The 7 best transport planes in US military history - We Are The Mighty
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The 7 best transport planes in US military history

It’s not the most glamorous Air Force mission, but arguably it’s the most important because without transports troops and gear don’t make it to the war. (And it’s hard to win a war without troops and gear.) Here are the top seven transport planes that have served the U.S. Air Force over the years:


1. C-47 Skytrain

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
(Photo: Adrian Pingstone/Wikimedia Commons)

The C-47 has gone by many nicknames — “Gooney Bird,” “Dakota” (a riff on Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft), and “Spooky” among others. The military version of the popular airliner was first manufactured in 1940, and ultimately 9,348 were built by the end of World War II. The C-47 saw a lot of action over Europe, most notably during the D-Day invasion where they were used to drop paratroopers behind the German lines. The C-47 continued service through the Vietnam War, including an attack variant nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon” because of the firing rate of the guns out of the sides of the aircraft.

2. C-119 Flying Boxcar

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Fairchild built 1,150 Boxcars for the USAF. The aircraft could carry 62 combat-equipped troops or 30,000 pounds of cargo. The Flying Boxcar saw extensive service during the Korean War. Like the C-47, the airplane also had an attack variant — known as “The Stinger — that was armed with guns that could fire 6,000 rounds per minute. The Flying Boxcar was used until the early 1960s.

3. C-124 Globemaster II

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

“Old Shaky” (so-called because of its handling characteristics in flight) was the first USAF transport built specifically to carry bulky cargo like tanks, field guns, bulldozers, and trucks. The airplane had “clamshell” doors and hydraulic ramps in the front and an elevator in the back — revolutionary technology at the time. The Globemaster II could carry 200 fully-equipped troops, and as a result it was used heavily in the early part of the Vietnam War. The airplane was also used extensively in resupply missions to the military missions in Antartica and during relief efforts to far-flung parts of the world like the Congo and Chile.

4. C-130 Hercules

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
(Photo: U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Howard Blair)

The USAF originally ordered 219 C-130s in the mid-1950, and fifty-some years later more than 900 “Herks” have been delivered, logging over 20 million flight hours in the process. The C-130 has defined “workhorse” primarily by virtue of it’s versatility. The Hercules was originally designed as an assault transport but was adapted for a variety of missions, including special operations, close air support and air interdiction, mid-air space capsule recovery, search and rescue, aerial refueling of helicopters, weather mapping and reconnaissance, electronic surveillance, fire fighting, aerial spraying, Arctic/Antarctic ice resupply and natural disaster relief missions.

5. C-141 Starlifter

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
This photo shows the difference in length between the C-141A and B models. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The C-141 was the first jet transport to deliver paratroopers and the first to land in the Antarctic. Lockheed manufactured 284 Starlifters for the USAF, and the transport flew from 1963 until 2006, participating in every contingency and major conflict during that period including the Vietnam War and Desert Storm. Several years into the C-141’s service life the aircraft underwent a major modification: the fuselage was lengthened by nearly 24 feet to give it aerial refueling capability. The mod also increased cargo capacity by over 30 percent, which had the net effect of increasing the fleet by 90 aircraft.

6. C-5 Galaxy

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The C-5 defines “massive.” This huge transport can carry six Apache helicopters or five Bradley Fighting Vehicles at one time, a capability no other American military transport possesses. But the Galaxy’s size has come with a number of engineering challenges, most notably wing cracks that kept cargo capacity to a fraction of what it was designed to haul. However, the USAF remains bullish on the airframe and intends to use the upgraded C-5M model for decades to come.

7. C-17 Globemaster III

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Boeing built a total of 279 C-17s since production started in 1990, 223 of which went to the U.S. Air Force. (On Nov. 29, 2015 the last C-17 Globemaster III manufactured at Boeing’s Long Beach facility took off headed for Qatar to join that nation’s air force.) The C-17 was designed with digital age technology like fly-by-wire flight controls, high-bypass engines, and composite wings that gave it ideal flight characteristics for operating off of short and unprepared runways. Operationally the Globemaster III has been heavily utilized since 9-11 including a record-breaking mission on March 26, 2003 where 15 USAF C-17s did a night-time airdrop of 1,000 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade over Bashur, Iraq.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Anonymous missile strike hits Syrian town with Russian base

Syria’s coastal city of Latakia, which hosts a large Russian naval base and military presence, has come under attack from an unclaimed missile strike that Syria attributes to Israel.

“Air defenses have confronted enemy missiles coming from the sea in the direction of the Latakia city, and intercepted a number of them,” Syrian state-run media said, according to Reuters.

