This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages - We Are The Mighty
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This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages

Operation Credible Sport was hatched in the wake of the disastrous Operation Eagle Claw, the attempt to rescue hostages held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran that resulted in a collision at a refueling point in the desert that destroyed two aircraft and killed 8 service members. The mishap caused commanders to call off the mission.


But the hostages were still in Iranian hands and a new attempt at rescue had to be made. The Air Force decided to attempt the mission using a C-130 modified with rockets to takeoff and land in short distances. The modified aircraft would land in a soccer stadium near the U.S. embassy, allow the assault team out to rescue the hostages, then pick everyone up and fly them out.

 

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
The burned out C-130 from the failed Operation Eagle Claw sits in the Iranian Desert. At far right is the destroyed helicopter. (Photo: US Special Operations Command)

Rocket-assisted takeoffs, or RATOs, is a technique where rocket engines provide the lift necessary to let heavy aircraft takeoff on a short runway. The tactic had been in use since World War II and C-130s had already successfully employed the technique. The more well-known JATO, jet-assisted takeoffs, worked in a similar manner with jet engines doing the heavy lifting.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
A C-130 conducting a Rocket-Assisted Takeoff. GIF: Youtube/Crediblesport’s channel

But Operation Credible Sport called for rockets to also assist in the landing, which required three sets of rockets to fire at precise times in the process. First, a set of forward-facing rockets would act as an air brake. Then downward-facing jets would slow the aircraft’s descent and after touchdown a third set of rockets would stop the C-130 on the short runway.

Unfortunately the C-130 test flight was less than successful. When the pilots attempted to land the plane, the first set of rockets blinded the pilots. Then the flight engineer was dazzled by the first rockets and thought the plane had already reached the ground. Thinking he just needed to stop the aircraft, he fired the final braking rockets and halted the plane’s forward momentum.

This stopped the wings from creating lift. The second set of rockets, designed to slow the plane’s descent and soften the landing, had not been fired. So the plane fell the final twenty feet to the runway almost straight down.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
GIF: Youtube/Crediblesport’s channel

The shock of the landing broke part of the right wing off. The rockets then lit the jet fuel on fire, and the entire airplane was destroyed.

Luckily, the crew made it out of the wreckage alive. The Air Force buried the plane at the test site and ordered the rockets placed on a backup C-130 so testing could continue.

But negotiators were able to reach a settlement that freed the hostages and made the modifications unnecessary. The plans for a rocket-landed airplane were then scrapped.

Watch the modified aircraft fly below, (and check out 1:40 to see the crash):

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Here are the best military photos for the week of Feb. 25

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


AIR FORCE:

An A-10C Thunderbolt II taxies down the flightline during the 2017 Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 12, 2017. During the course, aircrews practiced ground and flight training to enable civilian pilots of historic military aircraft and Air Force pilots of current fighter aircraft to fly safely in formations together.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski

An F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief assigned to Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing squeezes into the intake of on an F-16 during a preflight inspection at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Feb. 2, 2017. The 180th FW brought their F-16s and about 150 maintainers, pilots, and operations specialists to MacDill AFB for a two-week training exercise.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Nic Kuetemeyer

ARMY:

Ukrainian combat training center engineers detonate an explosive charge to breach a door before entering a mock building as part of training with Canadian and U.S. engineers to build the Ukrainian’s breaching skills, at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, near Yavoriv, Ukraine, on Feb. 24, enabling them to teach those skills to Ukrainian army units who will rotate through the IPSC.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

A Royal Thai Army Soldier from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry demonstrates how to quickly dress a chicken for cooking in Korat, Thailand, Feb. 20. Exercise Cobra Gold is the largest Theater Security Cooperation exercise in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and is an integral part of the U.S. commitment to strengthen engagement in the region.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
U.S. Army photo by Major Kelly S Haux

NAVY:

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (Feb. 13, 2017) Steelworker 1st Class William Peacey, left, and Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Steven Fenske, both assigned to Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1, conduct pre-dive checks during diver qualification training at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. UCT-1 provides a capability for construction, inspection, repair and maintenance of ocean facilities in support of Naval operations.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Austin Simmons

