Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot - We Are The Mighty
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Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Visiting the space center as invited guests of STS-63 Pilot Eileen Collins, the first female shuttle pilot and later the first female shuttle commander, are (from left): Gene Nora Jessen, Wally Funk, Jerrie Cobb, Jerri Truhill, Sarah Rutley, Myrtle Cagle and Bernice Steadman. (Photo: NASA)


Dr. Randy Lovelace was a Harvard-educated flight surgeon with the U.S. Army who became a pioneer in aeromedicine and aviation physiology — particularly with the issues surrounding high-altitude flight. He was instrumental in developing the first oxygen masks and other adaptive equipment that allowed aviators to survive in low space.

In 1940 Lovelace met Jackie Cochran, a record-holding air racer who petitioned First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to use women as pilots on the homefront in a variety of non-combat missions. That idea turned into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, better known as “WASPs,” during World War II. These female aviators served in crucial roles — test pilots, ferry pilots and maintenance check pilots — that freed up more male pilots to fight the battles that were raging across the globe. A few years later Cochran, by virtue of her friendship with Chuck Yeager, became the first woman to break the sound barrier. After that, she became the first woman to land an airplane on an aircraft carrier.

So when NASA started fielding candidates for what would eventually become the Mercury 7 astronauts, Lovelace and Cochran started a parallel effort that mirrored NASA’s rigorous testing — doable because Lovelace was a key player in designing the official program for the space agency. Along the way they asked another record-breaking female aviator, Jerrie Cobb, to join the effort. The three of them scrubbed the veteran WASP community — a population of over 700 pilots — and came up with 13 qualified females willing and able to go through their NASA-like testing.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Jerrie Cobb with Mercury capsule. (Photo: NASA)

Cobb dubbed the group “Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainees” or “FLATs.” The 13 went through a series of stressful evaluations designed to see if they could hold up under the conditions in space. Ice water was injected into their ears to induce vertigo. Painful electric shocks were administered to test reflexes. Weighted stationary bicycles were used to rapidly push candidates to exhaustion. And that was just Phase I of the testing.

All 13 of the women passed Phase I, but because of family and job commitments, only three of them — Jerrie Cobb, Rhea Hurrle, and Wally Funk — were able to travel to Oklahoma City for Phase II. Phase II involved psychological evaluations — including one that had them sit in an isolation tank for an extended period. All three woman passed.

After Jerrie Cobb passed Phase III, which included actual flights in military jet aircraft, the rest of the FLATs were invited to follow suit. But before they could gather at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the designated location, U.S. Navy officials at the base sent a telegram to the candidates that informed them that support for the project had been withdrawn because the request hadn’t come through NASA channels.

That ruling infuriated Cobb, and in 1962 she flew to Washington, D.C., to petition lawmakers to make the FLATs program an official part of NASA. Her efforts led to Rep. Victor Anfuso, R-NY, convening public hearings before a special Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics. Cobb’s testimony introduced gender discrimination into the Hill’s conversation well before the Civil Right Act of 1964 made it illegal.

But the way forward for the FLATs was plagued by infighting among the principals more than unresponsive congressmen. Jackie Cochran, of all people, sensing she was losing clout among her peers, testified that setting up a special program to help women would hurt NASA. Cochran’s negative view was multiplied by the opinions of a handful of Mercury 7 astronauts, including John Glenn, who said that the absence of women in the program was “a fact of our social order.”

Glenn also pointed out that astronaut candidates were required to be graduates of one of the military’s test pilot schools, something women were not qualified to apply for in 1962, and NASA had already indicated it had no desire to waive the requirement by giving females credit for the massive amount of flight experience they had — in some cases many more flight hours than the Mercury 7 selectees. Although some in congress were sympathetic to the FLATs’ plight, Cobb’s Capitol Hill visit didn’t result in any meaningful support.

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963. In response, “Life” magazine published an article criticizing NASA and American decision makers. The article included photographs of all 13 FLATs, which made the entire group of women public for the first time.

NASA did not select any female astronaut candidates until 1978. Astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983, and in 1995 Eileen Collins was the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle. At Collins’ invitation, seven of the surviving FLATs attended her launch.

In 1995, while working on a film adaptation of the FLATs’ story, Hollywood producer James Cross coined the label “Mercury 13” for the FLATs. (Look for that title in a theater near you in the years to come.)

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US Navy amps up to edge out China and Russia

The U.S. wields the world’s biggest, most powerful Navy, but recent developments in China and Russia’s missile inventory severely threaten the surface fleet with superior range and often velocity.


But the U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin have a variety of solutions in the works to tip the scales in the United State’s favor by going hard on offense.

For years, the Navy has focused on a concept called “distributed lethality,” which calls for arming even the Navy’s smallest ships with powerful weapons that can hit targets hundreds of miles out.

Yet Russian and Chinese ships and missile forces already field long-range precision missiles that can hit U.S. ships before the forces are even close.

Additionally, both Russia and China are working on hypersonic weapons that could travel more than five times as fast as the speed of sound. These weapons would fly faster than current U.S. ships could hope to defend against.

Related: China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

Meanwhile, tensions and close encounters between the U.S., Russia, and China have peaked in recent years, as Russia routinely threatens NATO ships in the Baltics and China cements its grab in the South China Sea.

Lockheed Martin’s Chris Mang, vice president of tactical missiles and combat maneuver systems, told reporters at its Arlington, Virginia, office that “defense is good,” but “offense is better.

“People don’t shoot back when they go away,” he said.

