In countless movies, in references across all mediums, the red phone exists. Brightly hued and highlighted through dramatic dialogue, we are shown this famous form of communication within the White House. But why is there a red phone in the first place? What does it do? And why it is so famous? After all, it’s just a phone.
But, in actuality, it wasn’t a phone at all. Known as the Moscow-Washington Hotline, it was a direct line of communication between the White House and the Kremlin (where the Soviet Communist Headquarters resided). The line was established in 1963 after the Cuban Missile Crisis so that President John F. Kennedy, Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev and their advisors could connect directly and quickly.
The need for the line was put into place after the 1962 crisis, when it took the United States 12 hours to translate a message from Khrushchev. The 3,000-word message is stated as taking a “dangerous amount of time” in translation. This prompted both sides to streamline communication. Hence, the hotline.
The communication first consisted of teletype machines. In the ’80s it was transitioned to a fax machine, and in 2008, it became an email line connected by a secure computer link with lightning-fast connection speeds.
Origins of the idea
There are several people who claim to have come up with the idea for direct communication, including a Harvard professor who had previously worked with the Department of Defense on nuclear war policies. The professor, Thomas Schelling, said the 1958 book Red Alert (which prompted the movie Dr. Strangelove) gave government officials the idea to connect directly– specifically, by showing the benefits of fast and direct conversations.
After the agreement was signed, both sides began working on the logistics to lay this line, including ways to keep it secure such as encryption. The first message was sent on August 30th, 1963, including numbers and an apostrophe to ensure the connection worked properly.
The US sent: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back 1234567890,” a common test message, as it includes all 26 letters of the English alphabet. The first official use was to announce the assassination of JFK to Russia.
Over the years, the line has been accidentally cut multiple times, including when it was unknowingly bulldozed in Denmark. Today, there are bright and clear markers in Finland, as well as other countries, to help keep the line free from damage.
Why a red phone?
Because there was never an actual red phone — or a phone at all for that matter — it’s an interesting addition to pop culture. Countless movies, video games and even movies portray a fictional red phone as a quick way to reach Russia.
So where did the idea come from? It likely came from the movie, Dr. Strangelove, itself. The idea was then used throughout the 80s in political commercials, where it took off. President Ronald Reagan used the phone to market himself, showing off his Strategic Defense Initiative. In the 80s, it made another appearance for the 1984 election. It was also used in 2008 throughout Hilary Clinton’s campaign. In years since, it’s simply become a pop culture icon that remains recognizable in movies, museums and beyond.
Feature image: Jimmy Carter Library and Museum (Wikimedia Commons)
A UN report says cases of torture and mistreatment of detainees in Afghanistan have increased despite promises from President Ashraf Ghani and new laws enacted to curb the widespread practice.
At least 39 percent of the conflict-related detainees interviewed by UN investigators “gave credible and reliable accounts” of being tortured or experiencing other mistreatment at the hands of Afghan police, intelligence, or military personnel while in custody, the report says.
That compares with 35 percent of interviewees who reported such ill-treatment in the last UN report, released in 2015.
The Afghan government has acknowledged that problems could be caused by individuals but not as a national policy.
“The government of Afghanistan is committed to eliminating torture and ill-treatment,” the government said in a statement.
The report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) is based on interviews with 469 conflict-related detainees conducted over the past two years in 62 detention facilities administered by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghan National Police, and other Afghan national-defense and security forces across the country.
“Torture does not enhance security,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a statement. “Confessions produced as a result of torture are totally unreliable. People will say anything to stop the pain.”
The UN report comes as senior Afghan officials prepare to appear before the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva late April during a review of Afghanistan’s record of implementing anti-torture laws.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague is conducting a separate review of torture in Afghanistan.
“Notwithstanding the government’s efforts to implement its national plan…the present report documents continued and consistent reports of torture and ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees, mainly during interrogation, and highlights a lack of accountability for such acts,” UN officials concluded.
The document notes a 14 percent increase in reports of torture by Afghan National Police, at 45 percent of those interviewed.
