
“This theme undoubtedly will become a staple of Russian (and maybe Turkish) propaganda in coming days to deflect attention from the egregious security lapse,” Kramer told Business Insider on Monday, “and to put pressure on the outgoing and incoming US administrations.”
Turkish-Russian relations had been precarious but improving since Turkey shot down a Russian warplane along the Turkish-Syrian border in November 2015.
Erdogan’s reluctance to sign on to certain European Union membership requirements and his increasingly authoritarian leadership over Turkey have also sparked concern among European leaders that he is not committed to a Western conception of human rights and civil liberties.
NATO has also expressed concern over Erdogan’s purging of thousands of Turkish civil servants — as well as military personnel, police officers, academics, and teachers — from their positions on suspicion that they were associated with the coup attempt.
“Ankara is going to use this as an opportunity to embrace Russia tighter,” Koplow said. “The analogy to WWI ignores the fact that there was a host of incentives, including entangling alliances and multiple competing great powers, that made war a more obvious choice for the parties involved. That is not the case here, particularly given that Turkey is hardly a proxy for the West these days despite its NATO membership.”
Dmitry Gorenburg, an expert on Russian military affairs at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, said that “a lot will depend on how the Russian government chooses to play it.”
“My initial guess is that the two countries will pledge to work together against terrorism,” Gorenburg told Business Insider on Monday. “But we will see soon enough.”
The U.S Air Force has two air superiority fighters in their stable in the F-22 Raptor and F-15 Eagle, but when looking to bolster the fleet with purchases of a new (old) jet for the job, it was the Eagle, not the famed Raptor, to get a second lease on life. That really begs the question: if America can buy new F-15s, a design that’s nearly 50 years old, why isn’t it looking to build new F-22s instead?
By most accounting, the F-22 Raptor remains the most capable air superiority fighter on the planet, with its competition in China’s J-20B beginning to shape up and Russia’s Su-57 still lagging a bit behind. The F-22 really is still at the top of its game… but that doesn’t mean building more actually makes good sense.
The F-22 and F-35 are fighters with two very different jobs
While the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is widely seen as the most technologically advanced fighter in the sky, it was designed as a sort of continuation of the F-16 Fighting Falcon’s multi-purpose architecture, with an emphasis placed on conducting air-to-ground operations. The older F-22 Raptor was intended to serve as a replacement instead for the legendary F-15 Eagle, as the nation’s top-of-the-line dogfighter.
While both the F-22 and F-35 are 5th generation jets that leverage stealth to enable mission accomplishment and both are able to conduct air-to-air and air-to-ground combat operations, they each specialize in a different aspect of air combat and were intended to serve in very different roles. Unlike the F-22, the U.S. continues to receive new F-35s, though comments made by senior defense officials over the past year have placed the Joint Strike Fighter’s future into some question. America will undoubtedly be flying F-35s for decades to come, but it’s beginning to seem less and less likely that the F-35 will replace the F-16 as the Air Force’s workhorse platform.
The F-22 was canceled because America didn’t need a stealth air superiority fighter for the War on Terror
The Air Force originally intended to purchase 750 F-22s to develop a robust fleet of stealth interceptors for the 21st Century. But as the United States found itself further entrenched in counter-terror and counter-insurgency operations against technologically inferior opponents, the need for advanced dogfighters became far less pressing. With ongoing combat operations in multiple theaters to fund, the F-22 program was shut down in December of 2011 with just 186 fighters delivered. Today, nearly a decade later, the F-22 exists in precious few numbers, despite its fearsome reputation.
Now, the United States faces concerns about its dwindling fleet of F-22 Raptors that were once intended to replace the F-15 outright. Only around 130 of those 186 delivered F-22s were ever operational, and today the number of combat-ready F-22s is likely in the double digits. With no new Raptors to replenish the fleet as older jets age out, each hour an F-22 flies anywhere in the world is now one hour closer to the world’s best dogfighter’s retirement.
The future of the Air Force, as Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown has plainly stated, doesn’t include the mighty Raptor. But America needs an air superiority fighter that can stand and swing with the best in the world, and as capable as the F-15EX Eagle II may be, it lacks the stealth it would need to survive an open war with a nation like China or Russia. With the NGAD program still years away from producing an operational fighter, America’s air superiority mission now runs the risk of not having the jets it needs for a high-end fight if one were to break out–as unlikely as that may be.