Mang said that promising new missiles like the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile for ships and planes could hit the field by 2020, which would bolster the Navy’s strategy of “see first, understand first, shoot first.”

The LRASM boasts a range of well over 200 nautical miles, a payload of 1,000 pounds, and the ability to strike at nearly the speed of sound.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
An anti-ship missile LRASM in front of a F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. (U.S. Navy)

It also has a huge advantage that neither Russia nor China have come close to cracking: naval aviation. Lockheed Martin officials said U.S. Navy F-18s and long-range B-1B bombers could carry the LRASM as early as next year.

While the U.S. has been surpassed in missile technology in some areas, the Navy still has a considerable edge in radar technology and command-and-control that can provide intelligence to ship captains faster than its adversaries.

As for the hypersonic weapons meant to redefine naval warfare, Mang said they’re still a long way out. (The U.S. Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are working on their own versions, though.)

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
An artist’s concept of an X-51A hypersonic aircraft during flight. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

“How far do they go?” Mang said of the hypervelocity weapons. “They tend to be fuel-consumption-heavy and thermally limited, so they go really fast for a very short distance. If you can shoot them before they get in range of you, that is a tactic.”

Also read: China’s trying to push around American bombers flying in international space

The Navy continues to improve and spread its Aegis missile-defense capabilities so the long-range missiles Russia and China have can be knocked out and the short-range hypersonic missiles they’re developing can be out-ranged.

Though adversaries out-range the U.S. Navy on paper, the U.S. military has and will never be defeated by figures on paper.

Instead, the U.S. and Lockheed Martin seem to be pushing forward with proven technologies that would bolster the United State’s ability to protect its shores.

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This is why the US could leave Al Udeid

The sudden move by a coalition of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, in early June to cut ties with and blockade Qatar perplexed US military officials and policymakers.


The Saudi-led coalition has made a series of demands of Doha for dropping the blockade, to which Qatar has shown no sign of assenting.

The spike in tension concerns US officials because of the massive Al Udeid military base in Qatar, where some 11,000 US personnel are stationed and from which US Central Command has run much of the war against ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

According to President Donald Trump, who has publicly backed the Saudi-led effort and criticized Qatar, relocating from Al Udeid would be no significant obstacle.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
President Donald Trump and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia sign a Joint Strategic Vision Statement. (Photo from The White House Flickr.)

Trump was asked about the effect of the crisis on Al Udeid during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that aired on July 12.

“If we ever have to leave” Al Udeid, he said, “we would have 10 countries willing to build us another one, believe me, and they will pay for it.”

Trump did try to downplay potential conflict with Doha, saying, “We are going to have a good relationship with Qatar. We are not going to have problems with the military base.” But, he said, “if we ever needed another military base, you have other countries that would gladly build it.”

When asked this week about the situation around Al Udeid, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the US has weighed other basing options as part of what he described has standard operational planning.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
The sun sets over Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren)

“I think any time you are doing military operations, you are always thinking ahead to Plan Bs and Plan Cs … we would be remiss if we didn’t do that,” he said, according to Military Times. “In this case, we have confidence that our base in Qatar is still able to be used.”

The break between Qatar and its neighbors was a departure from the relative stability seen in that part of the Middle East. The Saudi-led bloc’s initial condemnation of Doha came days after Trump left a friendly meeting with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, and the US president appears to have thrown his weight behind Riyadh’s efforts — accusing Qatar of backing terrorism on several occasions, including during his remarks to CBN.

Trump has also joined with the Saudi-led coalition in rebuking Iran for what they see as Tehran’s meddling in the region. But the the conflict with Qatar appears to have strengthened Tehran’s position.

And since Al Udeid would be the jumping-off point for any anti-Iran operations in the region, deteriorating relations between Qatar and its neighbors and the US could affect their plans to contain Iran.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
B-52 Stratofortress aircraft arrive at Al Udeid Air Base. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

Despite the tensions, the US has kept up operations at Al Udeid and with Qatar.

The US and Qatari navies completed exercises in the waters east of Qatar in mid-June, running air-defense and surface-missile drills. The US also signed off on a weapons deal with Qatar less than a week after Trump spoke approvingly of Saudi-led action against Doha.

Pentagon officials have said tensions around Qatar were affecting their long-term planning ability, echoing comments made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prior to Trump’s first remarks supporting the blockade.

But Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, said operations there are continuing as before.

“Despite the situation going on with Qatar, we continue to have full use and access of the base there,” he told Military Times. “We are able to re-supply it, we’re able to conduct operations.”

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Air Force Chief: US must be ready to fight in space

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the U.S. Air Force needs to be ready to engage in space combat.


“Other nations are preparing to use space as a battlefield, a big battlefield, and we’d better be ready to fight there,” Welsh said last week in Arlington, Virginia. “We don’t want to fight there but we better be ready for it because other people clearly are posturing themselves to be able to do that.”

Welsh, who will be retiring on July 1 after just over 40 years of service, made his comments Thursday morning in Arlington, Virginia, at an Air Force Association breakfast.

His comment about space as a battlefield came in the context of what the U.S. needs to be able to do to win future fights.

One of the absolutes in modern warfare, he said, is firepower – “more of it, more quickly and more precisely.” And the Air Force needs to have that not only in the air domain but in cyber and space domains.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
U.S. Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh, left, the chief of staff of the Air Force, speaks with Gen. Bob Kehler, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, during a senior leadership council meeting hosted by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon.

Welsh credited Air Force Space Command with taking the lead “in at least thinking about the space domain as a warfighting domain.”

