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The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

The US Marine Corps did not mince words when deploying F-35s to Japan, saying that the “arrival of the F-35B embodies our commitment to the defense of Japan and the regional-security of the Pacific.”


Tensions between the US, US allies, and China have been steadily mounting for years as China builds artificial islands and outfits them with radar outposts and missile launchers in the South China Sea, home to a shipping corridor that sees $5 trillion in trade annually.

One area where the US and China have indirectly competed has been in combat aviation.

China’s Chengdu J-20. | CDD

In November, China debuted the Chengdu J-20, a large, stealthy jet that some have compared to the F-22 Raptor. But, according to experts, the J-20 is not a fighter, not a dogfighter, not stealthy, and not at all like the F-22 or F-35.

Dr. Malcolm Davis, senior analyst at Australia Strategic Policy Institute, told Business Insider that the “J-20 is [a] fundamentally different sort of aircraft than the F-35.”

Davis characterized the J-20 as “high speed, long range, not quite as stealthy (as US fifth-gen aircraft), but they clearly don’t see that as important.” According to Davis, the J-20 is “not a fighter but an interceptor and a strike aircraft,” that doesn’t seek to contend with US jets in air-to-air battles.

Instead, “The Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS (airborne early warning and control systems) and refueling planes so they can’t do their job,” said Davis. “If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”

Without tanker planes to refuel, US jets like the F-35 have a severely limited range. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian Burdett

Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula gave a similar assessment of the J-20 to Defense Aerospace Report in November.

“The J-20 in particular is different than the F-22 in the context that, if you take a look and analyze the design, it may have some significant low-observable capabilities on the front end, but not all aspects — nor is it built as a dogfighter,” said Deptula.”But quite frankly, the biggest concern is its design to carry long-range weapons.”

What the J-20 lacks in stealth and dogfighting ability, it makes up for by focusing on a single, comparatively soft type of target. Unlike the US, which has fielded extremely stealthy aircraft, China lacks the experience to create a plane that baffles radars from all angles.

Instead, the J-20’s design makes for a plane that’s somewhat stealthy from the front angle, as it uses its long range and long-range missiles to fly far out and hit tankers and radar planes that support platforms like the F-35 or F-22.

“They’re moving into an era where they’re designing aircraft not just as an evolution of what they used to have, but they’re going into a new space,” said Deptula of China’s J-20 concept.

A rendering of the Chengdu J-20. | Screenshot via hindu judaic/YouTube

However, the J-20 may still be a long way off.

In November, Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that the models displayed at Airshow China were not much more than showpieces: “It’s possible that the aircraft that were shown are still instrumented production aircraft,” or planes with “loads of sensors to monitor performance” instead of in a combat-ready formation.

Former F-35 and F-22 pilot Lt. Col. David Berke also questioned China’s progress in an interview with Business Insider, saying “it’s really, really, really hard to make an effective nose-to-tail platform in the fifth gen.”

Far from feeling threatened by the J-20, Berke seemed vindicated that the US’s potential adversaries have worked so hard to counter emerging US capabilities like the F-35.

“If the things we were doing [with the F-35, F-22] weren’t relevant, effective, the competition wouldn’t be worried about trying to match it,” said Berke.

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10 ways war has changed since the Cubs’ last World Series win

It’s been a long time since the Cubs won the World Series. 108 years, in fact; the last time the Cubs won was in 1908, when they captured two World Series titles in a row.


Last night they made history and broke the Curse of the Billy Goat by clinching Game 7 of the World Series in extra (rainy) innings with a final score of 8-7.

The 1908 Cubs and their perfectly normal looking mascot. Source: NBC News

A lot has happened in the world since 1908.  The internet, Communism, Justin Bieber.  But what about warfare?

Well, the military has changed quite a bit too, and some of the changes have completely revamped the way wars are fought today.  Here are ten of the biggest military innovations and changes that occurred since the last time the Cubs won the World Series:

1.  No more cavalry charges

Horses and trenches don’t mix. | Source: Pinterest

Cavalry charges were still pretty common in the early 20th century, and in World War I all sides used horses to some extent.  The Germans stopped utilizing armed cavalry on the battlefield shortly after the war’s outset, but the Ottoman Empire and the British used cavalry extensively in the Middle East theater.

During World War I, machine guns cut through horses in swaths, and the chemical weapons first used by the Germans killed many more.  They were still used to drag equipment through the mud, however, and at one point German troops were told that the life of a horse has more tactical value than that of an infantryman.

Ultimately, though, machine guns and artillery rendered the horse-led cavalry charge obsolete.  The horses were replaced by tanks, although these didn’t truly live up to expectations until World War II.

2.  Planes flying around, shooting stuff, dropping bombs

arly airplanes: sometimes they fly, sometimes they crash. | Source: Pinterest

Although the Wright Brothers first flew a heavier-than-air manned airplane in 1903, planes in warfare didn’t come about until around 1911.  During World War I airplanes became very important for reconnaissance missions, and as they became more maneuverable, some planes were designed to shoot down the recon planes.  This led to fighters, bombers, and the jets that we know today.

Modern warfare generally favors the side that controls the skies, and for that reason, high-tech planes with sophisticated radar and other technologies are closely guarded secrets by states concerned about their leakage.  The United States’ protracted counterinsurgency wars, however, have proven that even though you control the skies, it doesn’t always mean you win.

3.  U.S. Army Special Forces started operating operationally

US Army Green Berets with South Vietnamese troops. | Source: Pinterest

The first true Special Forces Group, the 10th, was formed in 1952 under Col. Aaron Bank.  They evolved from Office of Strategic Services troops that had served behind enemy lines during World War II.  Concurrent with this was the founding of the Psychological Warfare School, later known as the John F. Kennedy School of Special Warfare.  The original goal of the Army’s Special Forces was “to infiltrate by land, sea or air, deep into enemy-occupied territory and organize the resistance/guerrilla potential to conduct Special Forces operations, with emphasis on guerrilla warfare.”

Special Forces have fought in every conflict since Korea and evolved into a number of different roles.  They have grown in number and size and now consist of some of the most elite soldiers in the United States Army, trained in multiple missions, including direct action and foreign internal defense.

4.  Chemical weapons: a sick burn

A gas attack during World War I. | Source: WWvets.com

The Cubs might have gone 108 years without winning a world series, but the world has only gone 101 years since the first chlorine gas attack.

On April 22, 1915, a man named Fritz Haber oversaw the world’s first successful chemical weapons use.  The German scientist had been attempting to convince a German commander to use the gas on Allied troops but had thus far met with scorn and derision.  One commander, however, let him try it, and when the wind finally turned toward the Allied troops, he unleashed the gas.

