Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed's T-50A in flight - We Are The Mighty
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Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

As you may have heard, the legendary T-38 Talon, which has been in service since 1961, is slated for replacement. GlobalSecurity.org notes that the T-X competition has apparently come down to a fight between Boeing and Saab on the one hand, and Lockheed and Korea Aerospace Industries on the other.


The Lockheed/KAI entry is the T-50A, a derivative of the South Korean T-50 “Golden Eagle.” According to Aeroflight.co.uk, KAI based the T-50 on the F-16, leveraging its experience building KF-16 Fighting Falcons under license from Lockheed. The result was a plane that has actually helped increase the readiness of South Korea’s air force, largely by reducing wear and tear on the F-16 fleet.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
A ROKAF T-50 at the Singapore Air Show. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

FlightGlobal.com notes that South Korea already has about 100 T-50 variants in service. The plane is also in service with Iraq, Indonesia, and the Philippines, plus an export order from Thailand. The plane also comes in variants that include lead-in fighter trainer and a multi-role fighter (A-50 and FA-50).

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the T-50 has a range of 1,150 miles, a top speed of Mach 1.53, and can carry a variety of weapons on seven hardpoints, including AIM-9 Sidewinders on the wingtips, AGM-65 Mavericks, cluster bombs, rocket pods, and it also has a 20mm M61 cannon. The plane is equipped with an APG-67 radar as well.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

The T-X contract is big, with at least 450 planes to be purchased by the Air Force to replace 546 T-38s. But with how many countries that have the F-16 or will have the F-35 in their inventory, the contract could be much, much more.

So, take a look at what it is like to fly the T-50A.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to capture Hussein, kill bin Laden, and make your bed

It’s all about discipline, according to the Navy SEAL and admiral who led one group of special operators when they captured Saddam Hussein and all of special operations when they killed Osama bin Laden. He wrote the book on special operations, had a successful 37-year career in the military, but says the key to saving the world is making your bed.


Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, visits U.S. troops on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013, at Camp McCloskey, Logar province, Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army)

Navy Adm. William McRaven is best known for overseeing Operation Neptune Spear — the raid to kill bin Laden — while he was the commander of Joint Special Operations Command. It was a critical and hotly debated operation, with planners arguing about insertion methods, what aircraft to use, and other details.

In the end, McRaven ordered two specially-equipped Black Hawks as part of the insertion and extraction, and the mission was a roaring success. While it angered an American ally, it also resulted in the death of bin Laden and the seizure of massive amounts of important intelligence.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

A German soldier stands guard outside Fort Eben Emael in Belgium in May 1940. The Germans captured the fort with only 87 paratroopers because the special operators seized the initiative in the first moments of the battle.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

But McRaven was a uniquely qualified choice to plan the mission since he wrote the book on special operations as his master’s thesis. His 1993 paper, The Theory of Special Operations has been published and sold, but you can get it as a free pdf from tons of government websites.

The book/thesis goes through a detailed examination of eight historic special operations from Germany attacking the Belgians at Fort Eben Emael in 1940 to a 1976 Israeli Raid into Uganda in 1976. McRaven’s assessment of special operations focuses on how successful ones have created and maintained “Relative Superiority,” where operators are able to overcome numerical and defensive shortcomings thanks to creating their own conditions for the fight.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

The HMS Campbeltown sits against the drydock in St. Nazaire, France, in the minutes before it blew up and destroyed the docks for the rest of the war. British commandos sacrificed themselves by the hundreds to make the mission successful and cripple Germany in World War II.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

This is mainly about creating an imbalance of power and requires initiative. When he explains the concept in his writing, he identifies the moment that a few dozen German paratroopers were able to use shaped charges to knock out the most important defenses on Eben Emael. In the British St. Nazaire Raid, relative superiority was achieved when the commandos were able to get the explosives-laden HMS Campbeltown from the river entrance to the German-held drydocks.

To be clear, achieving relative superiority doesn’t guarantee success, but McRaven maintains that it is necessary for success, and special operations planning should identify what will cause the attackers to achieve relative superiority and how they can protect it during the operation.

On missions like the capture of Saddam Hussein, this special operations relative superiority is unnecessary, because he was hiding in a hole. The more traditional relative superiority of outnumbering and outgunning your enemy provided the edge there. But when it came to the bin Laden raid, where dozens of SEALs and other operators would insert via helicopters while hiding from air defenses, things were different.

Admiral McRaven addresses the University of Texas at Austin Class of 2014

www.youtube.com

For that, Operation Neptune Spear needed to attain relative superiority by inserting without triggering Pakistani defenses. Once in control of the perimeter, the SEALs would have relative superiority, easily overcoming the terrorist defenders and bin Laden himself.

The ultimately successful mission capped a highly successful career for McRaven that, ironically, had begun with him being fired from his first SEAL unit. His first leadership position had been leading a squad in SEAL Team 6, but he had clashed with the team commander and was fired. He proceeded to command a platoon in SEAL Team 4 and then all of SEAL Team 3 as he climbed the ranks.

Just months before his official retirement, McRaven gave a commencement speech at The University of Texas at Austin for the graduating class of 2014 where he emphasized the importance of making your bed every morning. That section of his speech focused on how achieving one task at the start of the day allowed a person to build momentum and tackle their other tasks.

But it also tied into his belief that Saddam Hussein had doomed himself and that other rogue leaders, like bin Laden, were doomed. McRaven published Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World in 2017. In the book, he discusses going most days to question Hussein when he was a prisoner and seeing the former dictator’s unmade bed.