But Space Command has been thinking about space warfare for quite some time.

In the 1990s, Air Force Gen. Joseph Ashy, then head of Space Command, told lawmakers that space would become a battleground, according to Air Force Maj. William L. Spacy II, who quoted Ashy in “Does the United States Need Space-Based Weapons?”

“Some people don’t want to hear this, and it sure isn’t in vogue … but — absolutely — we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space,” Ashy said.

A 1967 Outer Space Treaty stipulates that space is to be used for peaceful purposes. Just what that means has never been defined, though the 1945 U.N. Charter defined “peaceful purposes” to include the inherent right of self-defense, Spacy wrote.

That freed up space-pioneering countries including the Soviet Union and the U.S. to place military communications and early-warning system satellites into space. But both also went farther than that, developing and testing – but never deploying – anti-satellite weapons before and after the 1967 treaty was adopted.

But in recent years the idea of space engagements has grown more real as both China and the U.S. successfully demonstrated the capability to take out a satellite with a weapon.

China destroyed one of its own weather satellites with an anti-satellite weapon in 2007. A year later the U.S. took down one of its own damaged satellites using a SM-3 missile fired from the USS Lake Erie.

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Brimstone could bring a big bang for the United States

The AGM-114 Hellfire has gotten lots of press. Deservedly so, given how it has made a number of prominent terrorists good terrorists. Here’s the Hellfire’s tale of the tape: it weighs 110 pounds, has a 20-pound warhead, and a range of 4.85 nautical miles.


But as good as the Hellfire is, there may be a better missile — and the Brits have it. The missile is called Brimstone, and at the SeaAirSpace 2017 Expo, MBDA was displaying mock-ups on its triple mounts.

The baseline Brimstone has over 100 percent more range (over ten nautical miles, according to the RAF’s web page) than the Hellfire. The longer range is a huge benefit for the aircraft on close-air support missions, outranging many man-portable surface-to-air missiles and even some modern short-range systems like the SA-15.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Three missiles, three small boats — this is a mock-up of a typical triple-mount of the Brimstone missile on display at SeaAirSpace 2017. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

The Royal Air Force currently uses the Brimstone on the Tornado GR.4 aircraft and also used it on the Harrier GR.9 prior to the jump jet’s retirement. The RAF will introduce it on the Typhoon multi-role fighters and the Reaper drone currently in the inventory. According to a MDBA handout available at SeaAirSpace 2017, Brimstone made its bones over Afghanistan and Libya.

But at SeaAirSpace 2017, MDBA was showing signs of wanting to put the Brimstone on more aircraft. At their booth was a model of an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with four three-round mounts for the Brimstone. Such a pairing could be very devastating to Iranian small boat swarms that have been known to harass United States Navy vessels on multiple occasions or hordes of Russian tanks that could threaten the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
A Tornado GR4 training for deployment to Afghanistan. Among its weapons load is a Brimstone missile on the lower left portion of the fuselage. (British Ministry of Defense photo)

British weapons have been imported by the United States military — with the Harrier being the most notable, as well as some of the classic British planes of World War II. The Brimstone missile could very well become the next big import, with a Brimstone delivering what a 2013 FlightGlobal.com report described as at least triple the range reaching an initial operating capability in 2016, according to Janes.com.

In other words, Brimstone could very well come to a Super Hornet — or Falcon, Reaper, or Strike Eagle soon!

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Why I’m thrilled Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel

Look, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is really lighting my fires when it comes to their female superheroes.

When Marvel Studios announced they would be bringing Captain Marvel to the big screen, I was thrilled. I was also immediately invested and my expectations shot through the roof.


Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Heyyyyy Valkyrie…
(Thor: Ragnarok by Marvel Studios)

The reasons why are threefold:

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1. This movie is for *me*

I am the target demographic for this film, and I have been ever since my 8-year-old self cuddled up with nerdy/amazing hero novels, like The Rowan or The Song of the Lioness. I have been devouring epics featuring female heroes for as long as I can remember.

So have all the other women out there thirsting for heroes that look like them. Seeing representation on film and television empowers the people who are watching. This is why it’s so important and exciting to have women and people of color finally stepping into hero roles.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

Full Metal Obsession.

(Warner Bros.)

2. I know the military world

I joined the military after 9/11 (probably as a result of the aforementioned hero literature). I wanted to literally fight evil. I was an Air Force captain, much like ol’ Captain Marvel herself. As a result, I’m very critical of how military women are portrayed in TV and film.

Edge of Tomorrow got it right. My list of who got it so, so wrong is too bitter to share here, but if your character wore a push-up bra, then you’re on it.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F13KRZLObX9B1tK.gif&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.giphy.com&s=916&h=1db67260745ab301eec2b03450ecbef21ad9b78f3782b9426a093d35437277e1&size=980x&c=1121216279 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F13KRZLObX9B1tK.gif%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.giphy.com%26s%3D916%26h%3D1db67260745ab301eec2b03450ecbef21ad9b78f3782b9426a093d35437277e1%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1121216279%22%7D” expand=1]

Yeah, she played Envy. Amazing, right?

3. I know the casting world

I’m an actor and filmmaker. I understand that Hollywood has to take some artistic liberties. I understand that a big name means selling-power for a film. I also understand the work it takes to bring a character to life.

I’d literally stab someone for love the chance to play a role like Captain Marvel — whoever they cast better make me so delighted to watch that I forget my debilitating FOMO about not playing the part myself.

Well guess what, Marvel? YOU NAILED IT.