Syrian officials blamed Israel for the strike, but Israel rarely takes credit for its air raids in Syria and has frequently fired missiles from outside of Syrian airspace before.


The strikes followed Israel releasing satellite images of Damascus International Airport and the palace where Syrian President Bashar Assad lives in a possible threat. Syria also blames Israel for a Sept. 16, 2018 strike on the airport.

Syria and Israel have fought wars against each other in the past and Israel has taken military measures to resist Iran’s influence and ability to transfer arms in southern Syria near Israel’s borders.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said missiles targeted ammunition depots of the technical industry institution in the eastern outskirts of Latakia, according to Reuters.

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Russian protection?

Unlike the semi-regular strikes that hit Iranians-aligned forces in southern Syria, this strike hit an area rich with Russian forces and missile defenses. In past US-led strikes, Syria has shown little proof that its air defense can actually fend off large-scale naval cruise missile strikes.

Russia recently concluded naval exercises in the Mediterranean near Latakia and maintains a consistent naval presence in the region.

So far nothing indicates Russian military bases have been targeted, but Syria-based correspondents have reported Russian air defenses operating.

Russia has, since 2015, stationed warships at Latakia and operated some of the world’s top missile defenses near Latakia. Video and photos claiming to show the air battle over Latakia show what look like massive surface to air fires with missiles streaking overhead, indicating a state military rather than a rebel or terror group.

Featured image: A video claims to show a massive missile strike in Latakia.

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

popular

I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

I didn’t even get a t-shirt. In North Korea, it was too expensive. 


Everything in North Korea takes you in through the gift shop and out through the same gift shop in an attempt to milk cash from visitors so they can buy Hennessy en masse from the duty free shop at Beijing Airport. That’s not a joke: 20 people boarding our flight from Beijing to Pyongyang were carrying boxes of cigarettes, cognac, and chocolate.

The plane’s aisles and free spaces overflowed with what looked like supplies for a party at DMX’s house.

In late 2012, I visited the country that honestly believes it won the Korean War by virtue of not being annihilated completely. So it makes sense (in a weird way) they would believe capturing an American ship outside its territorial waters 15 years after the fighting stopped is a giant feather in their cap.

The Pueblo was a Navy Signals Intelligence ship which was attacked and boarded by North Koreans in international waters. The crew didn’t go down easily. As the ship attempted to evade capture, the North Koreans opened up on her. One U.S. sailor was killed by the 57mm guns aboard a North Korean subchaser.

After that volley, the crew signaled compliance and began to destroy the immense amount of classified material aboard. It took two subchasers, four torpedo boats, and two MiG fighters to subdue the Pueblo and its crew, who weren’t even able to man the ship’s guns due to restrictive Navy regulations. The ship’s crew were simply outgunned and outnumbered.

The capture was also unfortunate in timing, since the year it was captured, 1968, was probably the most eventful year in modern American history. The week after the Pueblo’s capture, North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive, drawing attention away from their plight and putting the media spotlight on America’s first “Television War.”

The Pueblo was sent to Wonsan while its crew was taken to North Korean POW camps. They were starved and tortured but the crew resisted even as the North Koreans attempted to use them as propaganda pieces in photos. The crew was a bit smarter than that.

 

The 7 best transport planes in US military history

They literally gave the finger to the Kim regime. At every opportunity they flashed the “Hawaiian good luck sign.” When the captives realized the communists didn’t know what the gesture meant, they flashed it for every camera, ruining all the potential propaganda value. When the North Koreans read what it actually meant in Time magazine, they were beaten for a week.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
Thanks, Time Magazine.

Fifty years later, her crew repatriated, the Pueblo is still held by North Korea. In 1999 it was moved from Wonsan to Pyongyang, moored on the Taedong River. This is where I saw the ship.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
(photo by Blake Stilwell)

The woman in the bottom right of the above photo was one of our two guides/minders/spies who were present with us for every waking moment of our time in North Korea — except at our hotel — which was on an island in the middle of the same river where the Pueblo was moored.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history

(photo by Blake Stilwell)

The tour of the Pueblo was just one event in a day packed with them telling their American visitors how awful our government is, how they definitely won that war we had (their holiday marking the end of the war is called “Victory Day”) despite overwhelming material and personnel losses, and how without Marshal Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear weapons, the Yankees and the corrupt regime in the South would immediately try to take over North again. Obviously.