The report says that more than a quarter of the 77 detainees who reported being tortured by the police were boys under the age of 18.
A force known as the Afghan Local Police severely beat almost 60 percent of their detainees, according to the interviews carried out by UN investigators.
Nearly 30 percent of interviewees held by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the NDS, said they had faced torture or mistreatment.
Afghan National Army soldiers were also accused of mistreating some detainees.
Most detainees who reported being tortured said it was to elicit a confession, and the ill-treatment stopped once they signed a written confession. In many cases, they could not read the confession, the report says.
Torture methods included severe beatings to the body and soles of the feet with sticks, plastic pipes, or cables; electric shocks, including to the genitals; prolonged suspension by the arms; and suffocation.
6. The boot camp could have been even more interesting.
We’re all fans of watching Gunny Hartman train those recruits — especially Gomer Pyle — in the first act of the film. With Animal Mother in the platoon, we bet that not only would he be the squad leader, but the blanket party scene would have come much sooner.
5. There would have been way more sh*t talking — and we like that.
We can all say Animal Mother was a hardcore killer and has minimal social skills, especially when Marine reporters from Stars and Stripes show up.
Although he tends to fire off his mouth as often as he fires his M60. Seeing him verbally torment more of the film’s characters would be freakin’ funny to watch.
4. The film’s coverage of the Tet Offensive would have been much different.
We only see a small fraction of the bloody campaign that takes places through Joker’s lens. Once Joker and Rafterman meet up with Hotel Company 1/5, Crazy Earl tells us a quick story of how they came to Hue City and took on a massive enemy force.
We would have loved to have seen that footage through Animal Mother’s POV.
3. The film would have had a sex scene for sure.
Remember when Animal Mother c*ckblocked Eightball when that Vietnamese girl came around? Sure you do. Well, we think it would have been interesting to catch a glimpse of him and her having sex doing their taxes in the following scene.
2. More erratic shooting.
Animal Mother was known for being trigger happy and spraying rounds everywhere.
We understand that it’s not the most accurate way of discharging your weapon, but when you’re shooting that thing on full auto — it’s f*cking hard to control.
Candace Colburn faced some challenges in her career. As an African-American female, the 28 year old Airman is a minority among minorities. These are not her challenges, though, they’re just her demographics. Staff Sergeant Colburn, stationed at the 802d Security Forces Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, is the model of today’s USAF Security Forces troops.
“My personal experience has been awesome,” Colburn says. “I know people always have their points of view – some people might say because I’m a minority people may treat me differently. Or because I’m a female, I might get lighter treatment. But I’ve been afforded my opportunities because of my abilities.”
She owns her challenges as much as she owns the rest of her career. After I interviewed her, Candace sent me a fact sheet about herself. The struggles she faced are listed before her successes.
“I’m a cop – a K9 handler, but I want to go to OSI (Office of Special Investigations) to be an investigator,” she says. “I got picked up to be on the base Tactical Response Team. I went SWAT School, Basic Combat Medic School, I trained Emirati forces in UAE… I’ve had so many opportunities because of the military. No one ever treated me different because I was a girl – in fact, my kennel master took it upon himself to research if women were allowed in air assault school because he thinks I should go.”
Colburn and the 802d recently sat with former Air Force combat photographer Stacy Pearsall as a part of Pearsall’s Veterans Portrait Project (VPP). The VPP honors veterans from every conflict, hearing their stories, thanking them for their service and preserving their image for generations to come. In 2008, the first year of the VPP, she photographed over 100 veterans. Since then, she’s made portraits of nearly 4000 more. See more of the VPP here.
Growing up in Newark, Delaware, Colburn always wanted to be a Marine, but her father wasn’t having it. Her Dad told her if she were to enlist, he wanted her in the Air Force. If that was the way, so be it, but she wanted to be a dog handler – which requires three years time in service. At age 22, she joined the as Security Forces and was soon deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, where her challenges really started.