Not making your bed shows a lack of discipline, and McRaven is all about discipline. He got himself fired from SEAL Team 6 because he pushed for more rigorous discipline, he cites the importance of discipline in two of the case studies in The Theory of Special Operations, and he has discussed the importance of discipline in speeches, addresses, and operations across his career.

So be disciplined, make your bed, and you’ll never find the scary SEAL under it. You might even get to question the next Hussein and help kill the next bin Laden.

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Audie Murphy held off waves of armor and troops while atop a burning tank

There’s a very good reason Audie Murphy is one of the most decorated veterans to every wear the US Army uniform.


Murphy was born on June 20, 1925 in Texas. His family was extremely poor, partially due to having twelve young mouths to feed. When his father abandoned the family when Audie was fifteen years old, he was forced to pick up some of the slack by hunting and doing what work he could to keep food on the table. Unfortunately, his mother died just a year after his father left.

Shortly thereafter, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Audie attempted to join the various branches of the U.S. military but was turned down in each case owing to his age and diminutive stature -five and a half feet tall (1.66 meters) and weighing only about 100 pounds (45 kg).

About seven months later, just ten days after he turned seventeen, he tried again. Having gained some weight (getting up to a whopping 112 pounds / 50.8 kg) and with falsified testimony from his sister claiming he was actually 18, this time Audie was able to get into the army. He was then shipped off to North Africa and later deployed to Sicily.

Despite his small size, Murphy proved to be a phenomenal soldier. In 1944, after witnessing the death of a friend during Operation Dragoon, he charged a group of German soldiers, took over their machine guns and other weapons, and proceeded to take out the other enemy soldiers within range using their own artillery. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day, the first of many medals.

During another battle shortly after this, to cover retreating Allied soldiers, he jumped onto a tank that had been hit and was on fire, exposing himself to the advancing enemy soldiers. Why did he put himself in such an exposed position on a tank that could potentially explode at any minute? There was a .50 caliber machine gun on the tank.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Audie Murphy played himself in a movie that detailed his exploits. Photo: Youtube

As Private Anthony Abramski said of the event,

It was like standing on top of a time bomb … he was standing on the TD chassis, exposed to enemy fire from his ankles to his head and silhouetted against the trees and the snow behind him.

Nevertheless, over the course of the next hour, he held off six German tanks and several waves of enemy soldiers, who were all trying desperately to take out the little American who was the only thing in their way at that point. He only retreated when he ran out of ammo. Once this happened, having sustained a leg wound and completely exhausted, Audie said in his book To Hell and Back,

I slide off the tank destroyer and, without once looking back, walk down the road through the forest. If the Germans want to shoot me, let them. I am too weak from fear and exhaustion to care.

Despite the leg wound, as soon as he caught up with his retreating soldiers who had now re-formed, he turned them around and managed to reclaim a stretch of forest from German occupation. According to the official report, in that battle, he killed or severely wounding at least fifty German soldiers by himself. For this act of bravery and for “indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground [saving] his company from possible encirclement and destruction…” he was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor.

He rose through the ranks and was a captain when he was pulled out of the war in 1945. All in all, he earned 33 awards and decorations for his exemplary service during the war. He was just 20 years old at the time and, as one movie critic later put it, knew more of death than he did of life.

When Murphy returned from the war, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that often went undiagnosed at the time. After being featured on the cover of Life magazine, he found himself in Hollywood without work, sleeping in rough conditions. He caught his big break in 1949 when he starred in the film Bad Boy. That same year, he released the aforementioned autobiography titled To Hell and Back, which topped the bestseller charts. He went on to star as himself in a movie with the same title in 1955; it was Universal’s top-grossing film for nearly 20 years until Jaws usurped it.

Acting seemed to suit him. He made no less than 44 feature films while he was in Hollywood, many of them westerns, and also filmed a 26-episode western TV series called Whispering Smith, which aired in 1961 on NBC. It was criticised for being too violent, however, and cancelled after just 20 episodes were aired.

A man of many talents, Murphy also dabbled in poetry and song-writing as well as horse breeding and racing. Thanks to his earnings from acting, he was able to purchase a ranch in Texas. He was living an incredibly comfortable life, far grander than what he had known as a child.

Yet all was not well with Murphy. Back to his post traumatic stress disorder, he became dependent on sleeping pills to combat the insomnia he experienced after the war. Realizing he had become addicted to them, he locked himself in a motel room for a week, while he worked through the withdrawal symptoms. He ended up beating the addiction and went on to break the taboo of talking about the mental disorders many soldiers suffered when they returned home. His willingness to do so opened up discussions about psychological care for veterans upon their return to the US.

Murphy ended up marrying twice, divorcing his first wife after just two years, and having two sons with his second wife. He appeared to be happy with his family, with more than enough money in the bank to keep them comfortable (though he squandered much of it on gambling in his later years); had acted in dozens of movies; and had amazing war stories to tell his grandkids about. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get to that stage of his life.

On May 28, 1971, Murphy was in a private plane flying on a business trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Martinsville, Virginia. The weather conditions were less than ideal: rain and fog shortened the pilot’s visibility considerably, and he had a questionable instrument rating. He called in to the Roanoke, Virginia airport to say that he would be landing shortly due to poor conditions. The plane, carrying five passengers including Murphy, never landed in the Roanoke Valley. It crashed into Brush Mountain twenty miles away, close to Blacksburg. Everyone in the crash was killed. Murphy was just 45 years old. The site of the crash has since been turned into a monument, and in the 1990s, the Appalachian Trail was rerouted to go past it.