The Pueblo is only the seventh ship to be captured since the American War with the Barbary Pirates and is the second oldest ship still commissioned by the U.S. Navy. The crew of the Pueblo (like Don McClarren, below) sure havn’t forgotten about it.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
(Photo Credit: BJ Small, Mechanicsburg, PA)

As of August 2012, the ship seemed in good condition, or as good as North Korea would allow it. Like everything else there, it could have used a coat of paint – which rumor has it – the ship has since received from the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (Yes, that’s the real name of the museum and that’s really what the North Koreans call the Korean War, which is almost as ridiculous as the Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War. Because nobody does statues like Communists).

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
(photo by Blake Stilwell)

Before exiting through another gift shop, the tour of the Pueblo includes a trip below decks, where photography was strictly prohibited. They monitor Americans pretty closely so I wasn’t able to take a direct video of the presentation of the North Korean version of the Pueblo Incident. Luckily, finding a copy of it wasn’t too difficult.

The film is a priceless taste of the kind of propaganda the people in Pyongyang experience all the time.

Don’t let this accent fool you. North Koreans study for decades just to master foreign languages. One of our guides spoke four fluent languages and one North Korean randomly approached us on the street to say welcome — in perfect English, with a midwestern American accent.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Seems there’s been a change of plans for this aircraft carrier

The Trump administration has decided not to send the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman into retirement two decades early, Vice President Mike Pence announced from the carrier’s decks April 30, 2019.

“We are keeping the best carrier in the world in the fight. We are not retiring the Truman,” Pence said, The Virginia-Pilot reported. “The USS Harry S. Truman is going to be giving ’em hell for many more years to come,” the vice president added.

President Trump asked Pence to deliver the message, he revealed.


The Navy announced in its FY 2020 budget proposal that it had decided to mothball the Truman rather than go through with its planned mid-life refueling. The move was intended to free up funds for the purchase of new systems to give the US Navy an edge against rivals China and Russia, technologies such as artificial intelligence, unmanned systems, and directed-energy weapons, among other things.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history

Vice President Mike Pence speaks to Sailors during an all-hands call in the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

“Great power competition has reemerged as the central challenge to US security and prosperity, demanding prioritization and hard strategic choices,” the US Navy had explained.

US military leaders, including Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, have defended the move before skeptical lawmakers in recent weeks. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson spoke in favor of the Navy’s decision April 29, 2019.

“The most mortal sin we can have right now is to stay stable or stagnant,” he said at a security forum in Washington, DC. “We’re trying to move, and that is exactly the decision dynamic with respect to what’s more relevant for the future. Is it going to be the Harry S. Truman and its air wing where there’s a lot of innovation taking place, or is it something else?”

But the Trump administration took a different view after overruled its military leaders.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the hot-rod F-15 the Air Force used to set 8 world records

McDonnell Douglas, the manufacturer of the F-15 Eagle, knew it had a winner on its hands with the plane. It was the first U.S. fighter with greater engine thrust than weight, allowing it to accelerate vertically like a rocket. And it was highly maneuverable, so it could out fly its likely adversary in the Foxbat and other MiG jets.


F 15 Streak Eagle Record Flights

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But McDonnell Douglas and the U.S. Air Force wanted to prove that the F-15 was superior to anything Russia had before pilots clashed in actual combat. After all, if your enemy knows their likely to lose in a real battle, they’ll hopefully just stay home.

So they took a pre-production version of the F-15 and stripped everything unnecessary off of it, to include the bulk of its paint. It had an Air Force graphic on the fuselage, but the standard gray, anti-corrosion paint was removed to save even that little bit of weight. Their goal was to set all of the major time-to-climb records for planes.

If time-to-climb sounds like a niche record to compete on, it’s actually super important to air combat. Speed, max altitude, and acceleration are all important as well. But speed in a climb determines which plane in a dogfight is likely to get above the other while they’re maneuvering. And altitude equates to extra energy and speed in a fight, because the higher pilot works with gravity instead of against it while attacking.

And so, in just two weeks in late January to February 1975, Air Force pilots took the “Streak Eagle” on a series of flights where they broke eight world time-to-climb records. Five of the records had been held by another McDonnell Douglas aircraft, the F-4 Phantom. But three of them had been held by the Russian MiG-25 Foxbat until the Eagle came calling for them.

The first record was shattered on Jan. 16, 1975. Maj. Robert Smith took off from North Dakota in freezing weather. Smith conducted a 5G pull-up and rocketed up past 3,000 meters, over 9,840 feet. He hit his mark in 27.57 seconds, shattering the old 34.5 record.

