The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets - We Are The Mighty
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The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

The upcoming OA-X fly-off features the Textron Scorpion as one of the major contenders. This plane has been the subject of some hype since it first flew in 2013. However, if it wins the OA-X flyoff, it won’t be the first Scorpion to have flown for the United States.


In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States was looking to acquire interceptors to stop a horde of Soviet bombers. The big problem — the guns were just not packing enough punch. One answer to this was the F-89 Scorpion from Northrop.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
Three Northrop F-89 Scorpions. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The first definitive version of the Scorpion to achieve widespread service, the F-89D, addressed that problem by using air-to-air “Mighty Mouse” rockets. The Scorpions carried 104 of them, and had the option of firing all of them at once, or in up to three salvos. The F-89 Scorpion also had a lethal ground-attack capability, being able to carry 16 five-inch rockets and up to 3,200 pounds of bombs.

But the “Mighty Mouse” rockets proved to be more mouse than mighty, and the Scorpion’s armament was soon the subject of an upgrade. The F-89J was a F-89D modified to carry the AIR-2 Genie rocket — which carried a small nuclear warhead. The plane could also carry four AIM-4 Falcon missiles. The Genie had a warhead equivalent to 250 tons of TNT, and it had a range of six miles and a top speed of Mach 3. Early versions of the AIM-4 had a range of six miles, but later versions could go 7 miles. Most Falcons were heat-seekers, but some were radar-guided missiles.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
A F-89 Scorpion firing an AIR-2 Genie rocket. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-89 was eventually retired in favor of faster interceptors with more modern radars and missiles, but for most of two decades, it helped guard America’s airspace from Soviet aggression. Below is a video put out by the Air Force’s Air Defense Command about this plane.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever

During the pre-dawn hours of October 25, 1893, a British column of 700 men from the British South African Police under the command of Maj. Patrick William Forbes camped in a defensive position next to the Shangani River. While they slept, the Matabele king Lobengula ordered an attack on the column, sending a force comprised of up to 6,000 men – some armed with spears, but many with Martini-Henry rifles.


Among its weapons, the column possessed five Maxim guns – history’s first recoil-operated, belt-fed machine gun. Once a British bugler sounded the alert, the machine guns saw action, and the results were horrific. More than 1,600 of the attacking Matabele tribesman were mowed down like grass. As for the British column, it suffered only four casualties.

The British military not only measured the Maxim gun’s success by the number of Matabele killed in action. They could gauge the Maxim’s potential as a weapon of psychological warfare. In the aftermath, several Matabele war leaders committed suicide either by hanging themselves or throwing themselves on their spears.

The Maxim gun was an earth-shattering a weapon in its heyday – and a true weapon of empire.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
(By Zorro2212 – Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Hiram Maxim‘s invention brought industrial-level killing to the battlefield. More than any other weapon developed in the late 19th and early 20th Century, the Maxim gun is responsible for changing the nature of warfare forever.

The British square and “the thin red line” of massed infantry firepower eventually went the way of the dodo.  When the Maxim gun opened fire at 500 rounds per minute, the tactic of soldiers firing in ranks became suicidal – from then on, the infantryman would have to dash and weave, relying on his ability to maneuver to bring fire to bear on the enemy and to stay alive.

The Maxim gun has two phases to its history. The first is when it was used as the weapon of choice to help expand the British Empire during the late 19th Century.  The weapon’s devastating use during The Great War launched the second phase of its history as one of the guns of modern 20th Century warfare.

But to really understand the weapon you have know something about Maxim, an American who was both an impressive genius and a shrewd businessman.

Born in Maine in 1840, tinkering came naturally to Maxim. While still a teenager, he literally built the better mousetrap – his automatically reset and rid local mills of rodents. At 26, he patented a curling iron, the first of 270 more patents to come. Then, Maxim became chief engineer of the United States Electric Lighting Co. in New York, where he introduced longer-lasting carbon filaments for electric light bulbs.

But he wanted fame and fortune – particularly fortune. He went to Europe in an effort to seek wealth by developing peacetime inventions like he had in the United States.

“In 1882 I was in Vienna, where I met an American whom I had known in the States,” Maxim wrote in his memoir. “He said: ‘Hang your chemistry and electricity! If you want to make a pile of money, invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each others’ throats with greater facility.'”

Sound advice: In 1884, he harnessed the recoil of a bullet with a spring-loaded bolt mechanism and feeding device that fed ammunition into the gun on a cloth belt. The Gatling or Nordenfelt rapid-firing guns of the time were hand-cranked, gravity-fed weapons with multiple barrels prone to jamming.

Maxim also invented a cleaner burning, smokeless powder that he called cordite, which fouled a weapon much less than the black powder of the era. The combination of mechanized automatic fire and cleaner ammunition was revolutionary. By 1889, the British army adopted the Maxim gun; a year later, the armies of Austria, Germany, Italy and Russia all had Maxims.

The quintessential incarnation of the Maxim gun came when the inventor partnered with the British Vickers Co. The result was a water-cooled, tripod-mounted machine gun in .303 caliber, fed by ammunition on a 250-round belt.