That wasn’t quite the end for Murphy, though. After a funeral in Arlington Cemetery, where his grave remains the second most visited (after Kennedy’s), he was posthumously awarded his final medal, the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. It was presented to his last remaining sister, Nadine Murphy, on October 29, 2013 by Governor Rick Perry.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the stealth bomber patrolling near China to prevent a war

With its precision, stealth, long-range capability and payload capacity, the B-2 Spirit is one of the most versatile airframes in the Air Force’s inventory. The combination of its unique capabilities enables global reach and allows the Air Force to bypass the enemy’s most sophisticated defenses.


The B-2 Spirit’s low-observable, or stealth, characteristics give it the ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued, and heavily defended targets. Its ability to penetrate air defenses and threaten effective retaliation provides a strong deterrent and combat capability to the Air Force well into the 21st century.

Development

The revolutionary blending of low-observable technologies with high aerodynamic efficiency and large payload capacity gives the B-2 important advantages over existing bombers. Its low observability provides greater freedom of action at high altitudes, increasing its range and providing a better field of view for aircraft sensors. Its unrefueled range is approximately 6,000 nautical miles.

The B-2’s low observability is derived from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual and radar signatures. These signatures make it difficult for the sophisticated defensive systems to detect, track and engage the B-2. Many aspects of the low-observability process remain classified; however, the B-2’s composite materials, special coatings and flying-wing design all contribute to its stealth attributes.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions.

(US Air Force photo by Gary Ell)

Operational history

The first B-2 was publicly displayed Nov. 22, 1988, in Palmdale, California and flew for the first time on July 17, 1989. The B-2 Combined Test Force at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, was responsible for flight testing, engineering, manufacturing and developing the B-2.

Whiteman AFB, Missouri, is the only operational base for the B-2. The first aircraft, Spirit of Missouri, was delivered Dec. 17, 1993. Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, is responsible for managing the B-2’s maintenance.

The B-2’s combat effectiveness and mettle was proved in Operation Allied Force, where it was responsible for destroying 33 percent of all Serbian targets in the first eight weeks, flying nonstop from Whiteman AFB to Kosovo and back.

In support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the B-2 flew one of its longest missions to date from Whiteman AFB to Afghanistan and back. The B-2 completed its first-ever combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying 22 sorties from a forward operating location, 27 sorties from Whiteman AFB and releasing more than 1.5 million pounds of munitions.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

A B-2 Spirit drops Joint Direct Attack Munitions separation test vehicles over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Aug. 8, 2003.

(US Air Force photo)

The aircraft received full operational capability status in December 2003. On Feb. 1, 2009, Air Force Global Strike Command assumed responsibility for the B-2 from Air Combat Command.

On Jan. 18, 2017, two B-2s attacked an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria training camp 19 miles southwest of Sirte, Libya, killing more than 80 militants. The B-2s dropped 108 500-pound precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs. These strikes were followed by an MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle firing Hellfire missiles. The 34-hour-round-trip flight from Whiteman AFB was made possible with 15 aerial refuelings conducted by KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender crews from five different bases.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from the 100th Air Refueling Wing refuels a U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit from the 509th Bomb Wing during a mission that targeted Islamic State training camps in Libya, Jan. 18, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton)

After getting pulled from theater in 2010, the B-2s rejoined the B-52 Stratofortress and the B-1B Lancer in continuous rotations to Andersen AFB, Guam, in 2016. The Continuous Bomber Presence mission, established in 2004, provides significant rapid global strike capability demonstrating U.S. commitment to deterrence. The mission also offers assurance to U.S. allies and strengthens regional security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Bomber rotations also provide the Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Pacific Command global strike capabilities and extended deterrence against any potential adversary while also strengthening regional alliances and long-standing military-to-military partnerships throughout the region.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

U.S. military members stand with players of the Kansas City Royals during a military recognition ceremony at Kauffman Stadium as a B-2 Spirit performs a flyover, Kansas City, Mo., Sept. 11, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

Did you know

  • The B-2 can fly 6,000 nautical miles unrefueled and 10,000 nautical miles with just one aerial refueling, giving it the ability to fly to any point in the globe within hours.
  • The B-2 has a crew of two pilots—a pilot in the left seat and mission commander in the right, compared to the B-1B’s crew of four and the B-52’s crew of five.

Active squadrons

  • 13th Bomb Squadron established in 2005.
  • 393rd Bomb Squadron established in 1993.

Both squadrons are located at Whiteman AFB and fall under Air Force Global Strike Command.

Aircraft stats

  • Primary function: multi-role heavy bomber
  • Contractor: Northrop Grumman Corp.
  • Contractor Team: Boeing Military Airplanes Co., Hughes Radar Systems Group, General Electric Aircraft Engine Group and Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc.
  • Power plant: four General Electric F118-GE-100 engines
  • Thrust: 17,300 pounds each engine
  • Wingspan: 172 feet
  • Length: 69 feet (20.9 meters)
  • Height: 17 feet (5.1 meters)
  • Weight: 160,000 pounds (72,575 kilograms)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 336,500 pounds (152,634 kilograms)
  • Fuel capacity: 167,000 pounds (75750 kilograms)
  • Payload: 40,000 pounds (18,144 kilograms)
  • Speed: high subsonic
  • Range: intercontinental
  • Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
  • Armament: conventional or nuclear weapons
  • Crew: two pilots
  • Unit cost: Approximately id=”listicle-2626058834″.157 billion (fiscal 1998 constant dollars)
  • Initial operating capability: April 1997
  • Inventory: active force: 20 (1 test)
  • Maximum speed: Mach 0.95 (550 knots, 630 mph, 1,010 kilometers per hour) at 40,000 feet altitude
  • Cruise speed: Mach 0.85[63] (487 knots, 560 mph, 900 kilometers per hour) at 40,000 feet altitude
  • Range: 6,000 nautical miles (11,100 kilometers (6,900 miles))
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,200 meters)

(Source: AF.mil)

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

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This is what happens when the rules of engagement are loosened

We’ve all heard the saying: “All is fair in love and war.” While it may hold true for love, the war part couldn’t be further from the truth for our troops.


