That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning - We Are The Mighty
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That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

Marine Corps Lt. Col. William H. Rankin had flown combat flight operations in both World War II and the Korean War, but it wasn’t enemy fire that came closest to killing him during his military flying career. It was a summer thunderstorm over the east coast of the United States.


On July 26, 1959 Rankin and his wingman, 1st Lt. Herbert Nolan, were flying a pair of F-8 Crusaders from South Weymouth, Mass back to their home base at Beaufort, S.C. when they encountered a line of severe thunderstorms over North Carolina. Shortly after the fighters climbed up to 47,000 feet to go over the growing cumulonimbus clouds, Rankin heard a loud grinding noise followed by a loss of power from the jet’s only engine. About that time the jet’s fire warning light illuminated.

Rankin tried pulling the auxiliary power handle but it came off in his hand. He tried to restart the engine several times but had no luck. At that point, with the fighter in an uncontrollable dive and going nearly supersonic, he knew he only had one option left. He keyed the radio and matter-of-factly told his wingman he “had to eject” and then pulled the handle.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
An F-8 Crusader on the deck of the USS Midway.

The senior Marine pilot wasn’t wearing a pressure suit, so as soon as he hit the surrounding atmosphere at that altitude his body was put through the ringer. The sudden decompression caused his stomach to swell, his ears, nose and mouth to bleed. The ejection tore his left glove from his hand, leaving it exposed to the brutally cold air. His skin immediately froze, which resulted in numbness and severe frostbite.

But things were about to get worse. In his memoir, The Man Who Rode the Thunder, Rankin describes his free fall like this:

I became conscious of my body tumbling, spinning, and cartwheeling through space. I spun like a pinwheel, my limbs trying to go in every possible direction at once. I spun on the vertical, diagonal and horizontal axis. I felt the enormous pulling, stretching effects of g forces. I was a huge stiff blob of helplessness! I recognized that my body was literally spreadeagled and the force was so great I could not move my hands or legs. Several times I tried to bring my arms in to my body but it was like pulling on a stone wall. The effect of the g forces on my arms and legs must have been to multiply their weight many times.

During his fall Rankin managed to strap his oxygen mask to his face, which was a crucial element if he was going to survive his ordeal. From his training he knew that it would take about three and a half minutes to fall from just under 50,000 feet to 10,000 feet where his parachute was designed to automatically deploy. He looked at his watch and saw that more than four minutes had gone by. He figured his ejection seat automatic chute mechanism had malfunctioned, so he manually deployed it.

But Rankin’s seat hadn’t malfunctioned. His descent had simply been slowed by massive updrafts created by the thunderstorm next to him, and as soon as his chute opened another powerful updraft filled it and rocketed him several thousand feet vertically a velocity of nearly 100 mph. Lightning flashed all around in what he later described as “blue blades several feet thick” and the thunder boomed so loudly he feared it would burst his eardrums. Rain pelted him from all directions. He felt like he was going to drown.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

When he reached the top of the thunderstorm the updraft turned into a downdraft. It was totally dark as he was pulled into the center of the thunder cloud, and he plummeted downward at a rate he was sure would prevent his chute from opening. But his chute did open once he was under the storm, and as it did he caught another updraft that catapulted him back to the top of the cloud. Once at the top he was dragged back into the center of the storm and thrown as if by Thor himself toward the ground again.

Rankin was repeatedly buffeted through this cycle . . . a living hell he feared might never end. In The Man Who Rode the Thunder he describes what was going through his mind at that time:

There were times when I felt I might die of sheer exhaustion because it seemed as if either the storm might never end, or I was going to be swept along with it on its insane journey up the coast for as long as that journey might take—hours, days. This feeling was most intense when I decided to look at my watch and glimpsed the time during a flash of lightning. At first I thought what a wonderful thing it was not to have lost my watch all through ejection, decompression, blasts of air, and now this; and, then, what a silly thing, looking at the time! But when I saw that it was twenty minutes past six, I thought: My God, you should have been on the ground at least ten minutes ago! You are really trapped. You are really in the pattern of the storm and a part of it, a speck of human dust, up-over-and-down, up-over-and-down and that’s the way it’s going to be. But how long? For how long?

Finally the storm dissipated enough that he wasn’t dragged back up after shooting through it, and he was unceremoniously blown into a thicket of brush in the middle of a field near Ahoskie, N.C. He was wet and beat to hell and had to draw on his survival skills to make it through the dark to a dirt road where — after being passed by a number of vehicles that refused to stop — someone was finally kind enough to take him to the nearest hospital.

Colonel Rankin spent about 3 weeks in the hospital recovering from severe decompression shock, welts, bruising, and other superficial wounds. He eventually returned to flight status.

In 2009 he died of natural causes at the age of 89.

