As Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 3, controversy erupted when he mentioned the service’s plans to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known to troops as the “Warthog” and largely regarded as the most effective close air support aircraft in the inventory today.
For years, the USAF fought with congressional leaders about the fate of the Warthog. Congress laid down the law in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, requiring that the Air Force find a viable replacement for the airframe’s close-air support role before they would be allowed to retire it.
Originally, the Air Force tried to wedge the F-35 program into the CAS requirement, but Congress flat-out rejected it as an option. Thus, the A-10 was given a stay of execution until a congressionally-mandated, independent study determined the Air Force has such a suitable replacement.
In his recent testimony, Gen. Welsh told the Senate the USAF will use the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-15E Strike Eagle to fly close air support missions; however, those options didn’t work for the SASC, especially not the chairman, Senator John McCain, a former Navy attack pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam and spent six years as a POW in Hanoi.
“You have nothing to replace [the A-10] with, General,” McCain shot back. “Otherwise you would be using F-15s and the F-16s of which you have plenty of, but you’re using the A-10 because it’s the most effective weapons system. This is really, unfortunately disingenuous.”
As well as being the most tailored for the CAS mission, the A-10 also has the lowest cost per flight hour at $19,051 compared to the F-35 at $67,550, the F-16 at $22,470, and the F-15E at $41,921.
When Welsh tried to press the issue, McCain called his testimony “embarrassing.”
“Every Air Force pilot that I know will tell you that the most effective close air support system is the A-10,” McCain said.
Former troops who say they were sickened by the malaria drug Lariam, or mefloquine, and their advocates urged members of a scientific panel on Jan. 28, 2019, to talk to veterans and examine their medical records when considering the potential chronic health effects of malaria medications.
A National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee has started an 18-month review of all available scientific research on malaria drugs used to prevent the debilitating disease. Committee members are looking to see what role, if any, the medications have played in causing neurological and mental health symptoms, such as dizziness, vertigo, seizures, anxiety and psychosis, in some patients.
The panel said it is looking particularly at mefloquine and a related new drug, tafenoquine, but will review all malaria medications to distinguish any relationship between the drugs and long-term health effects in adults.
At the panel’s opening meeting in Washington, D.C., several veterans urged it to “look at this very, very closely.”
Veterans allege devastating side effects from anti malaria drug they were ordered to take??
Retired Col. Timothy Dunn described himself as a hard-charging, motivated Marine in perfect health before he took mefloquine in September 2006.
But the first time he took it, he experienced nightmares and anxiety, he said, and the symptoms got worse with each subsequent dose. He stopped taking the medication after he returned home, but the symptoms still persist, 12 years later, including tinnitus, dizziness, anxiety and depression.
“Ladies and gentlemen … there probably are many veterans out there who think they are losing their minds or thought they were depressed and have never related it to this awful mefloquine drug,” Dunn said.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Bill Manofsky, the first veteran diagnosed by the Department of Veterans Affairs as having symptoms directly related to taking mefloquine, told the panel he has referred 280 veterans for medical care, including about 100 to the VA’s War Related Illness and Injury Study Center for possible mefloquine poisoning. He asked the panel to look at all available information.
“The medical records are not going to show up in the literature,” Manofsky said.
In most National Academies reviews, panelists interview subject-matter experts and review all available documentation on an issue, including federal government documents, academic reviews and previous studies.
In earlier studies of military-related environmental exposures, National Academies panelists often were unable to draw any conclusions because the research or data on a topic simply doesn’t exist.
Dr. Remington Nevin, a former Army preventive medicine specialist who now serves as executive director of The Quinism Foundation, a non-profit organized to support research into the effects of mefloquine and tafenoquine, expressed concern that the VA requested the National Academies review knowing the panel’s findings would prove inconclusive.
“Your work of the next 18 months is premature … certain powerful and entrenched interests would love nothing more than for the National Academies to conclude after 18 months that there is insufficient evidence for the existence of [mefloquine-related illnesses], or insufficient evidence to justify VA acting,” Nevin said.