That single attack killed more than 1,100 Allied troops.  By the end of World War I, more than 50 different poisons had been used on the battlefield, and gas masks had become a tactical necessity.

Today, the use of chemical weapons is a war crime, although that didn’t stop Saddam Hussein from gassing thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq, or Bashar al-Assad using gas on his own people.

5.  Meals, Ready to Eat began constipating troops everywhere

The first MRE, 1981. | Source: MRE Info

The Department of Defense decided to re-vamp their combat rations in 1975, when they declared the MRE would be the new way of feeding troops in combat.  The first delivery of MRE’s occurred in 1981, and they were first field tested by the 25th Infantry Division in 1983.

MRE’s were a huge step forward for field rations because they could be kept almost indefinitely, and they did not require a flame to heat the entrees.  MRE’s nowadays are much tastier than the maggot-filled tack that soldiers of the Continental Army used to eat, and troops can pick and choose menu items.  Plus, Jalapeno cheese.  Enough said.

6.  Aircraft carriers became a thing

The Japanese seaplane carrier Wakamiya, circa 1914. | Source: Wikipedia

With the advent and importance of aircraft in modern warfare, it was only natural that nations sought to project that flight power to different parts of the world.  After all, what good was a runway for planes if it wasn’t near the combat zone?

To that end, armies and navies first tried launching balloons off of wooden ships, but when the propeller plane came around, they started putting aircraft on ships.  The Japanese ship Wakamiya lowered seaplanes onto the water using its crane in 1914 during the battle of Tsingtao, making this the first use of an “aircraft carrier” in warfare.

During the 1920’s, truly dedicated carriers with launch pads were commissioned and became an integral part of shaping the way the world fights wars.  Nowadays, the US Navy’s powerful carriers carry lethal jets and ground forces to places all over the world in order to project United States military power.

7.  Tanks

British Mark I tank, 1916. | Source: Wikipedia

Tanks, along with airplanes and aircraft carriers, changed the way that wars are fought.  Although the infantry was the major component of fighting in World War I, by World War II the way was being led by quick, lethal tanks that could maneuver and shoot accurately at the same time.  The armor provided by the vehicle shielded its occupants from most small arms fire and allowed infantry to follow behind.

Modern land warfare owes its origins to the tank, which debuted at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 to limited success.  They simply could not operate in the artillery-churning mud of the front, and often became bogged down before even advancing.

During World War II, the Germans used their lightning-fast tanks in the Blitzkrieg doctrine in combination with airplanes and infantry.  Later on, tanks became more and more technologically advanced, and in modern times a tank can make an enormous difference on the battlefield, although they are still vulnerable to ever-more-lethal anti-tank rockets and missiles.

8.  Night vision let people see the night, visually

An M16A1 fitted with an AN PVS-2 starlight scope. | Source: Wikipedia

In the early days of World War II German scientists experimented with night vision devices with some limited success, even going so far as to equip their Panther tanks with night vision.  But it wasn’t until the Vietnam War that the first practical, mass-produced night vision devices, the AN/PVS-1 and 2 starlight scopes, were introduced.  Even though they were bulky and easily broken, these scopes gave U.S. troops an advantage on the battlefield.  They used ambient light to amplify the picture around them, allowing troops to see enemies moving in the dark.

Today, the United States military has some of the best night vision around, giving it advantages in the wars that it fights worldwide.  Each member of an infantry or special operations unit can have his or her own individual night vision device, which are now compact and project pictures in high definition.  Some devices even incorporate thermal imaging along with amplified ambient light to produce a better picture.  This gives US troops a massive advantage over enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq, who have to use captured equipment and have little repair capability.

9.  Widespread use of body armor

Two American Servicemen in Korea, 1951, wearing body armor. | Source: Wikipedia

While the concept of protecting oneself from harm with armor has existed for millennia, the modern age of personally-issued body armor didn’t occur until around the time of the Korean War.  Even then, the vests were issued mostly for protection from shrapnel, and were bulkier and heavier than modern vests.

It wasn’t until the 1971 discovery of Kevlar by scientist Stephanie Kwolek that body armor became ligher and able to stop real bullets, including most pistol rounds.

In 1975, American Body Armor introduced a vest that used 15 layers of Kevlar and a “shok plate,” which could protect against high-velocity rifle rounds.  This set the standard for modern military body armor, which now often consists of so-called “soft” armor for pistol rounds and shrapnel, and hard ceramic plates for high-velocity bullets.  Advances in technology have made it so that troops, particularly those in well-funded special operations units, can have the best of both worlds: lightweight protection for vital organs and ultimate maneuverability.

10.  Missiles and precision-guided munitions

A Regulus guided missile. | Source: Wa3key.com

While airplanes changed the way wars were fought in the 20th century, the way airplanes were used was changed just as fundamentally with the advent of guided missiles.  Although civilizations had been experimenting with rocketry for centuries, the V1 and V2 rockets of Germany in World War II were the first true guided missiles used in warfare.  Following that, various countries began using missiles on their ships, jets and trucks, and creating massive, world-travelling Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles equipped with nuclear warheads.  If it weren’t for our massive experimentation in missile technology, the world would not have known the war-shaping theory of Mutually Assured Destruction, or the standoff capabilities of a guided missile destroyer launching cruise missiles into Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Modern missiles use Global Positioning Systems to find and destroy the enemy, and are becoming ubiquitous for the United States; today, more than 80 percent of bombs dropped by the United States military are precision-guided  They are essential in preventing civilian casualties in a world where states fight terrorist groups rather than each other.

More from American Grit:

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These remarkable photos show the physical toll a war takes on the Commander-In-Chief

Statistically, the American Presidency is the deadliest job in the world. Over 18 percent of those who’ve held the job have died in office.  It’s also arguably the most stressful in the world. Don’t think so? Well, check out these paintings and photos of America’s wartime Presidents before and after their wars:


George Washington – Revolutionary War

Even in a painting, the toll a war takes on the Commander-In-Chief is evident. The first painting was made in 1772. The second was just after the Revolution in 1783. Wigs notwithstanding, the differences between the two men are stark.

Thomas Jefferson – War with the Barbary Pirates

Sure Jefferson was already well-aged by the time he ran for president. He had to go against many of his core beliefs to defend the rights of Americans abroad and to rescue captured U.S. sailors.

James Madison – War of 1812

Unlike earlier engravings of Madison, the portrait on the right was painted to highlight the toll the War of 1812 (then derisively called “Mr. Madison’s War”) took on the president.