Brie Larson has been on my radar since the effing fantastic Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

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She’s been on the world’s radar since her Oscar-winning performance in Room. Larson is the kind of actor who effortlessly morphs into a world. She is extremely natural on-camera.

Also, she’s just cool.

In the comics, Carol Danvers is an Air Force officer whose DNA fuses with a Kree, giving her superhuman powers. I don’t know how the MCU will bring her story to life, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that screenwriter Anna Boden will take a cue from comic writer Kelly Sue DeConnick who pitched “…Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager.”

Obviously, the filmmakers are keeping pretty tight-lipped about the upcoming 2019 film, but Larson has been sharing little peeks at her training along the way, including work with the actual U.S. Air Force.

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This is a good sign — whenever there is a military film, my first question is who are the service members involved? (FWIW: I always prefer for the answer to be veterans who have transitioned out of the military and into professional careers in the entertainment industry)

Larson has also shared a glimpse at her physical training for the role.

Pull-ups take me back to jump school. Good times….

I believe that she could be powerful. I believe that she could be a leader.

Larson is lovely, but her looks don’t define her. She doesn’t need to be glamorous (though she surely can be when she wants to). This is the same mindset that women in the military have. There’s a comfort level with sacrificing some femininity for the mission. That’s what Hollywood gets wrong so often when they hyper-sexualize their military roles.

But not this time. Marvel crushed it with Larson, and I cannot wait to see this film.

I’m also going to lose my mind if we catch a glimpse of her in Avengers: Infinity War.

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6 Star Wars techs the Empire should execute defense contractors for designing

It’s actually amazing the Galactic Empire managed to control as much of the galaxy as they did. Logistically, they had the funds and the manpower of a giant imperial power but there were serious issues with the Imperial Defense Contractors.


Frankly, the Empire seemed to buy anything and everything.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
A hand-thrown nuclear device for grunts! What could go wrong?

Like the United States and Russia during the Cold War, the Galactic Empire obviously bought technology and weapon designs with little consideration for anything other than their ongoing effort to have the latest and greatest.

Some are just cumbersome and inefficient, like a moon-sized space station. Others were egregiously flawed from the start, reckless enough to be considered treasonous.

1. The Emperor’s Royal Guards’ Armor

With what armor do you equip the guys who guard the most powerful person in the universe? Bright red robes, of course. Then give them a giant, long, plastic helmet which restricts their neck movement and you’ve got a winner.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Also, spears. Let’s give them spears for fighting laser battles.

It’s a good thing the Emperor moves like a senior citizen walking out of a Golden Corral, because his Royal Guardsmen only have a six inch slit in those helmets for what looks like a 60-degree range of vision. But that hardly matters anyway, because even if they had to defend the Emperor for any reason, they’ve been issued what looks like pikes to fight with in a world full of lightsabers and blaster rifles. Their unit patches should probably just say “cannon fodder.”

2. TIE Fighters

When you need a fleet of superfast fighter spacecraft to defend your giant, lumbering Star Destroyers and planet-sized space stations, what better way to pump out a bunch of placeholders than the TIE Fighter, the galaxy’s most elite floating targets?

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
No shields, no navigation, no torpedoes, no hope.

With only two chin-mounted cannons, dual ion engines, these pilots are expected to tackle fleets of superior X-Wing and A-Wing fighters head to head, with the only strategy employed in their use being the Empire’s ability to throw an overwhelming number of them at any given time. Also, there is not pilot ejection system.

On top of all that, they come fully equipped with a set of giant walls acting as blinders on either side of the craft, effectively restricting the pilot’s vision of roughly half of the battlespace.

3. Stormtroopers

This is another example of the Empire favoring numbers over combat ability. The Empire’s signature shock troops, the average Stormtrooper hasn’t successfully killed anything since the Clone Wars ended.

The only exception was the Snowtroopers at the Battle of Hoth but lets be honest – the Rebel Alliance depended completely on ONE giant ion cannon to protect the entire planet from an invasion.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Standing out in the open during a firefight is a sign of excellent training.

You might defend the stormtroopers by blaming their rifles but that’s all the more reason to execute whomever procured the rifles and/or negotiated the clone trooper deal. The blasters would be a lot more effective if they didn’t come permanently set to “miss.”

Finally, the white PVC armor does nothing for them either. Why bother wearing bright white armor if it does nothing to protect you from the flaming death bolts the other side is shooting your way. Han Solo does just fine in combat and he’s wearing a vest.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
A snazzy vest.

4. AT-ST Walkers

The All Terrain Scout Transport, the two-legged version of The Empire Strikes Back’s famous four-legged snow invaders, are supposed to be an environment-adaptable version of the same. Except whomever convinced the Empire to deploy them on Endor didn’t tell the Imperial Army about the height of the trees being taller than that of the walkers. It doesn’t take a protocol droid to know how to bust into one of those from the treetops.

And if the AT-ST was the right tool for the job on Endor, it would have been able to navigate a series of rolling logs, the armor shouldn’t have crushed like an empty beer can between two trees, and the Empire wouldn’t have been beaten by an army of Care Bears.

5. Speeder Bikes for a Giant Forest World

While we’re on the Battle of Endor, who put it in the Empire’s mind that the ideal ground transport for scouts was a hyper-fast moving, one person bike in a world full of giant primeval trees? These bikes are begging to be wrecked left and right.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
This ends well for no one.

 

The Ewoks could have just set up random strings of rope all over the forest and taken out half these Imperial Scouts. Speeder Bikes on Endor are a safety brief waiting to happen. Even in Return of the Jedi, no one who drives a Speeder Bike ever lands one, they all just wreck or are punted off in some way.