It came just in time for World War I.  However, many generals and military planners doubted the effectiveness of the Maxim gun as well as similar machine guns against troops of Western European powers.

They still preached the bayonet charge. As one infantry manual said, “The spirit of the bayonet must be inculcated into all ranks, so that they go forward with aggressive determination and confidence of superiority born of continued practice, without which a bayonet charge will not be effective.”

Not even the evidence of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1906) with its long sieges and trench warfare – an eerie predictor of The Great War’s horrors to come – could persuade military observers of the Maxim gun’s lethality on the modern battlefield.

“The observers watched Russian and Japanese being mowed down in swathes by machine-gun fire and returned home to write: The machine gun is a vastly overrated weapon; it appears highly doubtful that it would be effective against trained European soldiery,” James L. Stokesbury drily comments in A Short History of World War I. “Apparently, they did not consider Japanese, or even Russians, to be in that supposedly elite category.”

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
A large-bore Maxim on the USS Vixen ca. 1898 (US Navy Photo)

The reality on the Western Front was something quite different. Some called The Great War “the machine gun war” – although artillery fire often caused the bulk of the casualties, soldiers vividly recounted watching their comrades drop like flies as machine guns traversed their ranks while firing.

In just one day during the Battle of the Somme – July 1, 1916 – the British saw 21,000 men slaughtered. The great majority of the casualties were killed by Spandau machine guns, the German version of the Maxim.

Maxim – wealthy, famous, and knighted by the queen – died on November 24, 1916, in London, his home after he became a naturalized British subject. A few weeks before, the Battle of the Somme had ended. The result was more than a million casualties.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the only army Genghis Khan and the Mongols were hesitant to fight against

In reading the history books, one might come to believe the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan was an unstoppable machine that rolled over everything and everyone in its path. Largely, they would be right to think so. 

Until the Great Khan’s death in 1227, there weren’t a lot of things that would give the Mongol Hordes any kind of pause, and a killer hangover would usually top the list. By the time Khan died, he ruled an empire that spanned from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian Sea in the west. 

There was a military leader that the Mongols did not want to fight, and it comes from an unlikely and less often remembered place. He was Jalal ad Din Mingburnu, the last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire.

Genghis Khan

Khan conquered two-thirds of what is today China and after their defeat, sent a caravan of traders into the Khwarezmian Empire, in modern-day Turkey, Iran, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The Mongols were looking to establish trade relations. Khan had no desire to actually invade the empire. But the caravan was attacked and looted by a local governor before it could reach its destination. The governor refused to pay restitution for the caravan.

Still, unlike the Khan of the history books, the Mongols sent three emissaries to resolve the situation diplomatically. Shah Ala ad-Din Muhammad, ruler of the Khwarazmian Empire, had them put to death, along with the survivors of the caravan. 

This is where the old Genghis Khan you read about shows up. He assembled the largest Mongol Army ever created, a force of 100,000 men to reduce the Shah’s empire to rubble. And that’s pretty much what happened. The Mongols leveled all the major cities and tried to destroy any historical mentions of the Khwarezmian Empire.

The Shah and his sons escaped to the Caspian Sea, where he named his son, Jalal ad Din Mingburunu, as his successor to what was left of the empire. It was Jalal ad-Din who was eventually able to defeat the Mongols. 

Khan, now in his 60s, warned his sons Jochi, Jebe, and Tolui not to mess up when fighting Jalal ad-Din. The young ruler was everything the Great Khan feared he would be.

Now in command of the Khwarazmian army, Jalal ad-Din made his way to the former capital at Samarkand. Along the way, he encountered a Mongol cavalry with just his 300-man bodyguard to fight them. The young ruler, only 21 years old, handed the Mongols their first defeat. 

He gathered what was left of the army at the old capital and made his way to Nesa, where he relieved the city of a Mongol siege and headed to the new capital at Ghazni, where he defeated the Mongols once more. 

Jalal ad-Din’s general soon got into a scuffle about how to divide the spoils of war and the divide led to 30,000 men abandoning the young king. Khan, now in awe of the young man’s ability, heard about the split and decided it would be the only chance he had to defeat the Khwarazmian. He assembled a force that would overwhelm what was left of the Khwarazmian army. 

At the 1221 Battle of Indus, Jalal ad-Din was on his way to exile in India, but Khan caught up to him as he was fording the river. The Khwarazmians stood to fight, but were simply overwhelmed. Jalal was forced to swim across the Indus River to escape alive. 

He spent three years in India but soon returned at the head of another army. Jalal ad-Din spent the rest of his life harassing the Mongol forces but was never able to re-establish his empire. 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia hoped this bomber could kill carriers

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had a problem. Well, to be honest, they had over a dozen problems: United States Navy carrier battle groups. Each American aircraft carrier was able to bring in five squadrons of tactical jets to take down targets on land, and the Soviets got a good look at what carrier air wings could do in the Vietnam War.