James K. Polk – Mexican-American War

The left painting of Polk was done in 1846, just before the start of the war. The daguerreotype on the right was taken just before the end of his presidency. Even though the war had been over for a year, President Polk’s health never recovered from the stress.

Abraham Lincoln – Civil War

The 1860 photo on the left was taken just before Lincoln’s inauguration. On the right, an 1865 photo reveals the strain of leading the Union in the Civil War for four years.

William McKinley – Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War lasted just a few weeks of 1898. McKinley was President from 1897 until his assassination in 1901. Still, the two photos of the him before and toward the end of his term show that even in 1900, just being the American President takes its toll.

Woodrow Wilson – World War I

President Wilson famously “kept us out of war” in his first term, but events in his second led to the formation of the American Expeditionary Force and U.S. entry into the Great War. Toward the end of his term, while pushing for the Treaty of Versailles, he became unresponsive and suffered a stroke. He was incapacitated for much of 1919.

Franklin D. Roosevelt – World War II

FDR served four consecutive terms, guiding America through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II. It could be argued that he gave his life to the cause. The photo on the left shows Roosevelt as a presidential candidate in 1932, the one on the right was taken the day before his death in 1945.

Harry S. Truman – Korean War

President Truman was 61 when he took office after Roosevelt’s death. He finished WWII and served as President for most of the Korean War, but except for a few more age lines (aka wrinkles), the job didn’t seem to take as much out of the Missouri native. He lived to be 88 and was present when LBJ signed Medicare into law.

Lyndon B. Johnson – Vietnam War

LBJ was in his 60s when he took over for the assassinated President John F. Kennedy in 1963 but just like many before him, the wartime Presidency did a number on him. The photo on the left is from LBJ’s “midnight address,” where he discussed the Gulf of Tonkin incident that would lead America to war in Vietnam. The second is LBJ in 1972, five months before he died. After he left office in 1969, he went into a self-destructive spiral.

Richard Nixon – Vietnam War

Granted, Nixon had a lot more to worry about than just Vietnam, but five years in the White House still aged the President considerably.

Ronald Reagan – Cold War

President Reagan lived and worked the Cold War for every day of his 1981-1989 term. In his 1980 campaign poster, pictured left, he uses a slogan that is all too familiar for 2016’s presidential election. On the right, in a 1988 photo at the White House, the man who took office in his seventies is significantly more gray but sports the exact same smile.

George H.W. Bush – Panama, Gulf War

Bush 41 came into the office past middle age as well. But the elder Bush had a lot of experience in Washington and in international affairs. He handled the invasion of Panama and the Gulf War so well, it seems like he’s the only one who actually looked better after the Presidency.

George W. Bush – Global War on Terror

The present-day brings us to presidents who spent almost their entire terms at war. President Bush was in office only a few months before the September 11, 2001 attacks altered his plan to preside over the United States. The resulting War on Terror lasted until well after his successor took over. The photo below shows President-elect Bush in 2000 and former President Bush in 2009, after 8 years of war.

Barack Obama – Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, War on ISIL

President Obama spent his entire presidency managing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He campaigned on ending the war in Iraq, then ended up having to send U.S. troops back to fight the Islamic State terrorist organization that rose up there. The War in Afghanistan will be inherited by his successor as well. The photos below show Obama on the campaign trail in late 2008 and at the March 2016 Chief of Missions conference.

 

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The US wants this new defense for its tanks, but a weapon to defeat it is already out there

The US Army is considering various systems to better shield tanks and armored vehicles from RPGs, antitank missiles, and other enemy fire.


But the latest version of the RPG, a staple in the arsenals of Russia and other forces, may already be a step ahead of the active-protection systems the US may soon adopt.

The Pentagon has purchased active-protection systems to test out on Abrams tanks and Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles, and may even mount them on lighter vehicles, like the successor to the Humvee, according to a report from Scout Warrior.

“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

The Army intends to outfit Abrams tanks with the Israeli-made Trophy APS and Bradley vehicles with the Iron Fist system, which is also Israeli-made. It plans to put the US-made Iron Curtain system on Stryker vehicles. (The Army leased several of the Trophy systems last spring, working with the Marine Corps to test them.)

“The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is … Trophy on Abrams,” Lt. Gen. John Murray, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement. “We’re getting some pretty … good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank.”

The US’s look to APS comes as other countries adopt the technology.

Israeli’s Merkava comes standard with the Trophy, as does Russia’s new T-14 Armata. Both Israel’s and Russia’s tanks, as well as the UK’s Challenger 2, are considered by US officials to be close to or at parity with the US’s mainstay, the Abrams tank. (Though some officials don’t consider the Armata fielded.)

A tank crew in an M1A2 Abrams belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke, 4th ID MCE Public Affairs/Released)

As militaries have adopted active-protection systems and other means to up-armor tanks, arms makers have looked for new antitank weaponry to counter them. Whenever US vehicles equipped with APS join similarly outfitted vehicles in the field, they will face a new challenge from an old foe, the RPG.

Russian arms manufacturers first introduced the RPG — short for Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomet, meaning “handheld antitank grenade launcher,” not “rocket-propelled grenade” — in 1949, updating it over the decades since.

The most recent variant, the RPG-30, unveiled in 2008, has a 105 mm tandem high explosive antitank round, and features a second, smaller-caliber projectile meant to bait the active-protection systems that have become common on armored vehicles in recent years.

A tandem HEAT round carries two explosive charges. One neutralizes a vehicle’s reactive armor (which uses explosions to counter incoming projectiles), and the other is designed to penetrate the armor of the vehicle itself.

“The novelty of the Russian rocket launcher is that two rockets are fired at the target at the same time. One is a so-called ‘agent provocateur’ 42 mm in caliber, followed a bit later by a primary 105-mm tandem warhead rocket,” Vladimir Porkhachyov, the director general of arms manufacturer NPO Bazalt, told Russian state news agency Tass of the RPG-30 in September 2015.

The RPG-30 reportedly cleared testing and went into active service with the Russian military sometime between 2012 and 2013. At that point, according to a 2015 report by Russian state-owned outlet Sputnik, the Pentagon put it on its list of “asymmetrical threats to the US armed forces.”

A U.S. Soldier of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Joint Multinational Readiness Center fires a simulated Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher while role-playing as opposing force during Exercise Allied Spirit V. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Caleb Foreman)

The effectiveness of the RPG-30 against active-protection systems, and whether those systems need be upgraded to adapt to the RPG-30 and similar munitions, remains to be seen. But the RPG — though limited by the size of its warhead — has long been potent on the battlefield, even against modern tanks.