According to the “Sanremo Handbook on Rules of Engagement” posted by the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, the rules do not dictate how the troops achieve results. But they do say what’s unacceptable.

Related: 8 of the most terrifying Vietnam War booby traps

Simply put, the rules of engagement establish bounds. And like in sports, stepping out of bounds can result in penalties — war crimes convictions.

These rules can make your job more challenging. As Mike Downs — a Marine during the Vietnam War — found out the hard way.

When he reported to Hue City, Vietnam, to assist a brother division, he realized the law of war was making U.S. efforts and firepower useless.

“We were not to use any indirect fire weapons, interpreted by us to be artillery,” Downs said in the video below.

But that all changed when the new commander relaxed the rules.

“If you even suspect there’s enemy in the building, blow the building down,” he said. “This was war as we understood.”

This American Heroes Channel video shows how the enemy’s fighting chance dissipated when the rules of engagement were loosened:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube
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The 6 worst things about being the junior soldier in your squad

Being the new guy in a squad is just something every soldier has to go through. They work hard, prove themselves, and earn a little respect and rank as fast as they can. Until they do, junior soldiers put up with these 6 problems.


1. Crappy roommates

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo: Youtube.com

All enlisted soldiers start off with a random roommate in the barracks, but they get more say on roommates the longer they’re in the unit. If they get tight with the barracks noncommissioned officer, they may even have their own room.

The new guy to a unit has cultivated no relationships, and so can’t influence anyone. They are going to be roomed with whichever member of the squad is most disliked by the barracks NCO. This member is usually dirty, undisciplined, and annoying. Also, since the roommate is senior to the new guy, he can order the new guy around. Have fun in your new home, boot!

2. Literally everyone is in charge of them

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson

There’s an Army saying, “If there are two privates on a hill, one of them is in charge.” It’s meant to illustrate that soldiers are never without leadership, but it also means that even the young soldiers in the squad can give the younger guy a legal order. And what about the youngest guy?

Well, he’s in charge of nothing and every squad member is in charge of him. If he screws up, he’s hearing about it from everyone in the squad.

3. No respect

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

Taking orders from everyone is bad enough, but the junior soldier doesn’t get any respect even though they do all the work. It makes sense. The squad has endured combat together. They’ve cleared buildings, fought for ground, and buried friends as a unit. Then this new guy comes along and wants to be part of the group? Nope. Gotta earn your camaraderie, noob.

4. Most dangerous positions and assignments

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo: US Army Sgt. Kimberly Lamb

The junior-most members will get plenty of chances to prove themselves, since they’re often in the most dangerous positions. For the infantry, he’s likely to be the first one in the door on a clearing mission, and he’s more likely to be assigned as gunner in a vehicle on a movement.

For the POGs, the junior squad member is the one most likely to get tasked out on a mission. Commander needs someone to pull a guard shift at the gate? It’s not like Pvt. Snuffy has anything going on. Gunny wants a volunteer for convoy security? Pfc. Schmuckatelli better grab his gear.

5. They’re the canaries in the coal mine

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

The most dangerous time to be the junior member is when there is a chemical or biological attack. The military dons protective gear when it’s hit with biological or chemical agents, and troops don’t take the gear off until their best detection kits say the threat is gone. But, the kits can’t detect everything and someone has to take the first unprotected breath.

And that’s where the junior soldier comes in. The unit takes away their weapon and has them unmask for a short period. If they don’t show signs of trouble, the rest of the unit unmasks. If the soldier does start reacting to a chemical compound, the unit keeps their masks on and sends the junior guy to a hospital. Get well soon!

6. Long hours and low pay

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo: US Army Sgt. John Crosby

No one in the military is getting rich, and just about everyone works long hours. But, the junior guys usually work the same hours for even less pay than everyone else. A new E-2 in the military makes $1734 a month. They work an eight-hour day plus do an hour of mandatory physical training every morning. So, not counting any assignments, overnight guard duty, or additional physical training, an E-2 makes about $8.67 an hour before taxes.

They may get great benefits and education incentives, but the paychecks can be depressing.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The bad guys are starting to catch up with America and its allies on deadly drones

Sophisticated, weaponized drones were once a US military monopoly, but a growing number of world powers — including rivals China and Russia, rogue states North Korea and Iran, and stateless terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Yemen’s Houthi rebels — are challenging America’s longtime dominance of unmanned warfare.


In the latest sign of the battle for aerial supremacy in the drone wars, a strike Oct. 9 killed 10 fighters from a Lebanese-based Hezbollah unit fighting in eastern Syria. No group immediately claimed responsibility, but Hezbollah has been allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad in his battle against Islamic State and an al-Qaeda offshoot operating in the country, while Israel has been nervously watching the Shiite militants’ advance.

That there are so many plausible suspects shows the increasing prominence of drone warfare, analysts say.

Unmanned weapon systems, colloquially known as drones, have been staples in the US military arsenal since the post-9/11 global war on terrorism. The first publicly acknowledged drone strike conducted by US forces was a 2001 attack against insurgents in Afghanistan just weeks after the American invasion of the country, according to a database tracking drone strikes compiled by the thinktank New America.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

Since then, 28 other nations have successfully developed or purchased weaponized drone assets for their militaries, according to the New America report. That list includes Iran and North Korea, which developed and deployed armed aerial drones in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

Having seen the success of the US drone program, “other states are bringing their own drone programs online, and the proliferation of civilian drone technology has opened the door to the use of [unmanned aerial vehicles] by non-state actors,” wrote Alexander Sehmer, editor of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor, which recently published a survey of increased drone use by Islamic State and states such as Russia and Iran.

