They say if it looks right, it flies right. And if that’s true, then this must be the best flying list on Earth. Military aircraft, as a rule, are all about function – just getting the job done, and getting home in one piece. But every so often, some fighter jet, combat aircraft, or hyperspeed recon flier will cross that line from function to form, and wind up looking dead-sexy in the process.
Of course, there are all kinds of ways to be sexy, and it depends on who’s looking. Guys might look for long, lean curves stretched tightly over a tensed chassis. Ladies might care more about pure romance, daring deed, cut lines, and lantern-jawed toughness. And history offers plenty of both, from World War I Army aircraft to modern day, multi-role stealth assassins.
On this list, we’re going to take a look at some of the sexiest planes from the Air Force, Army, Marines and armed forces worldwide. And just for fun, we’re also going to give their human equivalents, just so nobody feels weird being turned on by a plane. Check out these military planes and US fighter jets, and let us know if we got their human comparisons right.
The M2 .50 caliber machine gun has been in production longer than any other, and it’s easy to see why troops love it.
Since the 1930s, “Ma Deuce” has been serving troops on the ground, in vehicles, and in aircraft, and with its effectiveness and reliability, it doesn’t look like this weapon is going out of style any time soon. Originally developed during World War I by John Browning, the weapon is now in the hands of U.S. troops and a number of NATO allies.
The M2 .50 cal has served troops well in Iraq and Afghanistan as a fearsome automatic weapon usually mounted to vehicles.
But it was just as deadly in Normandy in 1944 …
… As it is overlooking remote bases in Afghanistan today.
With a belt-fed .50 BMG round, it packs serious punch that can effectively hit targets out to 1,800 meters.
The weapon can fire a variety of ammunition types, such as standard ball, blanks, armor-piercing (AP), armor-piercing incendiary (API), armor-piercing incendiary tracer (APIT) …
… And the crowd favorite: Saboted Light Armor Penetrator (SLAP), which can bust through steel.
Troops can find the .50 cal everywhere from the perimeter of the forward operating base …
Once it’s ready to go, soldiers place the rounds on the feed tray, make sure the cover is closed, and pull the bolt to the rear to load the weapon.
Then it’s ready to rock and roll. The .50 can fire in single shot or fully automatic mode.
At the rear, soldiers grab the “spade” handle and fire it using a butterfly trigger. They need to be careful however: There’s no safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge (Some variants have been fielded which feature a positive safety selector).
While it’s most often mounted to vehicles in a rotating turret …
… Ma Deuce can also be found on the side of helicopters.
And with the use of a tripod, it can also be fired very effectively from the ground.
Correction: This post was updated with new information to reflect the fielding of the M2A1 variant and other versions, which feature safety selectors, and don’t require the need for adjustments to headspace and timing.
Although training of the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga is a major part of the operation, the overall narrative has changed; the U.S. is more humble and modest in its approach than a decade ago.
The tactical assembly area for U.S. forces south of Mosul is as nondescript as could possibly be. In a nearby field the M109 Paladin howitzers, mobile artillery that drives around on tank treads, nestle amid earthen berms. Their supply vehicles are dug in behind them.
The field is full of mud, odd for northern Iraq, but it had been raining a lot in late March.
Lt. Micah Thompson, a platoon leader, says “We have the capability to address all targets; the point of the Paladin is a mobile artillery system. The fight that we bring is the precision munition capability. We are able to program and set those fuses and provide those rounds downrange in rapid time in order to accomplish [our task].”
He’s one of the recent generation of U.S. Army soldiers serving in Iraq, and he’s enthusiastic about providing fire support to the Iraqi security personnel who are slowly clearing Mosul of Islamic State fighters.
Behind the muddy field, the rest of the quiet U.S. Army base goes about its business in close proximity with the Iraqi Federal Police and Emergency Response Division, two Iraqi units leading the battle for Mosul.
