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The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
MiG-21 over Nevada (Photo: USAF)


During the Cold War air-to-air warfare was alive and well. The Soviets had a huge air force, and their fighters were a viable threat to NATO aircraft. As a result, American fighter crews trained extensively in matters pertaining to shooting down other airplanes.

Also Read: 17 Signs That You Might Be A Military Aviator 

We trained using Top Gun’s “defense in depth” theory that was built around the idea that no matter how many forward-quarter, long-range missiles a fighter was carrying, there was a good chance the threat would make it into the visual arena. This arena had many nicknames – “getting into the phone booth” or “putting the knife in your teeth” – but was (and still is) best-known as “dogfighting.”

The first trick of a dogfight is getting sight of your opponent.  The oft-repeated maxim is “You can’t shoot what you don’t see.” That trick gets trickier when fighting multiple aircraft at the same time, what we call a “many v. many” or “Battle of Britain” scenario.

I was a Tomcat radar intercept officer (the guy in the backseat like “Goose” in the movie “Top Gun”). The problem of dogfighting multiple aircraft at once was made easier in the F-14 because there were two of us in the airplane. Good crew coordination allowed the pilot to go after one bandit while the RIO made sure no other threats were in a position to take a shot.

Dogfighting is the most exhilarating part of tactical aviation.  The hard turns, the crush of the G forces, and the intensity of the comms over the radio between wingmen make it a wild, heart-pounding experience.  And because of the variables – different pilots flying different airplanes in different conditions – every dogfight is unique.

To simulate the threat aggressor squadrons existed at all the major fighter bases. The squadrons flew American assets that supposedly replicated the flying qualities of Russian airplanes. For instance, an F-5’s characteristics were a lot like those of a MiG-23, and the A-4 was somewhat like a subsonic MiG-21.

Those of us in fighter commands at the time – the mid-1980s – dreamed of going up against the real thing. And one day while conducting training out of Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada we found out that our dream was going to come true – sort of.

We were scheduled to participate in a secret program called “Constant Peg.” In the late ’70s the U.S. Air Force had come into the possession of a few Soviet aircraft that Israel had captured from Syria. Over the years that inventory grew to more than a dozen airplanes acquired from places like Pakistan and China.

The Constant Peg aircraft were assigned to the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron – “The Red Eagles” – based at Tonopah in the Nevada desert, a place I’d never heard of until the day of our first missions when pilots from the Red Eagles came to Fallon to brief us.

The Red Eagle reps reviewed the performance characteristics of the aircraft we’d be flying against.  In our case that day we were doing 1 v 1s against a MiG-23 (what they had designated the YF-113 for OPSEC purposes) and a MiG-21 (what Constant Peg designated the YF-110).

As much as the brief focused on the dogfights it emphasized the admin around the mission, specifically the fact that, although we would be dogfighting closer to Tonopah than Fallon, in case of an aircraft emergency in no case were we to consider Tonopah a suitable divert field unless the emergency was so serious that not landing at Tonopah meant we’d crash. And if we would end up landing at Tonopah we were warned that we’d wind up spending at least two weeks there before we’d be allowed to fly back.

These rules struck us as pretty intense, but we figured it was what a secret program like Constant Peg demanded.

A few hours later we launched and flew south until we rendezvoused with the MiG-23. It was surreal to see an airplane we’d only seen in photographs for years before that, and the airplane looked smaller than we’d expected.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
MiG-23 (Photo: Bill Paisley)

We went through the choreography of the dogfight as we’d planned, taking advantage of the fact that the MiG-23 was a “bleeder” in terms of turn rate, which meant that the airplane lost a lot of airspeed (compared to the Tomcat) when attempting hard turns.  We also did a speed demo that showed us trying to outrun the MiG-23 was potentially a bad idea.

Then we joined up with the MiG-21 and did another dogfight, this one quicker than the first because we needed to conserve some gas to get back to Fallon. Again, it was surreal to fly formation on an enemy aircraft, studying the details that the Red Eagle pilot pointed out to us (in cryptic terms for OPSEC purposes) over the radio. The MiG-21 wasn’t as fast as the MiG-23, but it had a better turn rate.

When we got back from the flight my pilot and I debriefed over a classified phone with the Red Eagle pilots we’d flown against. After we hung up, we went over the high points with each other, both remarking that it had been very cool to go against the real airplanes for once.