The Soviet’s Tupolev Tu-16 Badger simply could not be counted on to counter this massive threat and survive, so they started looking for better options. The first effort to replace the Badger, the Tu-22 Blinder, was a disappointment. It had high speed, making it harder for opposing fighters to intercept, but it wasn’t the easiest plane to fly. So, Tupolev tried to field a new replacement.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
A Soviet Tu-22M Backfire-B bomber aircraft is escorted by an F-14A Tomcat aircraft. (DOD photo)

What emerged was a plane that would dominate the nightmares of American admirals. The Tu-22M Backfire had high performance and wouldn’t struggle with any of the many issues that plagued the Blinder.

There are some key differences between the Tu-22 Blinder and the Tu-22M Backfire. One of the biggest changes was the addition of a fourth crew member to the three-man crew of the Blinder. The primary armament also changed. Unlike its predecessors, which made heavy use of gravity bombs, the Backfire is primarily a missile shooter. Its main weapon was the AS-4 Kitchen, a missile with a range of 310 miles that carries either a 350-kiloton nuclear warhead or a one-ton conventional warhead. The AS-4 can hit targets on land or ships at sea.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
Air-to-air right side view of a Soviet Tu-22M Backfire aircraft. (DOD photo)

The Backfire entered service in 1972. It has a top speed of 1,243 miles per hour and is capable of mid-air refueling. The capability was reportedly deleted after the START treaty, but Russia’s compliance with arms control treaties has been dubious in recent years.

Learn more about this lethal bomber in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkMOE497Ixs
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
Articles

US cruiser collides with South Korean fishing boat

A U.S. naval vessel collided with a South Korean fishing boat but no injuries were reported following the accident.


The USS Lake Champlain was taking part in joint naval exercises off the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula when the collision occurred, Yonhap news agency reported Tuesday.

The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser hit the South Korean fishing vessel at around 11:50 a.m., local time.

South Korea’s coast guard said the accident occurred about 70 miles east of Gangguhang Port, a large harbor in Yeongdeok city, in South Gyeongsang Province.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) transit the Philippine Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers/Released)

“At the time of the collision there were no injuries, the front of the fishing boat was damaged, as was a part of the U.S. naval vessel,” the coast guard said.

The coast guard also said an accident at sea involving a U.S. naval boat and a Korean fishing boat was “unprecedented.”

The U.S. Navy and the South Korea coast guard continue to investigate the accident.

The USS Lake Champlain measures more than 560 feet in length, significantly larger than the South Korean boat measuring about 60 to 70 feet.

The South Korean fishing boat returned to Pohang port in the evening.

The accident occurred as the Lake Champlain was conducting exercises at sea with the USS Carl Vinson, the USS Wayne E. Meyer, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, and the USS Michael Murphy, the 62nd ship of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

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This is what your next MOPP suit could look like

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
Soldiers train in classic MOPP gear just before Desert Storm in 1991. (Photo: U.S. Army)


For over 20 years, American warfighters have worn the Joint Services Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST) on the battlefield and during training for their CBRN protection. But its days are numbered. Brought into service in the 1990’s and now nearing the end of its shelf life, the JSLIST will be replaced by the Uniform Integrated Protective Ensemble, Increment 2 (UIPE II) in the very near future. What will UIPE II look like? That’s not certain at the moment, but there are some new technologies and advancements that are likely to have an impact:

  1. Better materials – Anyone who has worn the JSLIST remembers the black powder residue that coated your skin and uniform after taking it off. That’s because it had layers of activated charcoal that consisted mostly of carbon. Nowadays, carbon beads are all the rage and can provide adequate protection at a lighter weight.
  2. Lamination of materials – A recent breakthrough in research proved that removing the air gap between layers of materials can lower the thermal burden on the soldier by a large margin. Picture this…future CBRN suits will most likely be layers of materials. So if you have an outer shell, a carbon bead layer, an aerosol barrier, and a comfort liner sewn together in one suit, the thin layers of air in between those materials will heat up. But laminating them together squeezes out all the air and ends up making the soldier cooler. And not just a little, but a lot. That’s huge.
  3. Undergarments – Using the same concept as lamination, undergarments can keep the warfighter cooler than an overgarment by removing the air next to the skin. Research has shown that wearing an undergarment as close to the skin as possible reduces the heat stress. It will take some getting used to, but the UIPE increment 1 suit consists of an undergarment under the duty uniform and is being fielded now.
  4. Conformal fit – Once again, getting rid of all that air brings the temperature down, so a closer fitting uniform with less material reduces the thermal burden on the warfighter while also reducing the potential for snagging on surfaces as he does his mission.
  5. Better seams and closures – Contamination doesn’t get through a suit unless it has a path and those paths are almost always along seams and closures. Seams and closures are frequently the weakest points that allow particles to get through, but several advancements will counter that.
  6. Omniphobic coatings – Have you ever seen that video of ketchup rolling off a dress shirt? Well, it’s out there and it works. Now think of how effective that concept can be for chemical agents. If 50% of the agent sheds off the uniform and falls to the ground before it has a chance to soak into the suit, that’s half the contamination that can reach the trooper. Omniphobic coatings are still in their early stages of development, but they could be game changers when matured.
  7. Composite materials – Just because you can make a suit out of one material doesn’t mean you should. Future suits will have different materials in different areas, like stretchy woven fabrics in the torso (where body armor is) and knit materials that offer less stretch but more protection in the arms and legs.
  8. Overall lower thermal burden – Here’s where the money is. Almost all of these factors contribute to the one big advantage everyone who’s ever worn MOPP 4 wants to hear – less heat stress – which equates to warfighters being able to stay in the suit and do their jobs longer with a lower chance of being a heat casualty. Break out the champagne.
  9. Flame resistance – Because catching on fire sucks. Most uniforms these days have flame resistant coatings or fabrics, but therein lies the challenge. When you add up all the other technologies, the big question is how do you do it all? How do you coat a suit with omniphobics and flame resistance while also laminating composite materials, making it conformal fitting and lowering the thermal burden while also providing an adequate level of CBRN protection, which is the most important aspect of all? Really smart people are working on that.
  10. A family of suits – Common sense tells us one size does not fit all. The DoD has a history of procuring one suit for everyone, like the JSLIST is now fielded to all warfighters. But slowly that has been changing. Everyone has a different job to do while wearing CBRN suits. Some warfighters need a low level of protection for a short period of time while others need more protection for longer periods. A family of suits instead of one is the answer.