The previous model, the RPG-29, was introduced in 1991 and is still in service with the Russian armed forces. It fires a 105 mm tandem HEAT round and can also fire a thermobaric fuel-air round against bunkers and buildings.

Russian RPG-29s were used by Hezbollah in the mid-2000s, deployed against Israeli tanks and personnel during the 2006 Lebanon War.

According to a Haaretz reportfrom the time, Hezbollah antitank teams using RPG-29s managed on some occasions to get through the armor of Israel’s advanced Merkava tanks.

In other cases, Hezbollah fighters used the RPG-29 to fire on buildings containing Israeli troops, penetrating the walls.

“The majority of Israel Defense Forces ground troops casualties, both infantry and armored, were the result of special antitank units of Hezbollah,” which used other antitank missiles as well, according to the Haaretz report, published in the final days of the conflict and citing intelligence sources.

A French paratrooper aims his antitank weapon at an enemy. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez)

Those RPG-29s were reportedly supplied to Hezbollah by the Syrian military, which got them from Russia. Moscow disputed those origins, however, with some suggesting they were exported from former Communist bloc countries after the fall of the Soviet Union.

In August 2006, a RPG-29 was used successfully against a British Challenger 2 tank in southern Iraq.

During operations in Al Amarah, an RPG-29 rocket defeated the reactive armor installed on the Challenger, penetrating the driver’s cabin and blowing off half of one soldier’s foot and wounding several other troops.

UK military officials were accused of a cover-up in 2007, after it emerged that they hadn’t reported the August 2006 incident.

Two years later, during fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City — a Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital — a US M1 Abrams tank was damaged by an RPG-29. (The US has long avoided reactive armor systems but accepted them in recent years as a cheap, easy way to up-armor vulnerable parts of the Abrams, particularly against RPGs.)

During fighting in Iraq, RPG-29s penetrated the armor on the Abrams tanks twice and the Challenger once, according to The National Interest. Other Abrams tanks in Iraq were knocked out by antitank missiles, like the Russian-made AT-14 Kornet.

Britain’s Challenger 2 tank (Photo by U.K. Ministry of Defense)

The threat goes beyond tanks. Seven of eight US Army helicopters shot down in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009 were brought down by RPGs.

RPGs remain in service around the world, filling the arsenals of both state and non-state actors, according to the Small Arms Survey. The weapon and parts for it have popped in arms bazaars in Libya in recent years.

The RPG-7, the RPG-29’s predecessor, would be or would likely be used by forces in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Central, South, and East Asia.

Regular and irregular forces in Latin America also have RPGs, and the weapons have made their way into the hands of criminal groups in the region. The Jalisco New Generation cartel reportedly used one to down a Mexican military helicopter in early 2015.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How US ships can stop devastating ‘carrier killer’ missiles

The US Navy’s new USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier cost $13 billion dollars and will set to sea at a time of great power competition when Russia and China have both perfected missiles designed to sink the massive ships.

“Critics of the aircraft carrier believe that because there are so many weapons systems that are being optimized to go after them, that the aircraft carrier is obsolete,” retired Navy officer Bryan McGrath said on the Smithsonian Channel’s new “Carriers at War” series.

With the ship costing billions itself, holding billions in aircraft, and as many as 7,000 US Navy sailors and marines, the sinking of a modern US aircraft carrier would be one of the most severe losses of American life and the biggest blows to the US military in history.


But in an episode set to premier on June 10, 2018, on the Ford, US Navy Capt. James C. Rentfrow said the US has taken steps to even the odds.

As Russia and China “continue to develop better offensive capabilities against us, we continue to develop better defensive capabilities against them,” Rentfrow said.

Future weapons

The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Every US aircraft carrier has two sets of onboard missile defenses as well as a close-in weapons system that uses a gun to knock out approaching missiles and aircraft with 4,500 rounds per minute. They all sail in a carrier strike group as well, but aboard the Ford, room for new systems is being made.

Among these are a laser system designed to take out small boats or drones that may be laden with explosives. Six concentrated beams of light combine to put incredible heat on a target at the literal speed of light.

Next is the railgun. This electronic gun fires metal projectiles with no explosive charge. But a railgun shot still creates a fireball because the projectile rips through the air so quickly that the air and metal itself combust.

“Putting one on an aircraft carrier or putting several on an aircraft carrier, to me is a no-brainer,” McGrath said of the rail gun.

But lasers and railguns, both electronic-only weapons, require a massive amount of electricity to run. For that reason the Ford’s two nuclear reactors have been designed to provide three times the power of the old carriers.

Also, with new catapults and landing gear to launch and land heavier jets, the Ford can get its jets to fly further, thereby keeping them out of harm’s way.

Whole new air wing

USS George Washington transits the Atlantic Ocean conducting carrier qualifications with F-35C Lighting II carrier variants, assigned to both the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 and the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, Aug.u00a016, 2016.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Finally, the Ford makes way for a whole new air wing.

“The beauty of the aircraft carrier is that you can radically and dramatically change the weapons systems by never entering the shipping yard,” McGrath told Business Insider. Instead of installing new missiles or guns, you simply fly old aircraft off, and fly on new jets.

So whatever new jets the US Navy can come up with, perhaps some with missile-intercepting capabilities, the Ford can handle them.

According to McGrath, it’s the flexibility of the carrier that keeps it relevant and worth risking nearly $20 billion in every outing.

“If you believe you have a need for two classic Navy missions, power projection and sea control, and if you believe you’re going to continue to have a requirement for those missions, then an aircraft carrier remains a very valuable part of the mission,” said McGrath.

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

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12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades

The Air Force is recommending upgrading the awards of a dozen airmen to the Medal of Honor or the Air Force Cross, the service announced Friday.


The upgrades to the service’s two highest valor medals stem from review boards that met in May, according to Brooke Brzozowske, a spokeswoman for the Air Force.

Also read: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack

“The boards were charged with reviewing [Global War on Terrorism] Air Force Cross and Silver Star nominations for possible upgrade,” she said in an email. “Specifically, [the] Air Force Cross Review Board reviewed all Air Force Cross nominations [and] Silver Star Review Board reviewed all Silver Star nominations.”

The recommendations have been forwarded to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James for further action.

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Veronica Salgado

Another service spokesman, Maj. Bryan Lewis, said he couldn’t disclose how many of the recommendations were upgraded from Silver Star to Air Force Cross and from Air Force Cross to Medal of Honor — the highest military award for combat action.

The service’s review was part of the Defense Department’s push to audit more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced last year.