“We were mortared everyday,” Colburn recalls. “But I’m an adrenaline junkie. I loved my time there. I even volunteered for the Balad Expeditionary Strike Force, a tactical response team, so I was both in and outside the wire all the time. I always challenge myself. My Iraq deployment was my favorite, because UAE and Qatar were too easy… it was too easy to become complacent.”
Her experience would leave a lasting impression. Like many returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the signs and symptoms were most visible when she returned to her home duty station.
“I don’t know how I fell into alcoholism,” she says. “My life started changing after Iraq and I started drinking. Mental Health told me I had signs of post-traumatic stress but I soon PCSed and fell out of following up on treatment. When I admitted I had a problem, I was scared I would lose my Security Forces job.”
Rather than lose her job for her issues, the Air Force worked with her, sending her to rehab and then through the Air Force Drug Demand Reduction Program (ADAPT) program. Colburn won’t take all the credit, though.
“It was my dogs who helped me recover,” Colburn says. “I don’t know why I love dogs, they comfort me… they got me through a lot in life. I graduated ADAPT early because I made so much progress because of my dogs.”
After three and a half years as a dog handler, three deployments, and three special assignments with the Secret Service supporting the President and Vice-President, Staff Sergeant Candace Colburn lives on a farm with her own dogs, Sonny and Gunner, near San Antonio. She commutes to her unit at Lackland, Texas to work with Kormi, her partner.
“In my experience,” Colburn says, “alcoholism is not something to handle on your own. I’m a very strong person but it took an outsider to see that I wasn’t okay. You have to be strong enough to say ‘I need help’.”
For more information about the Veterans Portrait Project or to donate to keep preserving the images of American veterans visit: http://bit.ly/1unnLV4
“USA wonder why Russia would want to carry the S-300 to Syria,” read the meme’s text. “Because you never really know what kind of assistance terrorists might get.”
“All jokes aside, #Russia will take every defensive measure necessary to protect its personnel stationed in #Syria from terrorist threat,” said the embassy’s tweet.
U.S.-Russian relations have diminished significantly in the last week. The veiled threat is the latest in a series of provocative actions and statements Russia is making concerning U.S. involvement in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Monday that the U.S. would be suspending talks regarding the Syrian conflict after Russia’s failure to abide by a mutually agreed ceasefire in September.
Diplomatic failures regarding Syria are forcing the Obama administration to reconsider its options in the five-year-long conflict, including “staff level”discussions that could include military strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a key Russian ally. Russia responded to reports of the talks by warning that removal of Assad would cause “terrible tectonic shifts” in the Middle East.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced its deployment of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to its naval base in Tartus, Syria, Tuesday. A statement from the ministry claimed that the missile system, which can target both ballistic missiles and aircraft, was deployed in order to ensure the safety of the naval base.
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The Army is preparing to configure Abrams tank prototypes able to control nearby “robotic” wing-man vehicles which fire weapons, carry ammunition and conduct reconnaissance missions for units on the move in combat, service officials said.
Although still in the early stages of discussion and conceptual development, the notion of manned-unmanned teaming for the Abrams continues to gain traction among Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers.
Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.
Army researchers, engineers and weapons developers are preparing to prototype some of these possibilities for future Abrams tanks, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout warrior in an interview.
“As I look to the future and I think about game-changing technologies, manned-unmanned teaming is a big part of that. There’s a set of things that we think could be really transformational,” Bassett said.
This kind of dynamic could quickly change the nature of landwar.
Autonomous or semi-autonomous robotic vehicles flanking tanks in combat, quite naturally, could bring a wide range of combat-enhancing possibilities. Ammunition-carrying robotic vehicles could increase the fire-power of tanks while in combat more easily; unmanned platforms could also carry crucial Soldier and combat supplies, allowing an Abrams tank to carry a larger payload of key combat supplies.
Also, perhaps of greatest significance, an unmanned vehicle controlled by an Abrams tank could fire weapons at an enemy while allowing the tank to operate at a safer, more risk-reducing stand-off range.