The production facilities and supply chain for the F-22 were cannibalized for the F-35
As simple as just building new F-22s may sound, the truth is, re-starting the F-22 production line would likely cost the same or potentially even more than simply developing an entirely new and potentially better fighter. Lockheed Martin cannibalized a great deal of the F-22’s production infrastructure to support the ongoing production of the F-35, meaning it wouldn’t be as simple as just re-opening the plants that had previously built Raptors.
In fact, Lockheed Martin would have to approach building new F-22s as though it was an entirely new enterprise, which is precisely why the United States didn’t look into purchasing new F-22s rather than the controversial new (old) F-15EX.
Boeing’s new F-15s are considered fourth-generation fighters that are sorely lacking in stealth when compared to advanced fighters like the F-22 and F-35, but the Air Force has agreed to purchase new F-15s at a per-unit price that even exceeds new F-35 orders. Why? There are a number of reasons, but chief among them are operational costs (the F-15 is far cheaper per flight hour than either the F-35 or the F-22), and immediate production capability. Boeing has already been building advanced F-15s for American allies in nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, so standing up a new production line for the United States comes with relatively little cost.
The F-22’s production line, on the other hand, hasn’t existed in nearly a decade. In a report submitted to Congress in 2017, it was estimated that restarting F-22 production would cost the United States $50 billion just to procure 194 more fighters. That breaks down to between $206 and $216 million per fighter, as compared to the F-35’s current price of around $80 million per airframe and the F-15EX’s per-unit price of approximately $88 million.
Does that mean it’s impossible to build new F-22s? Of course not. With enough money, anything is possible — but as estimated costs rise, the question becomes: Is it practical? And the answer to that question seems to be an emphatic no. The U.S. Air Force has invested a comparatively tiny $9 billion into its own Next Generation Air Dominance fighter program — aimed at developing a replacement for the F-22 — over the span of six years (2019-2025).
If the new NGAD fighter enters service on schedule, it may even get to fly alongside the F-22 before it heads out to pasture. So, while the Raptor’s reign as king of the skies may soon come to an end, it may not be before America has a new contender for the title.
Over the past four months, a small team of air advisors, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve to Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, combined its efforts to enhance and improve the US Air Force’s compound, changing the working conditions for the airmen assigned there.
When the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group replaced the 123rd Contingency Response Group at Qayyarah West Airfield in early March 2017, they inherited bare bone facilities. The prior contingency response groups had built the US Air Force’s part of Qayyarah West up from scratch to start operations, but their mission was not long term.
There was a small, open tent used for a passenger terminal that exposed waiting service members to the heat, a canopy spread across two conex boxes used as a vehicle maintenance area, which provided limited protection from the sun, and some of the enclosed tents had mold and rotting wood floors.
The air advisors immediately identified that the air terminal operations center tent had a mold issue that needed to be addressed, said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Tenebruso, the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, Detachment 1 expeditionary maintenance flight chief.
After Qayyarah West Airfield, commonly referred to as “Q-West,” was recaptured from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in October 2016, the US Air Force promptly established a presence, repaired the destroyed airfield, and made it ready to be used as a strategic launching pad for the offensive in Mosul.
From mid-October until early March, the 821st and 123rd CRGs deployed personnel to quickly open the airfield and establish, expand, sustain, and coordinate air mobility operations in the austere environment.
The current team from the 370th AEAG was the first air expeditionary force rotation or permanent party to call Q-West home outside of the short-term deployed CRG units assigned to rapidly establish operations.
“Everyone wanted to make this place better than what we came into,” said Staff Sgt. Peter Johnson, the NCO in charge of vehicle maintenance assigned to the 370th AEAG, Det. 1. “We identified the needs to better the compound trying to make things more efficient and safer. Everything we’ve done has a purpose and we worked together as a team to make the improvements happen.”
The small team of air advisors worked together to procure and establish tents to be used as a new passenger terminal, morale facility, vehicle maintenance tent and tactical operations center. With the assistance of their joint-service partners, the tents were placed on flooring designed to reduce future mold issues.
The new passenger terminal helped improve the 370th AEAG’s daily facilitation of large passenger movements for both rotary and fixed wing aircraft in support of CJTF-OIR.
The new vehicle maintenance facility improved efficiency for the maintainers as they can now not only get out of the sun to work on their vehicles, but also complete tasks during all hours of the day.
In order for the compound’s expansion to take place, the power grid needed to be upgraded.