RAMSUND, Norway (Feb. 14, 2017) Sailors assigned to Platoon 802, the mine countermeasure platoon of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8, conduct dismounted counter-improvised explosive device operations. EODMU-8 is participating in Exercise Arctic Specialist 2017, a multinational explosive ordnance disposal exercise conducted in the austere environments of northern Norway.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Seth Wartak

MARINE CORPS:

Recruits with 2nd Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, spar during Marine Corps Martial Arts training at Leatherneck Square at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island. The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program helps to create the warrior ethos by utilizing armed and unarmed techniques from various styles of martial arts.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Richard Currier

A Marine with the Maritime Raid Force climbs a caving ladder attached to an MH-60 Seahawk during a helocast training evolution near the USS Makin Island (LHD 8) afloat in the Indian Ocean, Nov. 28, 2016. The training consisted of Marines jumping out of CH-53 Super Stallions with a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft, which simulated the MRF team traveling a long distance before being dropped in the ocean to continue their mission using a CRRC.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado

COAST GUARD:

Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Richey, a crewmember at Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor, mans an M240B machine gun on the bow of a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat during a security escort into Portsmouth Harbor the morning of, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. The Motor Lifeboat crew escorted the Gibraltar-flagged LNG tanker Polar into a terminal in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi

Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Richey, a crewmember at Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor, mans an M240B machine gun on the bow of a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat during a security escort into Portsmouth Harbor the morning of, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. The Motor Lifeboat crew escorted the Gibraltar-flagged LNG tanker Polar into a terminal in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi

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Here’s why the Army’s going to buy a lot of missiles and bombs next year

If Congress enacts the Trump administration’s 2018 budget request, many in the Army will be ecstatic. Weapons contractors, maybe not so much.


The $137.2 billion request ( $166.1 billion including overseas contingency operations funds) is up by 5 percent from a year ago. It would be the most money the Army has gotten since 2012.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Spc. Alan Yearby, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, makes sketches of the terrain while manning a mortar fire position near Mosul, Iraq, Feb. 28, 2017. A global Coalition of more than 60 regional and international nations have joined together to enable partner forces to defeat ISIS. CJTF-OIR is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne)

The budget is in tune with the priorities set by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: Fix near-term readiness, but also make progress toward a more “modern, capable and lethal force,” said Army Budget Director Maj. Gen. Thomas A. Horlander.

The 2018 funding request is about “closing vulnerability gaps,” he said today at a Pentagon news conference. “This budget arrests Army readiness decline and sets conditions for future improvements.”

As expected, most of the money is going to personnel, operations and maintenance. The personnel account grows by $2.5 billion in 2018, and OM gets a $3.2 billion boost. Weapons modernization continues to be squeezed, with a modest increase of $600 million: procurement is slipping by $400 million but research and development is up by $1 billion from 2017.

Army personnel and readiness accounts increased significantly over 2017, while procurement declines slightly.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages

Horlander ran through long list of modernization priorities, which mirror those cited in recent months by the Chief of Staff, Gen, Mark Milley, and senior Army leaders: Air and missile defense, long-range fires, munitions, mobility, active protection, protection of GPS navigation, electronic warfare, cyber warfare, communications and vertical lift. These capabilities are needed for the “A2/AD fight,” said Horlander, using the Pentagon’s codeword for Chinese and Russian weapons and tactics designed to deny U.S. forces their traditional advantages.

“Air missile defense and long-range fires are the most pressing capability needs,” Horlander said.

The budget, for instance, funds 131 Patriot missile modification kits, upgrades to the Avenger and Stinger air defense systems, 6,000 guided multiple-launch rockets, a 10-year service life extension for 121 expired ATACM surface-to-surface tactical missiles, 88,000 Hydra-70 rockets, 480 war reserve Excalibur precision-guided artillery rounds, and 998 Hellfire missiles.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. John Portela)

The Army also seeks funds to overhaul and modernize the Holston ammunition plant in Tennessee. The RDTE request funds next-generations systems such as high-energy lasers. These are the type of weapons that will “enable the Army to retain advantage against advanced adversaries and address a broader range of threats, as well as deter or defeat near-peer adversaries,” said Horlander.