MOPP 4 sucks. It’s just a basic tenet of warfighting. We embrace the suck and drive on, but with the progress CBRN suits have made recently, we won’t have to embrace quite as much suck as before.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How a Ralph Lauren paint became one of the most dominant colors in the military

If you walk around any military base today, you will see the color “Coyote Brown.” The dull yellow-brown shade can be seen on the uniforms of sailors, airmen, soldiers and Marines. Certain uniform items like beanies, boots and fleece jackets are entirely Coyote Brown. With its popularity throughout the military, the question must be asked: where did this color come from? For that answer, we have to go back to the turn of the millennium.

In February 2000, the entire U.S. military was wearing BDUs and Marine Sgt. Ken Henley had just been transferred from Scout Sniper Platoon 2/2 at Camp Lejeune to be a TBS combat instructor at Quantico. Aside from being an experienced sniper, Henley was also a decorated Marine, having earned a Purple Heart during an embassy reinforcement in Monrovia, Liberia, in May 1996.


The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

Marines test early prototypes of MARPAT and the MCCUU which had removable sleeves (USMC)

Henley’s sniper expertise was called upon when two captains from MarCorSysCom solicited TBS for him to deliver a lecture on camouflage to students at the University of Virginia who were working on design theories for camouflage and colors in textiles. The captains were so impressed with Henley that they continued to solicit his expertise, borrowing him from TBS to help design a camo helmet cover and a new lightweight helmet among other projects.

Henley’s biggest challenge came when the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Logan Jones, Jr., issued a directive for MarCorSysCom to develop a new and improved Marine Corps uniform. Naturally, Henley was tapped for the project and went up to the Navy Clothing Textile Research Facility in Natick, Massachusetts. Initially, Henley believed that the project would be a simple one. “I’ll just check out some current patterns, maybe tweak some color schemes and be done,” he first thought. “Boy was I wrong.”

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

The newest fleece jacket is entirely Coyote Brown (U.S. Army)

Working with the civilian textile engineers at NCTRF, Henley went through over 150 current camouflage patterns until he narrowed them down to just three: the Vietnam-era tiger stripe, a modern commercial tiger stripe, and a Rhodesian version of the British DPM. After some tweaking and modifications, they settled on a version of the Rhodesian DPM.

However, after the trip, Henley had a realization. “Marines would be taking this uniform into the 21st century…my fellow Marines would be wearing it on foreign ground, depending on this uniform to do its job,” he recalled. “This uniform not only needed to actually work, it needed to be unique.” In order to accomplish this, Henley enlisted the help of another sniper.

Being at Quantico, Henley was able to make a visit to the SNCOIC of the Scout Sniper School, a Marine that Henley had served with in Somalia in 1993. Gunny H, as he will be referred to, was enthusiastic about the new project and MarCorSysCom approved his involvement at Henley’s request.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

Coyote Brown gear is universal and can be used with Desert MARPAT… (USMC)

Together, Henley and Gunny H facilitated a brainstorming session involving the NCTRF engineers, sniper school staff and even a current sniper school class. With input from both designers and end users, Henley made a second trip up to Natick with Gunny H to continue tweaking the designs he had worked on previously. It was on that trip that Gunny H made a fateful visit to a local Home Depot and discovered a color swatch from the Ralph Lauren Santa Fe paint collection called Coyote.

Though the color is now discontinued, it can still be custom mixed. If any of you motivators want to paint your house the original Coyote, just ask for RL color code SF11B (no, that’s not an Army MOS joke). Gunny H took the swatch back to NCTRF and a tech scanned the color into the pattern that Henley had last developed. Though Coyote worked with the other colors, the existing pattern was still lacking.

As fate would have it, the engineers at Natick had recently received a few samples of the new Canadian CADPAT. “It looked good in theory but the color scheme was way off for our use,” Henley recalled. “The Canadians had used way too much bright lime-green in the pattern. Using CADPAT as a starting point, Henley and Gunny H further developed their pattern by having one of the engineers produce a “snow” screen, simulating static on a TV without reception. Sections of the pattern were then separated with the new color palette applied. “It took a good bit of refining and pattern modification, but by the second day it came out good,” Henley said of their work on what would become MARPAT. “We tweaked the colors just a bit more, printed out a sample, and were done.”

