The US Air Force’s push to develop operational flying saucers 60 years ago laid the conceptual groundwork for one of the variants of Lockheed Martin’s F-35, MIT Technology Review reports.
The F-35 comes in three variants, with key mechanical differences for the Air Force, Marines, and Navy – the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C respectively.
Of the three models, the F-35B is the most technologically different.
Unlike the F-35A and F-35C, the Marines needed their variant to be capable of conducting short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) operations.
This request necessitated that the F-35B be given a lifting fan. And, as Desire Francine G. Fedrigo, Ricardo Gobato, Alekssander Gobato note in a paper at the Cornell University Library, the F-35B’s lifting fan has its conceptual roots in flying saucers.
Between 1954 and 1961, the US Air Force spent $10 million attempting to develop a flying saucer that became known as an Avrocar. The Avrocar was a vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) saucer that was powered by one giant central fan.
Despite its seven years of development, the Air Force failed to make the Avrocar into a mission capable vehicle that could potentially replace helicopters.
MIT Technology Review notes that the aircraft was “hot and almost unbearably uncomfortable for the pilot. And it demonstrated various idiosyncrasies such as taking five seconds to turn 90 degrees to the left but 11 seconds to turn the same amount to the right, presumably because of its central rotating fan.”
However, despite the Avrocars’ failings, the technology did point researchers towards the feasibility of developing and embedding a central lift fan turbine within an aircraft for variations of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology.
“The concept of a lift fan, driven by a turbojet engine is not dead, and lives today as a key component of Lockheed X-35 Joint Strike Fighter contender,” Fedrigo notes, adding that the conceptual framework of the Avrocar helped General Electric’s own development of a booster fan propulsion system.
Whereas the Avrocar’s development ultimately failed, though, GE’s “Vertifan” went on to prove the concept of successful lifting fan technology. This in turn lead to a DARPA sponsored development challenge that gave birth to lifting fans being used in the F-35B.
The F-35B was declared ready for combat by the Marine Corps on July 31.
The Air Force designed the F-35A with nuclear capability in mind, and a new report indicates that the Joint Strike Fighter may carry nuclear weapons sooner than expected.
The Air Force originally planned to integrate nuclear weapons in the F-35 between 2020-2022, but Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus told Defensetech.org that “it would definitely be possible,” to hasten the deployment of B-61 nuclear gravity bombs on the F-35 should the need for it arise.
As it stands, the B-61’s “military utility is practically nil,” wrote General James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2012. The B-61s “do not have assigned missions as part of any war plan and remain deployed today only for political reasons within the NATO alliance,” Cartwright continued.
Currently among fighter jets, only the F-15E and F-16C carry the B-61. Neither of these planes can penetrate contested enemy airspace, so they could only drop the gravity bomb on an area unprotected by air defenses.
The F-35, a polarizing defense project in its own right, could change that with its stealth capabilities. However, President-elect Trump has voiced concerns about the F-35 project while simultaneously stressing that the US needs to “expand its nuclear capability.”
Immediately this lead to talk of a new nuclear arms race, much to the horror of nuclear experts and non-proliferation advocates. The fact is that Russia and the US already have more nuclear weapons than necessary to meet their strategic needs.
Additionally, nuclear modernization is due to cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming decades, and around a trillion dollars in total.
But not only do experts find nuclear expansion costly and unnecessary, they also find it dangerous.
The US has 180 B-61 nuclear bombs stationed in five bases throughout Europe. Russian intelligence services monitor deployments of fighter jets across Europe, and the fact that the F-15E and F-16C regularly deploy to these bases could lead to a catastrophic misinterpretation.
Kingston Reif, the director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider that the US “should be seeking to strengthen the dividing line between nuclear and conventional weapons, not blur that line.”
F-35s, with their excellent stealth attributes, taking off from European bases that may or may not house the B-61s (it would be extremely difficult for Russia to know) and flying near Russia’s borders could put Moscow on high alert. This could even potentially spook the Kremlin into launching an attack on the US.
So while the F-35 may provide a stealthy, sleek new delivery method for nuclear bombs, they may destabilize already fraught relations between the world’s two greatest nuclear powers — Russia and the US.
“There can be no winners in a nuclear war and that as long as each side has nuclear weapons, strategic stability will remain central to their bilateral relations,” Reif said of US-Russian relations.
A look at where the United States has fought in the 21st century:
After al-Qaida attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. led an invasion of Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban. Though the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the war — now in its 16th year — drags on.
Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein. Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011 after failing to reach an agreement with Baghdad to leave a residual U.S. force behind.
Under Obama, the U.S. dramatically increased the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, to launch counterterrorism strikes without the need for a large U.S. military presence on the ground. The CIA and Defense Department have launched strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, some of them covert.