Then my pilot, who was the squadron operations officer and senior to me, said something that struck me as curious: “I’ll bet Constant Peg isn’t the only thing going on at Tonopah,” he said.  “There’s something else there they care about more than MiGs.”

I didn’t give the comment another thought until months later when the Air Force finally admitted that “the secret test aircraft” that had crashed in the middle of the Nevada desert in 1984 killing the pilot who also happened to be a three-star general – too senior for normal test flights – had actually been a MiG-23.

I asked my operations officer what he thought about the Air Force admission, and again he hinted at the idea that there was something else bigger going on a Tonopah. “They would’ve stuck with the original story otherwise,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they offered up the MiGs hoping the press would stop digging beyond that.” I asked him to put a finer point on the thought, but he just shrugged and said he didn’t know anything more.

Just less than three years later the operations officer’s hunch was proved correct as the U.S. Air Force introduced the F-117 Nighthawk – the first stealth fighter – to the world. It turned out that the Air Force had been developing that amazing new capability since the late 1970s conducting test flights mostly at night out of Tonopah.  Those involved with the program were stationed hundreds of miles away at Nellis Air Force Base outside of Las Vegas and would fly in on a special airliner at the beginning of the work week and fly back home at the end of it. Families had no idea what their service members did during that tour.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
F-117s taxi to runway (Photo: USAF)

The F-117 carried the day during Desert Storm in ’91, and the world watched in wonder as DoD released the cockpit footage that showed bombs hitting exactly where the crosshairs were placed while the airplanes penetrated enemy defenses totally unseen by radars.

Even more amazing, especially when considering how information flows in today’s internet age, is how the Air Force managed to keep the Stealth Fighter a secret all those years. (There were a couple of reports of UFOs made by locals over the years, but the Air Force managed to dismiss those.)

Not only was Constant Peg great training for American fighter crews, it provided a cover for the super-secret development of the F-117 – a stroke in sneaky brilliance that saw to the success of a platform that is arguably the most effective and revolutionary in the history of highly classified programs.

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The US military buys more barrels of Jack Daniel’s whiskey than anyone else on the planet

According to Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett, the US military buys the most of the brand’s premium Single Barrel whiskey in the world.


The price tag for an entire barrel of this whiskey, approximately 250 bottles, swings from $9,000-$12,000 since no two whiskey barrels have the same volume.

Also read: 7 times drunks decided the course of battle

Single Barrel whiskey was first sold in 1997 and was such a success that the distillery created the ‘By The Barrel‘ program a year later.

“Over the entire span of when the program has existed, the US military is the largest purchaser. It has been represented by base exchanges, individual units, as well as other on-base military entities like Officers’ Clubs,” Arnett told Business Insider.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Jack Daniel’s

During a visit to the distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn., our tour guide said it is believed that Navy SEAL Team 6 bought a barrel after the successful raid on Osama Bin Laden.

Although, we could not confirm, parent company Brown-Forman did share, ” SEAL teams have purchased barrels before but we can’t officially confirm Seal Team 6.”

At the distillery, only 1 in 100 barrels makes the cut for the select 94-proof Single Barrel whiskey.

In an average 560-pound, 53-gallon barrel, there are approximately 250 bottles-worth of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel whiskey.

How the ‘By The Barrel’ program works

A prospective whiskey barrel buyer is invited to tour the distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee and meet with an expert Jack Daniel’s Master Taster and sometimes the Master Distiller, Jeff Arnett.

The buyer samples whiskey from 3 handpicked barrels along with the expert. After the tasting, a buyer selects a barrel and then later receives the empty barrel along with approximately 250 bottles.

The bottles are individually numbered and personalized with a custom  metal hang tag. The top of the barrel is also engraved before it is shipped to the buyer.

And in the distillery’s Single Barrel room, the buyer gets their name engraved on a plaque.

Those who buy more than one barrel are given a medallion on their tablet.

MacDill Air Force Base’s plaque reflects the purchase of 7 barrels of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel whiskey.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Flickr/CC

A little bit about Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel

According to Arnett, Jack Daniel’s derives all of its’ color and most of the flavor from the handmade charred oak barrels.

Single Barrel whiskey sits on the highest level of the distillery’s barrelhouses where temperatures can reach up to 120-degrees Fahrenheit, the fluctuations in temperature give this whiskey the most interaction with the barrel, and therefore a darker color and more robust flavor.