That afternoon, another major broke the 6,000-meter, 9,000-meter, and 12,000-meter records. Another pilot destroyed the 15,000-meter record by 37.5 seconds, breaching the altitude in just 77.05 seconds.

And yes, all three pilots were flying the same Streak Eagle. They went on to beat the Foxbat’s records for 20,000 meters, 25,000 meters, and 30,000 meters in the following two weeks. The 30,000-meter record was beaten in just under 3.5 minutes. That 30,000 meters number equates to 98,425 feet, and the pilot coasted to 103,000 feet before beginning his descent.

The Streak Eagle used in all of these record-setting flights is now in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

The Air Force has begun early testing, software development, and weapons integration for its upcoming Block 4 variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an emerging model intended to give the multi-role fighter a new dimension of weapons and attack mission possibilities, service leaders said.

The new version, to emerge in the early 2020s, will add new long-range precision-tracking weapons such as the newly named StormBreaker weapon — previously called the Small Diameter Bomb II.


“StormBreaker™ successfully completed Developmental Testing and the Government Confidence Testing phase in early 2018. StormBreaker demonstrated all operating modes, the capability to send, receive, and process data-link messages via both link-16 and UHF, Tara Wood, an official with Raytheon’s weapons development unit, told Warrior Maven.

The Air Force and F-35 weapons integration office are also integrating a new upgraded AIM-9x air to air missile, which will enable pilots to attack enemy fighters “off-boresight,” a term which refers to an increased target envelope.

An “off-boresight” AIM-9s will give pilots an ability to target and destroy enemies behind and to the sides of the F-35, Joe Dellavedova, an official with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history

US Navy F-35C.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King)

“The next step for F-35 weapons integration will be to address the weapon requirements within Block 4. Integration of the Small Diameter Bomb II has already begun, and flight test is scheduled to start as early as 2019,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven in a statement a short time ago.

StormBreaker – Small Diameter Bomb II

StormBreaker, described as a key element of Block 4, is a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.

Wood further explained that StormBreaker detects, classifies, and tracks a wide array of targets, both moving and stationary. It also has an ability to prosecute moving targets through adverse weather conditions. StormBreaker™ is currently in Operational Test, Wood said.

GPS and laser-guided weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions have been around for decades, however, they have primarily been designed for use against fixed or stationary targets. StormBreaker has already completed a series of wind tunnel tests.

While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions. In addition, the SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight, Raytheon developers told Warrior Maven.

Operational Testing will utilize the weapon in real world conditions in operationally relevant scenarios, she explained.

A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology.

Raytheon weapons developers say the tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system. Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history

Imagining infrared guidance allows the weapon to track and hone in on heat signatures such as the temperature of an enemy vehicle. With semi-active laser technology, the weapon can be guided to an exact point using a laser designator or laser illuminator coming from the air or the ground, Raytheon officials told Warrior.

One Raytheon SDB II developer told Warrior in a previous interview that “the millimeter wave radar turns on first. Then the data link gives it a cue and tells the seeker where to open up and look. Then, the weapon can turn on its IR (infrared) which uses heat seeking technology.”

The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air dropped bombs, so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.

If weapons are kept in an internal weapons bay and not rested on an external weapons pod, then an aircraft can succeed in retaining its stealth properties because the shapes or contours of the weapons will not be visible to enemy radar.

About 105 pound of the SDB II is an explosive warhead which encompasses a “blast-frag” capability and a “plasma-jet” technology designed to pierce enemy armor, Raytheon officials explained.

The SDB II also has the ability to classify targets, meaning it could for example be programmed to hit only tanks in a convoy as opposed to other moving vehicles. The weapon can classify tanks, boats or wheeled targets, Raytheon officials added.s, this will no longer remain the case.

StormBreaker, which is also being integrated on the F-15E, is carried on the BRU-61, a 4 place miniature munitions rack that fits in the F-35’s internal weapons bays. The weapons will be integrated on the F/A-18E/F and F-35B for the Navy and Marine Corps before the F-35A and F-35C, developers explained.

“StormBreaker™ uses Universal Armament Interface protocol to make the weapon/aircraft interface compatible with a wide range of aircraft, including F-35,” Wood added.

AIM-9X

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, previous test-firings of the AIM-9X were intended to further the missile’s ability to demonstrate this “off-boresight,” attack technology. Previous test data and observers have confirmed the F-35 identified and targeted the drone with its mission systems sensors, passed the target ‘track’ information to the missile, enabled the pilot to verify targeting information using the high off-boresight capability of the helmet mounted display and launched the AIM-9X from the aircraft to engage the target drone, a statement from the F-35 JPO said.