As unmanned vehicles, robotic platforms could be agile and much lighter weight than heavily armored vehicles designed to carry Soldiers into high-risk combat situations. By virtue of being able to operate without placing Soldiers at risk, tank-controlled ground drones could also be used to test and challenge enemy defenses, fire-power and formations. Furthermore, advanced sensors could be integrated into the ground drones to handle rugged terrain while beaming back video and data of enemy locations and movements.
“You don’t need armor on an auxiliary kit,” Michael Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Manned Abrams tanks, therefore, could make use of advanced thermal sights, aided by robotic sensors, to locate and destroy enemies at ranges keeping them safe from enemy tank fire. Sensor robots could locate enemy artillery and rocket positions, convoys and even some drones in the air in a manner that better alerts attacking ground forces.
Land drones could also help forces in combat breach obstacles, carry an expeditionary power supply, help with remote targeting and check route areas for IEDs, Army and General Dynamics statements said.
Some of the early prototyping is being explored at the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, Warren, Mich.
Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has consistently emphasized that manned-unmanned teaming and autonomy central to the Army’s preparations for the future, Bassett explained.
“The Chief has been really candid with us that what whatever we build for the future has that concept in mind that we are laying the architectures in that will support that,” he added.
Thus far in the Army, there are both tele-operated vehicles controlled by a human with a lap-top and joystick as well as platforms engineered with autonomous navigation systems able to increasingly perform more and more functions without needing human intervention.
For instance, TARDEC has developed leader-follower convoys wherein tactical trucks are engineered to autonomously follow vehicles in front of them. These applique kits, which can be installed on vehicles, include both tele-operated options as well as automated functions. The kits include GPS technology, radios, cameras and computer algorithms designed for autonomous navigation.
Also, the Army has already deployed airborne manned unmanned teaming, deploying Kiowa and Apache helicopters to Afghanistan with an ability to control the flight path and sensor payload of nearby drones in the air; in addition, this technology allows helicopter crews to view real-time live video-feeds from nearby drones identifying targets and conducting reconnaissance missions. Autonomy in the air, however, is much easier than ground autonomy as there are less emerging obstacles or rugged terrain.
Air Force Navy Robotics
The Army is by no means the only service currently exploring autonomy and manned-unmanned connectedness. The Air Force, for instance, is now developing algorithms designed to help fighters like the F-35 control a small fleet of nearby drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and carry ammunition.
In similar fashion, Navy engineers are working on an emerging fleet of Unmanned Surface Vehicles able to create swarms of attacks small boats, support amphibious operations by carrying supplies and weapons and enter high-risk areas without placing sailors at risk.
These developments represent the cutting edge of technological progress in an area known as “artificial intelligence.” Among other things, this involves the continued use of computers to perform an increasingly wider range of functions without needing human intervention. This can include gathering, organizing or transmitting information autonomously.
The technological ability for an autonomous weapons system to acquire, track and destroy a target on its own – is already here.
Pentagon doctrine is clear that, despite the pace at which autonomous weapons systems are within the realm of realistic combat possibilities, a human must always be in-the-loop regarding the potential use of lethal force. Nevertheless, there is mounting concern that potential adversaries will also acquire this technology without implementing the Pentagon’s ethical and safety regulations.
At the same time, despite the promise of this fast-emerging technology, algorithms able to match the processing power of a human brain are quite far away at the moment. Engineering a robotic land-vehicle able to quickly process, recognize, react and adjust in a dynamic, fast-changing combat environment in a manner comparable to human beings, is a long way off, scientist explain. Nonetheless, this does not mean there could not be reasonably short-term utility in the combat use of advanced autonomous vehicles controlled by a nearby Abrams tank crew.
Just a few years ago, Americans were stunned at the amount of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico by the British Petroleum-leased oil rig Deepwater Horizon. On April 20, 2010, a blowout during the drilling of an exploratory well caused an explosion visible from 40 miles away that killed 11 of its crew.