6. Death Star Exhaust/Ventilation Systems

It’s actually difficult to blame an engineer for putting a thermal exhaust port on a giant, roving space station. The thing’s gotta have a tailpipe. Should it have led directly to the Death Star’s reactor core? Why isn’t there a few twists and turns leading up to the core?

They should have installed a few vents, maybe a more complex system would have worked better. Still, at only two meters, it’s hard for any engineer to predict the effects of what is essentially magic on the trajectory of a proton torpedo.

 

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

Who we can blame are the engineers who designed the second Death Star’s  reactor core. Despite the lessons learned from the destruction of the first Death Star at the Battle of Yavin, the new team of engineers not only kept the big gaping hole design flaw, they made it so big it could fit the Millennium Falcon, two X-Wings, an A-Wing, and a few TIE fighters.

They didn’t need magic torpedoes the second time, the Rebels just flew right up to the reactor core and blew it to smithereens.

Update: The Star Wars film “Rogue One” covered #6 on the list. The design flaw was a purposeful attempt to give the rebels a chance against the space station.

The author stands by his assertion that the second Death Star didn’t need a hole leading directly to its core.

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Here are 10 wars that could break out in the next four years

The incoming Commander-in-Chief already has a handful of issues waiting for him or her on January 20th and surely doesn’t need any more foreign policy headaches. Unfortunately, the job is “Leader of the Free World” and not “Autopilot of the Worldwide Ramones/P-Funk Block Party.”


Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
If only the UN were led by GEORGE Clinton and run by Parliament.

Inevitably, things go awry. Reactions have unintended consequences. If you don’t believe in unintended consequences, imagine landing on an aircraft carrier emblazoned with a big “Mission Accomplished” banner. By the middle of your replacement’s second term, al-Qaeda in Iraq is now ISIS and the guy who starred on Celebrity Apprentice is almost in charge of deciding how to handle it.

Think about that . . .

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

Here are ten imminent wars the incoming Chief Executive will have to keep the U.S. out of… or prevent entirely.

Check out the WATM podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss the incoming Commander-in-Chief’s war challenges come January 20th.

1. China vs. Everyone in the Pacific

In 2013, China declared the Senkaku Islands (or Diaoyu Islands, depending on which side of the issue you’re on) to be part of its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. Since then, Chinese and Japanese air and naval assets have taken many opportunities to troll each other. The Chinese people see these provocations as violations of their sovereignty and anti-Japanese demonstrations erupted in China. World War II memories die hard.

The islands themselves are just an excuse. The prominent ideology espoused by Chinese President Xi Jinping is that of the “Chinese Dream,” one that recaptures lost Chinese greatness and prestige. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is a hardline nationalist, is unlikely to bow to Beijing just because of a military buildup. On the contrary, Japan’s legislature just changed the constitution to allow Japanese troops to engage in combat outside of a defensive posture for the first time since WWII.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Don’t mind us.

Elsewhere, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam are all vying for control of the Spratly Islands. The Spratlys are a small, seemingly unimportant set of “maritime features” in the South China Sea that would extend each country’s maritime boundary significantly. They sit on trade routes. Oh, and there are oil and natural gas reserves there. China started building artificial islands and military bases in the Spratlys, which is interesting because the U.S. now has mutual defense treaties with Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan. So the next U.S. President will also have to be prepared for…

2. China vs. The United States

The term “peaceful rise” isn’t thrown around quite as much as it used to be. That was Chinese President Hu Jintao’s official ideology, but he left power in 2012. China under Xi Jinping is much more aggressive in its rise. Chinese hackers stole blueprints for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter just before China’s military revealed a homegrown design, which looked a lot like the F-35. The People’s Republic also finished a Russian-designed aircraft carrier, its first ever. It now has a second, entirely Chinese one under construction.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
The Russians wish they had a ship like this.

Related: Russia’s only aircraft carrier is a floating hell for the crew

The Chinese specially developed the DF-21D Anti-Ship missile for use against carriers and other advanced ships of the U.S. Navy. The ballistic missile looks a lot like nuclear missiles and can carry a nuclear payload. Once a Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile sinks its first U.S. carrier, there’s no going back – a downed carrier would kill 6,000 sailors. This is why China develops weapons to deny the U.S. sea superiority and deter American aggression in their backyard before a war begins.

3. Russia vs. NATO

The expansion of NATO as a bulwark against Russian hegemony in Eastern Europe is a challenge to the status quo of the last thirty years. While the end of the Cold War should have changed the way the Russians and the West interact, Russian influence is still aggressive. Russia does not take kindly to the idea of NATO’s expansion into former Eastern Bloc countries like Ukraine, which resulted in the 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
A map from 1900 – some things never change.

Now the Alliance is deploying thousands of troops to Poland and the Baltic countries as a counter to Russian aggression. Threats made by Russian President Vladimir Putin are always serious. He didn’t just annex Crimea. In 2008, he invaded the former Soviet Republic of Georgia to “protect Russian-speaking minorities” in the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Putin claims the right of Russia to protect the rights of Russian-speaking minorities abroad and uses military force to do so.

4. Iran vs. Saudi Arabia

The Sunni-Shia religious civil war rages on by proxy all over the Middle East. In Yemen, Iranian-backed Houthi tribes ousted the Saudi-backed government of Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi. The Houthis are still fighting for deposed dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose regime was a victim of the 2012 Arab Spring.  Saudi Arabia intervened shortly after with a coalition of Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE. The war in Yemen now includes al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi warned the sudden uptick in sectarian violence may spill over into the greater Middle East.