Poland and Taiwan were the most recent entrants into the growing league possessing armed drone technology. Earlier this year, Taipei and Warsaw announced plans to field medium-altitude, long-range aerial drones for military operations.

The drone explosion is actually much larger, US intelligence officials warn. As many as 87 nations are believed to possess some sort of rudimentary unmanned capability that could be used for surveillance or offensive operations.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Still from an ISIS-released video entitled “Ninawa Wilayah – Knights of Diwan” that demonstrates the use of drones.

As drone technology becomes cheaper and the availability of such technology bleeds over from military markets into commercial ones, terrorist groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaeda are quickly taking advantage. Commercially available quad-rotor drones, operated by simple remote controls over standard radio frequencies, wrought havoc on local and coalition forces as they pushed Islamic State back from its enclaves in northern Iraq and now Syria.

Islamic State ground commanders would often use the commercial, off-the-shelf drones outfitted with Bluetooth cameras to track movements of Iraqi and coalition tanks and armored vehicles in cities such as Fallujah, Mosul, and Tal Afar.

The terrorist group would use that information to direct armored suicide car bombers to strike enemy forces advancing through the city. In some instances, Islamic State fighters would rig commercial drones with hand grenades, mortar shells, or other explosive ordnance and drop the makeshift bombs onto Iraqi forces or into coalition firebases set up along the front line of the advance.

The use of commercial drones became such a concern that US commanders in Iraq and Syria ordered American and coalition warplanes to target Islamic State drone-makers, putting them on par with other high-value targets. Three top Islamic State drone developers were killed in a US airstrike late last month, Defense Department officials confirmed Oct. 6.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
USAF photo by Kenji Thuloweit.

“The removal of these key ISIS leaders disrupts and degrades ISIS’ ability to modify and employ drone platforms as reconnaissance and direct fire weapons on the battlefield,” Col. Ryan Dillon, the top US military spokesman in Iraq, said in a statement.

Islamic State is not the only American adversary to exploit the military applications of drones. American warplanes shot down an Iranian-built Shaheed-129 aerial drone advancing on US and coalition positions in southern Syria in July.

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who are engaged in a civil war in Yemen, reportedly launched a sea-based armed drone against a Saudi warship in the Red Sea in January. The relatively sophisticated technology is evidence that the US and its allies point to of Iranian backing of the rebel group in Yemen’s civil war.

“Our assessment is that it was an unmanned, remote-controlled boat of some kind,” Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, 5th Fleet commander and head of US Naval Forces-Central, confirmed to Defense News in February. The drone strike killed two Saudi navy sailors and injured three others.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
An unmanned 11-meter rigid hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) from Naval Surface Warfare Center. Navy photo by John F. Williams.

The potential for unmanned aircraft being used by terrorist groups or non-state actors against the US or its allies has weighed heavily on American intelligence officials going back to 2013.

A US intelligence official who spoke with The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity, said at the time that it is “getting easier for non-state actors to acquire this technology.”

Because drones have clear peaceful, commercial applications as well, “one problem is that countries may perceive these systems as less provocative than armed platforms and might use them in cross-border operations in a way that actually stokes regional tension,” the official said.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
ISIS is using drones more and more in their warfighting tactics.

Market drivers

US adversaries’ adoption of military drone technology began to peak around 2010, just as US drone operations against terrorist targets under the Obama administration reached its high-water mark. That year, President Obama authorized a drone strike against US-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the spiritual leader of al-Qaeda’s Yemeni cell.

Iran was the first to obtain a viable unmanned combat aircraft in 2010, according to analysis by New America, fielding the Karrar armed drone. North Korea followed two years later by introducing the “suicide drone” — a modified version of the Raytheon-built MQM-107 Streaker unmanned aircraft, according to South Korean intelligence officials.

Foreign military drone sales by US defense firms were tightly regulated and limited to America’s closest allies, said Alyssa Sims, a national security analyst at New America.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
RQ-1 Predator drone. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock.

But those stringent limitations on the export of US drone technology opened the door for rival producers, especially China, to step into the voracious market.

“Evidence of the use of armed drones supplied by China, in Pakistan, Iraq, and Nigeria in the past year alone reveals the increased willingness of foreign nations to invest money in the purchase or production of armed drones,” she wrote.

Even American weapons makers are looking to markets abroad in the wake of reduced Pentagon budgets in the final years of Mr. Obama’s term.

Beijing’s “no questions asked” approach to armed drone sales has pushed China to the forefront of international proliferators of unmanned technologies, outside of the US and Israel, Ms. Sims wrote. Nigerian and Pakistani forces field China’s CH-3 armed drone, while Iraq, even as it relies on US military support in the fight against Islamic State, has deployed the newer CH-4 against Islamic State positions during the ongoing war there.

Articles

This is how to fire a Civil War cannon, step-by-step

With ATACMS, MLRS, HIMARs, the M109A6, and the M777, American artillery can and does deliver a huge punch at a distance. Compared to them, Civil War cannons look downright puny.


Don’t take that to the bank, though. These old cannon were pretty powerful in their day. The Smithsonian Channel decided to take a look at how to fire a Civil War cannon from start to finish using the Model 1841 12-pound howitzer.

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Model 1841 12-pound howitzer. (Photo by Ron Cogswell)

According to Antietam on the Web, the howitzer of the time had a 4.62-inch bore (117 millimeters) and a 53-inch long barrel. It had a range of 1,072 yards – or about the same distance an M40 sniper rifle chambered in 7.62mm NATO can reach out and touch someone.