This is the tip of America’s spear in the battle against ISIS, but in contrast to previous U.S. campaigns in Iraq, the Americans are letting the Iraqis set the tempo. Lt.-Col. John Hawbaker, a commander in the 73rd Cavalry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, joined the army in 1998 and served in Iraq in 2005-2006.
He says ISIS represents the “same barbarism, evil and cruelty” that the U.S. faced back then, but is “a much larger and conventional threat. We were doing counter-insurgency with U.S. leadership, the difference now is the Iraqi Security Forces conduct a fight not as a counter-insurgency but against a conventional force.”
In those days the U.S. Army was dealing with a “comprehensive civilian and military effort taken to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes,” as the FM 3-24 Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies manual of May 2014 described it.
H.R McMaster, now the national security adviser, but then a colonel, trained his regiment to deal with manning checkpoints and treating Iraqi civilians with dignity, to prepare to fight in Tal Afar, northwest of Mosul. George Packer in a 2006 piece in The New Yorker described not only how McMaster led Iraqis in rooting out insurgents, but how “Americans are not just training an Iraqi Army, they are trying to build an institution of national unity.”
Ten years later, the U.S. has given up some of these grandiose pretensions, with a much smaller footprint on the ground and a reduced visible presence. U.S. Army vehicles I saw don’t fly the U.S. flag and the only way you know they are U.S. vehicles, according to one local Iraqi, was that they use old MRAPs (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicles).
“We have multiple ways we assist,” says Hawbaker. “You saw the artillery in direct fire, mortars, and we also help coordinate air strikes, and we also help coordinate intelligence sharing, so we give them a lot of info on disposition and what he [ISIS] is doing and what he [ISIS] is thinking and intelligence for them to better array their operations.”
Everything is focused on aiding the Iraqis, not leading them. The Iraqi Army sets the tempo and the goals, and the U.S. advises. For instance, on April 12, the Department of Defense noted that the U.S. carried out eight air strikes in Iraq, hitting vehicles, mortars, snipers, and bomb factories.
Although training of the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga is a major part of the operation, the overall narrative has changed; the U.S. is more humble and modest in its approach than a decade ago.
Instead of trying to rebuild the Iraqi Army as an institution — which the U.S. was struggling with in the wake of the 2003 invasion when the army was disbanded and competent, but Ba’athist officers were sent packing — the U.S. continually stresses that it “supports” the Iraqi Army.
This has allowed Iraq to take ownership of the war, and to make the mistakes and climb the learning curve that inevitably results in their soldiers improving.
This strategy has been effective at fighting ISIS over the last two years, but it has also been slow. The battle for Mosul has taken six months, and will likely take more, even as question marks are raised about what comes next in ISIS-held Tal Afar, Hawija, and parts of Sinjar and Anbar.
Marine Corps infantrymen are certified badasses capable of destroying enemy positions and forces with high levels of violence.
But wait, Marines aren’t born out of forges in the ground like Uruk-hai. So how does the Marine Corps take soft, pliable high school graduates barely able to work a condom and turn them into infantrymen capable of thrusting bayonets through enemy fighters like it ain’t no thang?
1. All Marines go through Marine Corps recruit training, starting off at the famous yellow footprints.
2. During recruit training, the recruits learn to accomplish basic military tasks and to cede their personal interests to the needs of the team.
3. The 12 weeks of recruit training are, to say the least, uncomfortable. Lots of time crawling through sand and mud, ruck marching, and building muscle through repetitive stress.
4. But the future infantrymen get their first taste of combat training here, learning to stab with their bayonets and shoot with their rifles.
5. And of course, they get to work with the famously kind drill instructors.
6. At the end of all of this, they earn the right to call themselves Marines and march in the graduation ceremony right before…
7. …they’re sent to the Infantry Training Battalion for 59-days of learning, patrolling, and physical hardship.
8. The Marines learn a large number of new basic infantry skills and a few advanced infantry skills.
9. Some of the most important skills are the less flashy ones, like land navigation …
10. …and long hikes.