(Photo by James Gathany, courtesy of Centers for Disease Control)
An unknown number of U.S. troops, Peace Corps volunteers and some State Department employees have said they are permanently disabled from taking mefloquine, a once-a-week medication prescribed for personnel stationed in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and parts of Africa.
The Defense Department began phasing out its use in 2009 out of concern for possible neurological side effects.
In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration placed a “black box” warning on mefloquine, saying the drug can cause ongoing or permanent neurological and psychiatric conditions, including dizziness, loss of balance, ringing in the ears, anxiety, depression, paranoia and hallucinations, even after discontinuing use.
At their inaugural meeting, the National Academies members also heard from federal officials who set policy on medications and monitor their effects, including the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, the FDA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During his presentation, Dr. Loren Erickson, a retired Army infectious disease specialist who now serves as the VA’s chief consultant for post-deployment health, said the VA is “excited to [have] the academy review the issue,” as it’s one that has been a topic of consideration by the VA for years. “We all have an interest in seeking the truth.”
The VA contracted with the National Academies to conduct the review. Panel members noted that the final report will include observational findings but will not make any recommendations to the VA on how to handle disability claims or health benefits related to malaria drug exposure.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Faulty welding in missile tubes bound for the Navy’s newest submarines could create additional problems for one of the Navy’s most expensive and highest-priority programs.
The USS Virginia returns to the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard after the successful completion of its first voyage in open seas, July 30, 2004.
Twelve missile tubes built by defense contractor BWXT are being reviewed for substandard welds that were uncovered after discrepancies were found in the equipment the firm was using to test the welds before sending them to General Dynamic Electric Boat, which is the prime contractor for the Columbia-class ballistic-missile sub program, according to a report by Defense News.
BWXT was one of three firms subcontracted to build tubes for Columbia-class subs and for the UK’s Dreadnought-class missiles subs. The firm was one of two subcontracted to build tubes for the US’s Virginia-class attack subs.
GDEB had already received seven of the tubes and five were still being built. The Navy and GDEB have launched an investigation, according to Defense News.
The issue comes to light at the start of fabrication for the Columbia class subs, which is meant to replace the Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic-missile subs and begin strategic patrols by 2031. The Navy has to start building the new boats by 2021 in order to stay on that timeline.
A spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command told Defense News that the problem, which appears to be limited to tubes made by BWXT, shouldn’t put the Columbia-class program behind schedule.
The Columbia-class sub program is already one of the Defense Department’s most expensive, expected to cost 2.3 billion, roughly .9 billion a boat, to build 12 boats, which are to replace the Navy’s current 14 Ohio-class missile submarines.
The guided-missile submarine USS Ohio arrives at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton to begin a major maintenance period at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, April 4, 2017.
(U.S. Navy photo by Jeremy Moore)
The aging Ohio-class boats entered service between 1981 and 1997 with a 30-year service life, which was extended to 42 years with a four-year midlife overhaul. The Columbia-class subs will replace the Ohios as a leg of the US’s nuclear triad, built with an improved nuclear reactor that will preclude the need for a midlife overhaul and give the 12 Columbia-class subs the same sea presence as the 14 Ohio-class boats, Navy officials have said.
Because of nuclear submarines’ ability to move undetected, experts view them as more survivable than the long-range bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles that make up the other arms of the US nuclear triad.
The ultimate impact of the problem with the BWXT-made tubes is not yet clear, according to Bryan Clark, a former submarine officer and now an analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Problems with one component can compound, and that could be especially challenging for GDEB, which is supposed to start building two Virginia-class attack subs alongside a Columbia-class boat annually in the coming years.
The Navy wants to continue building two Virginia-class subs a year — rather than reduce it to one a year once production of Columbia-class subs starts in 2021 — in order to head off a shortfall in submarines that was expected to hit in the mid-2020s. The Navy also wants to shorten the Virginia-class construction timeline and keep five of its Los Angeles-class attack boats in service for 10 more years.