Here’s a video about his harrowing ordeal:

Lists

8 useless pieces of gear the military still issues out

Every time a soldier steps into the Central Issue Facility, they are given a lot of gear — some necessary, like more uniforms, and some beloved, like the woobie.


But there’s a lot of gear that just never gets touched until the next time they come back to clear CIF. It’s probably still in the same packaging it came in when it’s turned over.

This crap just sits in a duffle bag, shoved in the back of the closet.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
And yet it will get rejected for not being cleaned — even if it’s still sealed in the friggin’ bag! (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joseph Moore)

8. Canteens

Ask any civilian to name a piece of military gear and they’ll say the canteen.

Back in the day, it was a life saver — no doubt about that. But today, it’s only ever seen in training environments or by that one “overly high speed” dude in every unit. The rest of us use water bottles or Camelbacks while we’re deployed.

Because rubber canteens are gross.

The canteen cup, however, is still very useful. It makes a great coffee cup/shaving water container/holder of smaller crap.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

7. Elbow Pads

Knee pads help protect a sensitive and fragile part of your body that really takes a beating (and will ultimately be destroyed anyway after years of ruck marching or one static jump). But until then, kneepads protect from bruising and lacerations, and, most importantly, help secure a more comfortable firing position.

Not the elbow pads. They just get in the way.

A common joke deployed is that you can always tell who the POGs are by either how they react to the Indirect Fire (IDF) siren or if they actually think other soldiers actually wear those useless pieces of crap that just slide down or restrict movement.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
Makes even less sense is that they have the buckles and little sleeve thing. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Wood)

6. Most Rain Gear

Other units may authorize their Joes to wear most of the wet weather gear, others only allow it in the worst conditions that even the salty Sergeant Major has had enough of it. Shy of the Gortex top, no one touches their wet weather bottoms or boots.

Even the poncho only ever gets used as a makeshift shelter half on field exercises.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
Or as a makeshift raft in Ranger competitions. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Austin Berner)

5. MOPP Boots

Speaking of useless boots, the pair that gets used interchangeably during lay outs is just as useless.

In an actual chemical gas attack, we put our gas mask on first. Followed by everything else in order of what is the most vital to survival. The boots? Nope. They take way too freaking long to put on in an emergency when you have bigger things to worry about. Taking the time to lace your MOPP boots properly definitely falls off the to-do list.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
In that time, you’re probably already dead. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Courtney Enos)

4. Glove Inserts

It’s nice when troops are allowed to wear gloves in formation. The problem is that the standard issue leather shells also need liners.

The glove inserts are just a thin piece of wool that do nothing to stop the cold. Wind cuts right through them and god help you if they ever get wet.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
There’s a reason everyone buys other pairs that get as close to regulation as possible. (Image via Olive Drab)

3. Load Bearing Vest (LBV)

The purpose behind the LBV makes no sense. It holds all of the gear that one would need down range, or at the range, but offers none of the protection of an actual ballistic vest.

So why not wear the actual ballistic vest? LBVs don’t do anything except dig into your shoulder.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
Seriously. The only non-photoshopped image of a soldier actually wearing one (and not a mannequin or a tacticool civilian) I could find is from the Army’s official video on how to set one up. (Screengrab via YouTube)

2. Surefire ACH Light

Everyone wants to be high speed and rock the high speed gear…until it’s time to rock the high speed gear.

At first glance, these look nifty as hell. It would be helpful to have a hands free light guiding your way.

But no. Try working these with gloves on or switching to the red light without cycling through every single other function first.

Or even try to make it through a forest field training without bumping into something and losing the $200 waste of garbage. Good luck finding the right batteries for these things too.

Too complicated. Not worth it.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
I believe the Army stopped issuing these, but slick sleeve cherries still buy them at the PX. (Image via Armslist)

1. BVD Army Issued Skivvies

Anyone who says they didn’t immediately trash all pairs of these after Basic so they “can stay within regulation” is either way too ‘Hooah’ for their current rank or a damned dirty liar.

The skivvies are like sand paper grinding against your ‘sensitive bits’ whenever you take a step. No one will ever check to see if their subordinate is wearing proper under garments or even care (and if they do…there’s a much bigger problem at hand). Why not just wear whatever you bought at American Eagle or Target?

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
No. Just No. (Image via eBay)

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 American flag memes to really put the ‘Merica in your day

It’s the red, white and the blue. It’s the patriotism, the pride and the spirit. It’s songs about the homeland, and it’s thanking those who serve — pledging allegiance to all it represents. It’s the recognition of the American flag, and we’re here for it!

Celebrate the U. S. of A. with us through these favorite memes.


That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

And a S/O to our forefathers for their support:

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Each Firebrand Flag incorporates the same fire-retardant, kevlar fabric that keeps our service members and first responders safe. Our flags maintain strict adherence to height, width and color specifications. To ensure our Flags can never BURN, we reinvented the manufacturing process right here in the U.S. so that you can rest assured that our Firebrand Flags will always stand for the values we hold dear. Get your Firebrand Flag here.


MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the drone ships being deployed by terrorists

Drone-controlled boats filled with explosives were reportedly used in at least one attempted attack on Saudi Arabia in early October 2018.

Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Arab coalition in Yemen, claimed that the A Royal Saudi Naval Forces frigate Al Madinah-class 702 intercepted two boats laden with explosives traveling toward the major port of Jazan, located directly north of the country’s border with Yemen.

Al-Malaki said the Navy spotted two boats approaching the port on Sunday morning that appeared to be remotely controlled. The boats, reportedly operated by the Houthi group in Yemen, were destroyed and caused only minor material damage.


He warned that coalition forces “will strike with iron fist all those involved in acts of terrorism.”

“Those hostile acts will not go by without holding the ones executing, plotting and planning them accountable for their actions.”

On Oct. 2, 2018, Saudi border guards said they rescued a Saudi fishing boat that came under fire from unknown attackers while in Gulf waters, according to Al Arabiya. Border guards said that three fishermen on board were being treated for injuries, and an investigation into the origin of attack was underway.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Arab coalition in Yemen.

Over the last year, regional forces reportedly intercepted several drone boat attacks.

In January 2017, Houthi forces struck a Saudi warship using a remote-controlled boat. And in April 2017, Houthi forces attempted to blow up a Saudi Aramco fuel terminal and distribution station in Jazan using a high-speed boat rigged with explosives.

Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander of the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet, told Defense News in 2017 that there is concern over the Yemeni rebel group having access to this remote type of weaponry.

“That’s not an easy thing to develop,” he said. “There’s clearly support there coming from others, so that’s problematic,” pointing to production support of the mobile weapons by Iran.

He added that explosive boats create a new category of self-destructive attacks.

“You don’t need suicide attackers to do a suicide-like attack.”

“So it makes that kind of weaponry, which would normally take someone suicidal to use, now able to be used by someone who’s not going to martyr themselves.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This ‘RoboCop’ handgun is a suppressor and pistol all in one

When it debuted as a prototype a couple years ago, what was billed as the world’s first integrally-suppressed handgun available to the everyday Joe seemed a bit far fetched.


It was a Rube Goldberg contraption — with a Smith Wesson MP 9mm frame and this weird chunk of metal bolted onto the front, a crazy action and mismatched parts. But the thing was quiet and functional and promised to change the way shooters thought about the art of the possible.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

Fast forward two years, and suppressor giant SilencerCo is poised to release its new Maxim 9 handgun to the commercial market. And by the looks of it, Omni Consumer Products would be proud. And heck, maybe the Detroit PD would be interested in picking a few up even if RoboCop is still a thing of science fiction.

“This gun is disruptive by design; it is the future of firearms,” says SilencerCo CEO Joshua Waldron. “Additionally, the Maxim 9 is just the beginning, as we intend to make more integrally suppressed platforms so all types of firearms can be quiet out of the box.”

Now more than a combination of prototype parts, the Maxim 9 is a handgun built from the ground up by SilencerCo, which holds about 75 percent of the U.S. market in suppressors but has strayed into the high-tech shooting accessory market and now the pistol-making world. With a 4.38-inch barrel and an overall length of just over 9.5-inches in its shortened configuration, the Maxim 9 is just 2-inches longer than a Glock 17 — but shoots with a bark under 140 dB (an unsuppressed 9mm comes in at around 160 dB).

Think about that. Most suppressors add on another 4-to-6 inches to the length of a handgun, so a Glock 19, for example, would stretch out to a whopping 12 inches or more. Not something you could carry every day and draw at a moment’s notice.

But SilencerCo hopes to make the Maxim 9 an everyday carry gun for law enforcement, teaming with holster makers to build off-the-shelf options for the men and women in blue.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
The Maxim 9 comes standard at a full length of 10.75 inches but can be shortened to just over 9.5 inches. (Photo from SilencerCo)

“The Maxim 9 solves a dilemma that customers have had for decades: do they choose a short, loud pistol or a quiet, yet longer pistol with a sound suppressor attached to the muzzle,” SilencerCo says. “Now, consumers can have the best of all worlds in this short-but-quiet firearm that retails for less than a quality pistol and quality silencer combined.”

And now the Maxim 9 has all the bells and whistles of today’s state-of-the-art handguns, including an under-barrel KeyMod accessory rail, a slide cut for a pistol optic and aggressive stippling.

Sure, its suggested retail price is around $1,400, but SilencerCo has a point. A handgun and silencer all in one and not having to deal with pistons, threaded barrels and all that? And come on, who wouldn’t want to look like RoboCop at the range or on the job?

Articles

How Bob Hope continues to serve the troops


Bob Hope was among the brightest stars during his era. He was known for his comedic one-liners and performances over a long career in entertainment.