The Air Force review of awards continues and is expected to be completed this spring, Lewis told Military.com in December. “We are reviewing 147 cases, which consists of 135 Silver Stars and 12 Air Force Crosses,” he said at the time.

The Air Force is also continuing to review additional cases in which airmen were recommended for but didn’t ultimately receive a Silver Star, he said. It wasn’t immediately clear how many airmen may be upgraded to the third-highest valor award.

Simultaneously, the Army is reviewing 785 Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross awards; and the Navy, including the Marine Corps, is looking at 425 Navy Cross and Silver Star medals.

In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.

Military.com this week asked the service if James would announce additional upgrades after Marine Corps officials revealed on Wednesday that her counterpart, outgoing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, would present four Marines and a sailor with upgraded awards for their service.

Mabus will present the upgraded awards in a ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, on Friday.

However, it’s unclear if James will coordinate a medals ceremony in the next few days. The secretary, who had her formal farewell ceremony on Wednesday, is expected to leave the Pentagon next week.

RELATED: Airman to Get Silver Star for Leading River Evacuation Under Fire

Most recently — but separate from the Air Force review — Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the Silver Star in April. Hutchins received his award Nov. 4 during a ceremony at the 18th Air Support Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star Medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.

Articles

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited

“Choose Your Own Adventure” books were an easy way to feel accomplished as a child. In a few short, simple pages, you could make the decisions which would ultimately kill your character and you could count it as an entire book read — all the way through. Book that, Pizza Hut.


If you had more time to kill or wanted to go on another adventure, you could just crack the book open again and find a new way to die. Either way, you know how these books end.

There’s seriously no other way.

It should be simple to go back and revisit these books now that we have a lifetime of experience from which to help guide us and make decisions. Suddenly it’s a lot easier to break your friends out of Nazi Germany or get that secret message to George Washington. And now it all makes sense why your character died so often — some of these books give you absolutely terrible choices.

No matter what, it prepares you for a life of making bad life decisions.

1. Sabotage

No, they did not make a book from a Beastie Boys song (though that would have been awesome and could have explained so much). Sabotage places you in 1942 Casablanca, where you are an agent for Secret Forces. No country, just Secret Forces. You’re working with the French Resistance to break some friends out of a castle prison in Nazi Germany, but the notorious SS Agent Kruptsch is out to foil you.

Your handler gives you an envelope you’re supposed to open when you’re about to enter the castle and sends you off with Resistance operatives Simone and Raoul. Getting to the castle is really difficult because the Germans keep surprising you. When you get to the castle, the envelope lets you know why: Raoul is a double agent. There’s no explanation for why Secret Forces let him continue being a double agent or why they didn’t tell you that in the first place. But that doesn’t matter because if you take too long getting to the castle, your friends escape on their own anyway. Thanks for your help, chummmmmmmmmp!

2. Spy for George Washington

The American Colonies are in open rebellion against Great Britain. You are too young to enlist as a Continental Soldier, so a man you know enlists you (a child) to deliver a message to General George Washington about the British attack on Philadelphia. That’s not nearly as dangerous, right?

Benedict Arnold would have trouble with this.

You are given every opportunity to tell everyone from Royal Navy Captains to strangers on the street about your super secret mission. The book lets you make that choice. And every time you avoid direct confrontation, you are waylaid and/or eventually killed off. The lesson here is Americans don’t avoid fights, even as spies.

3. Gunfire at Gettysburg

You are a bossy jerk of a kid in 1863 Pennsylvania who is more than a little confused about the ongoing Civil War. On one hand, slavery is wrong, but on the other, the Rebels are fighting in their homeland. I’m not kidding, this is your rationale, your great conundrum.

You just happen to be on the battlefield when the Battle of Gettysburg starts and your sociopath best friend implores you to stick around and watch for a while. You’re held at gunpoint by a Confederate officer who gives you the option of helping the Rebels with your knowledge of the local terrain or making a break for it. You consider helping the Confederates because — and I sh*t you not — you want to meet General Lee.

Sploosh. Apparently.

The author clearly has some kind of man crush on Robert E. Lee. With blazing speed you are given so many options to betray your country. If you try to help slaves escape, you lose. Eventually, you are staring, dumbfounded, as the battle rages around you. The endings where you actually survive always finish with a Southern loss, but your character always looks back wistfully at what might have been.

4. UN Adventure: Mission to Molowa

Only a book for kids would be naive enough to think the UN is anything more than a bureaucratic nightmare. But “to start on tomorrow’s paperwork, turn to page 91” doesn’t make for good reading.

It looks like that mountain is giving birth to a Jeep.

Anyway, you are representing the U.S. in a model UN in New York. You meet a friend there named Achmed from the United Arab Emirates and a girl named Benati from Myanmar at a Middle Eastern restaurant down the street. For some reason the UN Secretary General calls on you three CHILDREN to solve a civil war in Africa and settle a nuclear arms deal with a dictator from a fictional breakaway Russian Republic.

The U.S. President sends his kids to hotspots. Why not the UN Secretary General?

Achmed disappears entirely and you drive into Molowa in an armed convoy to negotiate with five warlords. In true UN fashion, unless you stop to talk, negotiate, or barter with people, you are either left to starve in the wilderness or are eaten by hippos.

5. Hostage!

You are on a field trip to Washington, DC when the Alarin Cartel, a crime syndicate, threatens the White House. Your bus is then taken captive by the worst terrorists ever. They immediately leave all hostages alone on the bus.

You think Pablo Escobar would just leave you all there alone? That’s not how real cartels roll.

If you act unilaterally and immediately, you can escape in no time, leaving your classmates to whatever fate. The terrorists are after a deadly virus the government is making anyway — they don’t really care if anyone lives. In some endings, the virus is cured by antibiotics (which is medically impossible) and in others it spreads around the world.

The first step toward zombies.

You will either work with the President of the United States to force a surrender (while completely glossing over this blatant American violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention) or join the terrorists in South America. All in all, the only decisions you make are really awful, just like the ones you make in real life. At least the cartels have free booze.

MIGHTY MONEY

Apple just announced a game-changing new credit card

At an event on March 25, 2019, at its Cupertino, California, headquarters, Apple announced the next stage in the evolution of Apple Pay: a rumored Apple rewards credit card.

The card, issued by Goldman Sachs called “Apple Card,” will offer cash rewards and various features and integrations with Apple’s Wallet and Apple Pay apps.