Over nearly three months, the spill from the Deepwater Horizondumped 210 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Now a film about the disaster, “Deepwater Horizon,” is set to hit theaters Sept. 30.
Mark Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, an electrician and Deepwater Horizon survivor, in a film that takes an in-depth look at the people who were working on the rig that night. Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien, and Kate Hudson round out the ensemble cast.
We Are The Mighty met up with the cast – and the real Mike Williams – at the film’s premiere in New Orleans and talked with them about the film and the motivations behind it.
The Russian military recently tested a short-range ballistic missile interceptor that’s meant to detonate a small-yield nuclear warhead in the air over Moscow to prevent a nuclear strike.
But there are a couple of problems with that, mainly that a nuclear blast over Moscow would already provide an electro-magnetic pulse effect that would cripple the city’s electric grid.
The system, called the A-135 AMB, also highlights differences in philosophies between the US and Russia when it comes to missile defense. The US builds missile interceptors that hit to kill, requiring a high degree of precision and guidance. The US’s THAAD missile defense system, for example, doesn’t even have a warhead.
Russia’s solution to the complicated problem of hitting an incoming warhead at many times the speed of sound is to nuke a general area of the sky.
While the US tries to station its nuclear weapons far from population centers, Russia has 68 of these 10 kiloton interceptors all around Moscow, its most populous city. Unfortunately, even in the most careful settings, nuclear mishaps occur with troubling regularity.
Additionally, as Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk writes, interceptor misfires do happen, and with a nuclear tip, that could mean catastrophe.
“It is not clear to me that, if a nuclear-armed interceptor were used over Moscow against a flock of geese, that the Russian command-and-control system would understand it was one of their own or survive the EMP effects. Then all hell might break loose,” writes Lewis.
The fact that the Kremlin is willing to have 68 nuclear devices strewn about Moscow speaks to how much they fear an attack that would threaten its regime security.
Anyone who’s followed the Army-Navy Game for the last few years knows that spirit videos have become an integral tradition in days leading up to the game. While one or two might get traction in the news media, the truth is that military members everywhere make spirit videos to support their service academy. And now there’s a go-to place to upload and watch them.
Some spirit videos are more famous than others, like Rylan Tuohey’s Pro-Navy “Helm Yeah” and “We Give A Ship” videos. Then-West Point Cadet Austin Lachance responded in time for 2017’s Army-Navy Game with the extremely well-produced spirit video masterpiece, “Lead From the Front.”
But they don’t have to be contenders for the GI Film Festival to be good. Now, thanks to DVIDS, they all have a forum.
Even if it’s just a group of First Lieutenants, Army alums all, deciding on who should get to watch the game with them or an entire Stryker Brigade Combat Team poking fun at “Helm Yeah” and getting sick of all the winning, spirit videos are now very much a part of the greater traditions surrounding the annual contest.
Army and Navy units stationed all over the world may not be able to make the big game, but they can still be a part of the fun, making and uploading videos to DVIDSHub, the military’s multimedia imagery database. It’s a collection of photos, video, and other multimedia gathered by members of the U.S. military, made available to the public on DVIDSHub.net. It’s a searchable collection of official and unofficial multimedia collected every day by military members everywhere.
Some are modeled to be commercials for the game. Others are just showing what they do every day and announcing their support to the guys who will take the field in Philadelphia on Saturday, Dec. 8. The 3rd Cavalry Sapper Troop, currently deployed to Iraq, just showcased a cardboard Navy ship sealed with Duct Tape, rigged to explode.
Of course, you can still find fantastic videos from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard on DVIDS. The site is a public affairs site, meant to make all the imagery captured by U.S. troops in the course of their duties available to the American taxpayer. If a military event is unclassified and was captured by a military journalist, chances are good you can find it on DVIDS.
But Army-Navy Game spirit videos are a good break from the continuous mission. Show your spirit appropriately and never blow up a Navy effigy without trained Army explosives experts or artillery fire mules on site.