11. But of course, there are plenty of awesome trips to the range.
12. Marines learn to fire everything from machine guns and rifles to grenades and rockets.
13. Even those big, beautiful mortars will make an appearance.
14. But the mother of all machine guns is probably the most beloved weapon in the arsenal: the M-2 .50-caliber machine gun.
15. Besides navigation and weapons skills, the Marines have to learn skills like how to administer first aid in combat.
16. But the crux of a Marine infantryman’s job is combat as a member of a rifle team.
17. The culmination of all this training is the 24-hour Basic Skills Readiness Exercise where they’re assessed on everything they learned in training, ensuring that they are ready to perform as expeditionary warfighters around the world.
The .50 caliber M2 machine gun was designed in 1918, near the end of World War I by John Browning.
Production began in 1921 and the weapon was designed so a single receiver could be turned into seven different variants by adding jackets, barrels or other components.
Roughly 94 years after the first production run of M2 machine guns came off the assembly line, the 324th weapon produced made it to Anniston Army Depot for overhaul and upgrade.
In more than 90 years of existence, the receiver with serial number 324 has never been overhauled.
“Looking at the receiver, for its age, it looks good as new and it gauges better than most of the other weapons,” said John Clark, a small arms repair leader.
Despite the fact that the weapon still meets most specifications, it may be destined for the scrap yard.
Modifications made to the weapon in the field mean part of the receiver would have to be removed through welding and replaced with new metal, a process which usually means the receiver is scrap.
“I’d rather put this one on display than send it to the scrap yard,” said Clark, adding the weapon’s age makes it appealing as a historical artifact.
Currently, the 389th M2 is on display in the Small Arms Repair Facility. There is an approval process the older weapon would have to go through in order to be similarly displayed. Clark and Jeff Bonner, the Weapons Division chief, are researching and beginning that process.
In 2011, the depot began converting the Army’s inventory of M2 flexible machine guns to a new variant.
The M2A1, has a fixed headspace, or distance between the face of the bolt and the base of the cartridge case, and timing, the weapon’s adjustment which allows firing when the recoil is in the correct positon.
In the past, every time a Soldier changed the barrel on the M2, the timing and headspace had to be changed as well. If that wasn’t done properly, the weapon could blow apart. The fixed headspace and timing eliminates this risk to Soldiers.
“It only takes 30 seconds to change out the barrel on the M2A1 and you’re back in business. The M2 Flex version could take three to five minutes, depending upon your situation,” said Jeff Bonner, weapons division chief.
Bonner said this is the first major change to the M2 weapon system since the machine gun was first fielded.
Since the overhaul and upgrade work began in fiscal year 2011, the depot has brought more than 14,000 of these .50 caliber machine guns to better than new, and upgraded, condition.
Once the weapon is rebuilt, it has to be readied to be fired, repeatedly, without jamming or suffering other mechanical difficulties.
To assist with this process, a machine known as the exerciser is used to ensure the new parts work well with the old.
After all, the older parts of the weapon could be nearly 90 years old.
The exerciser simulates charging the weapon, or preparing it to be fired, 700 times.
Let’s face it. There are fictional planes from some of our favorite stories that are simply awesome, but life is cruel, so we just don’t have the tech yet.
Still, here are five we wish would happen:
In the 1980s, this TV series was one of the few that was unapologetically pro-American. The creator behind this series was Don Bellisario, best known for JAG and NCIS. Yeah, it has Oscar-winner and former Chief Petty Officer Ernest Borgnine on the cast, but “The Lady” was the real star of this series that lasted for four seasons.
This helicopter could reach altitudes that fighters like the F-15 couldn’t dream of reaching. It had hot avionics and a powerful gun and missile armament. The closest we have come to this awesome chopper was the RAH-66 Comanche, which was cancelled in 2002 in favor of the abortive ARH-70. The OH-58 is being retired without a replacement. Ya blew it, DOD.