“Staff Sgt. Benton took the lead on expanding the power grid,” said Tenebruso. “He is an AGE guy used to working on flightline equipment, but here he is working on power production and distribution. Thanks to his capabilities we are now almost as close to uninterrupted power as possible, which make our operations much more sustainable.”
Staff Sgt. Shawn Benton, an aerospace ground equipment craftsman, as well as the other maintenance personnel, often work outside of their scope to assist with facility upgrades and sustainment at Q-West.
“We want to make this the best place that we can for future rotations,” said Tenebruso. “Everyone here is under the mentality that we leave this place better than we found it and make it so the next rotation does not have the issues we did. Things are very different than when we first got here.”
Initially, there was not a cargo grid yard for the 442nd Air Expeditionary Squadron’s aerial port function, but the aerial porters worked with the Army to procure Hesco barriers and enclose a 32,000 square-foot grid yard to secure its assets.
With limited resources, the aerial porters scrounged up supplies from around the base to create a gate for the cargo yard and a flag pole out of reconstituted metal. The flag pole, which the whole aerial port team helped place in the ground, is the tallest flag pole on the base, Master Sgt. Cliff Robertson, the 442nd AES’s aerial port superintendent, proudly stated.
Another proud achievement of the Q-West Airmen is their “Iron Paradise” makeshift gym. According to Tenebruso, prior to their arrival there was just a wooden bench and a bar with chains duct taped to it that weighed in at a standard 135 pounds. The air advisors have since built a makeshift squat rack and preacher curl bench and acquired more weights, creating an area often filled with Air Force and Army personnel trying to maintain physical fitness in their austere location.
“I am amazed at how well this team has come together to improve the FOB’s conditions since they got here,” said Maj. Dave Friedel, the 370th AEAG, Det. 1 commander. “They made the camp much more livable while still performing their primary advise and assist mission. It’s all about teamwork here and there are a lot of people working well outside their expertise level to make things happen.”
North Korea attempted to fire a missile April 16, the day after the anniversary of its founding, but it blew up within seconds.
While North Korea’s missile program may be the shadowiest on earth, it’s possible U.S. cyber warriors were the reason for the failed launch.
A recent New York Times report uncovered a secret operation to derail North Korea’s nuclear-missile program that has been raging for at least three years.
Essentially, the report attributes North Korea’s high rate of failure with Russian-designed missiles to the U.S. meddling in the country’s missile software and networks.
Though North Korea’s missile infrastructure lacks the competence of Russia’s, the Soviet-era missile on which North Korea based its missile had a 13% failure rate, while the North Korean version failed a whopping 88% of the time, according to the report.
While the missile failure on April 16 could have just been due to poor workmanship, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland seemed to leave room for speculation about espionage, telling Fox News: “We can’t talk about secret intelligence and things that might have been done, covert operations, so I really have no comment.”
On April 17, Vice President Mike Pence visited the demilitarized zone between the Koreas, saying that “all options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country,” and that “the era of strategic patience” with North Korea “is over.”
To those in the know, the campaign against North Korea came as no surprise. Ken Geers, a cybersecurity expert for Comodo with experience in the National Security Agency, told Business Insider that cyberoperations like the one against North Korea were the norm.
While the U.S. hacking another country’s missile program may be shocking to some, “within military intelligence spaces, this is what they do,” Geers said. “If you think that war is possible with a given state, you’re going to be trying to prepare the battle space for conflict. In the internet age, that means hacking.”
North Korea’s internal networks are fiercely insulated and not connected to the internet, however, which poses a challenge for hackers in the United States. But Geers said it was “absolutely not the case” that hacking requires computers connected to the internet.
A recent report in The New Yorker on Russian hacking detailed one case in which Russia gained access to a NATO computer network in 1996 by providing bugged thumb drives to shops near a NATO base in Kabul, Afghanistan. NATO operators bought the thumb drives, used them on the network, and just like that, the Russians were in.
“That’s where SIGINT (signals intelligence) or COMINT (communications intelligence) comes into collaboration with HUMINT (human intelligence),” Geers said.
“Imagine you’re the president. North Korea is a human-rights abuser and an exporter of dangerous technology,” Geers said. “Responsible governments really need to think about ways to handle North Korea, and one of the options is regime change.”
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2 in February 2017. (KCNA/Handout via Reuters)
“North Korea can do a Sony attack or attack the White House, but that’s because that’s the nature of cyberspace,” Geers said. “But if war came, you’d see Cyber Command wipe out most other countries pretty quickly.”