The new pattern went through extensive testing at Quantico before its patent was filed on June 19, 2001. MARPAT made its official debut on the new Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform at Camp Lejeune on January 17, 2002.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

Woodland MARPAT (USMC)

Since the introduction of MARPAT and the universal Coyote Brown gear that goes with it, other services have taken notice. Today, Coyote Brown is an integral part of the Operational Camouflage Pattern used on the latest version of the Army Combat Uniform worn by soldiers and airmen alike. That’s right, OCP is the pattern and ACU is the uniform. It bears mentioning that OCP was developed as a joint venture between the Army’s Natick Labs and Crye Precision, the original producers of MultiCam.

So, the next time someone makes fun of your uniform, you can claim sartorial superiority. After all, you’re wearing a Ralph Lauren color.


MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the military challenge coin came to be

Challenge coins mean different things to different troops. Senior enlisted and officers tend to place them on a desk to gloat to peers and the more junior troops slam them on the bar to see who’s buying the next round. How you earn the coin also ranges widely, from “pleasure to meet you, have a coin” to “you made a great cup of coffee, have a coin” to even “you did something worthy of an award, but nah — have a coin.”


Throughout history, warriors have carried coins, going as far back as the ancient Greeks and, eventually, the Romans. Coins carried by warriors were seen as the payment for the ferryman, Charon, to be exchanged for passage into the afterlife. They served as a memento mori, which roughly translates from Latin to mean, “remember that you will die.” This is also the root of the English word ‘memento.’ Even back in the Civil War, troops from both armies carried coins with them as a cheap reminder of being back home.

 

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

 

The legend of the challenge coins, as we know them, started with WWI pilots. A young and rich lieutenant felt the need to flaunt his wealth to his new peers, so he spent his own money to buy solid bronze medallions of his unit insignia for his peers. Another pilot accepted it as a nice gift and wore it in a small leather pouch around his neck. Shortly after, he would be shot down behind enemy lines. He was captured by Germans, who stripped him over everything, but overlooked his medallion.

Related: These are some of the best military challenge coins

He escaped in civilian attire, crossed no man’s land undetected, and stumbled into a French outpost. Unfortunately, the French didn’t understand English nor his American accent and thought he was a German saboteur. The Germans took every bit of personal identification from the American pilot, so the only proof he had to show the French to not shoot him was the bronze unit medallion his rich peer gave him.

One French captor recognized the insignia and delayed his execution until they could confirm if he was American or not. Instead of a bullet to the head, the French gave him a bottle of wine and sent him on his way. When the pilot returned and told everyone of what happened, carrying those medallions became immediately important among all pilots. This also started the joke punishment of having to buy the next round if you’re not carrying your coin.

 

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
So, if you’re wondering, nearly every tradition the military dates back to WWI. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Another lower enlisted tradition began in post-WWII Germany as assigned U.S. troops would carry West German money with them. The exchange rate was so bad that the One Pfennig coin was hardly worth a fraction of a penny and had nearly zero value to American troops. So, only the poorest of the poor would bother saving them — until troops gathered to drink. If someone would shout, “Pfennig check!” everyone would empty their pockets to see who was poor (if you had the near-worthless coin) and who wasn’t (if you were above keeping them). If you were “rich” enough to not need to carry a worthless coin, you were rich enough to buy your brother-in-arms a drink. This soon shifted to include challenge coins, which also had no monetary value.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The B-52H is finally getting new radar-system upgrades

Top defense contractors are competing to give America’s longest-serving bomber a big-time upgrade to its onboard sensors to improve the aircraft’s lethality in combat.

The radars on US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers are old and haven’t been updated since the 1980s.

To keep these decades-old aircraft fighting into the foreseeable future, the Air Force is pursuing new advanced radar systems that can unlock the full fighting capabilities of the older bombers, allowing them to eliminate ground targets, as well as take on non-traditional combat roles, such as taking out ships at sea and engaging in aerial combat.


Northrop Grumman, a major US defense contractor, is currently pushing to replace the B-52 bomber’s outdated AN/APQ-166 radars with its AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) as part of the B-52 Radar Modernization Program, Inside Defense reported Feb. 26, 2019.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

A B-52 Stratofortress.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo)

The SABR system pitched for the B-52 is the same as that being installed on Air Force F-16s. Northrop Grumman has an enhanced SABR variant for the B-1B Lancer as well.

Also in the running to provide improved radar systems for the B-52, Raytheon is pulling radar capabilities from the F-15’s APG-63(v)3 and APG-82 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars and the APG-79 on the Super Hornets and Growlers, according to an earlier statement from the company.

The US Air Force is determined to see the 60-year-old bombers wage war for at least a century, so the heavy, long-range bombers are receiving a variety of upgrades to extend their length of service. Improvements include an upgraded weapons rack for smart munitions, new engines, and a new radar system, among other things.