“The problem is that this causes challenges down the line,” Clark said of the faulty tube welds. “The missile tubes get delayed, what are the cascading effects of other components down the line?”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Turkey has always been at the intersection of two different worlds, bridging the gap where Europe meets Asia, where East meets West, and where many cultures historically clashed. During the Cold War, it was in Muslim Turkey’s interest to become a NATO ally. It had remained firmly in the NATO sphere until recently. Now the U.S. is giving the Turkish government an ultimatum.
Within the next two weeks the Turkish government has to decide whether it will maintain its complete alliance with NATO partners and go all-in with the F-35 or risk a severe penalty and buy Russia’s S-400 missile system. The Turkish government has already inked a deal to buy Russia’s missile defense system, which would remove them from eligibility to buy the 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters it was promised – while facing the possibility of U.S. sanctions and other NATO fallout.
The U.S. Department of State gave Turkey until the first week of June to make the call.
Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
Russia called Washington’s warning an “ultimatum,” and condemned the threat of sanctions as an attempt to strong-arm Ankara into buying Raytheon’s Patriot batteries and Lockheed’s Joint Strike Fighter. Turkey agreed to pay .5 billion for the S-400 system, one of the most advanced defense systems in the world. Turkey is also one of the manufacturing partners for the world’s most advanced fighter. But Turkey is already building the infrastructure for the S-400.
No one has stated exactly what the economic and military consequences for Turkey will be if they fail to reject the S-400.
Army Special Forces veteran Tyler Grey is definitely what you would call an “operator.”
A Ranger, a sniper with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and a combat veteran, Grey has served his country well.
He knows the meaning of sacrifice, perhaps more than most. In 2005, he was blown up in a raid in Sadr City, Iraq, which nearly cost him his arm. But the experience gave Grey an evolved sense of perspective.
We Are The Mighty sat down to talk with him about how music had an impact on his career and his life, and what he had to say was pretty insightful.
“The journey isn’t that you never have a problem. The journey is overcoming problems. The music I like is about people who are honest and open enough to share a problem, to share a weakness, to share an experience that affected them, and then how they overcome it.”
We also asked Grey to make a Battle Mix — a playlist of power anthems — with songs that held significant meaning throughout his life. He didn’t disappoint.
The Pentagon has been developing a weapon system of highly flammable and intensely hot rocket balls to help destroy weapon of mass destruction (WMD) bunkers.
These “kinetic fireball incendiaries” are specially designed to rocket randomly throughout an underground bunker while expelling super heated gases that rise over 1,000 degrees Farenheit.
These rocket balls are specifically designed for destroying potentially dangerous materials — such as chemical or biological weapons — without blowing them up, which would risk scattering the materials into the surrounding area, Wired notes.
“There are plenty of bombs which could destroy a lab, and bunker-busting weapons can tackle hardened underground facilities. But blowing up weapons of mass destruction is not a good idea. Using high explosives is likely to scatter them over a wide area, which is exactly what you want to avoid,” Wired writes.
Instead, the fireballs function alongside a 2,000 pound BLU-109B bunker bomb, Flight Global reports. These bunker bombs are able to punch through six feet reinforced concrete. After punching into a bunker, the bomb would then release its internal kinetic incendiaries.
Once inside a bunker or structure, the rocket balls get to work. Essentially, the balls are hollowed out spheres comprised of rubberized rocket fuel that have a hole on the outside. As Technovelgy notes, this hole causes the balls, once ignited, to expel hot air in excess of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Additionally, the expulsion of air causes the incendiary balls to rocket wildly throughout a structure with enough force to break down doors. This allows the balls to randomly and fully reach the entirety of a bunker while incinerating everything inside.
Wired also notes that the use of such incendiary devices could allow the military to effectively clear out a building without damaging the structure’s integrity, as well as effectively dealing with a nuclear facility without spreading nuclear material into the atmosphere or surrounding region.