He passed away in 2003 at the age of 100 but left a legacy of humor and humanitarianism having traveled the world for more than half his life to deliver laughter and entertainment to American troops. His legacy of service to the troops lives on through the Bob Dolores Hope Foundation, thanks to his granddaughter Miranda Hope and Easterseals.

Join us for an informative episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast with Miranda Hope and discover why Bob Hope continues to be beloved by our troops.

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You can help support veterans with Easterseals Southern California. Shop at any Vons or Pavilions in Southern California and donate at the register!

Hosted by: Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and Senior Contributor

Guest: Miranda Hope

Miranda Hope serves as a Member, Director, and Vice President of the Bob and Dolores Hope Foundation, which is dedicated to serving those in need and those who serve to protect our nation. She has worked as a public school teacher, a counselor, and a performer. She holds degrees from Columbia University (MFA) and Stanford University (BA) and offers trauma-informed yoga and meditation to civilian, military, and incarcerated populations.

Selected links and show notes:

  • [01:15] Bob Hope’s history with American troops.
  • [04:45] How Miranda Hope became involved with the troops.
  • [06:50] How today’s veterans respond to Bob Hope.
  • [09:10] The mission of the Bob Dolores Hope Foundation.
  • [13:35] How the foundation benefits veterans.
  • [14:50] Who can apply to this program.
  • [15:15] Why the Bob Dolores Hope Foundation teamed up with Easterseals.
  • [17:00] Issues that plague today’s veterans.
  • [21:00] Future plans and expansion of the program.

Music license by Jingle Punks

  • Goal Line
  • Staircase Flapper
MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out these ridiculous photos of Kim Jong Un riding a white horse

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had a photoshoot on a white horse on Mt. Paektu, a symbolically important location for his family and for North Korea.

Kim Jong Un has had similar trips and photo shoots before; during one such trip, North Korean state media claimed that the rotund dictator climbed Mt. Paektu, while photos of the event showed him in leather business shoes.

Of course, the photo caused a stir on Twitter, with some Photoshopping the pictures into prestige drama ads for Netflix:


Or bringing up a similar winter photoshoot:

But apart from looking faintly ridiculous to the outside world, the new photos from the Hermit Kingdom are shot through with meaning, according to experts. Read on to see what Kim Jong Un’s snowy ride means.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

The North Korean leader on the side of Mount Paektu.

(KCNA)

Propaganda images are nothing new for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The North Korean propaganda machine is an important part of the regime.

Photos of the North Korean leader climbing the mountain on horseback is “a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution,” according to KCNA, the North Korean state media.

North Korean propaganda is nothing new; in fact, it’s everywhere in the country. From posters showing the US’s evil aggression toward North Korea, to Kim’s winter wonderland, controlling the message in the hermit kingdom is vital in order to keep citizens obedient and in the dark about the rest of the world.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

(KCNA)

Kim rides an immaculate, snow-white horse to match his surroundings. But it’s not just about equine aesthetics.

The white steed upon which Kim Jong-Un is seated is reminiscent of the legendary creatures Chollima, a winged horse, and Mallima, a horse with incredible speend and indurance, according to Reuters.

Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, was also supposedly visited by a white steed during his guerilla days, according to The Washington Post.

There are postage stamps of Kim Jong Il riding white horses on Mt. Paektu, according to Michael Madden, a North Korea researcher for the Stimson Center, but “no one’s had the balls to take a horse up there,” he said.

Kim Jong Un resembles his grandfather physically, and has had a number of propaganda photos mirroring his grandfather’s. Kim Jong Un’s resemblance of his grandfather allows him to “project power and gravitas,” Madsen told The Guardian in 2014.

Kim Jong Un isn’t the only person harkening the past in the photo shoot, though; in other photos, his sister, Kim Yo Jong, is riding a horse like the one her father used to ride, and is dressed like her grandmother, Kim Il Sung’s first wife Kim Jong Suk, who is considered the mother of North Korea and holds vital importance in the country’s mythology.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

(KCNA)

Mt. Paektu is a loaded location for the Kim family — and North Koreans.

Mt. Paektu is an important place for the Kim family, as it cements their status as the rightful rulers of North Korea.

It’s said to be the “location of Kim Il Sung’s mythical guerrilla base,” Joshua Pollack, a North Korea researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies told Reuters. Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather, was the first leader of North Korea, and the country’s mythology sees him as a great guerilla fighter against imperilalist Japan, which ruled the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Of this latest photoshoot, Pollack said, “The location and the clothes are meant to evoke the founder’s legacy.”

And according to North Korean state media, Mt. Paektu is where Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, was born, although it’s more likely he was born in the Soviet Union. It’s also, according to legend, where Dagun, the leader of the first Korean kingdom, was born thousands of years ago, according to the BBC.