2. The EB-52C Megafortress
Okay, like many recent planes, this star of early Dale Brown novels like Flight of the Old Dog and Night of the Hawk managed to become the subject of a computer flight simulator.
It’s a BUFF, but this BUFF got a multi-role fighter’s radar, the latest air-to-air missiles, and could still carry a lot of firepower to hit ground targets. In the original book, this BUFF slipped through Soviet air defenses, blasted a secret laser, then fought its way out. Much of that technology exists today…and perhaps the B-52 isn’t the only airframe it could be applied to…
3. Blue Thunder
According to IMDB, the movie featured an advanced helicopter that certain folks (mostly military) had sinister plans for. A spin-off TV series lasted 11 episodes opposite the iconic series Dallas.
This helicopter is not as heavily armed as Airwolf, but did feature astounding ISR gear, and a 20mm M61 Gatling gun. The ISR gear would have made this an excellent Kiowa replacement. Add a little firepower, and we have decent scout that could kill anything that stumbled on it. After all…dead men don’t talk.
4. Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet
The superhero who came to help America fight the Nazis in World War II had perhaps the ultimate in stealth technology: an invisible plane. According to screenrant.com this plane’s been with her since the 1940s.
The plane didn’t have much firepower in earlier iterations; lately, it’s picked up some firepower, but its primary defense is to not be seen at all by radar or the Mark One eyeball. While we have accomplished that with fifth-generation fighters as opposed to radar, we haven’t quite worked out the visual part. Yet.
(On a separate note, we also wish Wonder Woman were real…)
5. MiG-31 Firefox
No, this is not named for the browser. And yes, we know there is an actual MiG-31 called the Foxhound, which is a pretty sweet ride with some long-range firepower (4 AA-9 Amos air-to-air missiles, and four AA-11 Archers).
According to IMDB.com, the MiG-31 Firefox was capable of Mach 6, could be flown by thinking in Russian, and it was invisible to radar. That’s a very sweet ride.
After Syrian forces fired missiles at Israeli jets returning from airstrikes in the country’s ISIS-held eastern side, Syria reportedly issued a stern warning to Israel through their Russian allies — more airstrikes will be met by Scud missile fire in return.
“Despite a 6-year war Syria is not weak and knows how to defend itself,” a Saturday-evening post in Lebanon’s Al-Diyar newspaper said, according to The Jerusalem Post.
At the time of the most recent airstrikes, Syria described them as an act of aggression that helped ISIS.
But Syria’s several-generations-old Scud missiles don’t pose a real military threat to Israel, which employs some of the best missile defenses in the world.
Israel has infrequently carried out airstrikes in Syria, where Iranian-aligned and anti-Israel groups like Hezbollah operate.
“When we know about an attempt to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah, we do whatever we can to prevent this from happening, provided we have sufficient information and capabilities to react,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Israel’s incursions into Syria, according to Russian state-run media.
Norway has established the Jegertroppen, or the “Hunter Troop,” the world’s first all-female special operations unit with the goal of improving the country’s effectiveness in international operations.
“In Afghanistan, one of our big challenges was that we would enter houses and not be able to speak to the women” Capt. Ole Vidar Krogsaeter, an officer with the Norwegian Special Operations Forces, told Foreign Affairs. “In urban warfare, you have to be able to interact with women as well. Adding female soldiers was an operational need.”
The training program is extremely challenging. The Norwegian Special Operations Forces Command reported that only 88 of the 317 candidates passed the initial admissions test and only 13 trainees made it to the end of Jegertroppen‘s yearlong course. The high dropout rate is similar to male Special Operations Forces units.
Jegertroppen‘s soldiers displayed superior shooting and observational skills, Colonel Frode Kristoffersen, commander of the Norwegian Special Forces, told Foreign Affairs.
Hunter Troop soldiers do carry less weight than their male counterparts, a minimum of 60-pound rucks instead of the 88 pounds for male operators. But otherwise they complete the same training with long trips through the snow, days of limited food supplies, and operations on little or no sleep.