The following four bottles show the impact time and temperature have on each whiskey product. The first bottle is whiskey directly from the still, next is Jack Daniel’s Green Label kept on the lowest floor of the barrel house, Old No. 7 comes from the middle floor, and Single Barrel Whiskey is kept on the top floor of the barrelhouses.

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Watch how Marines get these savaging rocket launchers ready to destroy faster

The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System can fire 6 rockets at targets as far as 298 miles away. A group of HIMARS trucks firing together can wipe out entire enemy bases, a mission the Army actually conducted in Desert Storm.


The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Screenshot: US Marine Corps

But the rocket system is heavy and can only move as quickly as the operators can drive them. Lately, the Marines have been experimenting with how to get HIMARS to the battle more quickly, establishing operational capabilities that they refer to as “air raids” by driving them off of C-17s or C-130s or using amphibious craft to deliver them in “sea raids.”

As part of Exercise Balikatan, an annual exercise between the Philippines and the U.S., the Marines took their HIMARS to that country and fired practice rockets. Watch the video and see how they quickly got the artillery systems to the country and into the fight:


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Hitler’s army was kicked out of Paris 71 years ago today

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Photo: German National Archive


“That was the greatest and finest moment of my life,” one of the world’s most brutal tyrants reportedly said after touring the newly Nazi-occupied French capital.

The day after Germany signed an armistice with France, Hitler and his cronies toured the Dôme des Invalides which holds Napoleon’s tomb, the Paris opera house, Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur, and the Eiffel Tower on June 23, 1940.

In all, Hitler spent three hours in the “City of Light,” but spent four years occupying northern France until Allied Forces liberated Paris, 71 years ago on Tuesday.

“The Germans were driven from many strategic parts of the city by the combined onslaught of the French military and the fury of citizens fighting for their liberties,” the Associated Press reports.

During Hitler’s brief tour, he instructed friend and architect Albert Speer to take note of the city’s design to recreate similar yet superior German buildings.

“Wasn’t Paris beautiful?” Hitler reportedly asked Speer.

“But Berlin must be far more beautiful. When we are finished in Berlin, Paris will only be a shadow.”

While sightseeing, Hitler also ordered the destruction of two French World War I monuments that reminded him of Germany’s bitter defeat.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Photo: German National Archive

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness

The new Veterans Affairs chief shares the goal set by former President Barack Obama’s administration of ending homelessness among veterans, but says it’ll take longer than his predecessor predicted.


Reducing the number of homeless veterans nationwide from roughly 40,000 to 10,000 or 15,000 is an “achievable goal” for President Donald Trump’s administration, VA Secretary David Shulkin told The Associated Press during a visit to Rhode Island on Friday.

“This is a continuous problem of people finding themselves in economically difficult situations and then being out on the street or going from shelter to shelter,” Shulkin said.

Homelessness among veterans has been effectively ended in Virginia, Connecticut and Delaware and in more than 40 communities. The outgoing head of the VA, Robert McDonald, said in January that “we should be there” nationwide within a couple of years.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Honorable David J. Shulkin, visits the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, April 27. Shulkin, who visited the medical center for the first time, spoke with various providers throughout the facilities to learn about the medical care given at the hospital. (Photo by Megan Garcia, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Command Communications)

Shulkin, who formerly was VA undersecretary of health under Obama, said on Friday, “We’re still looking at a multi-year process.”

While advocates are encouraged to hear Shulkin’s commitment, some wish he was more ambitious.

“My personal take is, the VA secretary is being cautiously optimistic about what can be achieved and not wanting to kind of set the administration up for a missed goal,” said Lisa Vukov, who works to prevent and end homelessness in the Omaha, Nebraska, metropolitan area. “I’m a firm believer in setting your goals big because you achieve more that way.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said veteran homelessness can be ended during the Trump administration.

“There’s no reason we can’t achieve it if enough resources are dedicated to the fight,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Shulkin said some veterans offered housing by the VA prefer other alternatives and high real estate prices and a shortage of available housing in some parts of the country make it hard to house veterans there. He sees the biggest challenge in Los Angeles.

Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti said homelessness in Los Angeles is a long-term crisis, but the city has housed more than 8,000 veterans since 2014 and he’s fighting to ensure all veterans have a safe place to call home. Los Angeles voters approved a bond in November to raise $1.2 billion for up to 10,000 permanent units.