Topical humor has always been a big part of Saturday Night Live history and there have been plenty of military stories in the news to inspire its writers over the last four decades. As the show celebrated its 40th anniversary with a three-hour special that aired on Sunday, February 15th, we’ve combed through the SNL archives and selected the 10 best military-themed sketches.
1. Bruce Willis wants to bring some John McClane-style Die Hard heroics to a Black Ops mission in Afghanistan.
2. General David Petraeus (Will Forte) testifies to Congress about the progress of the surge in Iraq.
3. It’s time to build a coalition to fight Iraq’s nuclear capabilities, but General Colin Powell (Kenan Thompson) seems to have turned into Fred Sanford since his retirement.
4. A TV pitchman (Harry Shearer) explains why you need to spend $50,000 on a Pentagon-approved MacDouglass Drummond wrench.
5. An Air Force fighter pilot (NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon) wins elementary school Career Day over carpet salesman Seth Meyers.
6. Weekend Update’s Seth Meyers examines the Winners Losers in the General David Petraeus/Paula Broadwell/Jill Kelley/General John Allen scandal.
7. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Darrell Hammond) updates the media on progress after the United States invades Afghanistan.
8. Tired of the Congressional debate about whether to invade Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney (Darrell Hammond) goes all Doctor Strangelove and rides a missile to Baghdad.
9. Test Pilot Mustang Calhoun (Dennis Quaid) is just plain crazy.
10. Two dumb Marines (Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey) bring spies to the US Embassy in Moscow.
These just skim the surface. There are dozens of military-themed sketches from SNL. Tell us your favorites in the comments below.
Emptiness and gloom is pretty much the main theme at Pripyat, Ukraine, one of the largest ghost towns in the world.
Built as a small residential city for employees assigned to the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, it was suddenly abandoned en masse after Chernobyl’s Number 4 reactor experienced the worst nuclear meltdown in history in 1986, spreading deadly radiation across Ukraine and large chunks of Eastern Europe.
As a direct result of this accident, decrepit farmers fields and forest clearings are now home to some of the eeriest military hardware graveyards in the world, full of untouchable Soviet-era equipment.
In the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, the power plant spewed uncontrollable amounts of toxic chemicals into the air, fatally irradiating hundreds, if not thousands, of the Pripyat’s citizens. Over the course of a few days, the entire town was told to pack lightly and leave right away by military personnel deployed to the area to help with the response to the effects of the meltdown.
Within a week, Pripyat, a once-thriving planned city was deserted — save for scores of tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and heavy trucks brought in by the military to assist with the nuclear cleanup.
Thousands of tons worth of top-of-the-line military equipment were flown or driven into Pripyat, with hundreds of Ukrainian and Soviet troops to man the vehicles and gear. State-of-the-art remote-controlled fire suppression units, radiation monitors, cherry-pickers and more, were also brought in to tackle the horrifying situation that lay before Chernobyl and its neighboring towns.
The debacle proved to be a global embarrassment for the Soviet Union, still in control over Ukraine, and something needed to be done to make it go away quickly before further details of the accident made their way into Western newspapers.
Thousands of tons worth of top-of-the-line military equipment were flown or driven into Pripyat, with hundreds of Ukrainian and Soviet troops to man the vehicles and gear. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Cleanup and response crews were placed on rotating schedules to limit their exposure to radiation, though this proved in the long run to be poorly executed, leading to the deaths of many.
When removing helicopters and trucks from Pripyat and neighboring locales similarly affected by the meltdown, Geiger scans noted that every single truck brought into the disaster zone was severely radioactive. In effect, soldiers were operating inside cocoons of radioactivity, bombarding them with harmful cancer-causing radiation particles.
There was no other solution than to simply abandon these costly vehicles around Chernobyl rather than attempt to decontaminate and scrub them clean. Scores of tanks and trucks were left to rot in “mohyl’nyk” (Ukrainian burial grounds) after it was no longer feasible to safely operate them (the term “safely” being used very relatively and loosely here).