It had three types of ammo: canister, which was essentially a giant shotgun shell; spherical case shot, which became known as a shrapnel shell; and a common shell, which was your basic impact-fused or time-fused explosive shell.

Without further ado, here’s the video from the Smithsonian Channel showing how to fire this cannon, using an authentic replica.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

4 helmets that America copied from other countries

The history of the modern military helmet is relatively short in the grand scheme of military history. Prior to WWI, soldiers generally wore soft uniform headwear in combat. In some instances, leather caps or helmets were worn to offer some protection against sword strikes. However, it was the French who first fielded a steel skull-cap to be wore under their traditional headwear. This idea evolved into the all-steel Adrian helmet. Britain followed suit with the Brodie helmet, as did the Germans with the Stahlhelm. Interestingly, American soldiers have worn some form of all three helmets and one more German helmet that may come as a surprise. Here are a few helmets that America copied over the years.

1. PASGT/Stahlhelm

Officially known as the Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops, PASGT refers to the helmet and vest combination first worn by U.S. troops in 1983. Designed to offer more protection, the PASGT helmet comes down over the wearer’s ears more so than the WWII-era M1 helmet that it replaced. Its design is so reminiscent of the German Stahlhelm that troops came to nickname it the Fritz helmet. The PASGT helmet has largely been replaced by smaller and lighter helmets like the Modular Integrated Communications Helmet and the Future Assault Shell Technology Helmet. However, it still sees limited use with the Army Reserves (especially ROTC) and the Navy.

2. M1917/Mk I Brodie Helmet

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WWI Marines in France. Without seeing them up close, it’s difficult to discern between an M1917 and a Brodie Helmet (U.S. Marine Corps Archives)

This soup dish-style helmet is synonymous with WWI doughboys and WWI in general. When America entered the war, the other nations were already equipping their troops with steel helmets to protect them from bullets and shrapnel. The wool or felt campaign hats that U.S. troops wore were more suited for the American frontier than the trenches of western Europe. As a result, America began production of the M1917 helmet modeled after the British Brodie helmet. However, troops who had already arrived in Europe acquired genuine Brodie helmets from British supply points until American production and logistics caught up. While the M1917 and Brodie helmets appear very similar, a few characteristics like the chinstrap ball, construction material and paint were slightly different. America ended up purchasing roughly 400,000 Brodie helmets from the British and produced over 2,700,000 M1917 helmets by the war’s end. At the outbreak of WWII, the U.S. military switched over from the M1917 to the now iconic M1 helmet. When U.S. soldiers captured in the Philippines at the start of the war were finally liberated, they thought they were being rescued by Germans because they hadn’t seen the new M1 helmets which looked more like the Stahlhelm than the M1917 they were used to.

3. Adrian Helmet

This is more of a stop-gap than a copy. As previously mentioned, America did not have a steel helmet for its troops upon entering the war. American volunteer ambulance drivers that arrived in France before America’s official entry were equipped with the French Adrian helmet. The next Americans to wear the Adrian helmet were American units like the 369th Harlem Hellfighters that were assigned to the French Army. These troops would either maintain the interchangeable French insignia that the helmet came with or remove it entirely. Over the course of American involvement in the war, American insignias were cast in bronze for U.S. troops to more easily identify themselves in the trenches. Moreover, many American officers preferred the Adrian helmet to the Brodie helmet and were photographed wearing them on the frontlines.

4. Pickelhaube

This helmet actually predates WWI. First adopted by Prussia in 1842, the Pickelhaube is also known as the spike helmet for obvious reasons. Originally made of leather, the helmet’s design was meant to help deflect sword strikes to the wearer’s head. Before the adoption of the Stahlhelm, German forces wore leather and later steel Pickelhaubes. However, before WWI, the Pickelhaube was synonymous with Imperial Germany. An undisputed world superpower at the time, many armies modeled their uniforms after them, including America. While the Pickelhaube was not part of the combat uniform, both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps adopted the spiked helmet in their dress uniforms from 1881 to 1902. It’s probably best that we did away with these. Imagine the barracks fights that would erupt if troops were still issued spiked helmets.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch a Venezuelan F-16 shoot down an OV-10 Bronco

Venezuela and the United States didn’t always have such a contentious relationship. The country was traditionally awash with funds from oil sales, and when you have that kind of cash, everyone wants to be your friend. In 1982, Venezuela signed a deal for fifteen F-16A and six F-16B fighter aircraft from the U.S.

The country would need them just a few years later.


The threat to Venezuela’s government didn’t come from an external invader, it came from within. In 1992, the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement attempted to overthrow the government of Carlos Andres-Perez, who survived two such attempts in just a year’s time. Both were led by a guy named Hugo Chavez, whose supporters were angry about the country’s outstanding debt and out-of-control spending.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

TFW you’re about to run South America’s richest economy into the ground.

Venezuelan armed forces, under the command of Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez, launched two coup attempts in 1992. The second coup, which took place in November of that year, saw leaders from the Air Force and Navy take command while Chavez was still in prison for the first attempt. They learned from the mistakes of the previous attempt and seized major air bases — but not all of the pilots.

Chavez’ rebels used OV-10 Broncos to support rebel operations, but loyalist pilots were already in the air and they were flying F-16s. That’s what led to the confrontation below, filmed on the ground by a civilian.

The video above shows a government F-16 turning into the Bronco before hitting its speed brakes and firing its 20mm cannon. The burst sent the OV-10 down in flames. There’s another angle of the dogfight, taken by a local news crew.