Intense criticism from civil liberties advocates led Obama to create legal parameters for drone use that he hoped future presidents would respect. At least 117 civilians were killed from 2009 to 2016 by drone strikes outside of traditional warzones, the U.S. intelligence community has said. Other estimates place the toll higher.
The U.S. and European allies launched an air campaign in Libya in 2011, aiming to prevent atrocities by strongman Moammar Gadhafi against Arab Spring-inspired opponents. The bombing campaign toppled Gadhafi, but Libya slid into chaos and infighting. The Islamic State group later gained a foothold.
After IS captured a wide swath of Iraq and Syria in 2014, Obama announced the U.S. could target the group “wherever they are.”
The U.S. started sending small numbers of military advisers to help Iraq’s weakened military fight IS. The number has crept up to around 7,500 U.S. troops. IS has lost much of its former territory.
In Syria, the U.S. has conducted airstrikes against IS since 2014. More recently, the U.S. has dispatched growing numbers of special operations forces to assist Kurdish and Arab forces fighting IS. Roughly 500 U.S. fighters are in Syria, plus additional, “temporary” forces that rotate through.
Even while fighting IS in Syria, the U.S. has avoided wading into Syria’s civil war by directly confronting Syrian President Bashar Assad — until now. On April 6, U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea launched some 60 Tomahawk missiles at an air base in response to a chemical weapons attack blamed on Assad’s forces.
The strikes mark the first direct U.S. attack on Syria’s government, which has waged a six-year civil war against opposition groups. It also puts the U.S. into a de facto proxy battle with Russia’s military, which is on the ground in Syria and has propped up Assad.
The life expectancy of a known jihadi fighting the U.S. and its allies is not very long. If they aren’t killed as Iraqis retake towns and cities, then they are likely to be killed or captured in night raids conducted by special forces or in a drone strike.
ISIS leaders are in the crosshairs more than any other bad guy group these days. Here’s a list of leaders that coalition attacks have helped shuffle off this mortal coil:
1. Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali (aka “Haji al-Mutazz,” aka Ned Price)
This righthand man to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in August 2015. The IS deputy was the top weapons procurer and logistician for the terror group. His death sparked off a number of internal reprisals against those the terror group suspected of leaking important information to Western intelligence.
2. Omar al-Shishani (aka “Omar the Chechen”)
Of all the ISIS leaders killed in action, he’s the most ISIS. He was widely considered to be the terror group’s minister of war. He was killed as a result of an American airstrike in March 2016, near the Syrian border city of Shadadi. He survived the initial strike, but later died of his wounds. It’s not known why they called him “the Chechen,” because he is from Georgia.
Shishani also headed the terror group’s main prison in Raqqa, Syria. The U.S. State Department once offered $5 million for information leading to the capture of Shishani. Shishani was also called “Abu Meat” by detractors, because he had a reputation of staying in the rear with the gear while ordering others into battle.
3. Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli (aka “Hajji Imam”)
In a March effort to capture this senior IS commander, U.S. special operators originally planned to disable his vehicle from the air, land a helicopter, and then take him into custody. Instead, they lit up the vehicle, killing al-Qaduli. He was the group’s top financier.
4. Fathi ben Awn ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi (aka “Abu Sayyaf”)
British SAS and American Delta Force elements raided the house of Abu Sayyaf, ISIS’ chief oil minister and a high-ranking commander in Deir-ez-Zor, Syria. Abu Sayyaf was shot twice in the chest as he went for a weapon. His wife, called Umm Sayyaf by the Daily Mail, claimed to be a Yazidi sex slave. (Sayyaf and his wife ran ISIS’ sex slave network.) His actual Yazidi sex slave was freed by the operators. His wife was captured.
5. Tariq al-Harzi
Also known as the “Emir of Suicide Bombers” he was killed in June 2015 by coalition airstrikes in Syria. He was another logistics expert for ISIS, managing the movement of men and materiel between Iraq and Syria and the support and recruiting for ISIS operations in North Africa.
6. Junaid Hussein
A British citizen, Hussein was the critical operative in the Garland, Texas cartoon contest attack in 2015 and an effective ISIS recruiter. He was killed in Raqqa, Syria by a coalition airstrike. Raqqa is supposed to be a safe haven for the fighters. He was hit by a missile fired from a drone. Hussein was central to the plot of attacking the homes of U.S. service members after ISIS hackers posted their home addresses.
7. “Abu Maryam”
Called an ISIS enforcer and senior leader of their extortion network, Maryam was killed in a December 2015 airstrike. Since extortion is one of the top ways ISIS raises money, the death of Maryam was likely a blow to that revenue stream. He was killed in an air strike near the Iraqi city of Tal Afar.