Navy veteran Chris N. Cardenas said there are some veterans who refuse help or have trouble accessing benefits because of mental illness or substance abuse issues, but 40,000 homeless veterans is far too many.

“That’s a very high number,” Cardenas said. “It can get down to zero for the ones that want the help.”

Cardenas, 52, said he stopped working as a deliveryman in Santa Fe because of problems with his right knee in 2013 and became homeless after he used up his savings. He moved into an apartment in the Santa Fe area in 2016 with the help of a VA grant program and is now a student at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.

“I’m at a loss for words because it’s so great,” he said. “It makes you feel like a functioning person in society.”

To get homeless veterans into permanent homes, the Obama administration used a program that was created in 2008 and combines rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development with case management and clinical services from the VA, so-called HUD-VASH vouchers. Some areas of the country currently have a waiting list for a voucher, including Los Angeles.

While programs for helping homeless veterans received funding increases in fiscal 2017, there’s less money for new HUD-VASH vouchers. There’s $40 million available, compared to $60 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers in 2016 and $75 million in 2015, according to HUD.

“We urge the VA to prioritize finishing the job and I have absolute confidence the new secretary has that commitment,” said Chris Ko, director of homeless initiatives for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “We need to see that commitment exercised in additional federal resources.”

Shulkin said he’s committed to maintaining the voucher program and continuing strategies that are working, such as housing people first and then pointing them toward help to confront the root cause of their homelessness.

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This woman was likely the first journalist to ever make a combat jump

In February 1967, the U.S. Army launched Operation Junction City, one of the largest operations of the Vietnam War and one that included the only major combat jump of the war.


Joining the 173rd Airborne Brigade on their historic mission was a young civilian, Catherine Leroy, who many believe to be the first civilian journalist ever to participate in a combat jump.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program

Catherine Leroy was born in Paris in 1945 in the shadow of World War II. Raised in a convent, she was intrigued by the photos of World War II she saw. Then in 1966, at the age of 21, she bought a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia and left home with nothing but a camera and $100 in her pocket.

When she arrived in Saigon, she met legendary photojournalist Horst Faas who gave her three rolls of film and promised to pay her $15 for every photo that was published.

At 5 foot nothing and weighing only 85 pounds, she humped the jungles in combat boots two sizes too big – she couldn’t find any small enough to fit her size four feet – and carrying near her body weight in camera equipment and other gear. But she was determined to capture the human element of war.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
A Marine screams in pain, Operation Prairie, near the DMZ (Photo by Catherine Leroy)

Not long after arriving in country, she found her way to the front lines with American forces. Her determination lead her so far forward that on February 22, 1967 she joined the 173rd during their combat jump as part of Operation Junction City. This made her the first newsperson to jump into combat with American forces. However, she was soon slapped with a 6-month ban from the front lines for cussing out an officer – in her defense, most of the English words she had learned up to that point had come from hanging out with foul-mouthed grunts, so cussing was about all she could do in English.

In early 1968, Leroy was with the Marines during the Battle of Khe Sanh. It was while she was with the Marines battling for Hill 881 that she took her most famous photo “Corpsman in Anguish” depicting a Navy Corpsman tending to a wounded Marine as he passes away.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Corpsman in Anguish (Photo by Catherine Leroy)

Two weeks later during more intense fighting Leroy was wounded and nearly killed by an enemy mortar. She was badly wounded and as she lay stunned, she heard what she thought would be her last words: “I think she’s dead, Sarge.” She credits her camera with saving her, as the largest piece of shrapnel destroyed it instead of entering her chest.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
A soldier of the 1st Air Calvary Division punches a Viet Cong who was caught hiding in a stream, Bong Song (Photo by Catherine Leroy)

Later in 1968, she was captured by the North Vietnamese during the Tet Offensive. Relying on nothing but wit and charm she was able to convince her captors to let her go. Before she left, she managed to do something no other photographer had done in the war, get pictures of the NVA behind their own lines. These pictures made the cover of Life Magazine under the title “A Remarkable Day in Hue: The Enemy Lets Me Take His Picture.”

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
A North Vietnamese soldier atop his foxhole (Photo by Catherine Leroy)

During her time in Vietnam, Leroy also became known as “the woman with the wine” to the troops out in the field. Instead of carrying the heavier C rations in her already heavy pack she would bring a six-pack of wine in cans and trade or share it for food with the troops she was with.