More equipment and military vehicles were brought in to assist with the post-meltdown cleanup, and more were similarly condemned and abandoned.
Helicopters, especially gargantuan Mil Mi-6 Hook transports, were listed among the worst cases of exposure, given that they were tasked with flying directly above the plant after the accident in order to release chemical solvents to eliminate fires burning beneath the plant’s blown-off roof. These helicopters were also abandoned at burial grounds, arranged among rows of dark green equipment.
Today, some of these armored trucks, tanks, helicopters, and even trains, still sit in the fields around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, which has since been enveloped in a sarcophagus to prevent further radiation leakage. The largest of these fields is known as the Rassokha Equipment Cemetery.
The general area, known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, is mostly off-limits to the public, though occasional tour groups are permitted to briefly enter the Zone for a quick peek before being ushered out. Visiting the abandoned vehicle graveyards is prohibited, however.
The Ukrainian government has invested considerable amounts of time and money into securing the Chernobyl plant, still in a low state of operation, and with disposing of the vehicle mohyl’nyk, full of unsalvageable gear. Over the past decade, teams of specialists have entered these fields to dismantle large sections of the graveyards and bury them on the spot, ensuring that the radiation they emit is fully contained.
Even still, the burial of every single piece of hardware will take years, thanks to the sheer numbers used in the wake of the accident. The few remaining war machines left untouched serve as silent reminders of the worst nuclear disaster in history, never to be used again.
The Army Futures Command now officially has a shoulder sleeve insignia and distinctive unit insignia that its soldiers will wear while they work toward modernizing the Army.
With a golden anvil as its main symbol, the shoulder patch and unit insignia are a nod to former Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal coat of arms that used a blue-colored anvil.
The command’s motto “Forge the Future” is also displayed below the anvil on the unit insignia, while both the patch and unit insignia have black and white stripes stretching outward from the anvil.
“Symbols mean things just like words do,” said Robert Mages, the command’s acting historian. “It’s a reminder to the soldiers that wear the patch of the mission that they’ve been assigned and of the responsibilities that come with that mission.”
Since last year, the four-star command has been at the heart of the most significant Army reorganization effort since 1973.
In July 2018, senior leaders picked Austin, Texas, for the AFC headquarters. Cross-Functional Teams were also stood up within the command to tackle the Army’s six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.
Shoulder sleeve insignia for Army Futures Command. With a golden anvil as its main symbol, the shoulder patch and distinctive unit insignia are a nod to former Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal coat of arms that used a blue-colored anvil.
(Photo by John Martinez)
The patch and unit insignia represent the command’s most recent move toward full operational capability, which is expected in 2019.
Andrew Wilson, a heraldic artist at The Institute of Heraldry at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, worked with command leadership since December 2017 to finalize the designs.
“This is something that is supposed to stand the test of time and just to play a part in it, it’s an honor,” he said.
The main piece — the anvil — is meant to represent fortitude, determination and perseverance. The black, white, and gold resemble the colors of the U.S. Army.
Wilson said he got the idea for the anvil during a design meeting that mentioned the command’s new motto — Forge the Future.
Wilson, who once took a blacksmithing course in college, was immediately reminded of reshaping metals on an anvil.
“Taking away from the meeting, I tried to come up with something that would play off of that,” he said. “The first thing that popped in my head with ‘forge’ was blacksmithing and one of the key features of that is an anvil.”
Once he spoke of his idea, Charles Mugno, the institute’s director, then advised him to look at the anvil used in Eisenhower’s coat of arms.
The coat of arms granted to Eisenhower upon his incorporation as a knight of the Order of the Elephant in 1950.
“And from there the spark of creativity just took off,” Wilson said.
The Institute of Heraldry was also involved in the organizational identity of the Security Forces Assistance Brigades, one of which just completed its first deployment to Afghanistan.