Though both of the coups failed, Chavez ultimately became president, but through legitimate means in 1998. He won the Venezuelan presidency with 56 percent of the vote. After his election, Venezuela’s relations with the United States soured and the country could no longer maintain its fleet of F-16s due to an arms embargo slapped on by the administration of George W. Bush.

Now, the Venezuelan Air Force relies on the Russian-built Sukhoi-30 multirole fighter for the bulk of its fighter missions. It still has at least 19 F-16s, but has little capacity to care for the aging aircraft.

Articles

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

On April 19, a former soldier completed a 2,200-mile walk across the United States to draw attention to suicides among military veterans.


Army veteran Ernesto Rodriguez finished his trek from Clarksville, Tennessee, to the California coast when he walked the last few miles and onto the Santa Monica Pier.

A police motorcycle officer led the way and a crowd of supporters followed as Rodriguez strode to the end of the pier with American flags protruding from his backpack.

“I’m freaking out, I’m overwhelmed,” he told KTTV. “It’s the culmination of everything I’ve done and it’s starting to hit me. I’ve tried to stay calm pretty much up until today but I’m getting to a point where my emotions are starting to hit.”

Rodriguez, who spent 15 years in the Army, said he got the idea for the journey after hearing about a 2012 study that said there were 22 veteran suicides a day.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

“I could’ve been one of those 22 back in 2011,” he told the station. “I wanted to find a way to inspire those that are having dark days like that to just keep pushing forward. So I just started walking.”

The trek began on Veterans Day 2016.

“There’s been days I’ve wanted to quit,” he said. “There’s been days that I almost died, to be quite honest. When I was out in the desert it was rough — dehydration, heat exhaustion — but there were so many people that came out. I remember something as simple as somebody driving and finding me and bringing me water or Gatorade just to make sure I wasn’t dehydrated out there.”

“I’m so grateful for the kindhearted people that helped me get through this.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy vet chef shows how to turn MREs into a remarkable Christmas feast

Navy veteran and Food Network Allstar, August Dannehl cooks a four course meal for his fellow vets based on stories from their service. A braised pork belly inspired by the MRE’s feared dehydrated pork product, Chicken Tagine inspired by a training mission in Morocco – these elements provide the backdrop for a holiday celebration between veterans.


Featured at the dinner table are USMC veterans James P. Connolly, Drea Garcia, and Donna Callaway and USAF veteran Christopher Allen.

 

Music courtesy of JinglePunks:
Dramatic Classical Hip Hop – Trent Williamson
Madridista-JP – The Beards
Faded-JP – Shota Ike
History Pitcha-JP – Serval Attack
Thug Piano-JP – Pailboy
Sunset Drive-JP – FINE LINES
Articles

The 4 most amazing escapes in military history

1. The Green Beret founder of SERE training used a math problem to trick the Viet Cong.

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In the grand scheme of things, the Vietnam War tends to get the short end of the stick when it comes to great stories of war — maybe it’s too recent or painful an event to be remembered with the nostalgia associated with WWII.

Regardless, the story of James Nicholas “Nick” Rowe is one that deserves a spot in the limelight, and might be one you haven’t heard before. Not only was Rowe a Green Beret during Vietnam, he would also create the Army SERE course, a grueling training course detailing methods of “survival, evasion, resistance, and escape” when captured by the enemy. One of the training’s more notorious tasks is learning how to drink snake blood to keep up your calorie intake, so it’s safe to say Rowe was a pretty hardcore guy.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

But even the best of the best can get caught by surprise. While on a mission supporting South Vietnamese irregulars against the Viet Cong, Rowe and his fellow Green Berets walked into an ambush. The men fought valiantly, but after exchanging fire they were overpowered and taken as prisoners. When they reached the POW camp they were separated and locked in cages, entering a living hell that they would endure for the next five years.

It only got worse for Rowe. The Viet Cong knew he was the leader of his unit, and suspected he had information. They were right. Rowe served as the captured unit’s intelligence officer, and possessed exactly the kind of information the Viet Cong desperately needed. As a result, Rowe had to endure near-constant torture, on top of the already deplorable conditions of the prison. At one point Rowe confessed his “true” position, claiming he was just an engineer, but the VC weren’t going to let him off easy.

They cut the torture to give Rowe engineering problems to solve. Amazingly, despite the fact that he was starving, living in a cage and was not an engineer, he completed it correctly. His torturers were satisfied, and Rowe thought he could rest easy thanks to West Point’s mandatory engineering courses.

He was wrong. Around the same time, a group of American peace activists were on a mission to visit American officers in Vietnamese prisoner of war camps. The goal of the excursion was a little fuzzy, but they essentially wanted to prove that the North Vietnamese’s prison methods were above board. Rowe’s name was on their list of officers to visit, along with the fact that he was a Special Forces intelligence officer.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

When the Viet Cong discovered the lie, they forced Rowe to stand naked in a swamp for days on end, leaving him ravaged by mosquitos and dizzy with lack of food or water. They were fed up with this phony engineer and his multiple escape attempts, and decided enough was enough. They gave Rowe an execution date, eager to rid themselves of his antics.

When the day finally came, Rowe was led far away from the camp, when suddenly a group of American helicopters thundered overhead, rustling the jungle trees and giving Rowe the split second of time he needed to break free, fend off his captors and sprint after the helicopters. Amazingly, one of the choppers noticed Rowe waving like a maniac in a clearing, and was able to rescue him from his scheduled death.

2. The British soldier who escaped The Gestapo’s “unescapable” castle

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Escaping a prisoner of war camp is no easy feat, and many who have made it to freedom recount plotting their escape plans for months, even years, to execute it right on the first try. This, apparently, was not Airey Neave’s style. Instead of biding his time, the British soldier escaped his WWII POW camps whenever he could, undeterred by failed attempts.