Leroy also said she never had a problem being a woman in Vietnam. “I was never propositioned or found myself in a difficult situation, sexually,” she told the Chicago Tribune in 2002. “When you spend days and nights in the field, you’re just as miserable as the men – and you smell so bad anyway.”

Catherine Leroy would continue to cover the war in Vietnam until the Fall of Saigon in 1975. In 1972, she made a documentary, “Operation Last Patrol,” about anti-war Vietnam Veterans, particularly Ron Kovic. Kovic was inspired by the movie to write a book, “Born on the Fourth of July,” that would later become a movie starring Tom Cruise.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Wounded soldier being bandaged (Photo by Catherine Leroy)

After Vietnam she covered other war zones. She covered the civil war in Lebanon and later the Lebanon War between Israel and Lebanon. She co-authored a book, “God Cried,” about the siege of West Beirut by the Israeli Army in 1982.

During her career, she was awarded the George Polk Picture of the Year in 1967 and the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award for her coverage of the street fighting in Beirut in 1976. Leroy died of Lung Cancer in 2006.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Leroy in Vietnam

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These full-bird colonels are amped about vertical lift aircraft

The Army, the Marine Corps, and the Special Operations Command are working together in an ambitious drive to develop leap-ahead capabilities for future vertical lift aircraft that will provide greater range, speed, lethality, and survivability, but also have the maximum degree of commonality in platforms and systems to reduce cost and enhance sustainability.


The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
A USMC V-22 Osprey lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The three colonels managing that complex effort say they believe they can do a better job of maximizing commonality and limiting cost than the tri-service F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, program that continues to struggle with technology challenges, cost growth, and fractured schedules.

Appearing at a Center for Strategic and International Studies’ forum on future vertical lift (FVL) on Dec. 9, the three officers stated slightly different platform requirements for the future aircraft.

The Army and SOCOM are primarily interested in filling air lift and air assault missions currently performed by the different variants of the H-60 Black Hawks, according to Col. Erskine Bentley, the future vertical lift program manager at Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Army Col. David Phillips, program executive for rotary wing requirements at SOCOM.

Bentley described the Army’s focus as “primarily the utility mission,” which includes aerial medical evacuation and air assault, or “the ability to assault light forces and their equipment.”

SOCOM’s air lift missions tend to be long-range covert insertion and extraction of special operations units.

Marine Col. John Barranco, the rotary requirements branch head, expressed a need for both troop transport and attack capabilities as successors to the Corps’ current UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper helicopters. That did not include replacing the tilt-rotor MV-22 Ospreys, which already has speed and range far greater than those two.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom flies during an exercise. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

But all three emphasized the primary focus of their FVL effort was more speed, range, power, and survivability than the current generation of helicopters. They emphasized that those enhanced capabilities were needed to overcome the emerging anti-access, area-denial defensive capabilities being fielded by “near-peer competitors,” which usually refers to Russia and China.

Bentley said greater “reach, speed, and power” would enable the Army to “conduct strategic deployment” from outside the combat theater, and immediately go into tactical operations on arrival.

Greater speed and reach, combined with additional protective systems, enhances survivability and “coupled with light-weight sensor systems, increases the lethality of Army aviation,” he said.

Barranco, noted that the Marines are fielding the “fifth generation” F-35B strike fighter, while their vertical lift aircraft, with the exception of the Osprey, are little better than the helicopters used in Vietnam. But, due to “the threat picture, the anti-access, area-denial, from a variety of near peer competitors,” he said, “there is a need across the joint force to leverage technology to develop a new, more capable aircraft.”

Phillips said the improved capabilities, and the open architecture systems were essential to “stay ahead of the environment,” which was his term for the threat.

The CSIS moderator, Andrew Hunter, challenged the officers on how they could achieve the high commonality for their different missions in light of the record of the Joint Strike Fighter program, which has been “challenged” and has had “less commonality than expected.”

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
The F-35 was developed under a unique joint program office, while the FVL effort is under the established Army program office. (Photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen. (Cropped))

All three emphasized the time they have spent on confirming the key common requirements. Bentley said within each of those requirements was “trade space” that would allow each service to take from one capability to enhance another.

Barranco agreed, saying “every requirement is in a range of capabilitie,” so they could trade some speed or range for more troops. The Marine also stressed how they all needed the high commonality to enable them to get what they need within “the fiscally constrained environment,” which he predicted would not change.