“Whenever you have a new Army unit, you do end up doing a heraldic package of shoulder sleeve insignia, distinctive unit insignia and organizational colors,” Mugno said.
Heraldic conventions, he added, is a time-honored process that dates back to the 12th century.
With a staff of about 20 personnel, the institute also helps create the identity of other federal government agencies. Most notably is the presidential seal and coat of arms.
“We have a very unique mission,” Mugno said. “We all share a sense of honor and purpose in being able to design national symbolism for the entire federal government.”
Until the new patch was created, soldiers in Army Futures Command wore a variety of patches on their sleeves. Those assigned to ARCIC, for instance, wore the Army Training and Doctrine Command patch and those in research laboratories had the Army Materiel Command patch.
Now, the golden anvil has forged them all together.
“It’s a symbol of unity — unity of effort, unity of command,” said Mages, the historian. “We no longer report to separate four-star commanders. We now report to one commander whose sole focus is the modernization of our Army.”
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) – PCU stands for Pre-Commissioning Unit – completed its sea trials earlier this month. This was supposed to have happened a while ago – in fact, the Navy retired USS Enterprise (CVN 65) in 2012 based on the assumption the Ford would be ready in 2015.
The Gerald R. Ford, like the Littoral Combat Ship and the Zumwalt, had its design hiccups. But it also has a number of new technologies – major advances over the Nimitz-class that has been a bulwark for America since 1975.
So, what makes this $10.44 billion carrier so special? Why spend $26 billion to make a whole new design? Well, here is some of what we got for it:
1. More Flight Deck Space
The Gerald R. Ford’s flight deck has been re-designed to help generate at least 25 percent more sorties per day than the Nimitz-class carriers can. Among the ways this was done was to reduce the number of aircraft elevators from four to three. The carrier’s island has been moved back by 140 feet, and it is 20 feet shorter. They also moved it three feet more from the center.
The Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System is perhaps the biggest change on these vessels. The traditional method to launch planes for decades has been the steam catapult. While it has done the job, there is a huge price paid by the aircraft. Really, the entire carrier launch and recovery cycle has been a case of officially-sanctioned Tomcat, Hornet, Phantom, Hawkeye, Viking, and Greyhound abuse.
Or, in a shorter version, carrier planes get the sh*t beat out of them.
EMALS is different. According to a 2007 DefenseTech.org article, it allows much more precision in terms of how much force is used to launch a plane. This lessens the stress on the airframe, allowing a combat plane to last longer. That precision also allows it to launch lighter and heavier planes than the current steam catapults.
There are other benefits, too, including fewer steam pipes around the ship, and reduced maintenance requirements.
3. Advanced Arresting Gear
The carrier landings – really controlled crashes – are another item that new technology will change. Like EMALS, this system is intended to reduce the stress on airframes. This system has been plagued by trouble, drawing fire from the DOD’s Inspector General. The San Diego Reader reported that the IG claims the system is still “unproven.”
4. New Reactors
The carrier is also debuting the new A1B reactors from Bechtel. The big change here is that the plant delivers 300 percent of the electrical output that the reactors on board the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and her sisters can. GlobalSecurity.org notes two other benefits: The A1B requires less manning, and it has about half of the pipes, valves, condensers, and pumps. This cuts the maintenance requirements a lot.
All in all, if everything works, the Gerald R. Ford will be able to do more than a Nimitz can do, while having less crew on board.
Some aircraft are practically motion picture stars unto themselves — see the Grumman F-14 Tomcats of Top Gun. Perhaps the most prolific military plane on the silver screen is the B-17 Flying Fortress of countless World War II films. Then there’s the F-35 stealth fighter, which has had a disastrous movie career up to (and including) getting ripped apart by The Incredible Hulk.
The A-10 Warthog’s movie career is more subtle. Its on-screen appearances are in supporting roles that reflect its status as America’s best close-air support aircraft. The low- and slow-flying A-10 is tough, durable and anti-glamorous. Its design is utilitarian — and not pretty to look at.