To fund a surge of missiles and munitions production, the Army has had to make tradeoffs. It cut Abrams modernization from 60 tanks last year to 20 in 2018. And aviation spending — helicopters and drones — drops from $5.2 billion last year to $4.5 billion.

Aircraft procurement dropped while missiles, tracked vehicles, and other weapons rose.

The major target of all these new munitions is the Russians, and the Army plans to continue spending big bucks on the European Reassurance Initiative, started by the Obama administration to shore up U.S. allies against an increasingly aggressive Russian posture. The 2018 OCO budget seeks $3.2 billion for ERI, a $400 million bump. The money would fund rotations of Army forces, including a full armored brigade, a combat aviation brigade, a divisional mission command element and logistics support units.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
The Army’s budget is aimed in part at bolstering defenses against Russia.

The ERI and overall military support of European allies has become a rising concern on Capitol Hill. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry has directed thePentagon to study the cost of stationing Army brigades in Eastern Europe permanently, as opposed to rotating units there. “I’m not convinced it’s cheaper to rotate,” Thornberry said yesterday at the Brookings Institution. Rotations also create huge burdens on families, he said. Director of Force Structure, Resources and Assessment on the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardisaid the Pentagon has not begun to study that yet. “These are important questions we need to answer regarding ERI and our support of European allies,” he told me.

A growing concern going forward is how the Army will manage the elephant in its budget: its personnel account that continues to drain resources from everywhere else. With help fromCongress last year, the Army grew the active-duty ranks from 450,000 to 476,000. The addition of 26,000 troops inflates personnel costs by $2.8 billion per year. The kind of buildup that Trump has floated would bring 50,000 more soldiers into the force.

How would the Army cope financially? That’s a discussion now underway, said Horlander. After a strategic review is completed this summer, “we’ll have more information on what the true size of the force should be.”

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Beijing tests the waters by reinforcing missile sites in South China Sea

New satellite photography from the South China Sea confirms a nightmare for the U.S. and champions of free navigation everywhere — Beijing has reinforced surface-to-air missiles sites in the Spratly Islands.


For years now, China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea and militarizing them with radar outposts and missiles.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division.. (Dept. of Defense photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

The latest move seems to have been months in the making, so it’s not in response to any particular U.S. provocation, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies‘ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

China previously deployed close-in weapons systems, which often serve on ships as a last line of defense against incoming missiles, and have toggled on and off between positioning surface-to-air missiles on Woody island in the Paracel Islands chain. But this time it’s different, according to CSIS’ Bonnie Glasser, director of the China Power Project.

Related: China says it will fine U.S. ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

China has not yet deployed the actual launchers, but Satellite imagery shows the new surface-to-air missile sites are buildings with retractable roofs, meaning Beijing can hide launchers, and that they’ll be protected from small arms fire.

“This will provide them with more capability to defend the island itself and the installations on them,” said Glaser.

Nations in the region have taken notice. Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told reporters that foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) unanimously expressed concern over China’s land grab in a resource-rich shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in commerce annually.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
The HQ-9 is a Chinese medium- to long-range, active radar homing surface-to-air missile.

The move is “very unsettlingly, that China has installed weapons ­systems in these facilities that they have established, and they have expressed strong concern about this,” Yasay said, according to the South China Morning Post.

But Chinese media and officials disputed the consensus at ASEAN that their militarization had raised alarm, and according to Glaser, without a clear policy position from the Trump administration, nobody will stand up to China.

Currently, the U.S. has an aircraft carrier strike group patrolling the South China Sea, but that clearly hasn’t stopped or slowed Beijing’s militarization of the region, nor has it meaningfully emboldened US allies to speak out against China.

“Most countries do not want to be confrontational towards China … they don’t want an adversarial relationship,” said Glaser, citing the economic benefits countries like Laos and Cambodia get from cooperating with Beijing, the world’s third largest economy and a growing regional power.

Instead, U.S. allies in the Pacific are taking a “wait and see” approach to dealing with the South China Sea as Beijing continues to cement its dominance in the region and establish “facts in the water” that even the U.S.’s most advanced ships and planes would struggle to overcome.

The HQ-9 missile systems placed in the South China Sea resemble Russia’s S-300 missile defense system, which can heavily contest airspace for about 100 miles.