F-35 to 2070

The current consensus among senior Pentagon weapons developers holds that, at the moment, the F-35 is the most capable 5th generation plane in the world. Maintaining this edge, however, is anticipated to quickly become more and more difficult now that both Russia and China are building 5th-gen stealth fighters.

“Block 4 is important with the national defense strategy to make sure we are modernizing the plane to keep it dominant on the battlefield. We are close to knowing the strategy for how to go after it,” Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, told a group of reporters in early 2018.

While the applied impact of Block 4 will incorporate a range of mission-expanding technologies, much of the ongoing preparation work is in the realm of software development, Roper said.

“The physical pieces of the plane are moving in a good direction. Most of what we have left to do is software. The department (DoD) has not historically been good at software development. That will take a little longer. I cannot imagine building anything for the Air Force that is not software intensive,” Roper said.

The Block 4 initiative is part of a long range trajectory planned for the F-35 described by Pentagon developers as C2D2 – Continuous Capability Development and Delivery. The idea, officials say, is to position the multi-role fighter such that it can consistently accommodate new weapons, stealth materials, sensors, and guidance technology as it becomes available

“We own today’s fight,” said Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, F-35 Test Director, Edwards AFB, told reporters in early 2018. However, Tucker went on to say that, in the absence of aggressive modernization, sustainment and various improvement efforts.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

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Jimmy Kimmel gave train hero Spencer Stone a brand new Chevy Camaro

The heroic airman who helped subdue a terrorist on a high speed train in France last month got some awesome surprises during his visit to the Jimmy Kimmel show on Tuesday.


Airman Spencer Stone, 23, appeared on the show and talked about what happened on Aug. 21, when a terrorist attempted to attack a high speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. Stone, along with his friend Anthony Sadler and Army National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, subdued the gunman and thwarted a potential massacre.

“I hit the ground with him [and] I was kind of reaching for the gun, I couldn’t find it,” Stone told Jimmy Kimmel. “So I just put him in a rear naked choke just to protect myself … Right away he pulled another handgun, pointed at the back of my head, click, pulled the trigger. It didn’t work either. So God was with me on that one for sure.”

After retelling the story of the train attack, Kimmel noted that Stone was a fan of the Golden State Warriors. “We have a visitor outside who wants to say hello,” Kimmel said, as video cuts to Warriors guard Klay Thompson. He drove up in a Chevy Camaro and made his way to the studio, presenting Stone with a jersey and his hat.

And then, he gave him the keys.

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-W5iVj3b_w

NOW: Here’s how the Air Force would defend against Godzilla

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These Air Force ‘rods from God’ could hit with the force of a nuclear weapon

The 107-country Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967 prohibits nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons from being placed or used from Earth’s orbit. What they didn’t count on was the U.S. Air Force’s most simple weapon ever: a tungsten rod that could hit a city with the explosive power of an intercontinental ballistic missile.


During the Vietnam War, the U.S. used what they called “Lazy Dog” bombs. These were simply solid steel pieces, less than two inches long, fitted with fins. There was no explosive – they were simply dropped by the hundreds from planes flying above Vietnam.

Lazy Dog projectiles (aka “kinetic bombardment”) could reach speeds of up to 500 mph as they fell to the ground and could penetrate nine inches of concrete after being dropped from as little as 3,000 feet

The idea is like shooting bullets at a target, except instead of losing velocity as it travels, the projectile is gaining velocity and energy that will be expended on impact. They were shotgunning a large swath of jungle, raining bullet-sized death at high speeds.

That’s how Project Thor came to be.

Instead of hundreds of small projectiles from a few thousand feet, Thor used a large projectile from a few thousand miles above the Earth. The “rods from God” idea was a bundle of telephone-pole sized (20 feet long, one foot in diameter) tungsten rods, dropped from orbit, reaching a speed of up to ten times the speed of sound.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
A concept design of Project Thor.

The rod itself would penetrate hundreds of feet into the Earth, destroying any potential hardened bunkers or secret underground sites. More than that, when the rod hits, the explosion would be on par with the magnitude of a ground-penetrating nuclear weapon – but with no fallout.

It would take 15 minutes to destroy a target with such a weapon.

One Quora user who works in the defense aerospace industry quoted a cost of no less than $10,000 per pound to fire anything into space. With 20 cubic feet of dense tungsten weighing in at just over 24,000 pounds, the math is easy. Just one of the rods would be prohibitively expensive. The cost of $230 million dollars per rod was unimaginable during the Cold War.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
Like lawn darts, but with global repercussions.