In addition to reducing the procurement costs, commonality also would enhance sustainability by allowing common supply of spare parts and even cross-service maintenance, they said.

Although the individual platforms may be different, Barranco cited the example of the Marines’ new H-1s, which have 85 percent commonality in engine and mission systems, despite the significant difference in airframe and missions. 

Commonality also would be easier with open architecture in systems that would make it easier and cheaper to modify some performances, they said.

As the program lead, Bentley said the goal was to develop and test prototype aircraft in the 2020s and begin full rate production in the 2030s, when current vertical lift aircraft were due to retire.

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This crazy truck can fire 240 rockets in a single salvo

The Jobaria Multiple Cradle Launch system carries a stunning 240 rockets which can be driven into position and fired by a crew of only three people.


The Jobaria, which shares its name with a massive dinosaur, includes a large Oshkosh 6×6 Heavy Equipment Transporter that pulls a semi-trailer with four 122mm rocket launchers, each packed with 60 rounds. And the truck can fire all of those rockets in less than two minutes. That’s a rate of more than two rockets per second.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
(GIF: YouTube/Armyreco)

A global positioning system tracks the location of the launcher and the rockets follow instructions from an inertial guidance system after firing. The system can carry either high-explosive warheads or steel-ball proximity warheads, essentially flying claymores.

Developed in partnership with the Turkish company Roketsan, the United Arab Emirates is the only nation to deploy the system, though it has been shown at a number of defense expos where other countries might decide to buy it.

Of course, such heavy machinery requires a decent road network and a single enemy missile strike could take the whole system down. Still, a crew of three with the ability to fire 240 rockets is pretty concentrated firepower.

(Source: Armyreco/YouTube)
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That time World War II vets violently overthrew corrupt politicians in Tennessee

When veterans of World War II returned home to McMinn County, Tennessee, they probably weren’t surprised to find that many of the same politicians from before the war were still running the place. A local political machine run by Paul Cantrell had been suspected of running the county and committing election fraud since 1936.


However, when the sheriff’s deputies began targeting the veterans with fines for minor arrests, the vets suspected they were being taken advantage of. One veteran, Bill White, later told American Heritage magazine:

“There were several beer joints and honky-tonks around Athens; we were pretty wild; we started having trouble with the law enforcement at that time because they started making a habit of picking up GIs and fining them heavily for most anything—they were kind of making a racket out of it.

“After long hard years of service—most of us were hard-core veterans of World War II—we were used to drinking our liquor and our beer without being molested. When these things happened, the GIs got madder—the more GIs they arrested, the more they beat up, the madder we got …”

By early 1946, the vets and the townspeople were tired of what they saw as corrupt practices by Paul Cantrell and his lackeys. The vets started their own political party with candidates for five offices. The focus of the contest was the race for sheriff between Paul Cantrell and Henry Knox, a veteran of North Africa.

Everyone knew that the election could turn violent. Veterans in nearby Blount County promised 450 men who could assist in any need that McMinn County had on election day. In response, Cantrell hired two hundred “deputies” from outside the county to guard polling places.

What happened next would go down as the “Battle of Athens,” or the “McMinn County War.”

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Photo: Wikipedia/Brian Stansberry

Tensions built on election day as the veterans faced off with the special deputies. By 3 p.m., an hour before the polls closed, violence broke out. Deputies beat and shot a black farmer who tried to vote and arrested two veterans who were then held hostage in the Athens Water Works. Other veterans responded by taking hostage deputies who were sent to arrest them. Still, Cantrell was able to fill most of the ballot boxes with purchased votes and get them to the jail, ensuring he would win the election.

While the sheriff and his lackeys counted the votes in the jail, White and the other veterans were getting angry. Finally, sometime after 6 p.m., White led a raid on the National Guard armory to get guns.

White said in a 1969 interview that they “broke down the armory doors and took all the rifles, two Thompson sub-machine guns, and all the ammunition we could carry, loaded it up in the two-ton truck and went back to GI headquarters and passed out seventy high-powered rifles and two bandoleers of ammunition with each one.”

The veterans set siege to the jail, firing on deputies that were outside the jail when they arrived. One deputy fell wounded into the building while another crawled under a car after he was hit in his leg. But, Cantrell and others were safely locked behind the brick walls of the jail. The veterans needed to get through before other police or the National Guard arrived.