8. Muwaffaq Mustafa Mohammed al-Karmoush (aka “Abu Salah”)
As part of the apparent effort to disrupt the group’s fundraising and ability to use those funds, the U.S. also hit ISIS’ chief accountant. Abu Sarah (Abu is not his real first name. “Abu” means “father of” in Arabic, and is often used as a nickname) was responsible for paying fighters’ salaries in Northern Iraq, where they are fighting a mixture of Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi Army, and Shia militias backed by Iranian Quds Force operators.
9. Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi (aka “Abu Nabil”)
Abu Nabil was killed in an F-15 strike in the Libyan coastal city of Derna. He was an Iraqi who one fought for al-Qaeda but turned to spearheading ISIS operations in Libya. He was the first ISIS leader killed by Western strikes in Libya. His December 2015 death hampered the terror group’s ability to recruit and establish bases in Libya.
10. Sleiman Daoud al-Afari
Afari is unique on this list because he was the only one captured, interrogated, and handed over to the Iraqi government, instead of being outright killed. Afari was ISIS chief chemical weapons engineers. He learned the trade under the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He told officials about ISIS efforts to develop everything from mustard gas to Sarin nerve gas.
11. Mohammed Emwazi (aka “Jihadi John”)
Emwazi was a significant ISIS operative because of his command of English led him to be the voice of the terror group’s propaganda efforts. Jihadi John was killed in a drone strike in Raqqa, Syria. Starting in August 2014, he appeared in ISIS beheading videos and was a celebrity in the group. He played no important spiritual or military role.
12. Abu Rahman al-Tunisi
An IS executive officer who coordinated the movement of arms, money, people, and information. Hitting al-Tunisi likely significantly disrupted ISIS’ command and control capabilities.
13. Charaffe al-Mouadan
Central to the ISIS attacks in Paris in November 2015, Moudan was killed in an airstrike in Syria the following December.
14. Fayez al-Shaalaan (aka “Abu Fawz”)
Shaalaan was the ISIS leader in the Arsal region of Syria, near neighboring Lebanon. In the northern areas of Lebanon, fighting between ISIS and the al-Qaeda allied Nusra Front fighter spills into Lebanese territory. The Lebanese Army routinely engages these fighters.
BONUS: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (maybe)
The “Caliph” of ISIS, the overall leader of the terror group was the target of an Iraqi airstrike. It’s unknown whether or not Baghdadi was killed in the October 2015 strike. (CNN reported the leader was taken away in a vehicle to an unknown location.)
After another week of keeping the barracks secure from enemy attack, Pokemon, and —most importantly—the staff duty NCO, you deserve some funny military memes. Here are 13 of the best that we could find:
1. Wait, you can get out of PT just because you’re already dead?
This comes after Kandahar police chief general Abdul Raziq said the week before that certain countries in the region were keeping the Taliban’s war machine operational as they believe conflict in Afghanistan protects their interests.
He said countries such as Pakistan, Russia, and Iran are funding and equipping the Taliban and other insurgent groups in order to fuel the war machine and pursue their own objectives.
Raziq said some countries in the region have a vested interest in the conflict in Afghanistan.
He claimed that there is sufficient evidence to show that Pakistan, Russia, and Iran are funding the Taliban and other militant groups in the country.
“The Russians have been in contact with the Taliban militants since 2004 or 2005. It is not correct to say that they (Russians) engaged in ties with the Taliban in recent times (only), but now these relations have been clarified. Pakistanis, Iranians and the Russians are jointly supporting the terrorists, however the Russians do their work through Iran, for instance sending the Taliban weapons and money,” said Raziq.
U.S director of defense intelligence Lieutenant General Vincent R. Stewart said in Congress that despite signs of Russia’s support for the Taliban, U.S officials have not found physical evidence to back these claims.
On May 24, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said the alliance had heard reports to this effect but they too did not have proof.
The Afghan government has also said on a number of occasions in the past that they do not have evidence to back these claims.
U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment patrol the fields in Marjeh, Afghanistan to seure the city of Marjeh from the Taliban. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Andres J. Lugo)
The Russian embassy’s statement further said that Moscow once again declares that allegations of its support to the Taliban “does not match the reality (of the situation) and are merely unsubstantiated claims.”
This coincides with the Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar’s meeting with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on the sidelines of a summit in Moscow, the national security council said in a statement.
The NSC said the two sides held talks on further expanding bilateral, political, and security relations.
The statement added that the two sides also held talks on the establishment of a comprehensive plan to support and strengthen the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
Atmar arrived in Moscow on May 23, heading a delegation of high-ranking Afghan officials.
Officials from 25 countries are meeting at the Russia Security Conference, which will focus on countering terrorism in the region.
The last American to die in World War II was killed three days after the war was over.
After Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945 — what would be called V-J Day (“Victory over Japan”) — the war in the Pacific ended just like it had started in 1941: with “a surprise attack by Japanese war planes,” wrote Stephen Harding in Air Space Magazine.
With just one other bomber alongside and no fighter escort, Army photographer Sgt. Anthony Marchione was flying in an Army Air Force B-32 Dominator bomber aircraft on Aug. 18 with a mission to take reconnaissance photos and ensure Japan was following the cease fire.
But some in the Japanese military had other plans that day. The two B-32’s were shot at by anti-aircraft and enemy aircraft fire soon after they got over Tokyo, and three airmen were wounded, including Marchione.
Japanese Emperor Hirohito had announced over the radio that his country had surrendered, but there were a number of military diehards who vowed to fight on until a formal document was signed (Japan’s formal surrender was not signed until Sep. 2).
“When I got there, Tony was bleeding from a big hole in his chest,” 2nd Lt. Kurt Rupke told Air Space Magazine’s Stephen Harding in 1997 (other eyewitnesses said Marchione was hit in the groin). “He was still conscious when I got to him, and I told him everything was going to be all right. He said ‘Stay with me,’ and I said ‘Yes, I’ll stay with you.’ I did the best I could to stop the bleeding and I held him in my arms.”
According to government microfilm records, when the two B-32s reached Tokyo, anti-aircraft batteries opened fire on them. With flak bursts exploding at what appeared to be a safe distance, the bombers then came under attack from what the American side identified as Nakajima Ki-44 army fighters, known to the Americans as “Tojos” and by Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero naval fighters, dubbed “Zekes” in U.S. parlance. In fact, the Tojos were probably Kawanishi N1K2 Shiden, or “George,” fighters.
According to Dorr, another soldier with Marchione remembered hearing unusual radio transmissions when the pilot of the damaged B-32 asked the other to slow down so it could keep up. One of the Japanese pilots said over the radio in English, “Yes, please slow down so I can shoot you down, too.”
The voice may have belonged to Lt. Saburo Sakai — an English-speaking Japanese ace who confirmed he participated in the engagement — though there is some dispute over whether he fired his guns that day, Defense Media Network reported. But he seemed to take credit for the B-32 shooting and rationalize it in this quote, captured in the book “Imperial Japanese Navy Aces 1937-45” by Henry Sakaida:
“What we did was perfectly legal and acceptable under international law and the rules of engagement. While Japan did agree to the surrender, we were still a sovereign nation, and every nation has the right to protect itself. When the Americans sent over their B-32s, we did not know of their intentions,” Sakai said. “By invading our airspace they were committing a provocative and aggressive act … It was most unwise for the Americans to send over their bombers only a few days after the surrender announcement. They should have waited and let things cool down.”
Regardless of who fired the shots, there is no dispute over what happened before the B-32 landed safely back in Okinawa. Nineteen-year-old Sgt. Anthony Marchione succumbed to his wounds, the last of more than 407,000 Americans to die in World War II.
Raymond A. Spruance gets plaudits for what he did at the Battle of Midway. And deservedly so, since he won the battle while outnumbered and against a very capable foe.
But he arguably pulled off a much more incredible feat of arms two years after Midway, when the U.S. Fifth Fleet appeared off the Mariana Islands.
When the Japanese learned the Americans were off the Aleutians, they sent their fleet — a much larger force than Spruance faced at Midway, including nine carriers with 430 aircraft, escorted by a powerful force of surface combatants. Japan also had planes based on the Marianas.
To protect the transports, Spruance had to operate west of the Marianas. His 15 carriers were equipped with the F6F Hellcat, a plane designed with lessons from combat against the Mitsubishi A6M Zero in mind (of course, finding a nearly-intact Zero on Akutan Island didn’t hurt).
According to CombinedFleet.com, Japanese admiral Jisaburo Ozawa planned to use the Japanese bases on the Mariana Islands to hit the Americans from long range — essentially shuttling his planes back and forth between the islands and the carriers. He was dealing with pilots who were very inexperienced after nearly three years of war had devastated Japan’s pilots.
Spruance, though, had enough time to hit the land-based airfields first. Then he set his cruisers and battleships in a gun line ahead of his carriers. In essence, his plan was to use the advanced radar on his ships to first vector in the Hellcats. Then, the battleships and cruisers would further thin out the enemy planes.
Spruance’s plan would work almost to perfection. According to Samuel Eliot Morison in “New Guinea and the Marianas,” between 10:00 a.m. and 2:50 p.m., four major strikes totaling 326 planes came at Spruance’s fleet. Of those planes, 219 failed to return to their carriers. The Americans called it “The Marianas Turkey Shoot.”