Shock troops are designed to lead an attack from the front with the goal of inflicting heavy enemy casualties and severely damaging defenses. When the dynamic of the battlefield changed with the Great War, it brought with it measures to break the stalemate of trench warfare.
With the need to find a way to gain ground during World War I, military leaders around the world were struggling with the new battlefield, not yet experienced to the scale or intensity that was introduced. After analyzing what the combat troops were experiencing, the concept for the shock troop was born.
Here are a few of those who really left their mark in history.
“The Daring Ones” were Italy’s response to a deeply entrenched enemy. Initially made up of volunteers and later by men who were recommended by their superior officers, they were among the bravest, most physically fit, and best hand-to-hand fighters in the Italian army during that time. Needless to say, they were not the type of soldiers you would want to see coming for you. Here’s why:
Most of them didn’t even carry rifles — they considered them to be too bulky to use in the trenches and usually opted to use daggers. What they would do is advance under the cover of an accurate artillery barrage and, once it lifted, they would flood the trenches to stab the enemy in the face. The goal wasn’t just to assault their positions with the goal of gaining ground but to overrun and destroy them.
The job was so dangerous that an Arditi soldier would get paid three times the rate of the average Italian soldier. Which isn’t bad considering they suffered 25-30% casualties in almost every attack. They were so dope their logo was a skull with a dagger clenched between it’s teeth and their motto was, “O la vittoria, o tutti accoppati,” which roughly translates to, “We either win, or we all die.”
Easily the most famous of World War I era shock troops, and for a good reason. The German ‘Sturmbattalions’ were famous for their aggressive fighting style and decentralized command. These units made it easier for the German Army to break through enemy defenses and reap their souls since most forces weren’t prepared for an all-out assault when it hit them.
The use of these shock troops was so impressive and so effective that they were not only used during World War II but they also influenced tactics of other shock troops to include the Austro-Hungarian Jagdkommandos.
Their emphasis on decentralized command allowed junior leaders to make more of their own choices on the battlefield, which is a concept heavily employed and focused on in U.S. Marine Corps infantry units.
Despite Germany’s defeat in the war, it would be ridiculous not to recognize their tactics as well-planned and highly effective.
Adopted by Austria-Hungary from a Russian concept, the Jagdkommandos or, “hunting commandos,” were initially used as scouting units. Developed well before the outbreak of the Great War, Austria-Hungary wasn’t really sure how to employ them until they started getting their asses kicked by the Italians and Russians during the war.
They were under-equipped and under-trained until Russia nearly destroyed the Austro-Hungarian army. But, after the leadership recognized the need to have pipe hitting shock troops, they rose one full battalion and trained an additional 7,700 in close-quarters combat.
After they managed to kick some serious Italian ass, they were able to get their hands on good equipment and weapons which allowed them to succeed in plenty of subsequent battles until they were finally defeated during a summer offensive by the Italian defenses, which had vastly improved through heavy loss.
Following the loss of the war and collapse of the Austria-Hungary empire, the Jagdkommandos disappeared until 1962, when Austria named their Special Forces after them.
U.S. Marine Corps Infantry
Though the U.S. Marine Corps Infantry existed long before the first World War, their aggressive tactics and fighting spirit gained their modern reputation during the war as “shock troops,” as the Germans classified them. In every war prior, the Marines had been notorious for sending souls to the afterlife all across the globe.
The Marine Corps earned its reputation most notably during the battle of Belleau Wood in 1918, when Marines were aggressively taking real estate from German forces, despite the employment of chemical weapons. Germans were terrified when they charged through clouds of mustard gas, describing some as having “glowing red eyes,” and having the appearance of “hounds from hell.”
Marines to this day credit the battle as the suspected origin for their beloved nickname “Devil Dogs” and live up to their notoriously bad ass reputation they earned during the first World War.
Soldiers and commanders are usually stuck with whatever equipment the procurement officers and civilian leaders are willing to buy for them, sometimes forcing troops to go into combat with outdated and inferior equipment.