War is fought in some dirty places, like the trenches of World War I, the foxholes of World War II, and the jungles of Vietnam. Many of the injuries medics treat on the battlefield don’t come from bullets or bombs — they’re from unsanitary conditions.
So check out these gross things medics have to look at and be able to treat on a day-to-day basis.
1. Ingrown toenails
Ingrown toenails are the result of poor foot care and bad grooming practices.
A well-executed toenail extraction. (Images via Giphy)
Stands for “Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus” and it’s meaner than your ordinary pimple. On the surface, it doesn’t look too frightening. But below the skin, it’s chewing you up.
See a professional before popping. (Images via Giphy)
3. Mouth ulcers
With a variety of known causes, mouth ulcers are typically related to a viral infection in the body. Pain management is required or everything that touches the sores will hurt.
I told you everything hurt a mouth sore. (Images via Giphy)
Better known as pink eye, the beginning stage isn’t so bad. But left untreated, the condition could lead to losing an eye. What’s nasty about this ailment is that it’s typically produced by poop particles floating in the air and getting in your eyes.
Anyone can get pink eye so wear your eye protection out there, people. (Images via Giphy)What gross non-battle things have you seen on deployment? Comment below.
Stokes said he chose to include Henline alongside amputee vets in response to Facebook comments he received about his earlier work, “Always Loyal.”
“One comment I got was ‘Hey, you’re hand-picking these gorgeous men [for the photos], why don’t you feature someone who’s burned?’ ” Stokes said. “Bobby and I had already been talking for six months at that point, so I thought it was a great opportunity to follow up and … do something a bit different.”
Check out Henline’s pose below:
“Bobby is very popular and is able to stand alongside any of these guys and pull off the photo shoot,” Stokes said. “He pulls off sexy. He looks great.”
Stokes said that the goal of projects like “Invictus” is to give veterans a platform that could jumpstart modeling careers and lead to mainstream campaigns.
This dream came true for double-amputee veteran and “Always Loyal” alum Chris Van Etten, who recently landed a Jockey underwear campaign after a Stokes photo shoot.
“When the Jockey campaign launched, I had all of these people tagging me on Facebook saying ‘You made this possible, you led the way on this, you broke the ice on this.,’ ” Stokes said. “And all of these people were giving me credit for making it not taboo for a corporation to do a campaign and photo shoots like this.”
“This is evidence that people are happy that these guys are getting exposure and getting mainstream gigs,” he added.
Despite enthusiasm from both within and outside of the military community, Stokes said there are still those who are uncomfortable with his “cheeky” shots of wounded vets.
“When you have a photo that goes viral, that’s when you hear negative comments,” Stokes said. “Some people have said things like ‘This is not respectful to the uniform; this is not dignified.’ … [But] they’re definitely the minority voice.”
Stokes said he doesn’t focus on his critics, but on the experience of his models in front of the camera.
The photo shoot “is different with each model,” Stokes said.
“One of the models is a double amputee — and way high up. And during the shoot he said ‘I didn’t know I looked like that from behind,’ ” Stokes explained. “He’s missing part of his hip … and he didn’t know he had such a nice butt.”
Stokes hopes “Invictus” will continue to change public perceptions and normalize glamour shots of amputee models.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
President Barack Obama transits aboard Air Force One through the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 2, 2015. Obama was in town to discuss job training and economic growth during a visit to Indatus, a Louisville-based technology company that focuses on cloud-based applications.
Crew chiefs prepare a B-1B Lancer on Al Udeid Airbase, Qatar, for combat operations against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists, April 8, 2015. Al Udeid is a strategic coalition air base in Qatar that supports over 90 combat and support aircraft and houses more than 5,000 military personnel.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) moors between two buoys in Port Victoria, Seychelles. Oscar Austin is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
CARIBBEAN SEA (April 15, 2015) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter attached to the Sea Knights of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 22 provides search and rescue support during a search and rescue exercise conducted by the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) during Continuing Promise 2015.