The worst was yet to come. On June 19, American submarines sank the Japanese carriers Taiho and Shokaku. The next day, Spruance began his pursuit. Late in the evening of June 20 the Americans sent out a strike of their own with 226 aircraft. The attack would sink the Japanese carrier Hiyo and two oilers.
A Japanese log said it all: “Surviving carrier air power: 35 aircraft operational.”
Spruance had just won a devastating victory – perhaps the most one-sided in the Pacific Theater.
When asked on Friday if the F-35B could fly combat missions to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the US Marine Corps’ head of aviation said, “We’re ready to do that.”
Noting that the decision to deploy the fifth-generation jet into combat would come from higher command, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for aviation said that the F-35B is “ready to go right now.”
“We got a jewel in our hands and we’ve just started to exploit that capability, and we’re very excited about it,” Davis said during a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute on the readiness and future trajectory of Marine aviation.
Davis, who has flown copilot in every type of model series of tilt-rotor, rotary-winged, and tanker aircraft in the Marine inventory, said that the F-35 is an airplane he’s excited about.
“The bottom line is everybody who flies a pointy-nose airplane in the Marine Corps wants to fly this jet,” Davis said.
Last summer, then Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford declared initial operational capability (IOC) for 10 F-35B jets, the first of the sister-service branches.
“There were a lot of people out here in the press that said, ‘Hey, the Marines are just going to declare IOC because it would be politically untenable not to do that,'” Davis said.
“IOC in the Marine Corps means we will deploy that airplane in combat. That’s not a decision I was gonna take lightly, nor Gen. Dunford,” he said.
Ahead of IOC, Davis said that the Marine Corps “stacked the deck with the F-35 early on” by assigning Top Gun school graduates and weapons-tactics instructors to test the plane.
“The guys that flew that airplane and maintained that airplane were very, very, hard graders,” he said.
Davis added that the jet proved to be “phenomenally successful” during testing: “It does best when it’s out front, doing the killing.”
The Marine Corps’ first F-35B squadron is scheduled to go to sea in spring 2018.
Meanwhile, the US Air Force could declare its first F-35 squadron combat-ready as early as next week.
Jocko Willink retired from 20 years serving as a US Navy SEAL in 2010, but his morning routine is as intense as ever.
As he said in a recent Facebook Live Q&A at Business Insider’s New York headquarters, “It’s not fun to get out of bed early in the morning. When the alarm goes off, it doesn’t sing you a song, it hits you in the head with a baseball bat. So how do you respond to that? Do you crawl underneath your covers and hide? Or do you get up, get aggressive, and attack the day?”
Willink is the former commander of Task Unit Bruiser, which became the most decorated special-operations unit in the Iraq War. In his book, “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” cowritten with his former platoon commander and current business partner Leif Babin, Willink writes that one of his guiding principles is “Discipline equals freedom,” and that discipline begins every morning when his alarm goes off, well before the sun rises.
Business Insider asked Willink to break down his mornings for us. Here’s how a typical day begins:
Wake up at 4:30 a.m. Three alarms are set — one electric, one battery-powered, and one windup — but he almost always only needs one. The two others are safeguards.
After a quick cleanup in the bathroom, take a photo of wristwatch to show his Twitter followers what time he’s beginning the day. It’s become both a way to hold himself accountable as well as inspire others to stick to their goals.
Grab his workout clothes, laid out the night before, and head to the gym in his garage for one of the following strength workouts, which lasts around an hour.The exercises can either be lower weight with high reps and little rest or heavy weight with low reps and lots of rest.
Day 4: Overhead squats, front squats, regular squats.
Spend anywhere from a few minutes (intense bursts) to a half hour (steady) for cardiovascular training. This could include sprints or a jog.
Finish workout around 6:00 a.m. Depending on the day, go out to hit the beach near his home near San Diego, California, to spend time swimming or surfing. If the weather is nice, he may also do his cardio on the beach.
Shower and start working for his leadership consulting firm, Echelon Front, or for his popular podcast, any time after 6:00 a.m. He doesn’t get hungry until around noon, and only has a snack, like a few handfuls of nuts, in the morning.
After work, Willink gets in two hours of jujitsu training and heads to bed around 11:00 pm.
Willink said that he recognizes that everyone is different, and that not everyone would benefit from getting up at 4:00 a.m. for an intense workout. The key is that “you get up and move,” whether that’s jogging, weight lifting, or yoga.
The discipline comes in in setting a schedule and sticking to it so that your day begins with an energizing accomplishment, not a demoralizing stretch of time where you lie in bed and hit snooze on your alarm a few times. Every morning should start off with a predictable routine.
“And that’s the way that you own it,” he said. “Because once the day starts, well, then other people get to have a vote in what you’re doing.”