According to Glaser, China has everything it needs to declare an air defense and identification zone — essentially dictate who gets to fly and sail in the South China Sea — except for the Scarborough Shoal.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Territorial claims in the South China Sea. (Public Domain | Voice of America)

“I think from a military perspective, now because they have radars in the Paracels and the Spartlys,” China has radar coverage “so they can see what’s going on in the South China Sea with the exception of the northeastern quarter,” said Glaser. “The reason many have posited that the Chinese would dredge” the Scarborough Shoal “is because they need radar coverage there.”

The Scarborough Shoal remains untouched by Chinese dredging vessels, but developing it would put them a mere 160 miles from a major U.S. Navy base at the Subic Bay in the Phillippines.

Also read: China’s second aircraft carrier may be custom made to counter the U.S. in the South China Sea

Installing similar air defenses there, or even radar sites, could effectively lock out the U.S. or anyone else pursuing free navigation in open seas and skies.

While U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly floated the idea of being tougher on China, a lack of clear policy has allowed Beijing to continue on its path of militarizing the region where six nations claim territory.

“For the most part, we are improving our relationships. All but one,” Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, said at a military conference on Tuesday.

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This is how Viagra was used to entice warlords in Afghanistan

In a foreign policy world full of different carrots and sticks, the CIA used an interesting incentive to dangle from a pole of enticements: Viagra.


Where money and guns have been the traditional tools of clandestine diplomacy, the New York Times’ CIA sources say the big blue pill was renowned by aging Afghan warlords who have multiple wives to satisfy.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Staff Sgt. Michael Heimann, center, from Nemesis Troop 4-2 Cavalry Scouts helps inspect weapons as Spc. Alexander Moses clears his rifle at a clearing barrel. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Chad A. Dulac)

Running money to informants is difficult for the Agency. To keep their assets in place (that is to say, to keep them alive and feeding information) money isn’t always the best motivator. According to the New York Times’ CIA source, the informant will run out and buy conspicuous items with his new funds.

It won’t be hard to figure out where he got those funds.

Guns are another troublesome carrot for potential informants. The CIA has to assume that – in the Afghan world of fluid allegiances – any arms given to today’s ally could be used against American troops by tomorrow’s enemy.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Staff Sgt. Jeremy Nabors (left), a propulsion technician from the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, clears his weapon. (U.S. Air Force photo)

So a magic blue pill that revitalizes an aging man’s libido while invigorating the same man’s ego is a perfect way to cement an uneasy alliance. The nature of the gift keeps the reward from being too obvious or flashy while at the same time, not being something potentially dangerous to U.S. troops in the country.

Other potential incentives for Afghan assets include medical procedures they can’t get in Afghanistan, such as the bypass surgery given to one warlord, as reported by the Washington Post.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Soldiers from Alpha Battery 2-12 Field Artillery Security Force and Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah clear their weapons in clearing barrels. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Chad A. Dulac)

While Viagra is relatively well-known in Afghanistan (and reportedly sold in markets in the country), CIA officers operating in remote areas have to earn the trust of tribal leaders and be careful not to offend their religious sensibilities when making the initial pitch.

They also have to be careful not to offend anyone’s ego when explaining just what the pill does.

No word on whether Cialis is planning an expansion into the Afghan marketplace.

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11 little-known facts about the National Guard

America’s oldest fighting force was founded officially on December 13th, 1636, when the first Militia fighting forces gathered in Massachusetts. 382 years later, here are some of the lesser-known facts about the US National Guard:


1. The very first national guard consisted of militia forces that were divided into three regiments (these units were the first “minutemen,” known for their quick response times).

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Minutemen at Bunker Hill. | Weaponsandwarfare.com

2. Today, the descendants of those regiments are the 181st Infantry, the 182nd Infantry, the 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. They are the oldest units in the entire U.S. military.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
The Coat of Arms for the 181st Infantry

3. Two U.S. presidents have served in the National Guard – Harry S. Truman, and George W. Bush

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Harry S. Truman in his World War I Army uniform, 1917 Source: trumanlibrary.com

4. President Kennedy once used national guard troops to enforce integration legislature after governor George Wallace blocked the doorway of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa to prevent integration.