The card will earn “Daily Cash,” Apple’s version of cash back. Daily Cash is issued to the user’s Apple Pay Cash balance each day. From there, it can be spent on purchases using Apple Pay, applied as a credit toward the user’s Apple Card balance, or transferred to contacts through Apple’s peer payment feature in iMessage.


It was not immediately clear whether Daily Cash could be withdrawn to an external bank account, including Goldman Sachs accounts.

The card will earn 3% Daily Cash back on purchases made with Apple, 2% cash back on purchases made with Apple Pay, and 1% Daily Cash on purchases made with the physical card, or online without Apple Pay. It was not immediately clear if purchases made online through Apple Pay would qualify for the 2% back.

(Apple)

According to Apple Pay VP Jennifer Bailey, who presented at the event, the new card is “designed for iPhone.” People can apply directly on the iPhone, and start using the digital card immediately upon approval. Cardholders can update information and review transactions through iMessage as the card uses machine learning to recognize transactions.

iPhone users can view their balances and transactions within the Wallet app, including automated breakdowns of spending by category and merchant.

The card will have no annual fee, late payment, or foreign transaction fees. The Apple Card features in Wallet will show various payment options, and help users calculate “the interest cost on different payment amounts in real time,” according to a news release. The Card app will also offer automated suggestions to pay down any carried balances sooner.

The card has several built-in security features, including some that are native to Apple Pay, and offers various privacy features. While users will get a physical card to use at point-of-sale terminals that do not accept Apple Pay, it won’t have a printed number, expiration date, or security code. For online purchases, that information can be accessed in the Wallet app, with Touch or Face ID used to authenticate the user.

The card runs on MasterCard’s payment network and will be available summer 2019.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

These 9 countries (probably) have nuclear weapons

The United Nations has introduced a treaty that it believes will eventually lead to the total elimination of nuclear weapons. A recent watchdog report said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is a historically significant effort that’s gaining traction, which highlights the profound power imbalance between the few nuclear powers and the many countries without the devastating weapons.

“The rate of adherence to the TPNW is faster than for any other weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) treaty,” the report says.

But with an estimated 14,485 extant nuclear weapons, total elimination is more of a long-term goal.


This is an overview of the nine nuclear-armed states and the 31 nuclear-weapon-endorsing states — countries that do not develop or possess nuclear weapons but rely on another nuclear-armed state for protection.

All of these countries would need to make profound changes to reach the UN goal of a nuclear-weapons-free world.

Russian nuclear-powered multipurpose attack submarine.

Russia has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

The Russian Federation has an estimated 6,850 nuclear weapons in its arsenal.

Armenia and Belarus, who both rely on Russia’s arsenal for “umbrella” protections, stand in violation of TPNW.

Russia is also only one of three nations to possess a nuclear “triad,” which includes intercontinental ballistic-missile delivery.

A nuclear “triad” refers to a nation’s ability to deploy its nuclear arsenal through intercontinental ballistic missiles, sea-launched ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers, as defined by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an advisory board that conducts research and provides analysis to encourage diplomacy.

The US is the only country to detonate nuclear weapons against an enemy, as it did in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks against Japan in August 1945.

The US has agreed to potentially use its nuclear weapons to protect NATO member states, as well as Japan, Australia and South Korea.

Because of these agreements, all 29 NATO member states, and the three who hold bilateral protection agreements with the US, are in violation of TPNW.

The US, which has a nuclear arsenal that’s nearly the size of Russia’s, is the only nation in the western hemisphere that possesses nuclear weapons, and one of three countries to possess the nuclear “triad.”

The US is also the only nation in the world to store nuclear weapons in other countries.

According to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, the US is believed to store some 180 nuclear weapons in other countries.

This number has been “significantly reduced since the Cold War,” according to the report.

The United Kingdom can only launch its nuclear weapons from its four Vanguard-class submarines.

The United Kingdom is a NATO member state and shares in the umbrella protections of the alliance.

The kingdom maintains at least one nuclear-armed submarine on patrol at all times, under a Continuous at Sea Defense Posture, according to NWBM.

British policy also states that the country will not threaten the use of nuclear weapons against any “non-nuclear weapons state.”

A French Air Force Dassault Rafale fighter jet.

The French Dassault Rafale fighter jet can deploy a nuclear weapon with a warhead 20 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

France, also a NATO member state, can only deliver its nuclear weapons via aircraft and submarines.

The ASMP-A is a 300-kiloton warhead, approximately 20 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at the end of World War II.

If a warhead of that size were to drop over Washington, DC, it would result in approximately 280,000 casualties.

Israel maintains a policy of “opacity,” while other nations promise not to use their nukes against countries that don’t have them.

China possesses a nuclear “triad,” but has agreed not to employ nuclear weapons against any nation in a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone, which include Latin American and Caribbean nations, as well as some in Africa, the South Pacific and Central Asia.

US-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies reported 13 undeclared missile bases in North Korea.

Although North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has publicly proclaimed a desire to denuclearize the entire Korean peninsula, there is no evidence that he has made any attempt to do so.

Reports vary as to the size of the North Korean nuclear arsenal. While the monitor follows conventional views that the country possesses 10 to 20 nukes, The Washington Post has previously reported that it may hold up to 60, citing confidential US assessments.

Negev Nuclear Research Center in Israel is said to have produced enough plutonium for 100 to 200 nuclear warheads.

Israel has never publicly admitted to possession of nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, the international community operates on the assumption that since its inception, Israel has developed and maintained a nuclear arsenal.

The size of Israel’s cache remains unclear, and though it is possible that the nation holds enough enriched plutonium for 100 to 200 warheads, the NWBM accepts estimates from the Federation of American Scientists, which show that Israel possesses approximately 80 nuclear weapons.

The next Cold War may be between India and Pakistan, neither of which will back down its nuclear stance.

Attempts to develop intercontinental and submarine-launched nuclear missiles indicate that India may soon possess the nuclear “triad.”

Mainly due to tensions with Pakistan, some experts have questioned whether India’s “no first-use” posture will endure.

Pakistan can deliver its nuclear weapons from the ground and air and is allegedly developing methods of sea-based delivery to complete the nuclear “triad.”

Despite facing sanctions, Pakistan is reportedly expanding its nuclear arsenal faster than any other nation.

Similar to British policy, Pakistan claims it will not use or threaten to use its nuclear arsenal against any “non-nuclear” state, leaving many questions unanswered on the potential use against neighbor India, which also maintains nuclear weapons.

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

Articles

How atomic bombs fueled Las Vegas tourism in the 1950s

You would think that nuclear weapons testing and tourism wouldn’t go together. But in fact, tourists who went to Las Vegas to watch the nuclear tests helped fuel the growth of that city in the 1950s.