Make-A-Wish Foundation sets up special experiences for kids diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. While kids can wish for forts in their backyard, shopping sprees, or trips to Disney, some choose to get in the dirt and mud with the U.S. military. These 7 kids used their wishes to join (and in a couple of cases command) military units.
1. Evan takes command of Naval Air Station Fallon.
When Evan was offered a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he wished to become a Top Gun fighter pilot. The commander of Naval Air Station Fallon welcomed Evan into his office and had an instructor escort him around the school. Evan was then able to attend a Top Gun graduation ceremony where he received an honorary certificate. His escort, Major Chip Berke, told a Marine Corps journalist, “There were so many volunteers to help escort Evan and his family, but I was fortunate to get the job. Evan tells me that I work for him. He even asked to be taken back to ‘his office’ a few times after leaving Base Admiral Mat Moffit’s desk.
3. Ian Field packs a 20-year career into two days.
The Army’s 1st Infantry Division learned Ian Field wanted to be a soldier for his wish and their 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team set up a two-day event for Ian to climb from private to command sergeant major April 14-15, 2011. He began by enlisting in the Army and being promoted to private first class. He then fired weapons, trained with grenades, shot artillery, rode in a helicopter, drove a tank, and rescued an injured comrade. As a final event, now-Command Sgt. Maj. Ian Field led his squad during a ceremony commemorating their time together.
4. Carl “pilots” his plane right into the ocean.
Carl, an avid history buff, asked to be a World War II pilot for the day. Specifically, a pilot on the run after being downed. The Air Force trained him in survival skills before he flew to Hawaii. Soldiers and Marines welcomed him at the Hawaii airport with 1940’s military vehicles and gave him a tour of military museums and installations on the islands. Then, he was flown in a Navy bi-plane to a remote beach where he had to cut himself out of a parachute, find his gear, and lead his dad to safety. While they were setting up their position, a pair of Navy SEALs swam in and Carl led their assault on an enemy camp.
5. Andrew becomes a Marine, sailor, soldier, and airman in one day.
Andrew toured multiple bases and served with the Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps in a single day for his wish. First, he visited March Air Reserve Base and toured a C-17 in a custom flight suit and helmet and saw a Predator drone and F-16 up close. Then he headed to the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton where he became an honorary sergeant major. The Navy showed him some of their inflatable boats and let him fire weapons on a computerized shooting range before the Army showed him around their vehicles.
6. Riley learns the Ranger’s Creed in time for graduation.
Riley Woina chose to be a Ranger for a day and practiced jumping out of planes with them before witnessing an actual airborne parachute drop with the 6th Ranger Battalion at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. During airborne training, a Ranger pulled Woina’s reserve parachute for him and accidentally gave the boy a black eye, but Woina decided to continue with training. He also assisted the Ranger candidates in clearing a room and was able to fire off some blank rounds from an M4 and M249. At Ranger graduation, he recited the Ranger Creed from memory.
Riley gave an interview to the Fort Benning Public Affairs Office where he discussed why he chose to be a Ranger for his wish, available here.
7. Jacob makes a World War II movie to honor the military.
Jacob Angel wished to be a World War II soldier in a movie depicting the exploits of World War II heroes. In the film, embedded above, he has to take a hill and fly the American flag over it.
The current NATO force structure in Eastern Europe would be unable to withstand a Russian invasion into neighboring Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, a new think tank study has concluded.
After conducting an exhaustive series of wargames wherein “red” (Russian) and “blue” (NATO) forces engaged in a wide range of war scenarios over the Baltic states, a Rand Corporation study called “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank” determined that a successful NATO defense of the region would require a much larger air-ground force than what is currently deployed.
In particular, the study calls for a NATO strategy similar to the Cold War era’s “AirLand Battle” doctrine from the 1980s. During this time, the U.S. Army stationed at least several hundred thousand troops in Europe as a strategy to deter a potential Russian invasion. Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that there are currenty 30,000 U.S. Army soldiers in Europe.
The Rand study maintains that, without a deterrent the size of at least seven brigades, fires and air support protecting Eastern Europe, that Russia cold overrun the Baltic states as quickly as in 60 hours.
“As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options,” the study writes.
“AirLand” Battle was a strategic warfighting concept followed by U.S. and allied forces during the Cold War which, among other things, relied upon precise coordination between a large maneuvering mechanized ground force and attack aircraft overhead. As part of the approach, air attacks would seek to weaken enemy assets supporting front line enemy troops by bombing supply elements in the rear. As part of the air-ground integration, large conventional ground forces could then more easily advance through defended enemy front line areas.
A rapid assault on the Baltic region would leave NATO with few attractive options, including a massive risky counterattack, threatening a nuclear weapons option or simply allowing the Russian to annex the countries.