5. National Guard soldiers have fought in every single war since their founding.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages

6. 50,000 members took on missions during the 9/11 attacks.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
New York Army National Guard Spc. Christian Miller from Company C, 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, surveys ground zero devastation Sept. 13, 2001, two days after the 9/11 terror attacks. | Photo Credit: Col. Richard Goldenberg, New York Army National Guard

7. There have been 780,000 mobilizations of National Guard units since September 11, 2001. They provided about half of the troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Soldiers from the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conduct a formal pass and review ceremony March 27 at Fort Hood, Texas. The National Guard brigade, headquartered in Ohio and comprised of troops from Ohio and Michigan, spent nearly three months training at the Texas post and now head for Kuwait for the remainder of a yearlong deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. | Ohio National Guard photo by SFC Kimberly D. Snow

8.) The National Guard is second only to the U.S. Army in terms of members.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
U.S. Army Spc. Josh Sadler, of Regimental Higher Headquarters Troop, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard participates in training in preparation for deployment to Iraq at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Dec. 12, 2009. This will be the unit’s second tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in five years. DoD photo by Russell Lee Klika, U.S. Army. (Released)

9. As each state has their own National Guard units, members must swear to uphold both Federal and State constitutions.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
More than 300 Soldiers from the Pennsylvania National Guard are sworn in as deputy officers by Lt. Kervin Johnson at the Washington, D.C., National Guard Armory, Jan. 18, 2013. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ian Caple

10. The National Guard name was not official until 1916, but it was first popularized by the Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War. Lafayette went on to become the leader of his own National Guard in France.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Lafayette as a lieutenant general, in 1791. Portrait by Joseph-Désiré Court

11. The National Guard was the first to create an African-American unit, 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, during the Civil War. One member of this unit, Sgt. Carney, was the first African-American to receive the Medal of Honor.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
William Harvey Carney Medal of Honor, 54th Massachusetts Image credit: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library

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This movie about an Iraq War troop based on an acclaimed book is a surefire Oscar contender

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages


It’s never too early to start up Oscar talk, and after watching the trailer for “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” you’ll know what I mean.

Director Ang Lee’s (“Life of Pi,” “Brokeback Mountain”) latest movie looks at the victory tour of 19-year-old soldier Billy Lynn after an intense tour in Iraq. The film shows what really happened over there through flashbacks and contrasts that with the perception of Billy and his squad back home.

It’s based on the universally praised 2012 novel of the same name by Ben Fountain, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. For that and Ang Lee’s name alone, it’s sure to get a lot of attention.

Shot in 3D, the movie is certain to be visually stunning. But it also looks like it has the emotional weight to carry it to award season.

The film stars Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, and newcomer Joe Alwyn as Billy Lynn.

Watch the trailer below. The movie opens in November.

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The path to Mars goes through military test pilot school

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
(Photo: NASA)


Early on the morning of December, 5 NASA launched the Orion rocket — the first American spacecraft designed for manned space exploration since the Saturn V rocket powered the Apollo missions to the moon.  According to NASA, the Orion spacecraft – unmanned for this first mission – orbited Earth twice, reaching an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles above Earth before landing in the Pacific Ocean.

“[This mission was] a huge step for NASA and a really critical part of our work to pioneer deep space on our Journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.  “The teams did a tremendous job putting Orion through its paces in the real environment it will endure as we push the boundary of human exploration in the coming years.”

And with the success of this mission astronauts once again think about going into space instead of hanging around Houston like a bunch of glorified academics.  The sense of purpose that evaporated with the last Shuttle flight is back, and in a big way.  We’re on our way to Mars!

You remember Mars, right?

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages

So do you want a chance to be among the first to walk on the Red Planet?  Then you need to be an astronaut.  And there are two surefire ways to be selected:  You can get a Ph.D. in astrophysics or something else equally boring and be selected by NASA as an astronaut mission specialist or you can join the military and go to flight school on the government’s dime and earn your pilot’s wings and be selected as an astronaut pilot.