Hazel Ah Ying Lee was the first Chinese American woman to fly for the United States military and one of two Chinese Americans to serve as a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) along with Margaret “Maggie” Gee.
Described as vibrant, fearless, and funny, Lee knew she wanted to fly from an early age. After high school she took a job in a department store to earn money for flight lessons, earning her pilot’s license in 1932 from the Chinese Flying Club of Portland, Oregon. When the Chinese Air Force rejected her from service due to her gender, she returned to the United States.
In 1942, she applied for the Women’s Flying Training Detachment, which would later merge with the Women Airforce Ferrying Squadron to become the WASP. In 1943, she began her six-month training program at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, where she learned to fly military planes. She emerged as a leader in her class and was well-liked by the other pilots. She taught them about Chinese culture and would write their names in Chinese characters with lipstick on the tail of the planes she flew. Throughout her military career, she would fly the T-6 and C-47, and became just one of 130 WASPs who trained to fly fighters like the P-47, P-51 and P-63, among other aircraft.
During World War II, WASPs delivered over 5,000 fighter jets to Great Falls, Montana, to help provide Russian allies with planes, which were then flown by male pilots to Alaska, where Russian pilots could pick them up and fly them home. In November, 1944, Lee received orders to deliver a P-63 Kingcobra from the Bell Aircraft factory in Niagara Falls, New York, to Great Falls. A mixup at the control tower sent Lee into the landing zone with a number of P-63s on final approach.
Lee’s plane collided with a P-63 flown by Jeff Russell, a US Army Air Force pilot who was working without a radio. Lee’s aircraft burst into flames. She was pulled from the wreckage but died as a result of her injuries two days later on Nov. 25, 1944. Within days, her brother Victor was also killed in combat in France. The two are buried alongside each other at Riverview Cemetery in Portland, Oregon. Adding to the family’s anguish, the cemetery staff informed them that Hazel and Victor could not be buried in the “white” section of the cemetery. War hero status meant nothing in the face of anti-Chinese sentiment.
Lee was the last of 38 WASPs to die in service. She was 32 years old.
WASPs were classified as civilians and received no military or funeral benefits until 1977 when President Jimmy Carter finally gave WASPs veteran status.
The dapper young Hungarian revolutionary named József Tibor Fejes holding a captured AK-47 in what is believed to be the first widely distributed photo of the weapon. (Public domain photo.)
Sixty years ago the weapon that became a symbol of Cold War guerrillas and current day insurgents made its debut in a most unlikely way.
The AK-47, arguably the most widely used assault rifle in the world, first appeared in the hands of both Communist troops and Hungarian revolutionaries during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The revolution against the nation’s communist government began on October 23 but was ruthlessly crushed by Hungarian secret police and Soviet troops by Nov. 10.
In particular, one photo from the revolution gained worldwide attention – and it is arguably the first time the Kalashnikov entered the public consciousness.
C.J. Chivers, former Marine Corps infantry captain and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, wrote in his book The Gun that nobody knows which Hungarian revolutionary first picked up a captured AK-47.
But a LIFE Magazine photographer snapped a picture of József Tibor Fejes – “22-years-old, fresh-faced, sharp-eyed, purposeful, and seemingly unafraid” – whose costume as an insurgent always included a bowler hat. “The Man in the Bowler Hat” was also hefting an AK-47, making Fejes the first known revolutionary carrying what became widely known as a revolutionary’s weapon.
“The AK-47 was destined to become a symbol of resistance fighters almost everywhere, a weapon with innumerable spokesmen,” Chivers wrote. “Fejes had nonchalantly assumed the requisite pose and begun to flesh out this historical role. He did so before Fidel Castro, before Yasir Arafat, before Idi Amin. He was years ahead of the flag of Zimbabwe, which would expropriate the AK-47 as a symbol. He was ahead of Shamil Basayev and Osama bin Laden, who would convert the product of an atheist state into a sign of unsparing jihad. József Tibor Fejes was the first of the world’s Kalashnikov-toting characters, a member of a pantheon’s inaugural class.”
Although the Soviet Union had first publically acknowledged the rifle’s existence in 1949, firearms experts and military intelligence analysts in the West knew little about the weapon.
In fact, it was not until 1956 that the Army’s Technical Intelligence Office issued a classified report about the AK-47 – a report that mistakenly labeled the rifle a submachine gun and led to Pentagon brass dismissing the effectiveness of the weapon.