One of the limited options cited in the study could include taking huge amounts of time to mobilize and deploy a massive counterattack force which would likely result in a drawn-out, deadly battle. Another possibility would be to threaten a nuclear option, a scenario which seems unlikely if not completely unrealistic in light of the U.S. strategy to decrease nuclear arsenals and discourage the prospect of using nuclear weapons, the study finds.
A third and final option, the report mentions, would simply be to concede the Baltic states and immerse the alliance into a much more intense Cold War posture. Such an option would naturally not be welcomed by many of the residents of these states and would, without question, leave the NATO alliance weakened if not partially fractured.
The study spells out exactly what its wargames determined would be necessary as a credible, effective deterrent.
“Gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades—adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities—could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states,” the study writes.
During the various scenarios explored for the wargame, its participants concluded that NATO resistance would be overrun quickly in the absence of a larger mechanized defensive force posture.
“The absence of short-range air defenses in the U.S. units, and the minimal defenses in the other NATO units, meant that many of these attacks encountered resistance only from NATO combat air patrols, which were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The result was heavy losses to several Blue (NATO) battalions and the disruption of the counterattack,” the study states.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia could be likely Russian targets because all three countries are in close proximity to Russia and spent many years as part of the former Soviet Union
“Also like Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia are home to sizable ethnic Russian populations that have been at best unevenly integrated into the two countries’ post-independence political and social mainstreams and that give Russia a self-justification for meddling in Estonian and Latvian affairs,” the study explains.
While the Pentagon’s European Reassurance Initiative calls for additional funds, forces and force rotations through Europe in coming years, it is unclear whether their ultimate troop increases will come anywhere near what Rand recommends. Pentagon officials would not, at the moment, speculate as to whether thoughts and considerations were being given to raising forces levels beyond what is called for in the initiative.
At the same time, the Pentagon’s $3.4 Billion ERI request does call for an increased force presence in Europe as well as “fires,” “pre-positioned stocks” and “headquarters” support for NATO forces.
Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that more solidarity exercises with NATO allies in Europe are also on the horizon, and that more manpower could also be on the way.
“We are currently planning the future rotations of units through Europe. The heel-to-toe concept will increase how often they’re here for the Armored BCT mission, but it won’t increase how many are here at once — that will remain just one at a time. We currently have some aviation assets on a rotation here but plans aren’t yet firm on what that looks like going forward. We’ve requested additional funding for National Guard and Reserve manpower which may come in the form of full or partial units or even individuals,” Cathy Brown Vandermaarel, spokeswoman for U.S. Army Europe told Scout Warrior in a statement.
Increased solidarity exercises would be designed to further deter Russia by showing allies cooperation along with an ability to quickly deploy and move mechanized forces across the European continent, Vandermaarel added.
The Rand study maintains that, while expensive, adding brigades would be a worthy effort for NATO.
Buying three brand-new ABCTs and adding them to the U.S. Army would not be inexpensive—the up-front costs for all the equipment for the brigades and associated artillery, air defense, and other enabling units runs on the order of $13 billion. However, much of that gear—especially the expensive Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles—already exists,” the study says.
The Russian Military
Russia’s military maneuvers and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have many Pentagon analysts likely wondering about and assessing the relative condition of the former Cold War military giant’s forces, platforms and weaponry.
Russia has clearly postured itself in response to NATO as though it can counter-balance or deter the alliance, however expert examination of Russia’s current military reveals it is not likely to pose a real challenge to NATO in a prolonged, all-out military engagement.
Russia’s economic pressures have not slowed the countries’ commitment to rapid military modernization and the increase of defense budgets, despite the fact that the country’s military is a fraction of what it was during the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.
While the former Cold War giant’s territories and outer most borders are sizably less than they were in the 1980s, Russia’s conventional land, air and sea forces are trying to expand quickly, transition into the higher-tech information age and steadily pursue next generation platforms.
Russia’s conventional and nuclear arsenal is a small piece of what it was during the Cold War, however the country is pursuing a new class of air-independent submarines, a T-50 stealth fighter jet, next-generation missiles and high-tech gear for individual ground soldiers.
During the Cold War, the Russian defense budget amounted to nearly half of the country’s overall expenditures, analysts have said.
Now, the countries’ military spending draws upon a smaller percentage of its national expenditure. However, despite these huge percentage differences compared to the 1980s, the Russian defense budget is climbing again. From 2006 to 2009, the Russian defense budget jumped from $25 billion up to $50 billion according to Business Insider – and the 2013 defense budget is listed elsewhere at $90 billion.
Overall, the Russian conventional military during the Cold War – in terms of sheer size – was likely five times what it is today.
Overall, the Russian military had roughly 766,000 active front line personnel in 2013 and as many as 2.4 million reserve forces, according to globalfirepower.com. During the Cold War, the Russian Army had as many as three to four million members.