Really, it’s a flying 30-millimeter Gatling gun with an armored frame built around it and an enormous compliment of missiles and bombed slung underneath the wings. When directors need something that flies and can blow up objects on the ground, the Warthog is a reliable character.
Not that the A-10 has always done well on screen.
Courage Under Fire (1996)
The Warthog made its first appearance — from what we can tell — in this Denzel Washington-led drama which served as Hollywood’s opening exploration of the Persian Gulf War. While not a classic and (at times) a bit maudlin, Courage Under Fire is a weighty and serious meditation on the inherently confusing nature of combat and the unreliability of eyewitnesses.
Washington portrays a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Medevac Huey commander Capt. Karen Walden, played by Meg Ryan, during combat with Iraqi troops. The White House wants to award her the Medal of Honor, but there are questions about what happened in the moments before her death — which may implicate another soldier. The investigation also forces Washington’s character to confront buried trauma in his past.
The A-10s are only in the film for a brief few seconds, where they napalm the West Texas desert which stands in for the Iraqi battlefield.
We have mixed feelings about this film. To be sure, Jarhead is a good movie — although Marine veterans will point out errors in detail. It’s a mood picture that gets at the feeling of being in the Marines while the movie Marines do things real ones would never do. The film deserves praise, but it’s not perfect.
Jarhead is heavily adapted from the 2003 book of the same name by Marine veteran Anthony Swofford, who served during the Persian Gulf War. In the film version, the Marines advance into Iraq when they see five A-10s flying past them. “Warthogs, baby! Those things are fucking tank killers,” one Marine shouts. “That shit’s a fucking monster!”
Pumped up at the sight, he falls out of formation, which triggers two of the planes to turn around and attack the unit. Note that none of this ever happened. In the book, Swofford references an A-10 strike on a Marine LAV during the Battle of Khafji, which killed 11 U.S. troops. There was no Warthog friendly fire attack on Swofford’s unit in real life.
The scene also flubs several other details. Listen closely.
Fans of the Transformers franchise are more familiar with A-10s appearing in toys depicting shape-shifting alien robots from the 1980s. The A-10 does not turn into a robot in the 2007 Michael Bay ode to military hardware pornTransformers, but they do arrive for a battle with Scorponok.
It’s easy to see why — the Pentagon provided an unprecedented level of support for the film, helped rewrite the script and provided (paid) uniformed extras. The A-10 scene was even filmed at the U.S. Army’s White Sands, New Mexico testing range, which stood in for an Egyptian village.
Don’t expect 100 percent accuracy with sound effects and combat tactics — but the aircraft are real. Remember that the Pentagon doesn’t concern itself so much with unerring accuracy in movies. It cooperates with studios as a recruiting tactic (the military prefers films that have a generally positive take on the institution) and to boost morale for service members and their families.
Terminator Salvation (2009)
It’s a compliment to the A-10’s durability that director McG included it in his post-apocalyptic take on the Terminator franchise. Skynet has nuked the planet and the Resistance relies on the slow-flying planes for close-air support owing to their (relatively) low maintenance requirements.
But the results are … mixed. The United States built the Warthog to destroy Soviet tanks in Europe, so it seems like a perfect fit for striking back at the metal-boned terminators. But when the planes appear in the film, they’re easily shot down by Skynet’s air defenses.
Pentagon watchers will recall that the A-10 is at a center of a heated debate between Congress and the Air Force regarding the future shape of American air power. Terminator Salvation, in a way, illustrates the argument for scrapping the Warthog.
Proponents of retiring the aircraft argue that the A-10 is only useful when the enemy can’t shoot back, as the Warthog is too visible and slow to survive over a battlefield featuring sophisticated radars and surface-to-air weapons, like the kind fielded by Russia and China. Advocates for keeping the aircraft note that the U.S. military largely fights insurgencies and hybrid enemies, which the A-10 is well suited to combat owing to its ability to loiter for long periods.