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Wargasm?

The proxy war is already in Iraq. The Iraqi government is using a makeshift alliance of Americans, Shia militias, and Iranian advisors to retake territory captured by ISIS in 2014. In Syria, forces loyal to al-Qaeda are funded by Sunni proxies while the Asad regime and Hezbollah fighters are supported by Iran and Russia (meanwhile, everyone is fighting ISIS). At the same time, both Iran and Saudi Arabia continue to stockpile weapons and develop new weapon systems. There may come a time when the two decide they’ve had enough of proxy wars and just decide to duke it out for keeps. In the meantime, the two keep battlefields in the countries between them to avoid fighting at home.

5. Civil War in Iraq

It’s great to form an unlikely alliance against a joint enemy, especially when the enemy is ISIS. Once the terror group is gone the Sunnis in Anbar will demand equal treatment under the law, only now they’ll be surrounded by Shia militias and Iranian arms and money. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see Sunnis in Anbar seek autonomy like the Kurdish regions enjoy in Northern Iraq, except Anbar doesn’t have the resources for independence like the Kurds seek. Speaking of which…

6. Kurdistan Independence War

The Kurds in Iraq and Syria bore the brunt of rescuing minorities in Iraq and Syria from the atrocities of the Islamic State. They also were the workhorse behind turning the tide of the ISIS advance and putting the terror group on the defensive. They shifted the momentum against ISIS at places like Sinjar and Kobane and the terror group has never recovered. ISIS is slowly collapsing as the Kurdish YPG in Syria approach the ISIS capital at Raqqa. The Kurdish people will feel they’ve earned an independent Kurdistan for doing the region a solid, especially if the YPG capture Raqqa before the Syrian government.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

An independent Kurdistan would carve out parts of Iraq, Syria, and maybe even Southern Turkey. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been an active terrorist organization in Turkey for decades. The Turks, a NATO ally, see the Syrian Kurdish YPG (People’ Protection Units) as an extension of the PKK – in their eyes, a terrorist army. In Iraq, the Kurdish Autonomous Regions are rich in oil and are unlikely to be given away by the government in Baghdad. The Kurds will have to fight all three governments and will come to the U.S. for help.

7. Israel vs. Hezbollah

For those out of the know, Israel takes its security seriously. When Hezbollah fighters switched their focus to support the Asad regime in Syria, Israel took the opportunity to disrupt any Hezbollah supply line that might be used against the Jewish state. Many high-profile Hezbollah figures have died in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 – including Mustafa Badreddine, the military commander of the militia in Syria.

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Israeli soldiers return from southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah isn’t a country. The group’s power base is in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, which is far from Lebanon’s border with Israel. When the fighting in Syria stops, Hezbollah will not forget its age-old enemy and is likely to retaliate. The Israel Defence Force has never hesitated to invade Lebanon with the aim of taking out Hezbollah fighters. The last time was in 2006 and Israel is already planning for the next one.

8. Civil War in Turkey

The Turkish people are facing an identity crisis. The current President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has slowly brought the Turkish economy to a more modern, robust level. The cost was a turn away from the secular democracy that defined the Turkish government.

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Turkish women protesting the AKP government in Istanbul.

Turkey’s military has traditionally been the guarantor of its democracy, overthrowing the government whenever it felt a slide toward religiosity, as it did in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997. In 2012, Erdoğan purged the military, jailing dozens of officers to prevent a coup. As he and his ruling AKP become increasingly authoritarian and insufficiently responsive to terror attacks from ISIS, rumors of such a coup will only start to spread.

9. Civil War in Afghanistan

The U.S. and NATO allies can’t stay in Afghanistan forever. The Taliban doesn’t face the same opposition from Western troops they once faced before the drawdown in 2014 and the citizens of those countries aren’t interested in sending their troops back. In 2014, the Pakistani military’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb in its Waziristan tribal regions unseated thousands of fighters who likely found their way back to Afghanistan, ready to start again. The Afghan security forces are unlikely to be able to stand up to these battle-hardened jihadists without U.S. support.

10. China vs. India

China and India went to war in 1962 because Chairman Mao thought India was against its takeover of Tibet (Indians granted asylum to the Dalai Lama). The war lasted all of a month and only resulted in slight boundary changes which have never been fully addressed. The coming war may be nominally over the Himalayan boundaries between the two countries, but in reality, it will be about water. The two countries both want the hydropower and water from the Yarlung Tsangpo–Brahmaputra River. The river starts in Tibet then flows into India and Bangladesh. In 2008, a Chinese dam project on the Yarlung–Tsangpo worried the Indians about the diversion of the water and the use of water as a weapon and is now a major issue in bilateral talks.

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In the event of a war with China, their perpetual enemy, Pakistan would likely join in on the Chinese side. The Chinese are heavily invested in Pakistan, especially in the disputed area of Kashmir. This investment allows the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to project power well into Central Asia and keep jihadists away from its borders. Individually, India can beat Pakistan and make a stand against China, but is unlikely to win against both.

Bonus: North Korea vs. Anyone

If anyone was going to invade North Korea, they would have done it by now. Seriously, what does this country have to do to get its government ousted?

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6 reasons why Fascist Italy underperformed during World War II

When Italy entered World War II on the Axis side, things were looking pretty good from where fascist dictator Benito Mussolini sat. He had an army of some 200,000 men, he controlled Libya, Mediterranean Islands and much of East Africa. He was in an alliance with two of the world’s great powers of the day. His eyes were set on conquering a Mediterranian empire that stretched from “the Strait of Gibraltar to the Strait of Hormuz.”