Northrop Grumman submitted a proposal this week to Boeing, which is handling source selection for the radar upgrades for the Air Force.

The company states its SABR system “leverages [the] proven, fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array radar capabilities of the AN/APG-77 on the F-22 Raptor and the AN/APG-81 on the F-35 Lightning II.”

Incorporating AESA radar capabilities into the B-52’s sensor suite would be a big deal, The War Zone’s Tyler Rogoway explains, noting that an advanced radar system like Northrop Grumman’s SABR could improve targeting, surveillance, and situational awareness.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

A B-52 taking off from Tinker AFB.

The upgrade would allow the bomber’s six-man crew to simultaneously engage ground and naval targets in all weather conditions and at greater distances, target enemies using advanced electronic attack capabilities, and even engage in air-to-air combat if necessary.

With these enhanced capabilities and the B-52’s ability to carry a large arsenal of weaponry into battle, the aircraft will be better prepared to fight in contested anti-access zones and defend friendly forces.

China and Russia, both of which are locked in military competition with the US, have been pursuing standoff capabilities to create anti-access/area-denial environments, and the US military is working hard to counter emerging challenges to American operations by developing its own standoff capabilities.

For instance, during 2018’s Valiant Shield exercises, B-52 bombers practiced dropping new 2,000-pound derivatives of the Quickstrike-ER (extended range) naval mine. The bombers can lay devastating mine fields from 50 miles away.

Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are also competing to replace the AN/APG-73 radar systems on older-model F/A-18 Hornets, with Northrop offering the SABR system and Raytheon offering its APG-79, according to Inside Defense.

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

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These are the best military photos for the week of August 12th

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

Air Force Emergency Medical Technicians hop over a barrier during the ‘Commando Challenge’ for the 27th Special Operations Medical Group’s EMT Rodeo Aug. 9, 2017, at Melrose Air Force Range, New Mexico. Twenty-one teams from Air Force bases around the world visited MAFR and Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, to participate in the EMT Rodeo, giving the technicians a wide assortment of scenarios to test their knowledge and training in the medical field.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Luke Kitterman

Two combat controllers with the 321st Special Tactics Squadron observe an A-10 Thunderbolt II landing on Jägala-Käravete Highway, Aug. 10, in Jägala, Estonia. A small force of eight Special Tactics combat controllers from the 321st STS surveyed the two-lane highway, deconflicted airspace and exercised command and control on the ground and in the air to land A-10s from Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron on the highway.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy

Army:

A Soldier with 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat team, 7th Infantry Division reaches for her drink tube during an operational test of the Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) and Tactical Communication and Protective System Lite (TCAPS-L) hearing protection on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, August 8, 2017. Soldiers put the IHPS and TCAPS-L to the test while conducting training and gave feedback to data collectors about how the new equipment performed.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Youtoy Martin, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Soldiers from A Battery, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, provide the 15-gun salute during the Honors Ceremony, Aug. 8, 2017, held for the outgoing I Corps Deputy Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Mark Stammer, in Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. During the ceremony Stammer received the Legion of Merit and his wife, Donna, was awarded The Outstanding Civilian Service Medal.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Adeline Witherspoon, 20th Public Affairs Detachment

Navy:

U.S. Navy Sailors direct an aircraft aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), Aug. 9, 2017, in the Arabian Gulf. Nimitz is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. While in this region, the ship and strike group are conducting maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of navigation, and maintain the free flow of commerce.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Leon Wong

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) fires its 5-inch gun during a live-fire exercise as a part of exercise Saxon Warrior 2017. The U.S. and United Kingdom co-hosted carrier strike group exercise demonstrates interoperability and capability to respond to crises and deter potential threats.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Danny Ray Nunez Jr.

Marine Corps:

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Eric M. Smith, left, commanding general of 1st Marine Division, and Maj. Rich Mackenzie, infantry officer with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, hike to Alligator Creek, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, Aug. 9, 2017. The tour was used to teach the Marines about Alligator Creek and the Battle of Guadalcanal, which took place from Aug. 7, 1942 to Feb. 9, 1943.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Wesley Timm

Sgt. Kyle H. Csizmar, a squad leader with India Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, takes point during close-quarters battle training aboard the USS Ashland (LSD 48) while underway in the Pacific Ocean, August 7, 2017. Marines with India Company, the mechanized raid company for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, train regularly to enhance their understanding and capabilities for battle at close quarters. The 31st MEU partners with the Navy’s Amphibious Squadron 11 to form the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group. The 31st MEU and PHIBRON 11 combine to provide a cohesive blue-green team capable of accomplishing a variety of missions across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Amaia Unanue

Coast Guard:

The Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, “America’s Tall Ship,” arrives in New York City, August 11, 2017. The summer 2017 deployment spans five months and 14 ports, including multiple ports along the Eastern Seaboard, Canada, and Bermuda

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sabrina Clarke.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Evan Staph, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, is hoisted from a Station Boston 45-foot rescue boat to an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, during a training exercise, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in Boston Harbor. Shortly after the training completed, the aircrew was diverted to hoist an injured fisherman off the coast of Gloucester.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Andrew Barresi