OK, true, Terminator Salvation is just a movie. But we can expect robotic armies — with sophisticated sensors to boot — to slowly become an emerging reality over the 21st century. Arguably, they’re already here … if you include drones.
Iron Sky (2012)
The absolutely ludicrous Nazi-sploitation film Iron Sky by Finnish director Timo Vuorensola features a President Sarah Palin (portrayed by Stephanie Paul), a soundtrack by Slovenian industrial band Laibach and an invading fleet of Nazi flying saucers launched from a secret moon base.
That’s on top of the space-battleship USS George W. Bush … and a cameo by A-10 Warthogs (digital, of course).
We could complain about the Warthogs acting as the first line of defense in an air battle. The A-10 can carry air-to-air weapons but is a dedicated ground attacker. But this is a movie about Nazis invading the planet from the moon. At the least, you’d want to fight back with everything you’ve got.
I have seen this movie against my better judgement. (I’m a Laibach fan.) But I couldn’t finish it, and would not recommend it. I’ve put up with a lot of schlock-filled action movies — but I have my limits.
Man of Steel (2013)
We’ve previously observed that the U.S. Air Force gets its ass royally kicked in Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters fly en masse toward the invading Kryptonian forces of General Zod only for them to do more damage to the civilian population than the enemy. Same goes for the Warthogs.
Two A-10s feature briefly during the battle for Smallville but get blown out of the sky. The U.S. Air Force assisted the production of Man of Steel, which curiously features perhaps one of the worst on-screen performances by the American military in a film — although it’s a valiant effort considering the otherworldly enemy threatening the planet. That’s ultimately a job for Superman, with terribleconsequences for humanity.
Last week an Oregon judge ruled that Jamie Shupe, an Army vet, can legally be considered “nonbinary.”
Up to that point, Shupe considered himself female, although he doesn’t identify with either sex.
“It feels amazing to be free from a binary sex classification system that inadequately addressed who I really am, a system in which I felt confined,” Shupe said.
Shupe was male at birth, but he started transitioning to a female in 2013, more than a decade after retiring from the military as a sergeant first class.
“Oregon law has allowed for people to petition a court for a gender change for years, but the law doesn’t specify that it has to be either male or female,” said civil rights attorney Lake J. Perriguey, who filed the petition, according to CNN.
“The law just says, ‘change.’ Historically, people have asked for a gender change from male to female and the other way around, but Jamie is the first to ask for the gender of “nonbinary,” Perriguey said.
It’s unclear what the ruling will have nationally, but it certainly has the potential to complicate the Pentagon’s already-challenging gender integration efforts. Special operators are just now adjusting to the idea of having females in their ranks. Are they ready for nonbinaries?
A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet. That’s a lesson the military has taken to heart, changing the names for plenty of items that civilians all know by another name.
1. “100 mph tape” and “Tape, adhesive cloth, 2 in.” are both Duct tape/Duck tape
Oddly enough, duct tape was originally a military item that the troops called “duck tape” for its ability to repel water. But, since “Duck tape” is now a brand name and duct tape was trademarked, the military calls its tape 100 mph tape. The rumor was that it could stick to things moving 100 mph.
Interestingly, airplane maintainers and race car crews eventually did need tape that could stick at well over 100 mph, and so they created speed tape. Speed tape is similar to duck tape in use, but it’s much stronger both in terms of stickiness and tensile strength.
2. “Hook and loop fasteners” and “hook pile tape” are Velcro.
3. “Slide fastener (and tab thong)” is a zipper
4. “Elastic retention strap” is just a rubber band.
5. Chem lights are glow sticks.
6. Most candy in an MRE is called by a made-up name.
MMs are called pan coated discs, Skittles are fruit discs, and Combos are called filled pretzels or filled crackers.
7. Don’t dare call uniform items by civilian names
Hats are covers or patrol caps. Rain jackets and waterproof pants are called wet weather gear or foul weather gear. The outer shirt on most combat uniforms is called the jacket or blouse.