That, of course, isn’t how it turned out. In fact, Mussolini never even came close. Italy failed to achieve much of what it tried to do and the great victories by Italian troops often came under the direction of German leadership, victories which history tends to give to the Germans. Fascist Italy probably should have fared better, but didn’t. Here’s why:

1. Italy was not prepared for war.

Before the war started, Italian officials estimated that production of wartime needs could not possibly make the Italian army ready for war until 1942. When Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy first signed their friendship pact in 1939, it stipulated that neither side should go to war before 1943 for this reason.

We all know what a pact with Hitler was worth. When the fighting actually got going, Italy’s industrial output was a fraction of what France, Germany and Britain were already producing. Despite Italy’s great power status, the real infrastructure and capabilities of the country did not match its public image.

2. Their weapons were outdated.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Fiat-Ansaldo L6/40 tank in 1940 (Wikimedia Commons)

Even though Italy had its share of colonial ambitions and conquests, much of its military was still using old weapons and gear from World War I. The air force was flying biplanes, the navy had no aircraft carriers, the army had very old tanks, and radios were almost nonexistent. 

Italy did create a powerful homegrown tank concept early on in the war, before the United States entered World War II. But its prototype wasn’t finished until 1942 and it never reached production. Even if they’d had the equipment and weapons (they didn’t) they would never have been able to mass-produce them (see #1). 

3. Italy lost one of its greatest military leaders early on.

It was Benito Mussolini who became the fascist leader of Italy. It probably should have been his deputy, Italo Balbo, but it wasn’t and Italy was worse off for it. Balbo was everything Mussolini was not. Mussolini deserted during his military service but later served two years as penance. Balbo joined the army as an officer during World War I, and became one of the country’s vaunted alpine troops and served courageously on the front line.

After the war, and when the fascists came to power, it became Balbo’s responsibility to build the Italian Air Force in the 1920s and 1930s. He taught himself to fly and in five years was Italy’s Marshal of the Air Force and a world-class pilot. His military skill in Africa was unmatched among fascist leaders and he was ready to take the war into Egypt against the British Empire. But he was shot down and killed by his own troops in Libya. 

His replacement, Rodolfo Graziani is better known for his repressive policies and crimes against humanity than he was for any battlefield skill. Graziani was so bad that he was only allowed to remain a general because he was personally loyal to Mussolini.

4. Mussolini’s eyes were bigger than his stomach.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Italy and its colonies before WWII are shown in red. Pink areas were annexed for various periods between 1940 and 1943. This of course, proved unsustainable for many reasons (Wikimedia Commons)

Mussolini knew all of these facts. He knew Italy wasn’t prepared for war with the great powers in any way. Overwhelming Ethiopians was one thing, but large-scale mechanized warfare on three continents was another thing altogether. Italy only entered the war after the Fall of France in 1940, believing the war would soon be over with minimal effort on the Italians’ part. 

Because of his belief that the war would be over relatively quickly, Mussolini felt confident in invading France and demanding concessions without actually planning and implementing a consistent strategy for defending or advancing Italian interests. When he did mobilize Italian troops in Greece, for example, he soon found his army overwhelmed.

5. They were ill-trained.

This is not the fault of the Italian troops themselves, but rather a fault of the poor planning of Italian leadership. With 200,000 men at arms under his command, Mussolini could boast one of the world’s largest armies. In truth the men were mostly foot soldiers, carrying small arms. They would also have to walk wherever they were going because Italy couldn’t produce the transports needed to drive them. 

There just wasn’t enough money budgeted toward training the men in World War II’s way of war. They eventually fielded some great mechanized anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, but the men expected to operate those weapons just weren’t trained the way troops in the German Wehrmacht or U.S. Army were. Italians were trained at the front lines and their performance suffered as a result. 

6. Italian forces were often far from their supply lines.

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Rommel meets Italian General Italo Gariboldi in Tripoli, February 1941. (Bundesarchiv)

It’s true Italy couldn’t produce enough materials to sustain its army effectively, but even if they could, there was no great way of getting supplies to the fight. For fighting in North and East Africa, Italian supplies had to be ferried across the Mediterranean, which was full of the British Royal Navy just looking for something they could send to the bottom of the sea. 

When German Gen. Erwin Rommel took command of the Afrika Korps, most of his troops were Italians, and his performance was a testament to what Italian troops could do when properly led and fed, but even Rommel was subject to supply line failure, which was the principal reason for the Axis defeat in North Africa. 

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

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This is how ‘trial by combat’ is totally legal in New York State

In August 2015, Staten Island attorney Richard A. Luthmann motioned a New York State court to allow “Game of Thrones” style trial by combat to decide one of his cases. During a lawsuit, Luthmann allegedly advised a client to liquidate his assets and move the funds to where the people suing him couldn’t get to them.


So those people decided to sue Luthmann, who wasn’t happy about it. He asked a judge to sanction an official trial by combat.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
I know someone who’d go for it…

His intent was to settle the civil case in “a fight to the death between either party or champions of the party” while highlighting how silly the plaintiff’s lawyers were. And less than six months later, the right to a trial by combat was upheld by the New York State Supreme Court.

In a 10-page brief, Luthmann details the rights of trial by combat in Medieval England and England’s American colonies. The motion to ban the practice was blocked by Parliament in 1774 and was not restricted by the Constitution.

Luthman also contends the practice is protected by the Ninth Amendment, which protects the rights mentioned specifically elsewhere in the Constitution.