There are two Kim family compounds nearby, including one built by Kim Jong Il on Mt. Paektu, Madden told Insider. Somewhere in the vicinity — perhaps at that compound — is the secure facility Madden referred to as the “North Korean panic room,” where the Kim family can head in case of disaster. They also have the option of crossing the nearby border into China.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rides a horse during snowfall in Mount Paektu in this image released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Oct. 16, 2019.

(KCNA)

While the photos may look absurd, they’re intended to have a very serious message.

“This is a statement, symbolic of defiance,” Pollack told The Washington Post. “The pursuit of sanctions relief is over. Nothing is made explicit here, but it starts to set new expectations about the coming course of policy for 2020.”

North Koreans have suffered from international sanctions due to its nuclear program; the photos seem to show that North Korea will not bow to international pressure.

According to multiple reports, Kim Jong Un has visted Mt. Paektu prior to major announcements or policy decisions before. For example, a 2017 trip came just days after the North Korean military launched its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile.

Madden told Insider that the photo shoot most likely portends a military announcement of some kind, possibly that North Korea and China are announcing a long-term strategic aggreement. “A member of the Chinese Military Commission is in North Korea right now, and [talks are] going very, very, very well,” he told Insider.

Madden told Insider that “North Korea in 2020 is either going to launch a rocket, or announce that they have attained the ability to perform sub-critical nuclear tests,” and the photos could be in advance of such an announcement.

Whatever the announcement is, it’s almost certainly not about making concessions to the US or any of its allies, Madden said.

“North Korea has massively regressed in the past few months,” in terms of foreign policy “and I have no idea why,” Madden noted.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Who would win in a fight between F-35 and cheaper Gripen?

The Lockheed F-35 Lightning has been drawing a lot of press – and orders from across the world. According to a Lockheed website, 14 countries either have orders in or are looking at buying the Lightning. But another cheaper jet is making waves.


That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
A group of USAF F-35As in formation near Hill AFB, Utah (Photo U.S. Air Force)

The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is part of a long line of Swedish jets, to include the Draken and Viggen. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Gripen has a top speed of 1,370 miles per hour, and a maximum range of 1,988 miles. The plane is armed with a 27mm cannon and can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface ordnance. It is a very advanced fourth-generation fighter (arguably falling in the Generation 4.5 category with the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale).

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
A JAS 39 Gripen with a combat payload (Photo Saab Group)

The F-35, on the other hand, offers stealth technology and very advanced avionics, making it a fifth-generation fighter. MilitaryFactory.com reports it has a top speed of 1,199 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,379 miles. It also has a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface ordnance, and comes with a GAU-22 25mm cannon.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
The F-35B Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, which is the world’s first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft. The F-35B brings strategic agility, operational flexibility and tactical supremacy to III MEF with a mission radius greater than that of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II in support of the U.S. – Japan alliance. (USMC photo)

So, why would a country want the Gripen? Two words: Math and money. The F-35 comes in at anywhere from $94 million to $122 million, depending on the variant, according to Lockheed. Now, this price may go down, but it’s still pretty steep. According to GlobalSecurity.org, South Africa paid roughly $1.5 billion for 28 Gripen, which comes to about $53.5 million per jet. That’s a $40 million savings, and you get everything the F-35 can do but stealth.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
The F-35C Lightning II — a next generation single-seat, single-engine strike fighter that incorporates stealth technologies, defensive avionics, internal and external weapons, and a revolutionary sensor fusion capability — is designed as the U.S. Navy’s first-day-of-war, survivable strike fighter. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe)

But which plane can win in a fight? The Gripen has high performance, but the F-35 can see it easily. The F-35, on the other hand, is much harder for the Gripen to see. Fighter pilots have a saying, “Lose the sight, lose the fight.” That means the Gripen, as impressive as it is, would come out second-best in a fight with the F-35.

Still, it’s better than relying on a MiG or Sukhoi.

Articles

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban

A key district in Afghanistan’s Helmand province that was taken by insurgents last year is now back under Afghan army control, US Marines deployed to Helmand announced July 17.


Nawa district, just west of Helmand’s capital city and regional police headquarters, Lashkar Gah, was overrun by the Taliban in August 2016, according to multiple media reports. The loss dealt a blow to hard-pressed Afghan National Army forces and raised questions about whether they would be able to maintain control of any part of Helmand.

With Nawa in enemy hands, civilian aircraft were unable to land at Bost, the airfield outside of Lashkar Gah, and the security of the city, a civilian population center, was in greater jeopardy.

But during a two-day operation that included airstrikes from US F-16 Fighting Falcons and AH-64 Apache helicopters, Afghan troops successfully wrested control of the district from the occupiers, reclaiming the district center earlier July 17, according to the release.

“The goal of this operation was to clear the Nawa district from the enemies, from the Taliban,” Col. Zahirgul Moqbal, commanding officer of the Afghan Border Police, said in a statement. “[Overall, our goal was] to retake the district from the Taliban.”