These days, not so much. The Bush Administration even considered revisiting the idea to hit underground nuclear sites in rogue nations in the years following 9/11. Interestingly enough, the cost of a single Minuteman III ICBM was $7 million in 1962, when it was first introduced ($57 million adjusted for inflation).

The trouble with a nuclear payload is that it isn’t designed to penetrate deep into the surface. And the fallout from a nuclear device can be devastating to surrounding, potentially friendly areas.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history

A core takeaway from the concept of weapons like Project Thor’s is that hypersonic weapons pack a significant punch and might be the future of global warfare.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This armed anti-poacher unit was inspired by Army Rangers

It shouldn’t be surprising that the majority of professional wildlife protectors in Africa are men, but this group of ‘Brave Ones’ are proving why women deserve a place among their ranks.

Called the Akashinga (a word that means ‘the brave ones’), this armed, all-female, anti-poacher unit has made 72 arrests since October 2017 — without firing a single shot.


Zimbabwe’s women’s anti-poaching group protecting elephants – BBC News

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Damien Mander served in the Australian military as a clearance diver and special operations sniper. According to the BBC, after his military service he felt increasingly dissatisfied with his life, until “a stint in Southern Africa opened his eyes to the escalating plight of elephants and rhinos,” who were being illegally slaughtered for ivory.

Mander created the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, which brought a militarized approach to animal protection. It was successful — but it wasn’t sustainable. He realized that he needed to involve the local population. In 2015, he read about the U.S. Army Ranger School’s female graduates and was inspired. He decided to recruit women to become wildlife rangers for Africa.

According to the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, trophy hunting areas across Africa take up an expanse greater than all of France. Meanwhile, “a woman with a salary in rural Africa invests up to three times more than a male into their family.” By employing women from these communities, Akashinga created a program that affords a better financial return than what trophy hunting provided.

And it works.

Not only have the Akashinga been successfully carrying out their mission, they have also been operating without any hint of corruption. Most of the women have adopted a vegan and sober lifestyle. They educate children and invest in their community.

Last night #IAPF’s Akashinga team led to a successful raid. The result: Two men arrested and charged with illegal hunting and possession of game meat. The patrol recovered a spear and dried bush meat. Their court date is pending. Great job team! http://www.iapf.org/donate pic.twitter.com/A1C44JmM8o

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While it’s too early to predict the long-term viability of the program, early successes are worth investing in. The International Anti-Poaching Foundation aims to recruit a total of 2000 women, protecting a network spanning 30 million acres of African wilderness by 2030, according to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

Featured image via the International Anti-Poaching Foundation Facebook page.

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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.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
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.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
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.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A total US withdraw of troops from South Korea is ‘on the table’

U.S. troop withdrawal could be up for negotiation if North Korea and South Korea can solidify a lasting peace deal, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said April 27, 2018.

Mattis was cautious in his response to a question on the potential for withdrawals following the historic meeting on April 27, 2018, of the leaders of North and South Korea.


“That’s part of the issues that we’ll be discussing in negotiations with our allies first, and of course with North Korea,” he said.

He made no predictions on the status of the 28,000 U.S. troops now stationed in South Korea.

“I think for right now we just have to go along with the process, have the negotiations and not try to make pre-conditions or presumptions about how it’s going to go,” he said.

“The diplomats are going to have to go to work now,” Mattis said at the Pentagon after an honor cordon for visiting Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak.

The prospect that a U.S. Secretary of Defense would have entertained even the vaguest thought of troop withdrawal from the peninsula would have been unthinkable only a few weeks ago, but North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s attempted transformation from dictator and nuclear bully to potential peace partner has altered the diplomatic and military equation.

“We will build, through confidence building measures, a degree of trust to go forward. So we’ll see how things go,” Mattis said. “I don’t have a crystal ball. I can tell you we are optimistic right now that there’s opportunity here that we have never enjoyed since 1950,” when the Korean War started.

Late April 2018, the U.S. held a drill for the evacuation of civilian personnel from South Korea in the event of war. On April 27, 2018, a smiling Kim stepped across a line in the Demilitarized Zone and was greeted by a beaming South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un andu00a0South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

They shook hands, took a walk together, planted a tree together and later signed the “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula.”

The declaration held out the possibility for the denuclearization of the peninsula and a formal end to the Korean War, which concluded with an armistice in 1953.