In the 1950s, the United States carried out over 150 nuclear weapons tests above ground. Some of these tests – particularly the large-scale thermo-nuclear bomb tests like the 1954 Castle Bravo test, which had a 15-megaton yield – were carried out in the Central Pacific. Not exactly accessible to tourists, but well out of the way (an important consideration considering the power of the bombs).

Nuclear weapons

However, in Nevada — where the explosions and subsequent mushroom clouds were visible from Las Vegas — These tests gave that rapidly-growing city’s economy a surprising boost. Many tourists traveled to Vegas hoping they’d see one of these tests take place.

Of course, today, we know about the after-effects of all those explosions, including fallout that leads to cancer and other medical issues for people who were downwind of the nuclear blasts.

The Buster-Jangle Dog nuclear test of a 21-kiloton weapon. (Photo: US Department of Energy)

Back then, it was seen as just a fancy fireworks display for Sin City residents and tourists on the United States government’s dime. In 1963, the Partial Test Ban Treaty was ratified. That ended the era of above-ground testing, and limited the blasts to underground.

The U.S. continued to carry out underground nuclear tests until 1992, when the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty curtailed nuke blasts. That treaty, however, has still not been ratified by the Senate. Check out this video from the Smithsonian Channel to learn more about Sin City’s nuclear tourism boom (pun intended).

MIGHTY FIT

ACFT PREP: Why you should be power cleaning

I’m not surprised; I’m actually just interested in the fact that the standing power throw is proving to be quite difficult for some soldiers. It makes sense, really. Service members haven’t ever been asked to be explosive before.

The U.S. military used to want members that rivaled its speed and ability to move and make change…But a new day has dawned, and with it, a new type of hero is being called on. The kind of hero that doesn’t slip a disc every time they get up too fast from their office chair.

Explosive power is important, especially for combat-ready troops. Let’s see how the standing power throw is doing at measuring power and how you should actually train for it.


ACFT Prep: Power Cleans for the Standing Power Throw

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What is the standing power throw and why is it useful?

The SPT measures how much explosive power you have.

The new ACFT is designed to test 6 different aspects of fitness:

  1. Strength- Deadlift
  2. Power- Power Throw
  3. Anaerobic conditioning- Sprint Drag Carry
  4. Upper Body Muscular Endurance- Hand Release Push-ups
  5. Core Control- Leg Tucks (For my caveat on the effectiveness of this choice, check this out.)
  6. Aerobic conditioning- 2-mile run

Power is a legitimate fitness variable that should be tested, especially considering that there’s a ton of actions that Soldiers perform that take quick, explosive bursts of strength… like shoulder throwing an E-2 to the ground for bad mouthin’ the ACFT.

I’ll even double down on power training being important since the majority of back, hip, and neck injuries I saw while on active duty almost always included a crusty 35+ service member doing some dumb quick twisting jerking maneuver. You know who you are.

Add a full combat load to the ACFT then you’ll get a real eyeopening experience.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew J. Marcellus)

How to train for the standing power throw

Train for power.

Training for power roughly translates to: incrementally loading an explosive movement in order to translate strength gains into power.

The key above is the incremental loading part. You can’t develop more power by using submaximal loads. ESPECIALLY when you only have two attempts at the standing power throw. Power Jumps and Tuck Jumps can only be effective at making you more powerful if you are some way able to increase your first two jumps. After that point, especially for purposes of the test, you’re training your muscular power endurance (if that’s even a thing…I think that’s just cardio).

The same is true of a long HIIT workout. A HIIT workout by definition requires you to be putting out at greater than 90% of your Heart Rate Max. If you’re no longer putting out at that level of intensity, you’re essentially just doing Medium Intensity Steady State (MISS) with weights. A REAL HIIT workout lasts 20 minutes, maybe 30 minutes if you’re an elite athlete.

In order to throw further, you need to do three things.

  • Get stronger
  • Translate that strength to power
  • Perfect your form

Lucky for you, I have an exercise that will help you with two of these, and in conjunction with training for the deadlift, you’ll have all three covered.

How to: Power Clean

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The power clean

The power clean is the superior clean variation for the purposes of the ACFT. I’ll even make the argument that it beats out the snatch because there is a minimum drop of the hips in the power clean. All the Olympic lifts and their clean variations involve ‘getting under’ the weight so that you don’t have to pull the weight off the ground as high.

The power clean, on the other hand, has you only dropping the hips to roughly the quarter squat position. It has the longest pull, from the floor to the collarbone, of the lifts. That’s why it’s named the power clean. It requires the most amount of power to get the weight up.

For all his faults, I think Mark Rippetoe correctly categorized the power clean in his book Starting Strength when he said this of the power clean:

“The power clean by training the athlete’s ability to move heavy weight quickly, is the glue that cements the strength training program to sports performance”

Beyond Triple Extension : The Underlying Benefits of “Olympic” Weightlifting

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It’ll help your form too

The form of the standing power throw has a very striking similarity to the pull used in the power clean. They both make use of ‘triple extension,’ which, if performed efficiently, will allow you to transfer the most amount of your power through the ball and barbell to allow you to exhibit the most power possible.

Triple extension is when the ankles, knees, and hips are completely extended. It’s a complete transfer of all your power into the implement in hand.

It’s a skill. It’s not something that you’ll be able to do perfectly the first time, especially if you have a significant amount of weight on the barbell or if your nerves are really tweakin’ during the test.

The power clean trains nearly the entire movement for the standing power throw. The only part it misses is extending your arms overhead and releasing the ball. Lucky for you, that’s the easy part, the arms will follow the chain of kinetic energy traveling upward that started at your feet.

You still need to train actually throwing the ball, though.

For more on the power clean check out Starting Strength.

For more on form and training for power exercises and the Olympic lifts, check out Zack Telander’s Youtube channel (above).

For more on the various events of the ACFT, check out my author page.

For training plans on the ACFT, have a look here.

For more Mighty Fit Greatness join our Facebook Group here.

Articles

6 things troops always buy after deployment

When troops deploy overseas to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they usually get a pay increase thanks to combat and hazardous pay bonuses. And given that they are working longer days and away from most of the comforts of home, they usually save a bunch of money in that time.


Usually returning with a large balance in their bank account, they are what some would call “post-deployment rich.”

But that wealth usually doesn’t last forever. Some troops save their money for the future, while others making big purchases soon after they are home. These are the six things they are usually buying.