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
USAF photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn

The Afghan army’s assault on Nawa, called Operation Maiwand Four, also involved surveillance from ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles owned by the ANA and other coalition unmanned systems, according to the release.

The F-16s and Apaches “set conditions, conducted air strikes, and covered the flanks of the maneuver elements to decrease the amount of friction felt by the ground forces and allowed freedom of maneuver,” the release stated.

The offensive involved multiple air strikes and bravery from the troops on the ground, who disabled more than 100 improvised explosive devices and maneuvered under fire to retake the Nawa district center, officials said.

In April, about 300 Marines from 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina deployed to Helmand province as an advisory element known as Task Force Southwest to assist local Afghan National Army units in their fight to hold the region.

Col. Matthew Reid, deputy commander of the task force, said in a statement that Operation Maiwand Four highlighted leadership and determination from Afghan troops.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

“So far during this operation we have seen some significant gains in leadership and maneuver from the Ministry of Interior forces, particularly the Afghan Border and National Police,” Reid said. “The vast majority of the ABP officers are from Helmand, many from Nawa, and they are aggressively fighting to clear insurgents from Nawa district.”

But the greatest difficulties may still be ahead for the Afghan forces.

In a New York Times report published July 14, Afghan Army Corps Operations Chief Lt. Col. Abdul Latif raised concerns about whether Afghan National Security Forces would be able to keep control of Nawa if they retook it.

“It is easy for us to take Nawa, but difficult to hold,” Latif said in the story.

The biggest challenge, he noted, was the scarcity of manpower. He estimated district security would require 300 police, but said that kind of manpower was not available. The report also noted that most forces in Helmand are not local to the area, but come in from the north and east.

According to the news release, Afghan National Security Forces plan to maintain control by setting up security checkpoints throughout Nawa’s district center and on the road to Lashkar Gah.

“It was a very successful operation in Helmand,” Moqbal said of Maiwand Four in a statement. “Defeating the enemy in Nawa means defeating the enemy in Helmand.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Britain’s Ministry of Defence plays for time (and money) in a dangerous world

In December 2018, just before policymakers and pundits escaped their besieged bunkers for Christmas, the UK government published the long-awaited final report on its Modernising Defence Programme. This programme was meant to update the military commitments made in the last full-blown Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2015.

How far it has succeeded in that task is debatable, however. The report’s brevity and lack of detail left many lamenting a missed opportunity.

Revising 2015’s review became necessary thanks to a marked change in circumstances. Partly, those changes are strategic. Relations with Russia have deteriorated even further since 2015, Islamic State (IS) is much diminished, and new military technologies and tactics are advancing.


Mainly, however, those changes are economic. The lower growth trajectory induced by Brexit has reduced the resources available to the Ministry of Defence (MOD). (The UK Defence Budget is set at 2% of GDP, which means that if GDP is smaller than it might have been, so too is the budget available to the military.)

The pound’s depreciation since the Brexit vote in 2016 has also raised the real costs of buying defence equipment from abroad, such as the US-sourced F-35 combat jet. A broader rise in inflation has further added to cost pressures on a 2015 review that was already seen as financially optimistic.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

F-35B Lightning II.

Taken together, these pressures have stretched the disconnect between intended military expenditures and available resources beyond the point that could reasonably be ignored. A political consequence of this has been the MOD —currently led by Gavin Williamson MP, a Defence Secretary unusually willing to provoke budgetary confrontations within Whitehall —demanding more government money to ensure that neither current nor planned military capabilities receive further cuts.

The Treasury, for its part, recognizes that Britain’s security environment has deteriorated to a worse condition than at any point since the Cold War. Yet it is still attempting to avoid major new spending commitments until the full fiscal shock of Brexit becomes clear. It has also long been skeptical of the MOD’s budgetary requests, viewing the department as a perennial financial black hole.

Political turmoil, strategic change

With a full cross-government spending review now scheduled for post-Brexit 2019, this Modernising Defence Programme report represents multiple levels of compromise. It has provided the government with a “good news” item, in the form of modest amounts of new funding to important areas such as high-technology research and “net assessment” of threats.

It also recognizes growing pressures in defence, such as the need to increase the usability of existing equipment if Britain is to pose a credible conventional deterrent against Russia (for example, by ensuring adequate numbers and varieties of munitions for ships and aircraft).

But the report has also dodged some of the hardest choices. For if more money is not eventually forthcoming from the Treasury to pay for equipment — and the people and infrastructure who turn such equipment from mere “stuff” into effective fighting capability — how will it be paid for or what will need to be cut?

These “micro” politics are all occurring against a backdrop of “macro” change in Britain’s strategic environment. The post-Cold War era of unrivaled American (and therefore Western) power is arguably coming to an end, with the rise of China and partial resurgence of Russia.