Articles

The 15 coolest unit nicknames in the US military

Every unit in the military has a nickname, but some are way cooler than others. We looked around for some of the best nicknames across the military. Here’s what we found:


1. Hell On Wheels

2nd Armored Division, US Army: The 2nd Armored Division was active from 1940 to 1995 and was once commanded by Gen. Patton. It played an important role during World War II and was deactivated shortly after the Gulf War. Gen. Patton gave the unit the nickname after witnessing its maneuvers in 1941.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

2. Old Iron Sides

1st Armored Division, US Army: The “Old Ironsides” nickname was given by Maj. Gen. Bruce R. Magruder after Gen. Patton named his division “Hell on Wheels.” Feeling that his division should have an awesome nickname too, Magruder announced a contest to find a suitable name before settling on “Old Ironsides,” as an homage to the famous Navy warship.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

3. Bloody Bucket

28th Infantry Division, US Army: Originally nicknamed “Keystone Division,” the unit acquired the nickname “Bloody Bucket” by German forces during World War II because the red keystone patch resembled a bucket.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

4. Red Bull

34th Infantry Division, US Army: This National Guard unit participated in World War I and World War II and was deactivated in 1945. It was once again activated in 1991 and since 2001 its soldiers have served in Afghanistan, Iraq and homeland security operations.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

5. Yellow Jackets

Electronic Attack Squadron 138 (VAQ-138), US Navy: This EA-18G Growler squadron based out of Whidbey Island, WA has a fitting name for what it does. It buzzes adversaries with electronic attacks rendering them useless.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

6. Gunslingers

Strike Fighter Squadron 105 (VFA-105), US Navy: This squadron was originally commissioned in 1952 as the “Mad Dogs” and was decommissioned in 1959. It was recommissioned as the “Gunslingers” in 1969 to participate in combat operations in the Gulf of Tonkin and has remained active ever since.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

7. Diamondbacks

Strike Fighter Squadron 102 (VFA-102), US Navy: Based out of NAF Atsugi, Japan, the Diamondbacks are attached to Carrier Air Wing 5 and deploys aboard the USS George Washington (CVN-73).

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

8. Bounty Hunters

Strike Fighter Squadron 2 (VFA-2), US Navy: Based out of Naval Air Station Lemoore, CA, this F/A-18F Super Hornet Squadron is attached to Carrier Air Wing 2 and deploys aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76).

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

9. The Professionals

2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, U.S. Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Pendleton, CA, this infantry battalion consists of about 1000 Marines and sailors.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

10. Betio Bastards

3rd Battalion 2nd Marines, US Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Lejeune, NC, this infantry battalion has about 800 Marines and sailors.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

11. Destroyers

2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, US Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Lejeune, NC, this battalion’s primary weapon is the 8-wheeled LAV-25.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

12. Magnificent Bastards

2nd Battalion, 4the Marines, U.S. Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Pendleton, CA, this infantry battalion has about 1,100 Marines and sailors.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

13. Kickin’ Ass

148 Fighter Squadron, US Air Force: Based out of Tucson Air National Guard Base, AZ, this F-16A/B Fighting Falcon squadron’s main role is to train foreign military pilots.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

14. Headhunters

80th Fighter Squadron, US Air Force: Based out of Kunsan Air Force Base, South Korea, this F-16 Fighting Falcon squadron has served in operations in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

15. Rocketeers

336th Fighter Squadron, US Air Force: Based out of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, NC, the “Rocketeers played key roles during Operation Desert Storm dropping more than six million pounds of ordnance on scud missile sites, bridges and airfields.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

 

NOW: 19 of the coolest military unit mottos

OR: The 7 biggest ‘Blue Falcons’ in US military history

Articles

An anonymous administration official just gave an incoherent defense of Obama’s Middle East policy

The Middle East is teetering on the edge of full-blown intra-Arab war, ISIS still controls a Belgium-sized slice of the region’s heart, chlorine barrel bombs are still falling over Syria, and the US is threatening to “evaluate” one of its firmest and oldest Middle Eastern alliances.


It’s a flummoxing state of play for any US administration to face, especially one that’s invested so much effort in reorienting US policy in the region.

And no amount of brilliant policymaking can stave off disaster: the US is a superpower, but it isn’t all-powerful, and no modern president has managed to get the region completely right.

But a quote from an Obama administration official in a March 27 New York Times article about the region’s turmoil seems to sum up the US’s frustration in the region — as well as demonstrate how the Middle East seems to be drifting beyond any meaningful US influence.

“We’re trying to beat ISIL — and there are complications,” the official told the Times. “We have a partner who is collapsing in Yemen and we’re trying to support that. And we’re trying to get a nuclear deal with Iran. Is this all part of some grand strategy? Unfortunately, the world gets a vote.”

This quote may warrant some unpacking: just what are these “complications” the official refers to? And who is this partner that’s “collapsing” in Yemen? After all, the state is essentially defunct, and the country’s recognized president just fled the country by boat. Is this a part of a grand strategy, and what is the “this” the official refers to? Both questions are pointedly left unanswered.

The official is right about one thing: the rest of the world does “get a vote.” That’s true at all times, and the challenge for the US relates to what it can and should do in light of its lack of total control regarding areas that impact vital security and economic interests.