Eventually, the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and a host of Soviet satellites and licensees manufactured more than 100 million AK-47s. First encountered by U.S. fighting men during the Vietnam War, the robust construction of the weapon and its reliability soon made believers out of Americans who faced it in the hands of their enemies.
To this day, U.S. soldiers and Marines continue to face adversaries armed with some version of the Kalashnikov.
As for József Tibor Fejes, his fate was sealed. Charged with the execution of a State Security Forces officer by gunning him down in the streets of Budapest, a Hungarian court found Fejes guilty and sentenced him to death.
Despite an appeal, authorities hanged Fejes on April 9, 1959, his punishment for what the court said was an attempt to overthrow the Hungarian people’s republic, the murder of a police officer, and the theft of state property – namely an AK-47 assault rifle.
No matter how advanced smart bombs get, and no matter how stealthy and quick an aircraft can become, the A-10 has one factor that guarantees it can never truly be replaced: its gun.
These days, pretty much any warplane can drop guided munitions with pinpoint accuracy, but what makes the A-10 so special is one of the only weapons used by the US Air Force that isn’t precision-guided: the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger gun with 1,150 incendiary rounds.
In a recent press release, Air Force Col. Sean McCarthy, the 447th Air Expeditionary Group’s commander, explained in a US Department of Defense release exactly why the A-10 can do missions no other plane can.
McCarthy, who commands 550 airmen operating out of Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, revealed that deliberate targeting of ISIS assets in Syria accounts for only about 10% of airstrikes carried out from the base.
The other 90% are dynamic strikes, or strikes where troops on the ground call in for airstrikes. This is where the Warthog shines.
“A troops-in-contact [report] pops up or a target pops up at short notice, and we respond. It generally doesn’t involve an integrated effort with the coalition. It’s just usually a two-ship of A-10s that show up overhead and we conduct our mission,” McCarthy said of the A-10’s operation out of Incirlik.
The A-10 actually operates in the field as an even more precise weapon than even the most advanced smart bombs.
“The No. 1 thing when it comes to strikes is making sure we do as little damage as possible, especially killing civilians. We try very hard to keep that from happening,” McCarthy said.
So when there is any reason to believe that civilians may be in the area, the A-10 is the best tool for the job. In a murky situation, where “there’s no way to know whether they’re civilian noncombatants or not, we don’t take the chance” of using a bomb, McCarthy said.
“That’s a type of target we’ll go after with the gun,” he added. “It’s a low-collateral-damage weapon, pinpoint accurate, and we employ high-explosive incendiary rounds so nothing’s walking away from that if they get hit.”
Watch the A-10 rip its 30mm gun with pinpoint accuracy, and hear the legendary ‘BRRRT’ in the video below:
On the evening of March 24, 1944, a Royal Air Force airman jumped out of his damaged bomber without a parachute.
Not only did he survive, but he landed with little more than bumps and bruises.
His name was Nicholas Alkemade. Or should we say, the “indestructible” Nicholas Alkemade. Born Dec. 10, 1922, Alkemade was a rear gunner on a four-engine Avro Lancaster its crew had nicknamed “Werewolf.”
In March 1944, the crew was on a bombing mission over Berlin, which went without incident. But on their way back to England, the bomber caught on fire after being razed by machine-gun fire from a German fighter. The order came from the Werewolf’s pilot to abandon the crippled bomber, but Alkemade wasn’t wearing his parachute, since the gunner’s area was too cramped for it to be worn all the time.
When he tried pulling his chute out of storage, it was in flames. The plane was going down and he had few options.
“I had no doubts at all that this was the end of the line,” he told Leicester Mercury years later. “The question was whether to stay in the plane and fry or jump to my death. I decided to jump and make a quick, clean end of things. I backed out of the turret and somersaulted away.”
So out he went, headed from 18,000 feet above the Earth to the ground at 120 miles per hour. He lost consciousness during the descent, which would have been the end of this story. Except, three hours later, Alkemade — now safely lying on the ground — opened his eyes.
He was lying on snowy ground in a small pine wood. Above him the stars were still visible, only this time they were framed by the edges of the hole he had smashed through the tree canopy. Assessing himself, Alkemade found that he was remarkably intact. In addition to the burns and cuts to the head and thigh, all received in the aircraft, he was suffering only bruising and a twisted knee. Not a single bone had been broken or even fractured. Both of his flying boots had disappeared, probably torn from his feet as he unconsciously struck the tree branches. Being of no further use, Alkemade discarded his parachute harness in the snow.