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Pictured: Justice.

Luthmann wrote in a brief to the New York State Supreme Court:

“The allegations made by plaintiffs, aided and abetted by their counsel, border upon the criminal, as such, the undersigned respectfully requests that the court permit the undersigned to dispatch plaintiffs and their counsel to the Divine Providence of the Maker for Him to exact His divine judgment once the undersigned has released the souls of the plaintiffs and their counsel from their corporeal bodies, personally and or by way of a champion.”

The idea of the request was to initially highlight how ridiculous it was for the party suing Luthmann’s client to then sue the counsel for his client for offering legal advice for $500,000.

In March 2016, Supreme Court Justice Philip G. Minardo upheld not just Luthmann’s right to request a trial by combat to settle the dispute, but also the legality of trial by combat and its protection under the Constitution of the United States.

Sadly for the entertainment world, Justice Minardo resolved that Luthmann’s civil suit would be settled in court, either by a judge or jury.

 

“I believe that the court’s ruling is based upon my adversaries’ unequivocal statement that they would not fight me,” Luthmann told Staten Island Live. “Under my reading of the law, the other side has forfeited because they have not met the call of battle. They have declared themselves as cowards in the face of my honorable challenge, and I should go to inquest on my claims.”

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6 reasons why it’s not a good idea to attack a Marine FOB

Being forward deployed in a foreign country has many dangers. No matter how well you fortify your Forward Operating Base, it’ll never be safe — only safer.


But for months or even years, it’s home for hundreds of service members…surrounded by an enemy on all sides who want to bring harm to them on a daily basis.

One thing Marines take seriously is making sure that while their brothers and sisters rest inside the wire — they’re safe. With different security levels in place, check out six obstacles that the enemy has to breach before even getting inside.

1. Hesco barriers

One aspect of fighting in the desert is the massive amounts of sand, dirt, and rocks that are available. Filling the natural resources in the encased barriers provides excellent protection against most types of enemy fire.

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Marines from 1st CEB, fill Hesco barriers at a combat outpost in Musa Qal’eh, Afghanistan. (Photo via 1stMarDiv)

2. Heavy guns in the nest

Occupying the high ground gives allied forces the best vantage possible. Add in a few Marines with big guns waiting for the bad guys to feel froggy — that’s protection.

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The bad guys may want to rethink how they attack with these Marines on deck. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

3. Serpentine

Even if granted permission to access the FOB, entering should be difficult. Serpentine belts force incoming vehicles to slow down and maneuver through the barrier maze.

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If you don’t have permission to enter, the Marines will definitely open fire.  (Photo via Global Security)

4. Security rounds

Marines carry hundreds of rounds on their person at any given time. Carrying a full combat load on patrol can wear the body down. Inside a FOB, you can ease up on your personal security — a little.

Instead of carrying 210 rounds, they’ll have the 30 security rounds inserted in their magazine.

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(Photo via Gun Deals)

5. Surveillance

In warfare, it’s essential to have cameras positioned everywhere and that see everything.

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Dear bad guys, we totally see you. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

6. Claymores

Over time, the gravel inside the Hescos will settle, causing separation between the individual barriers. When FOB security notices this interruption, they frequently place and conceal claymore mines in between the Hescos until the issue is patched up.

If the enemy tries to and squeeze through — boom!

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Lance Cpl. Timothy W. Literal sets up a claymore anti-personnel mine. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Sure, everyone wants to get off for the weekend so they can celebrate the big win by Delta and raise a toast to the operator we lost this week. Here are 13 memes to keep you chuckling until release formation:


1. When airmen aim a little too high:

(via Air Force Memes and Humor)

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I don’t know what he was thinking. That was clearly a naval aviation mission.

2. Looks more like a barracks haircut to me (via NavyMemes.com).

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Either way, gunny will not be impressed.

SEE ALSO: 12 signs you may be ‘motarded’

3. Great drill and ceremony, but can you fight with it (via Coast Guard Memes)?

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Everyone knows the iguana qualification tables are a pain in the a-s.

4. Payday activities are no fun.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

5. Someone is going to have a bad night …

(via Coast Guard Memes)

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… or maybe a bad morning. Depends on when the booze wears off.

6. Marines are ready to step in and assist.

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And, they’ll do it with helmet bands and rifles from the Vietnam era.

7. Air power!

(via Air Force Memes and Humor)

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8. This is a true master-at-arms (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

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The point man needs his knifehand to protect himself in case of ambush.

9. Shoulder-fired, panting-cooled, autonomous weapons system.

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Bowl-fed and bad-ss!

10. For a stealthy bomber, the B-1 is pretty loud.

(via Air Force Memes and Humor)

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Not as loud as its bombs, but loud. 

11. Finding the flag can be challenging on a new post (via Team Non-Rec).

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Meh, probably back there somewhere.

 12. When soldiers are finally told they can do something fun …

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… but have to do it in full battle rattle.

13. That sudden drop in your stomach when you hear it.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

NOW: The 8 most painful nonlethal weapons

OR: Ex-President Jimmy Carter perfectly trolls Russians fighting in Syria

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Katy Perry’s USMC Recruiting Video

Bad breakup, lady? Skip ‘Sex and the City’ marathons in your jammies and gal pal ex-bashing wine parties. Wanna forget that jerk in a hurry? Join the Corps!


This KP video (see what we did there?) was shot in 2012 at Camp Pendleton with official Marine Corps blessing, which makes it either a stroke of recruiting genius or a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.

Watch and decide:

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