A Paratrooper from the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division provides security while mounted on a camouflaged Lightweight Tactical All Terrain Vehicle during Combined Joint Operational Access Exercise 15-01 on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, April 14, 2015.
Engineers, from 2nd Cavalry Regiment, conduct a platoon breach at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, April 13, 2015, as part of Exercise Saber Junction 15. Saber Junction 15 is a multinational training exercise which builds and maintains partnership and interoperability within NATO.
LISBON, Portugal – U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa post security during an assault training exercise near Lisbon, Portugal, April 10, 2015. Marines stationed out of Moron Air Base, Spain, traveled to Portugal to utilize a variety of different ranges and training exercises alongside with the Portuguese Marines.
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY , N.C. – Naval aviators with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron 1 shoot flares from an EA-6B Prowler during routine training above Eastern North Carolina, April 14, 2015. VMAQT-1 student pilots and electronics countermeasures officers train to perform dynamic maneuvers while focusing on communication and radar jamming.
A helicopter from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen stands at the ready on the flight deck of Coast Guard Cutter Resolute.
The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Senecastands watch over Lower Manhattan in New York City with One World Trade Center in the background.
UPDATE: Navy hospital shooting ruled false alarm, according to Capt. Curt Jones, commanding officer of Naval Base San Diego.
An active shooter was reported Tuesday at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, according to the center’s Facebook page.
The message advises occupants to “run hide or fight.” Non-emergency response personnel were asked to avoid the compound at 34800 Bob Wilson Drive. The center posted that the shooter was believed to be in Building 26.
According to intitial reports, three shots were heard in the basement of the building, which is a combination of a gym and barrack. There are no reports of injuries.
Fox 5 San Diego reports that three nearby schools are on lockdown.
The U.S. Navy could not immediately confirm the report.
The facility has a staff of more than 6,500 military and civilian personnel, and aims to provide medical care to military service members, their families, and those who served in the past, according to its website.
“We’re not taking any chances and are executing procedures we’ve been trained for in this kind of situation,” Naval Medical Center spokesman Mike Alvarez said.
Let’s face it, everybody loves Danaerys Targaryen’s dragons. And why not? They bring the rain… well, more like they bring the kind of fire and brimstone that’d make Col. Kilgore from “Apocalypse Now” smile in the morning.
There are planes that are very loved as well… like the A-10 Thunderbolt II. This plane is best known for its GAU-8 “Avenger” cannon, which brings a load of firepower. But the dragons have more payload than the beloved “Warthog.” In fact, they can devastate an entire area. Just look at this clip from “The Spoils of War.”
As you saw, Drogon is essentially delivering an “Arc Light” of fire on the Lannister/Tarly army. The plane that carried out the “Arc Light” missions is none other than the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, also known as the Big Ugly Fat F@cker, or “BUFF.”
And like the BUFF, Drogon unleashes long, long trails of fire, like the string of 51 Mk 82 500-pound bombs (or M117 750-pound bombs) that a B-52 delivers in those carpet-bombing raids. Who remembers the dragons tearing apart the slavers’ fleet? Did you know that B-52s have been equipped to carry AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles?
But Drogon was doing a fair bit of that in a close-air support role. That is the bread-and butter mission of the A-10 Thunderbolt. His first pass cut a hole through the Lannister lines. And like the A-10, which is legendary for taking damage and getting back home, Drogon showed he could take a hit and still remain very dangerous. Hell, he even pulled the same “fire from the ground” maneuver Doug Masters did, and Jamie Lannister is darn lucky he isn’t a crispy critter after that “gun run.”
This does seem perplexing. Are Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal more like BUFFs, or are they more like the Warthogs that our ground troops love? There are good arguments both ways.
In this case, the best answer may be that they combine the best of both of these legendary planes. They can handle the close-air support mission, but they are also very dangerous against strategic targets. The Mother of Dragons would have beaten Cersei a long time ago if she’d used `em properly at the beginning, instead of making big-time blunders.