Molotov cocktails proved ineffective but at 2:30 in the morning, someone arrived with dynamite. At about the same time, an ambulance arrived and the veterans let it through, assuming it was there for the wounded. Instead, Paul Cantrell and one of his men escaped in it.

A few minutes later, the vets started throwing dynamite. The first bundle was used to blow up a deputy’s cruiser, flipping it over. Then, three more bundles were thrown. One landed on the porch roof, one under another car, and one against the jail wall. The nearly simultaneous explosions destroyed the wall and car and threw the jail porch off of its foundation.

The deputies in the jail, as well as some hiding out in the courthouse, surrendered immediately. The veterans were then forced to protect the deputies as local townspeople attempted to kill them. At least one deputy had his throat slit and another of Cantrell’s men was shot in the jaw.

The veterans established a patrol to keep the peace. To prevent a counterattack by Cantrell, the vets placed machine guns at all the approaches to Athens, where the jail and courthouse were located.

The rest of the incident played out without violence. Henry Knox took over as sheriff Aug. 4, 1946 and future elections dismantled what was left of Cantrell’s machine.

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Air Force loosens flight suit sleeve rules

The Air Force is allowing its pilots, navigators and airmen who wear flight suits to roll up their sleeves whenever they’re not on in-flight duty, according to a new memo.


The latest policy, first published on the popular Air Force blog John Q. Public, mimics what airmen who wear the Airman Battle Uniform are already allowed to do when they’re not performing official duties, said Air Force spokesman Maj. Bryan Lewis.

Also read: 15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

“The flight suit sleeve policy was updated to align with the Airman Battle Uniform coat [shirt] wear policy,” Lewis said in an email Monday.

The change amends Air Force Instruction 36-2903, “Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel,” which already states in the case of the ABU that “commanders may authorize sleeves to be rolled up on the ABU coat; however, the cuffs will remain visible and the sleeve will rest at, or within 1 inch of, the forearm when the arm is bent at a 90-degree angle.”

“Regardless as to whether the sleeves are rolled up or unrolled, the cuffs will remain visible at all times,” the AFI says.

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Similarly, airmen who wear a Flight Duty Uniform or Desert Flight Duty Uniform can roll or tuck their suit sleeves under, Lewis said, and “are now approved to pull the sleeves up to within 1 inch of the elbow using the Velcro, already incorporated in the suit, to hold them in place.”

Lt. Gen. Mark Nowland, deputy chief of staff for operations, enacted the change — effective immediately — on Jan. 23, according to the memo.

Airmen “will still be required to have sleeves rolled down to the wrist when performing aircrew duties in-flight,” Lewis said — for example, while flying or on the flight line.

The previous policy for flight suits stated airmen could have their sleeves rolled under “if not performing in-flight duties.” However, the rolled-under sleeve “will not end above the natural bend of the wrist when the wearer’s arms are hanging naturally at their side.”

Lewis could not say if similar provisions for flight suits were made in the past.

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This company is turning these old tanks into modern killers

The M60 Patton was America’s first main battle tank and a heavy-lifter for the U.S. from its adoption in 1960 to its final retirement in 1997. It’s still in service in allied countries around the world and Raytheon has come out with a modernization kit to get it ready for 21st-century combat.


The Raytheon M60A3 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) features a 950-horsepower engine (a 200-horsepower improvement), a 120mm main gun, new fire control and targeting systems with thermal and day sights, and more reactive motors to move the turret and main gun.

Replacing the old, 105mm M68 rifled gun with the L44 120mm smoothbore cannon is probably the most visible and important part of the SLEP upgrades. The L44 is also known as the M256, the main gun on the M1 Abrams main battle tank that America uses today. It features greater range and penetrating power than the M68 it is replacing.

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GIF: YouTube/arronlee33

The upgraded electric motors will allow crews to respond more quickly to enemies spotted on the battlefield than the old hydraulic motors. They also do their job more quietly, reducing the chances that the Pattons will be spotted as quickly in combat.

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GIF: YouTube/arronlee33

Meanwhile, the new, 950-hp engines will allow the tanks to reach more places more quickly, giving commanders better tactical and strategic options on the battlefield.

Finally, the sights on the tank are a leap forward for it, allowing crews to quickly and reliably engage targets with their larger cannon.

The tanks featured in a Raytheon video about the SLEP also seem to feature armor upgrades, but Raytheon hasn’t commented on what new capabilities the armor gives.