By the same 2013 assessment, the Russian military is listed as having more than 3,000 aircraft and 973 helicopters. On the ground, Globalfirepower.com says Russia has 15-thousand tanks, 27,000 armored fighting vehicles and nearly 6,000 self-propelled guns for artillery. While the Russian military may not have a conventional force the sheer size of its Cold War force, they have made efforts to both modernized and maintain portions of their mechanized weaponry and platforms. The Russian T-72 tank, for example, has been upgraded numerous times since its initial construction in the 1970s.
Analysts have also said that the Russian military made huge amounts of conventional and nuclear weapons in the 80s, ranging from rockets and cruise missiles to very effective air defenses.
In fact, the Russian built S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft air defenses, if maintained and modernized, are said to be particularly effective, experts have said.
In the air, the Russian have maintained their 1980s built Su-27 fighter jets, which have been postured throughout the region by the Russian military.
Often compared to the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Eagle fighter, the Su-27 is a maneuverable twin engine fighter built in the 1980s and primarily configured for air superiority missions.
While many experts maintain that NATO’s size, fire-power, air supremacy and technology would ultimately prevail in a substantial engagement with Russia, that does not necessarily negate the Rand study’s findings that NATO would be put in a terrible predicament should Russia invade the Baltic states.
The last few weeks have seen several new muzzle devices make their way into the marketplace. Comps, brakes, flash hiders — we’ve seen quite an array of ’em. Here are three that caught our eye.
A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo of BreachBangClear.com.
Remember: at the risk of sounding orgulous, we must remind you that this is just a “be advised” — a public service if you will — letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement, or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.
There are actually two of these: the GUNNER, a 3-port muzzle brake, and the FLAME, a triple prong flash hider. The two new devices follow in the footsteps of Faxon’s Loudmouth single-port brake.
The FLAME is described as being capable of “virtually eliminating” secondary ignition at the mouth of the muzzle, thus making muzzle flash nearly non-existent (their claim — we haven’t tested to verify).
The GUNNER, for its part, is designed to reduce recoil by 50%, making it ideal for competitive shooters. Both are designed to function with 5.56mm and .223 Rem. platforms. Both feature concentric 1/2 x 28 TPI threads, and both retail for $59.99.
Nathaniel Schueth, the Faxon Director of Sales and Product Development, had this to say:
“We are thrilled to be expanding the MuzzLok line of products with the GUNNER and FLAME devices. Both meet shooters’ objectives for versatility and recoil or flash reduction. The GUNNER and FLAME for 5.56 are just the first of many more devices to come using MuzzLok technology.”
GUNNER 3 Port Muzzle Brake:
Material: Gun Barrel Quality Steel
Finish: QPQ Salt Bath Nitride
Thread: 1/2″-28 TPI
Weight: 2.9 ounces w/ MuzzLok Nut
Length: 2.4 inches w/ MuzzLok Nut
FLAME Tri Prong Flash Hider:
Material: Gun Barrel Quality Steel
Finish: QPQ Salt Bath Nitride
Thread: 1/2″-28 TPI
Weight: 3.36 ounces w/ MuzzLok Nut
Length: 2.6 inches w/ MuzzLok Nut
2. LANTAC Dragon
The Dragon muzzle brake (officially the “Dragon DGN556B-QM”) shouldn’t be confused with their Drakon or other Dragon models. This one is manufactured to be GemTech QM compatible, making it their first to be designed for use with silencers.
This muzzle device is threaded in 1/2 x 28 for 5.56mm, but we’re reliably informed they’ll be building 7.62 and other versions soon. Unfortunately, despite putting out word of the Dragon over a month ago, it has yet to show up on their website, so we can’t give you an MSRP or any additional details.
All we can do is suggest you check ’em out online or follow their social media for updates (on Instagram @lantac_usa).
3. VLTOR Narwhal
The VLTOR Narwhal is described as a “mix of a brake and a flash suppressor [that] directs blast forward.” It uses an expansion chamber rather than a blast chamber, and as you can see is available from Rainier in a limited edition Stickman version.
“The VLTOR Weapon Systems VC-NRWL muzzle device gives a unique spin on utilizing gas and blast to help rifles function reliably as well as many other features. The muzzle device directs blast and sound forward and away from the shooter by pushing blast out in one direction. This makes the weapon more controllable and helps eliminate muzzle rise to keep the forend of the weapon on a level sight view.
While being an excellent muzzle device for any 5.56/.223 rifle, the VC-NRWL stands out in short barrel applications by allowing backpressure to be utilized for cycling as well as in situations of weak ammunition.”
Some other things to know – it comes with a crush washer, can be installed and clocked with a 1 in. open end wrench, is 3.04 in. long, weighs 5.4 oz. and is Made in the USA.
About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman, and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.