Though his incredible survival arguably made him the luckiest man in the world, his luck soon changed. He began to blow on his emergency whistle, which got the attention of German civilians nearby. After he was taken to a local infirmary, he was interrogated by the Gestapo the next day.
He told them what happened, and like anyone else would, they basically called bullsh-t.
“You say you fell from a plane, but you have no parachute,” the Gestapo interrogator asked him, according to the Mercury. His interrogators accused him of burying it and being a spy, until he told them to find his discarded harness, along with the crashed aircraft that was nearby, according to the RAF Museum.
The Germans investigated and found he was legit. They even gave him a certificate stating, “It has been investigated and corroborated by the German authorities that the claim of Sergeant Alkemade, No. 1431537, is true in all respects, namely, that he has made a descent from 18,000 feet without a parachute and made a safe landing without injuries, the parachute having been on fire in the aircraft. He landed in deep snow among fir trees.”
Alkemade spent his next 14 months as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III in Poland, and returned to England after the war ended. He died in 1991.
Air Force veteran, founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and absolute giant of a man, Frank Shankwitz, passed away earlier this week at the age of 77.
This is his story.
To say Frank Shankwitz had a rough childhood is an understatement. Shankwitz was born in Chicago and his mother left him when he was young. His grandparents took him, which he recalled as “happy times,” until one day his mother kidnapped him off a playground and told him they were heading back to Arizona.
They stopped in Michigan for five years.
When he was 10, they finally reached a tiny town in Arizona on Route 66. “We were broke,” Shankwitz said. “We had no gas, no food, no money, but a family took us in. We slept on their kitchen floor. It was the first time we’d ever been permanent somewhere, kitchen floor or not. A man named Juan became like a father-figure to me, and he introduced me to the idea of giving back. This was the 1950s – ‘give back’ was not a real popular term yet. But he taught me that you can always give back. It doesn’t have to be money – it can be your time or your talents.”
In the seventh grade, Shankwitz’s mom informed him that she could no longer afford to keep him; she was moving and he needed to find a new place to live.
Juan found him a place to stay in town with a widow and Shankwitz paid the weekly rent by finding a job as a dishwasher that paid per week. “All of a sudden I had an extra a week,” he said. “Juan taught me how to turn a negative into a positive and that has been something I’ve carried with me through my entire career.”
Shankwitz went to the Air Force after high school. “It was the Vietnam era,” he recalled, “but they decided I needed to protect England. I remember when we were informed we were not to wear our uniforms during traveling – they were afraid we’d offend the public. I’m so proud today to see our service members wearing their uniforms at airports. I love hearing people thanking them and clapping for them. You should never be embarrassed of the uniform. It’s so important that our military always be proud of their service.”
Following his time with the Air Force, Shankwitz went to work for Motorola. He describes himself then as “somewhat of an adrenaline junkie,” so when a friend of his suggested joining the Arizona Highway Patrol, he jumped at the chance. Shankwitz got involved with the Special Olympics in his off time. “I began to think about Juan,” he shared, “and how maybe I was starting to give back. I enjoyed that so much.” At work, Shankwitz was asked to join a motorcycle patrol that traveled to schools to teach kids about bike safety and he felt like he was getting closer to where he needed to be in serving others.
In 1978, Shankwitz was in a high speed chase with a drunk driver when another drunk driver broadsided him going 80 miles per hour. “I was pronounced dead immediately,” he explained, “and they’d already radioed in ‘963, Officer killed in the line of duty.’ An emergency room nurse from California stopped at the scene and did CPR for four minutes, and brought me back to life. I love California! They said the crash was spectacular. I’d gone through the tunnel and I saw the light. And then I came back. I remember when my senses came back. The sense of smell was first. I smelled this very nice perfume. Then the sense of touch; something was tickling my face. Then the sense of hearing – sirens all around and someone saying, ‘We’ve lost him.’ Last was the sense of sight. And I saw that a beautiful blonde had her lips locked on me and I thought it was heaven! Later, I was told I was saved for a purpose, and that God believed I had more to do. I needed to find out what that purpose was.”