The Kim-Moon meeting also set the stage for a summit between Kim and President Donald Trump at the end of May or early June 2018. A site for the talks has yet to be determined.

“We seek a future of peace, prosperity, and harmony for the whole Korean Peninsula unlocking, not only a brighter future for the people of Korea, but for the people of the world,” Trump said at the White House. “However, in pursuit of that goal, we will not repeat the mistake of past administrations. Maximum pressure will continue until denuclearization occurs.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica

Winter sucks everywhere. Sure, the bugs have finally frozen over and you can finally break out that coat you like, but it’s cold, you’re always late because your car won’t defrost in time, and no one seems to remember to tap their brakes when stopping at intersections.

But, as any optimist might tell you, things can always get worse! While it sucks for us up here in the middle of December, it’s actually the nicest time to be in Antarctica — nice by Antarctic standards anyway.

It doesn’t last, though, as the winters there begin in mid-February and don’t let up until mid-November. And don’t forget, we have brothers and sisters in the U.S. Armed Forces down there embracing the suck of the coldest temperatures on Earth.


The 7 best transport planes in US military history

McMurdo Station is by far the most populated location on the entire continent with a population of 250 in the winter.

(Photo by Sarah E. Marshall)

To ensure that no hostilities occur on the frozen continent, the Antarctica Treaty lists it as “the common heritage of mankind.” As such, only scientific expeditions are allowed down there. Since airmen, sailors, and coast guardsmen have the capabilities to assist in this respect, they routinely travel to scientific research facilities to help out. Their mission is, simply, keep the scientists alive and let them focus on doing their jobs.

During the winter, which, as we’d mentioned, lasts for ten months, most scientists head to more hospitable climates. Most. Not all. It’s up to the troops to help keep those who remain safe and well. Thankfully, there are only three spots on the entire barren continent that they need to keep tabs on: McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

The ports and airstrips at Palmer Station remain active year round. In case of any emergencies, the Air Force and Navy can quickly send supplies into Palmer to have it distributed out further. At McMurdo Station, the winters are a little more intense, so the ports and airstrip are strictly for emergency use — but they manage.

Then there’re the troops with the scientists at the South Pole Station. They’re almost entirely frozen in. Thankfully, it doesn’t snow that much at the South Pole, but the wind combined with near-permanent darkness make it feel close to -100 Fahrenheit. The only real thing to do then is to bunker inside at the one bar located at the South Pole and wait for ten months inside.

To see what the winters actually look like in Antarctica, check out the video below.

MIGHTY MONEY

Pro-tip: Active Duty gets the AmEx Platinum for free

The Platinum Card from American Express has one of the highest annual fees of any consumer credit card — a staggering $550 each year, starting when your first billing statement hits. However, the card is easily worth that annual fee because you get more value than that back. For example, I got more than $2,000 of demonstrable value from the card my first year.

However, if you’re an active duty US military member, AmEx will actually waive the annual fee. As reported by US Navy veteran Richard Kerr for The Points Guy, service members must request the benefit by calling the number on the back of the card — it isn’t applied automatically. AmEx uses an automated program to confirm your service, and refunds the annual fee in the form of a statement credit.


This can be particularly useful for military members who find themselves traveling frequently, either as a part of their service or during leave periods — or for traveling spouses and children, who can be added as authorized users. But the card can be incredibly valuable even for non-service members who have to pay the whole fee. Here are some of the benefits that make that the case.

Airport lounge access

Airport lounges are exclusive areas where you can enjoy seats, an internet connection, food, drinks, and sometimes other amenities. Although lounges were traditionally reserved for first class and business class passengers, many are accessible to any traveler who holds either a lounge membership or certain credit cards — and the Platinum Card from American Express offers access to three different kinds of lounge.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history

The first type is AmEx’s own proprietary lounges, located at eight airports in the United States — and in Hong Kong — with three more US locations set to open in 2019. These chic venues offer an oasis in the middle of the main terminal’s chaos, featuring comfortable seating, complimentary cocktails and food created by award-winning mixologists and chefs, respectively, and other amenities. Access to these lounges is limited to holders of the AmEx Platinum or AmEx Centurion cards.

If you’re flying with Delta and carry a Platinum Card, you can also access any Delta Sky Club lounge. With more than 30 locations, Sky Clubs offer snacks, complimentary soft and alcoholic drinks (with more “premium” drinks available for purchase), fast Wi-Fi, and a place to unwind. Some locations also feature showers.