Finally, when he and his friend were caught in Poland after escaping German POW camp Stalag XX-A, he was collected by the Gestapo, who sent him to Oflag IV-C, AKA the castle of Colditz, AKA the last stop for all troublemaking POWs.

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It may look like a summer home fit for the Von Trapp family, but don’t be fooled, this place was no joke. If you’re doubtful you can read up on some accounts of the “escape proof” castle here.

The castle’s prisoners weren’t as confident in its “inescapable” qualities, and instead just came up with ridiculously complex plans of escape.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

Failed attempts included the construction of a small wooden glider, a network of underground tunnels, and prisoners sewing themselves into mattresses to be smuggled out with the laundry. Tempting as these flashy failures were, Neave decided to take a more theatrical approach to his escape.

After he secretly acquired pieces of a Polish army uniform, he painted the shirt and cap green to resemble a German officer’s ensemble. Then he put on his new duds and strolled out of the prison like a Nazi on his way to Sunday dinner with his girl. What he didn’t anticipate, however, was how reflective the paint would be; once outside, he lit up like a Christmas tree under the guard’s searchlight passed over him. It didn’t end well.

But Neave still thought the idea was pretty awesome, and pulled the stunt a second time a few months later, with an updated “uniform” of cardboard, cloth, and more Nazi-green. He also had a partner in crime this time, another prisoner named Anthony Luteyn, who was also sporting a mock German getup.

During an all-inmate stage production that the prison sponsored and put on, Neave and Lutyen quietly slipped off stage, crawled underneath the floorboards that held the dancing inmates and right above the guard’s headquarters.

From there the pair dropped into the room from the ceiling and acted natural, strolling about and exchanging pleasantries in German as if they were simply visiting officers. Once they had ensured no one was suspicious, they calmly made their exit. Once outside of the prison, they threw away the homemade German uniforms and pretended to be two Dutch workers on their way to Ulm from Leipzeg, with (fake) papers to prove it. Unfortunately, the phony documents ended up getting the two stopped by German police, but they bought the disguises and sent them to the foreign aid office, believing they were just confused immigrants.

Despite this and other close calls, Neave and Lutven continued their journey — all on foot — until they made it to Switzerland and were finally free. Neaves would later work to ensure there were quality escape lines for other POWS in Europe, and would also serve on the Nuremberg Trials.

3. The three-prong tunnel system that led 3 POWs to safety

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

While the above escapists have steered clear of the old tunnel-digging prison cliche, it’s still an effective method. In fact, U.S. airmen Roger Bushell took the wartime tradition a step further by constructing a system of three tunnels in a German Air Force POW camp at the height of WWII. The tunnels, nicknamed “Tom”, “Dick”, and “Harry,” were each 30 feet deep. This way, Bushell hoped, they wouldn’t be detected by the camp’s perimeter microphones. Each tunnel was also only about two feet wide, though there were larger sections that contained an air pump and a space full of digging supplies. Pieces of wood were used to ensure the stability of the tunnel walls.

Electric lighting was also installed and attached to the prison’s electric grid, allowing the diggers to work and travel by lamplight 10 yards under the ground’s surface. The operation even advanced far enough to incorporate a rail car system into their tunnel network, which was used to carry tons and tons of building materials back and forth during the 5-month construction period.

Just as the “Harry” tunnel was completed in 1944, the American officers who had toiled over the escape route were moved to a new camp. The rest of the prisoners attempted an escape about a week later on March 24, but they had unfortunately miscalculated where their tunnels would end. Initially believing the secret tunnel would dump them inside a forest, they emerged to realize that they were short of the tree line and completely exposed. Still, over 70 men crawled through the dark, dank tunnels to the other side, rushing to the trees once they surfaced. Tragically, on March 25th, a German guard spotted the 77th man crawling out of the tunnel, leading to the capture of 73 of the men, and later the execution of 50 of them. Only three would survive and make it to freedom, but the escape had gone down as one of the most elaborate in history.

4. Bill Goldfinch and Jack Best’s plan to fly the Colditz coop

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

You didn’t really think we were going to just breeze by that wooden glider story, did you? There have been plenty of wacky escape methods, but none as bold or sophisticated as literally building yourself a two-man wooden plane to peace out in.

At least, this was the plan. Jack Best and Bill Goldfinch were similar to Neave in their can-do, slightly certifiable approach to escape. The men were pilots, and decided that the best way to bust out of the German castle was to do what they do best: fly. Or, more accurately in this case, glide. The Colditz castle was built atop a large cliff, perfect for launching a secret and probably highly unstable aircraft off of.

Goldfinch and Best began building the glider’s skeleton in the attic above the prison chapel, figuring the height would give it enough time to glide across the Mulde river, which was situated about 200 feet below the building. To keep the Germans from walking in on the construction, the pair built a false wall out of old pieces of wood, the same stuff they constructed the glider out of. The plane was mostly made up out of bed slats and floor boards, but the men used whatever material they could get their hands on that they thought the Germans wouldn’t miss. Control wires were going to be created from electrical wiring that was found in quieter sections of the castle.

Though the operation was deemed moot before it could ever be carried out (the Allies released the prisoners before it could be flown), we felt this almost-escape deserved some recognition because by many accounts, it would have worked. In 2000, a replica of the Colditz glider was constructed for a documentary entitled “Escape from Colditz”, and was actually flown successfully at RAF Odiham. It gets even cooler, though. Best and Goldfinch were able to watch the whole thing go down, and witness their “escape” firsthand.

NOW: 4 military disguises that were just crazy enough to actually work

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