Based on this quote, that’s a question the Obama administration is still struggling to answer.

Although a different anonymous official who spoke with Politico had one possible route to US strategic clarity: a nuclear deal with Iran.

“The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what every one agrees is the biggest threat to the region,” an unnamed official told Politico on March 26.

More From Business Insider:

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last charge of the bicycle brigade

In World Wars I and II, where thousands of tanks clashed on land and hundreds of ships fought at sea, and millions of men charged each other through trenches and across hills and valleys on foot, hundreds of thousands of soldiers fought from their trusty steeds: the bicycle.

Yeah, the two-wheeled contraptions that most kids get for Christmas or a birthday a few times throughout their childhood was once a cutting-edge weapon of war — and they were effective.


The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
Indian bicycle troops at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
(Imperial War Museums)

 

The modern bicycle, with pedals and two wheels, emerged in the 1860s and slowly turned the “velocipede” from a leisure device of rich gentlemen into a viable method of transport. Fairly quickly, especially after the introduction of rubber tires, military experts saw a role for bicycles in wartime.

The European powers embraced the new technology first — not surprising, since that’s where the bike originated. Most military advocates pushed for the bike as a scout vehicle, allowing observers to get close to the front or ride near enemy units to collect data and then quickly get away with the information to friendly lines.

But, by the 1880s, there were already hotly debated movements to use the cyclists as a sort of alternate mounted infantry. Mounted infantrymen rode horses like cavalry, but generally dismounted and fought on foot when they arrived at the battle. They could cover more ground and often acted as a vanguard, tying down enemy forces until their foot-bound brethren could arrive.

In the late 1800s, cyclists took on challenges to prove their worth in battle. Bicycle infantry covered 40 miles a day with all their gear to prove they were more mobile, and messenger cyclists raced other signal soldiers working with flags and torches to prove who was faster. The cyclists won most of the competitions, and one messenger unit delivered from Washington, D.C. to Denver in just six days, covering approximately 1,700 miles while climbing 5,000 feet in altitude.

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
An ad recruiting cyclists for the British military.
(Imperial War Museums)

 

By the time Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914 — coincidentally, on June 28, the same day that the 12th Tour de France began — cyclists were an accepted part of warfare.

As The Great War got underway, Allied governments rushed to increase the size of their cyclists corps. Reconnaissance cyclist John Parr, a 17-year-old who had lied about his age to join, was possibly Britain’s first casualty of the war, taking fire from German troops while relaying messages.

As the war ground on, Great Britain bought bicycles and trained troops to ride them, famously advertising that “bad teeth” were “no bar” to joining. Bicycle infantry units rode around the front, quickly reinforcing areas that had suffered unsustainable losses from German attacks or plussing up British positions for major attacks. Cyclists mounted coastal patrols and fought fires in areas raided by German aircraft.

And cyclists were added to standard units with even conventional infantry units getting a few cyclists to ride ahead and get orders, relaying them back to the unit so it could deploy effectively as it arrived. Eventually, even artillery units got cyclists, and some even experimented with towing the guns, especially machine guns, behind the bicycles. (This was one job that bikes weren’t great for. Just watch a dad huffing and puffing away while towing their kid — then imagine the kid weighs hundreds of pounds.)

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets
It’s all whimsical and charming until you realize these are Nazi SS soldiers and they likely used the bicycles to more quickly murder people.
(German Federal Archives, CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

By the end of World War I, hundreds of thousands of troops were serving in bicycle units or roles, but the increasing role of the automobile threatened their continued use in warfare. Italy even equipped their elite marksmen, the Bianchi, with the bicycle so they could strike faster.

After all, many of the bike’s advantages over walking; the speed and the efficiency, or horseback riding, no animal to care for and feed, were also true of the automobiles. And, except for the need for gasoline, the automobile was simply a better tool. It was faster, could carry heavier loads, and it was less draining on the operator’s mind and body.

So, when World War II rolled around, the bicycle took on a smaller role, but it still served, mostly with scouts and the occasional military maneuver. Britain actually created a special bicycle for paratroopers, but then got larger gliders that could carry Jeeps before D-Day, so the bikes went ashore with Canadian soldiers and others instead of paratroopers.

Bicycle-mounted troops were key for many counterattacks or quick movements, especially where supply lines were long, or the demand for fuel for tanks was high. The fuel problems of Germany led to a greater concentration of bicycles in their units while the Allies, with better logistics and greater natural resources, relied more heavily on vehicles.

After World War II, some European militaries continued to employ these two-wheeled vehicles for reconnaissance and even anti-tank roles. Switzerland even kept its bicycle units around until 2001, nearly a century after standing up their first bicycle unit.

Today, bicycles enjoy a very limited role in special operations and espionage. U.S. operators even used bikes in Iraq and Afghanistan. But don’t expect a sudden increase in bicycle operations unless more guerrilla forces embrace them. A modern military is more likely to increase mobility with helicopters and armored vehicles. And, if necessary, electric motorcycles would provide much of the stealth of bicycles and even better mobility without wearing out the rider.

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