Not two years later, Shankwitz received a radio call from his dispatcher saying she needed him to find the nearest telephone, which was 40 miles away. She put him through to a border patrol agent who had an assignment for him. Shankwitz remembers verbatim: ‘There’s a little boy named Chris. He’s 7 years old. He has leukemia, and he has 2 weeks to live. He likes to watch a show called CHiPs and he wants to be a motorcycle cop just like Ponch and Jon. We’re going to pick him up and have you standing by so he can meet a real motorcycle cop.’ I was in. I got on the bike and flew to the hospital.”
When the helicopter landed, Shankwitz was surprised that Chris wasn’t super sick looking. “Instead,” he said, “this tiny pair of red sneakers jumped out and came running over. He knew every button and switch on that motorcycle. I am watching him thinking, ‘He’s a typical 7 year old, and yet he’s going to die.’ Then I saw his mom, tears in her eyes, seeing her little boy again instead of just this sick patient. Chris became the first and only honorary officer of the Arizona Highway Patrol. We felt pretty good about what we’d done but we knew there was more for him.”
The troopers rallied around Chris. “We went to the uniform store, and asked if they could make Chris his own uniform,” Shankwitz said. “Two women spent all night custom-making a uniform for him. The next morning, we took several motorcycles and cars, lights going, and brought the uniform to him and a smokey hat. He was ecstatic. He asked if he was an official motorcycle police officer, but we told him that he had to earn his wings. We set up traffic cones for him in his driveway and gave him a test, which of course he passed.”
Chris told Shankwitz, “I’m so happy my wish is coming true.” It was the first time Shankwitz had really ever heard that: “my wish.”
Shankwitz and his team went to pick up the custom-made wings they had commissioned for Chris when he got a radio call: the little boy had been taken to the hospital and was in a coma. Shankwitz was devastated.
“We took the wings to his room anyway,” he said, “and just as I pinned his wings on the uniform, Chris came out of the coma. He started giggling. ‘Am I a motorcycle officer now?’ he asked. I told him yes. A few hours later he passed away. I like to believe those wings carried him to heaven.”
The Arizona Highway Patrol did a full police funeral for Chris. Shankwitz explained, “In Chris, we lost a fellow officer that day. When we got to Illinois where he was going to be buried, we were pulled over by the Illinois State Police. When we told them what we were doing, they escorted us. We were met at the cemetery by Illinois Police, all in dress uniform. Like I said, we lost a fellow officer that day.”
“Chris was buried in his uniform. His tombstone reads Chris Greicius, Arizona Trooper. It was a truly unbelievable sight. When we got home, we asked, ‘Why can’t we do this for other children?’ And Make-A-Wish was born. It started with in a bank account. There are now 60 chapters in the United States and Make-A-Wish International has 39 affiliates, serving children in nearly 50 countries on five continents. Over 500,000 wishes have been granted.
Shankwitz said, “Every 34 minutes a child gets a wish, because of one little boy. Never underestimate the difference one person can have on the world.”
More about Frank Shankwitz and the Make-A-Wish Foundation can be found in his memoir, Wish Man, which has also been developed into a movie by the same title, available on Netflix. Rest in peace, good sir.
On June 1, 1990, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Chemical Weapons Accord, where both nations agreed to begin the destruction of their sizable reserves of chemical weapons.
Under the leadership of President George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the historic treaty called for an 80 percent reduction of their chemical weapon stockpiles under the oversight of inspectors from both countries. The agreement was intended to be the first step towards a global ban and by 1993, 150 other nations joined the superpowers to sign a comprehensive treaty banning chemical weapons.
“The modern use of chemical weapons began with World War I, when both sides to the conflict used poisonous gas to inflict agonizing suffering and to cause significant battlefield casualties. Such weapons basically consisted of well known commercial chemicals put into standard munitions such as grenades and artillery shells. Chlorine, phosgene (a choking agent) and mustard gas (which inflicts painful burns on the skin) were among the chemicals used. The results were indiscriminate and often devastating. Nearly 100,000 deaths resulted. Since World War I, chemical weapons have caused more than one million casualties globally.” — United Nations
In response to the devastating casualties, global entities signed the Geneva Protocol, which prohibited the use of chemical weapons in warfare but did not prohibit countries from creating chemical weapons or building their stockpiles of them. The Chemical Weapons Accord of 1990 was meant to begin to change that fact.
In 1993, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was opened for signature, banning chemical weapons and requiring their destruction within a specified period of time after entering into force on April 29, 1997. The CWC prohibits developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling, or retaining chemical weapons; the direct or indirect transfer of chemical weapons; chemical weapons use or military preparation for use; assisting, encouraging, or inducing other states to engage in CWC-prohibited activity; and the use of riot control agents “as a method of warfare.”