But sometimes, those “outdated” weapons are actually just perfect for the fight. Here are five times that a supposedly obsolete weapon system saved the lives of its users:
1. Bayonets in Afghanistan and Iraq
Bayonets, most often associated with fighting in the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, actually played a key role in battles during the modern Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
But the A-10, a low and slow platform, made its operational debut in 1976, three years after the Yom Kippur War supposedly closed the books on them. Despite that, the A-10 has fought and survived in a number of contested environments, most notably Iraq where it has twice been a key part of American forces breaking the back of armored and anti-aircraft ground forces.
In Afghanistan alone, A-10 pilots saved a Special Forces team from five ground assaults against them; conducted forward air control and numerous attack missions to ensure the success of an 8-hour, no notice mission to capture a senior enemy officer; and prevented an accidental fratricide event before annihilating Taliban forces at Jugroom Fort.
5. The Night Witches and their plywood biplanes
The women of Soviet Russia’s 588th Night Bomber Regiment, the Night Witches, flew in plywood and canvas biplanes through the best defenses that Nazi Germany had to offer, conducting multiple bombing missions per night to break up attacks against Soviet ground forces.
Their planes, the Polikarpov U-2 biplane, were underpowered and outgunned compared to the Luftwaffe’s modern air force. But the Night Witches used the biplanes to fly over German defenses nearly silently and drop bombs — they could only carry two at a time per plane — on Nazi positions.
The John Q. Public blog, run by retired Air Force officer Tony Carr, came across a video he suspects was produced by the Air Force’s Combat Camera units, lauding the A-10, its crews, its pilots, and the capabilities of its support for ground troops.
“ComCam is perhaps alone in its possession of the unique combination of access and capability to create something this close to the mission with such superior production values,” Carr writes. “A ComCam airman risked mortal danger to make this film and tell this story, getting immersed in a firefight along the way (you’ll see him drop his camera and hear him discharge his weapon in the video).”
Carr published the video, called Hawg (above), on his blog’s YouTube page and hit more than 935,000 views since it went live on September 4. Its popularity is related to how much the A-10 is beloved by airmen who work and fly the airframe, as well as troops on the ground who need it for close air support. It’s also a really good documentary about the A-10’s combat role. So why would the Air Force not release it?
He suspected the USAF tried to suppress the documentary for political reasons, chiefly the effort by the Air Force to mothball the A-10 in favor of developing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. He tried to get a statement from the Air Force before releasing it, but received none. After its release, he received a statement from a USAF spokesman explaining the role of Combat Camera and uses of its imagery:
“The documentation was captured by Combat Camera. The primary intent of Combat Camera missions [is] to ensure documentation of military activities during wartime operations, worldwide crises, and contingencies. The foundational mission of Combat Camera was achieved. The documentation aided mission assessment. However, the video in your possession never entered the security and policy review process because it was not finalized for any other purpose.”
Carr found another video, a more polished version of Hawg, called Grunts in the Sky,which contained graphics, music, and credits, which Carr believes is evidence of editorial discretion to get the video through an approval process. That the Hawg video includes unblurred faces of USAF JTAC operators and doesn’t have name titles of the A-10 pilots interviewed there might be some truth to the official statement, as far as COMCAM is concerned. Carr recently learned from sources inside the Air Force the video was approved through its normal process but once it hit a certain staff level, was shot down.
Officers close to the situation said that the wing commander at Bagram threatened UCMJ action against anyone who leaked the video, going so far as invoking the word “mutiny” in his warning.
The Air Force Public Affairs website describes Combat Camera’s mission: “COMCAM imagery serves a visual record of an operation and is of immeasurable value to decision makers in the OSD, Joint Staff, and combatant commands. COMCAM imagery is also significant for public affairs, public diplomacy and psychological operations.“
Combat Camera imagery is painstakingly reviewed and released (or not) by Public Affairs Officers while in the field and then back at their home units when other products are created from existing imagery. The Hawg video would have to have been reviewed before its release, including each clip used in its final form.