Finally, the Platinum Card comes with a Priority Pass membership. Priority Pass is a network of more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world. With the membership provided by your Platinum card, you and two guests can access any location (as long as there’s room) to enjoy free snacks, drinks, newspapers and magazines, showers, and more, all separate from the hustle and bustle of the main terminal. If you have an international version of the card, instead of the US version, be sure to double check the guest policy for your card’s Priority Pass benefit. Priority Pass also offers credits at some airport lounges and restaurants.

Membership Rewards points

The Platinum Card earns Membership Rewards points, which are the currency in AmEx’s loyalty program. Points can be exchanged for statement credits or cash back, used to book travel through the AmEx Travel website, or transferred to any of 17 airline and three hotel transfer partners (transferable points are among the most valuable).

The card earns a whopping 5x points on airfare purchased directly through the airline, as well as flights and prepaid hotels reserved through AmEx Travel. It earns one point for every dollar spent elsewhere.

The Platinum Card comes with a welcome offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend ,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening. The value of the points depends on how you use them, but by transferring them to airline frequent flyer programs, it can be possible to use those welcome points to fly round-trip to Europe, or even one-way in first class.

0 airline fee credit

Every calendar year, the Platinum Card offers a 0 credit toward incidental fees on one airline (that you can choose at the beginning of each year). While it doesn’t cover tickets, it applies to a wide variety of charges and fees, such as checked bags, change fees if you need to change your flight, in-flight food and drinks, fees for traveling with a pet, airport lounge day passes (if you don’t already have complimentary access), and sometimes even things like seat assignments and extra legroom upgrade fees.

Up to 0 in Uber credits

In March, 2017, American Express added this as a new perk to the Platinum Card. The credit works within the US, and is worth up to 0 per year, broken into monthly chunks; each month, you’ll get a credit added to your linked Uber account, with an extra for a total of each December.

The 7 best transport planes in US military history

(Stock Catalog photo)

If you travel on a regular basis or live anywhere near most cities, this is an easy perk to get value from. You can also put the credits toward UberEats orders.

In addition, your account will be upgraded to Uber VIP status. There aren’t a ton of perks with this, and it’s only available in certain cities, but with Uber VIP, you’ll only be connected to drivers rated 4.8 stars or higher. Uber also says that Uber VIP drivers have “high-quality cars.”

Shopping credit

This is a brand new benefit that AmEx added to the Platinum Card in July 2018. US card members can enroll to get up to 0 in statement credits each year in store or online at Saks Fifth Avenue. The credit is broken into two parts, with up to available every six months.

Although many things at Saks are quite pricey, there are plenty of items in the -100 range — and lower — that you can find by browsing the website. Sneakers that are on sale, things like Converse shoes, t-shirts, sweaters, or more. You can learn more about the benefit here.

Elite status at Starwood, Marriott, and Hilton hotels

Elite status at hotels can be incredibly valuable, often including free perks like daily breakfast, room upgrades, early check-in or late check-out, premium internet, lounge access, free nights, points-earning bonuses, and more. Usually, only the top frequent travelers earn status, but with the Platinum Card, you can earn it before you’ve stayed a single night.

The card comes with gold-level elite status at both Hilton and Starwood hotels. Because Starwood is owned by Marriott, the latter matches your status at Starwood. If you stay at hotels even a few nights a year, these benefits can be extremely valuable — especially considering how expensive hotel breakfasts can be.

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry (which comes with PreCheck) are absolute musts for just about any traveler. Once you enroll, you can use special lanes to breeze through airport security — you won’t have to remove shoes and light coats, and you can leave your laptop in your bag. With Global Entry, you can use a fast lane when you return to the US from abroad, which makes clearing immigration and customs easy and quick. The programs cost -0, and American Express will provide a credit for that fee every four years (memberships are valid for five years).

Other card benefits

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a few other benefits that help offset the annual fee.

AmEx also Platinum card members access to the AmEx Fine Hotels and Resorts program. When you book participating hotels through AmEx Travel (there are nearly 1,000 worldwide), you’ll enjoy valuable perks including room upgrades, free breakfast, late checkout, free Wi-Fi, and a unique amenity at each hotel, like a credit to use at on-property spas or restaurants.

An exclusive concierge service is available to Platinum cardmembers, too. While the services are complimentary, you’re responsible for paying for any services booked or purchases made on your behalf (don’t worry, the concierge will always ask for approval first). The service can come in helpful for things like getting tickets to shows or making reservations at exclusive restaurants.

Bottom line

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a high annual fee of 0, but the value of the card’s annual benefits more than outweighs the fee. That’s especially true the first year, when you can earn welcome points.

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

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