All of Britain’s closest alliances are simultaneously in flux. With the major European powers, this is due to Brexit. With the US, it is thanks to a combination of President Trump’s mercurial temperament and a longer standing requirement to pivot towards containment of China.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

United States President Donald Trump.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anna Pol)

Yet even as Washington wants to focus on Beijing, European states face a hostile power in their own region, in the form of a Russia that sees good reasons to weaken and ideally break NATO.

Besides the Russia situation, political demands for UK military commitments in other regions also still remain — in the Middle East, Mediterranean, South Atlantic, and increasingly in East Asia too. This difficulty of juggling pressing regional defence needs with a desire for expansive global involvement reflects two competing sets of long-standing pressures in British strategy: the aspiration to play an influential role in the world versus the need to safeguard national security.

A combination of strained alliances and ever-expanding political demands explains the MOD’s determination to secure funds to rebuild UK military capability. After 20 years of preoccupation with counter-terrorism and humanitarian intervention, the current Defence Equipment Programme is now more focused on the heavier “state-on-state” capabilities required to deter a hostile major power in the North Atlantic region (warships, combat aircraft, mechanized ground forces, and so forth). And all of this must take place while still having enough left over to do a bit of all the other things that are asked of the armed forces.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

The Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), HMS Sutherland (F81), and HMS Iron Duke (F234).

(UK Ministry of Defence photo)

Without the budget to fulfill recent ambitions, the MOD will not be confident that it can meet Britain’s defence needs. So rather than accept cuts today, this latest report plays for time. The hope is that the tougher security environment of tomorrow will ultimately persuade the Treasury to release more resources for defence, especially once Brexit has been and gone.

To that extent, December 2018’s report achieved its aims. A bit more funding for advanced technology research and net assessment is no bad thing. A recognition that Britain needs more robust stockpiles of fuel, spares, munitions, and expertise was long overdue. And the MOD has managed to delay its day of reckoning with the Treasury until after the initial fiscal shock of Brexit.

A delay is not a victory, however. There is no sign yet of the substantial uplift in funding or the cuts to planned capabilities necessary to place the armed forces on a sound budgetary footing. That hard day of financial reckoning could therefore still be to come.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how a mortar system works

The mortar is an indirect fire weapon that rains freedom down from high angles onto an enemy within a (relatively) short range. But the compact and mobile mortar systems we have today are the result of a long history of indirect fire systems in the American military. Decades of effectively marking, lighting, and destroying targets has earned the mortar many friends — and many more enemies — on the battlefield. In short, a well-trained mortar team often means the difference between victory and defeat for infantry troops in contact.

When nature creates a successful apex predator, she rarely deviates from her original design. Warfare evolves in a similar fashion — the most successful systems are tweaked and perfected to guarantee effectiveness, preserving our way of life.

This is an ode to the mortar, and all of its beautifully complex inner-workings.


Preparation and Firing Stokes Mortars 1 Min 12 Sec

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A noble bloodline

The mortar was born in the fires of conquest at the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. In that engagement, the new weapon proved just how effective firing explosives over short distances across an extremely high arc could be. Since that day, more than 500 years and countless wars ago, the general concept hasn’t changed.

One of the biggest evolutions in the mortar design was put forth by the British in World War I: the Stokes Mortar. It had 3 sections: a 51-inch tube, a base plate, and a bi-pod. This new type of mortar system fired twenty-two 10-pound pieces of ordinance a maximum of 1,000 yards. Mortars today still use the bi-pod and base-plate improvements that were first deployed in the trenches of the Western Front.

COMBAT FOOTAGE Marines in firefight beat Taliban ambush with 60mm Mortar Fire

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Where the metal meets the meat

A mortar crew consists of at least three members: the squad leader, gunner, and the assistant gunner. More members could be attached depending on manpower available.

The mortar system has a large tube closed at the the bottom and attached to a base plate. Within the barrel of the tube is a firing pin used to ignite a mortar shell’s primer. Some models have a moving firing pin that can be fired via a trigger mechanism.

The controlled explosion fills the chamber with gas and propels the shell out of the tube. A set of bi-pods add stability and allow on-the-fly adjustments. It can be fired from defilade (a fighting position that does not expose the crew to direct fire weapons) onto entrenched enemy not protected from overhead fire.

Sometimes referred to as a ‘bomb’, the shell and its components consist of the impact fuse, high explosive filler, a primary charge, fins, and augmenting charges. Illumination and smoke rounds differ depending on the model of the weapon system. Augmentation charges on the outside ‘neck’ near the fin can be added or removed to manipulate firing range as needed.

The gun is aimed, the round is half loaded until the ‘fire’ command is given and freedom rings.

Steel drizzle vs steel rain

The differences between artillery and mortars are night and day. Artillery fires on a horizontal trajectory, at faster speeds, and at longer ranges. The cost of these advantages are sacrificed in mobility.

Mortars, however, are light enough that they can be carried across difficult terrain and quickly assembled to take control of the battle space. Ammunition can be dispersed to individual troops to carry and then dropped off at the gun crew rally point.