The CWC is open to all nations and currently has 193 states-parties. Israel has signed but has yet to ratify the convention. Three states have neither signed nor ratified the convention (Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan).
Featured Image: Presidents George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev sign United States/Soviet Union agreements in the East Room of the White House. June 1, 1990. (Photo Credit: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum)
Once you step off base and meet that potentially special someone, here’s a few pointers before you go full steam ahead:
1. Wrap it up
You may have built up pounds and pounds of muscle these last few months in training, but it only takes a microscopic bacterium to bring all that strength crashing down.
Don’t be a fool, wrap your tool. (Image via Giphy)If you do hook up with someone soon after meeting them, don’t expect to be their first (even if that’s what they told you).
As a newbie, you might get stationed overseas in a foreign country where the lifestyles and customs can be very different. Make sure you do a little reconnaissance on the do’s and don’t’s or you might send the wrong message at the dinner table.
We told you so. (Images via Giphy)
3. Background check
We’re not suggesting you conduct a full scale credit and background check on your date, but it couldn’t hurt.
We’re saying to casually ask what mommy and daddy do for a living because many young guys and gals who you’ll meet near the base have parents who served.
You don’t want to hit on someone and find out later you broke the heart of the general’s son or daughter.
Congrats, you’re going to be an E-3 for the rest of your career. (Images via Giphy)
4. Putting ring on it
No offense to all the average looking service members out there, but if you are stationed in a foreign country and you hook up with a “10,” they might be trying to find a way to the states and gain citizenship.
Let’s face it, life would be pretty sweet…until she swears in then takes off. (Images via Giphy)
5. Financial security
Dating and then marrying a service member has some pretty good financial benefits; be careful of who you let into that world.
It happens more than you think. (Images via Giphy)
During World War II, the Army had a unit of special forces known as the “Ghost Army.” Officially called the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, the unit used theatrical and deceptive techniques to fool the enemy. It was soldiers putting on a show with special effects like speakers, inflatable tanks, fake radio transmissions and more.
Made up of 1,100 soldiers, the team used these illusion methods to deceive Axis intelligence–specifically, creating false targets, and faking a much larger force than was actually present.
Their ghost-like tactics
The Ghost Army’s mission was clear: to impersonate Allied Army units. They remained near the front lines of the war, hiding in plain sight, creating fake battle scenes and camps. They did this by remaining unseen until they wanted to be, and only letting Germans see what they wanted them to see.
Their “traveling road show” was taken to France shortly after D-Day.
Inflatable tanks, planes, Jeeps and trucks were all used, courtesy of the 603rd Camouflage Engineers. Inflating the items with an air compressor, the soldiers would hide the fake vehicles — poorly — with branches and trees, so they could still be seen from far away. They also created false airfields and bivouacs — the latter had laundry drying in plain sight. Motor pools and tank formations were also formed, all of which could be done within a few hours of work. Their “show” was a well-choreographed routine.
It’s worth noting that soldiers in the 603rd were mostly artists and recruited from schools in the Northeast. After the war, many of its former members went on to become known for their artwork.
In addition to visual deceptions, the Ghost Army used sound and light effects. With the help of sound engineers, they played recordings from real Army units. They would adjust the recording based on the current scene they were created, played with high-tech equipment and amplifiers. The sounds were so projected that they could be heard as far as 15 miles away.
False radio transmissions were also played, known as “spoof radio.” By pretending to be soldiers from real units, they employed different communication styles to even further mislead the enemy.
Finally, when the unit did receive real vehicles, they used tactics that they called atmosphere. For instance, driving a few tanks in a circle to create the appearance of a convoy. They would also place dummy Military Police, and painting various insignia on false headquarters to make the scene even more realistic.
The unit’s inception
The Ghost Army came to be after a similar tactic was used by the British military just a few years prior. Soldiers were recruited for their talents in creativity, artistry, and theatrics. In addition to recruiting from art schools, the Army found members at ad agencies, engineering and architecture firms, and they heavily recruited actors.
Together, the efforts of 1,100 were able to create the false presence of two units with more than 30,000 soldiers. Their efforts are credited for moving German forces away from actual Allied units in more than 20 locations.
Their mission was classified until 1996, when the records were finally unsealed. There was also a PBS documentary, The Ghost Army, released in 2013.