1. A new car or motorcycle

The barracks parking lot is guaranteed to be filled with new cars and bikes shortly after a unit returns from deployment. The vehicular staple of the returning Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman usually spans the gamut of Ford Mustang to Jeep Wrangler.

That’s it. The barracks parking lot is just filled with Mustangs and Wranglers. That and a ton of crotch rockets.

2. Booze

Photo Credit: Streetwear Deals

I’m not going to lie. When I came back after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, I drank a lot. Think—drinking at a minimum a six-pack of beer every night for months—a lot. Was it healthy? No. A good idea? No. Helpful during morning PT? Oh, good lord no.

But hey, I hadn’t drank in a long time and I had to make up for lost time. At least that made sense in my then-21-year-old brain. My story is not unique, however. While the military tries to crack down on binge-drinking, for many troops, it’s still a big part of the lifestyle.

3. Epic parties in Vegas (or some other awesome place)

When you are post-deployment rich, it’s no problem picking up the tab at the bar. “Oh yeah! I got this,” the young private says. “Drinks are on me!” Come back to this same young private about two months later and he probably won’t be saying this one again.

That’s definitely true of throwing big parties. While they initially start out in the barracks and involve kegs, beer pong, and midget-tossing (no? that’s not allowed Sergeant Major?), the parties eventually head off base to a better location. Sometimes this means the strip club, but let it be known: Las Vegas is always the best option.

Just don’t buy the next item while you are drinking.

4. Engagement rings

Spending seven to 12 months (or more) overseas can get some service members thinking about elevating their relationships to the next level of marriage. For some, that means saving up their deployment cash to buy an expensive engagement ring for their honey. Hopefully it all works out, because if it doesn’t, the post-deployment splurge may be spent on…

5. Divorce lawyers

Most service members have heard a horror story or two about a fellow soldier returning home with no greeting at the airport, a completely empty refrigerator (even sans ice cubes), and an empty bank account. The sad homecoming for some troops means one thing: Divorce.

6. Tattoos

There’s a good reason why tattoo parlors are strategically located near military bases. Troops love ink (including this writer). Whether it’s a simple U.S. Army or USMC on your arm to show pride in your service, or a listing of fallen friends, tattoos are a big part of the military culture.

Just make sure you get it spell-checked.

What did you buy right after deployment? Let us know in the comments.

Articles

These Guardian Angels just pulled off their 1,105th rescue

When a teenager became seriously ill Tuesday morning on a cruise ship hundreds of miles off the California coast, the call arrived at the 129th Rescue Wing in Silicon Valley. Within hours, the California Air National Guard unit would tally its 1,105th rescue.


Sailors assigned to the frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG48) help rescue a family with a sick infant in the ship’s small boat as part of a joint U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and California Air National Guard effort in the Pacific Ocean, April 6, 2014. The family and four Air National Guard pararescuemen were safely moved from the sailboat to Vandegrift, which then transited to San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo)

From their Moffett Federal Airfield home in Mountain View, Calif., the 129th’s rescue squadrons operate the MC-130P Combat Shadow airplane and the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter. When paired with airmen highly-skilled in medical trauma and airborne ops — pararescuemen (fondly referred to as PJs) and combat rescue officers — these squadrons form “Guardian Angel” teams for peacetime or combat rescue at sea or on land.

Peacetime rescues, such as in remote mountainous terrain or vessels in treacherous sea conditions, can be just as high-risk as those in combat zones. Guardian Angel teams can venture 1,000 miles or more into the Pacific, rescues that require multiple aerial refuelings for helicopters and over-the-water parachute jumps into the Pacific to reach victims or stricken vessels.

That was the case in 2014, when Guardian Angels with the 129th were dispatched to rescue a 1-year-old toddler ill at sea; the child was on a 36-foot family sailboat that was sinking 900 miles west of the coast of Mexico due to damaged steering controls. PJs parachuted from an MC-130p turboprop with a raft they used to reach the sailboat.

A Guardian Angel pararescueman from the 131st Rescue Squadron, prepare a litter carrying a civilian patient to be hoisted onto an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter during an over water rescue mission, Jan. 17, 2017. California Air National guardsmen from the 129th Rescue Wing performed a personnel recovery mission of the seriously ill 14-year-old boy on board a cruise liner, the STAR PRINCESS, approximately 450 miles off the coast of San Diego, California. (Courtesy photo by Lt. Col Kathryn Hodge)

The Navy joined in the mission, sending the USS Vandegrift to intercept the team, bring the toddler and her family to its medical department, and tow the sailboat to San Diego. The PJs got a ride back to shore, too.

The latest mission this week also was a rescue on the high seas. A 14-year-old passenger on the cruise ship Star Princess reportedly suffered seizures and required immediate but higher-level medical care. The ship was 450 miles off the coast.

The Coast Guard and the Air Force coordinated the rescue, sending two of the wing’s Pave Hawk helicopters — each with a two-person Guardian Angel team — to the cruise ship. But the long distance required those helicopters get refueled en route. A KC-130J Hercules refueler with the San Diego-based Marine Aerial Refueling Transport Squadron 352 launched from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.

“What it takes to coordinate something like this is a massive undertaking, and it has to be done safely. Literally hundreds of people are involved,” Lt. Col. Kathryn Hodge, the mission medical director and flight surgeon, who flew on the mission, said in the news story.

When the Pave Hawks reached the cruise ship, the Guardian Angel PJs hoisted down to the deck, stabilized the teen, and hauled themselves back into the helicopter, along with the teen’s father. With refueling support from an MC-130P for the return flight, the rescue helicopter and team took the patient to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego.

“It’s always good and you feel really rewarded at the end of the day. But that’s not why we do it. We do it so that others may live and to save lives however we can,” Master Sgt. Sean Kirsch, a PJ, said in the statement. “When you bring a 14-year-old American boy home to receive better medical care and he makes it there and he’s in stable shape or better than we you pick him up, is pretty rewarding.”

An HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter from the 129th Rescue Wing hovers over the Chinese fishing vessel Fu Yuan Yu #871, March 12, 2012. Guardian Angel Pararescuemen from the wing rescued two fishermen who were burned in a diesel fire onboard the vessel more than 700 miles off the coast of Acapulco, Mexico. (Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class John Pharr)

The 129th Rescue Wing took on the rescue mission in 1975. In September 2008, the 129th Wing was credited with rescuing 34 people (and 11 dogs) after Hurricane Ike struck the Gulf Coast. The following year, during a combat deployment to southern Afghanistan, the wing tallied more than 180 lives saved.

While its location, aircraft, and higher commands changed over the years, the 129th has maintained its role in rescue and personnel recovery for both state and federal missions.