Articles

This was the final farewell of a heroic Marine military dog

US military hero dog “Cena,” a 9-year-old Black Labrador who served as a bomb detection dog in Afghanistan and saved the lives of his handler and uncounted other American warriors, ended his service July 26 after a battle he could not win with bone cancer.


Cena died peacefully in the arms of his battle buddy, former Marine Corps Cpl. Jeff DeYoung, in their hometown of Muskegon, Michigan.

The two first met during Improvised Detection Dog training in Virginia in July 2009. They were deployed to Afghanistan later that year and during their service together, the two were part of Operation Moshtarak in February 2010 that was the largest joint operation up to that point.

DeYoung and Cena typically led the way as U.S. troops trudged through the rugged and treacherous sandscapes of Afghanistan. Cena was trained to detect more than 300 different types of explosives and if he smelled something suspicious on patrol he alerted DeYoung, who would then call in an explosives technician to safely remove or detonate the bomb.

Cena and DeYoung ate together, slept together, and fought together, forging a deep bond between them.

“Once I laid down on top of him to protect him from gunfire,” said DeYoung. “I carried him through a freezing cold, flooded river on my shoulders.”

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
Cena and Corporal DeYoung (Photo from American Humane via NewsEdge) 

DeYoung’s protectiveness of Cena was repaid many times over. Each military dog is estimated to save the lives of between 150-200 servicemen and women during the course of their career, and one of those lives was DeYoung’s. Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress and the recent loss of several close comrades in combat, DeYoung tried to take his own life. But Cena intervened and saved his comrade from committing suicide.

Despite their seemingly unbreakable bond, DeYoung and Cena were separated unceremoniously without even the chance for a goodbye when DeYoung left military service and Cena continued working through three deployments. For four years, DeYoung suffered nightmares and flashbacks, missing Cena every single day.

Finally, when Cena was retired for a hip injury, the two were brought back together in an emotional reunion made possible with the help of American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, which has also been working to support the U.S. military, veterans, and military animals for more than 100 years.

The reunion in 2014 was covered by media across the nation and Jeff and Cena’s story has been carried in hundreds of countries around the globe.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
Photo by Capt. Allie Payne

Since then, DeYoung and Cena have served as military ambassadors for American Humane, traveling around the country to raise awareness about the importance of reuniting service dogs with their handlers, and how the dogs can improve and save the lives of veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress.

“Military Working Dog Cena is a true American hero and an inspiring testament to the life-changing power of the human-animal bond,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “He will be greatly missed by all those who knew and who owe their lives to him. His work and his example will live on in the memories of all who knew him and were touched by his story.”

Cena was family to me,” said DeYoung. “It’s always been him and me against the world, and losing him has devastated me to my core. Goodbye, my most faithful friend. I will never forget you.”

 

MIGHTY MOVIES

Watch Keanu Reeves’ best moments from Comic-Con 2020

Keanu Reeves has not only earned respect from the operator community for his tactical dedication, he’s also managed to charm his way into the hearts of everyone who isn’t dead inside. And then, of course, there’s the fact that he’s the face of multiple fandoms from The Matrix to John Wick to Bill & Ted.


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Watch the Bill & Ted Face the Music trailer:

He’s such a good guy — and he’s so good at what he does — that it’s just plain fun to adore him, which made this year’s Comic-Con@Home all the more delightful. While celebrating the 15th anniversary of Constantine and the upcoming release of Bill Ted Face the Music, Reeves really brightened up the doldrums of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are some of his best moments from the Con.

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What Bill & Ted means to him:

“There’s nothing like…I mean, I can’t feel or laugh or do anything like the way that working on Bill Ted and working with Alex [makes me feel]. That doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world for me. So to partner up and work on the craft side of it and get to play, get to play these characters that Chris [Matheson] and Ed [Solomon] have created….there’s no other place where I can laugh like this,” he shared.

Everything Reeves says is incredibly genuine and is he single?

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“Excited Keanu is the best Keanu”

Reeves gushed on and on about his favorite moments from Constantine. “Getting to work with such extraordinary artists…” he beamed. “Production design was great. And the crew! Peter Stormare, as I’m bleeding out, and he’s leaning in to me! Philippe Rousselot was the cinematographer. Throwing down with Tilda Swinton as she’s choking me…”

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The moment Francis Lawrence reveals he has the Holy Shotgun:

The joy. The sincerity. The celebration.

LOOK UPON HIS FACE AND SWOON.

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His modesty can’t be thrown:

Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub complimented Reeves for how awesome and gracious he is to the crew. He then asked Reeves how he stays grounded, and of course even Reeves’ response was, well, grounded. “That’s kind of you to say, Steve. I don’t know. I love what I do and I like going to work and I like being creative. We’re all in it together. Go play and have some fun.”

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Constantine: 15th Anniversary Reunion | Comic-Con@Home 2020

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