Of course, this is still an old dog learning new tricks and M60s would struggle against the most modern tanks on the battlefield. For Raytheon, it seems to be about giving customers who can’t afford new tanks an upgrade option rather than making the M60 a peer to Abrams, Leopard, or Armata tanks.

For countries who field the M60 and aren’t yet ready for a tank acquisition program, the SLEP offers a chance to deter aggressive neighbors without breaking the bank.

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This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

They don’t even put Charms in MREs anymore. Because if everyone is just going to chuck the candy out the Humvee window, that’s just a gross waste of high-fructose corn syrup.


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And that is candy corn’s job.

Those who aren’t new to the service and have ever deployed with Marines probably saw the same scene at some point. Hungry Marines pour into their MREs and take out their favorite parts and toss the rest into the MRE box (a process known as ratf*cking). Let’s face it, some MRE parts are definitely better than others.

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Look, I like wheat snack bread, and I don’t need jalapeno cheese spread to eat it.

No matter what an individual’s tastes were, one item was always discarded: the Charms candy. The reason for that was a mixture of superstition and because the younger guys knew someone would slap the candy out of their hands or out of their mouths for the cardinal sin of even opening the wrapper.

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The look you get when the smell of Charms fills the humvee. (HBO)

The simplest answer is that Marines grow up in the Corps learning that Charms are just plain bad luck. Whether it was learned from saltier Marines or experienced firsthand, those things might as well be pure evil.

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Eating Charms is like begging for the world’s largest thunderstorm to rain down on you and your platoon – even in the desert. Or they might set off a roadside bomb. Some think you’ll get mortared just for opening an MRE with Charms in it – unless you bury it.

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Some troops have been known to donate them to the more persistent local children – at high velocity. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Grant Okubo)

The luck varied as much as the flavors did. As Sgt. Kenneth Wilson told Agence France-Presse just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a lemon-flavored Charm could cause a vehicle breakdown. The green ones were the ones that brought the rain. Raspberry meant certain death.

You might as well be eating apricots.

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This is how the Marines groom their top operators

An average of 11 months of grueling training and the mastery of seven weapons are just some of the hurdles to join the elite tier of the Corps’.


After serving three years as a Marine, MARSOC candidates arrive at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in the best shape of their lives.

Some of the physical assessments include a 300 yard swim in cammies and a brutal 12-mile timed rucksack run carrying 45 pounds of gear.

Come along to MARSOC and see what the training is like.

MARSOC training begins with Phase One, a 10 week long course that focuses on basic skills that all operators will need to master.

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Sgt. Kyle McNally | U.S. Marine Corps

These skills include general fitness …

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Cpl. Thomas Provost | U.S. Marine Corps

… And significantly more advanced swimming skills.

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Cpl. Steven Fox | U.S. Marine Corps

All Marines must also master survival skills such as Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training and Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC).

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Sgt. Larry Carpenter | U.S. Marine Corps

After a successful completion of Phase One, Marines enter into 8 weeks of Small Unit Tactics in Phase Two.

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Cpl. Steven Fox | U.S. Marine Corps

This second phase involves small boat operations and information collection.

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Staff Sgt. Robert Storm | Wikimedia Commons

Urban and rural reconnaissance is also a focus of this phase.

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Sgt. Kyle McNally | U.S. Marine Corps

After completion of Phase Two, successful Marines enter into 5 weeks of Close Quarters Battles training.

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U.S. Marine Corps

Phase Three focuses on the necessary martial skills that all MARSOC operators must master to survive during their missions.

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Master Sgt. Larry Carpenter | U.S. Air Force

This includes rifle and pistol marksmanship lessons …

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GySgt. Josh Higgins | U.S. Marine Corps

… As well as learning the tactics and techniques required for successfully conducting raids on urban, rural, and maritime objects.

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Gunnery Sgt. Robert Storm | U.S. Marine Corps

Phase Four is the final section of the course and lasts seven weeks.

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YouTube

This phase, dubbed Irregular Warfare, requires that Marines demonstrate a complete mastery of all preceding skills.

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Staff Sgt. Robert Storm | U.S. Marine Corps

In the fourth phase, operators will pair with soldiers from a participating partner nation.

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Gunnery Sgt. Robert Storm | U.S. Marine Corps

MARSOC operators are required to then train, advise, and successfully operate with the partner nation forces. MARSOC has operated in more than 40 countries.

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