But there’s more to it than just being a military pilot.  According to NASA’s website, candidates must have at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. The website also states that “flight test experience is highly desirable,” which undersells the requirement a little bit in that the fact is that the large majority of the pilots who have ever been selected to become NASA astronauts have been test pilot school graduates.

There are only three sanctioned military test pilot schools in the world:  U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California, U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, and Empire Test Pilot School at Boscombe Down in the U.K.

Here’s a video produced by the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School that gives an overview of the command:

Military pilots of various branches and nationalities attend each of these schools, but generally pilots prefer to stick with the school that fully focuses on their warfare specialty, for instance, flying off of aircraft carriers.

Test pilot school is about a year long and very rigorous both in the classroom and airborne.  The instruction is designed to teach students how to take the principles of science, math, and engineering into the cockpit and then back again in order that they can quickly and effectively analyze performance characteristics and assist in creating better designs if required.  At test pilot school you’ll learn how to take an airplane beyond its design limits without destroying it, and you’ll also learn how to write accurate reports

Like everything else cool and kick-ass, getting into test pilot school is very competitive.  Applicants need fleet experience, and they also need to have been graded at the top of their peer group every step of the way.  And it’s not a “hard” requirement, but because of the intensity of the syllabus most test pilots schools look for candidates with engineering degrees.

Classes convene twice a year and each class is only comprised of about 20 students.

For more on what being a test pilot is all about read Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff.  Unlike the movie based on the book, the first half of the book provides great insights into the history of what life is like in the world of military test and evaluation.

And here’s a video from World War II era that describes some spin recovery techniques . . . techniques developed by test pilots:

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How this letter from a genius pacifist inspired the US to build the most powerful weapon known to man

A month before World War II, German-born genius Albert Einstein wrote a two-page letter that launched the US into a nuclear arms race against the Nazis.


In the 1939 letter, Einstein warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt that a massive nuclear chain reaction involving uranium could lead to the construction of “extremely powerful bombs of a new type” — the atomic bomb.

Einstein, a pacifist who fled Nazi Germany, learned that three chemists in Berlin were on the brink of perfecting a game-changing weapon after they used nuclear fission to successfully split the uranium atom. The reaction released an unprecedented amount of energy, capable of powering a massive bomb.

“A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory,” Einstein wrote to Roosevelt.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Photo: US National Archives

Two years later, and after multiple letters from Einstein, the US created the “Manhattan Project,” America’s plan to design and build the most devastating weapons ever produced up to that time.

Because he did not have a security clearance, Einstein didn’t work on the Manhattan Project. But his simple, eloquent formula E=mc2 appeared in physicist Henry DeWolf Smyth’s report, the first official account of the development of the atomic bomb in 1945.

Einstein’s letters played more of a role in the construction of the bomb than his equation. His formula showed that atomic bombs were theoretically possible, but the equation was irrelevant in the actual creation of a bomb.

Here is the letter that launched America’s A-bomb research:

And here’s President Roosevelt’s response to Einstein:

On August 6, 1945, the US dropped a 5-ton atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The blast killed 80,000 people immediately and leveled four square miles of the city.

Three days later, the US dropped another bomb on Japan’s Nagasaki, killing about 40,000 people instantly; thousands more would die of radiation poisoning.

Eight days later, Japan informally surrendered to the Allied forces, effectively ending World War II.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Photos: US Army Air Force

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

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The first man to die in the Space Race cursed the USSR the whole way down

The story of Soyuz I does not have a happy ending. A flight launched by the space program of the Soviet Union, the craft carried Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov in what was the first manned flight of the Soyuz line of spacecraft.


After a series of technical issues with the capsule, it came plummeting back to earth, killing Komarov, who used the time it took for his out of control capsule to make the long trip back to Earth to curse his malfunctioning space ship and the people who put him in it.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
A stamp commemorating Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov’s career.

The Soviet Union wanted to launch Soyuz 1 as part of a more complex space mission. It would link up with another craft, Soyuz 2, exchange crew members, and then return to Earth. But the Soyuz system was full of problems.

Previous, unmanned tests found serious issues with the spacecraft, and Soyuz 1 engineers themselves documented 203 design errors in the days before launch. Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev ordered them to go ahead with the flight anyway, as he wanted it to be part of a celebration of the National Day of Worker Solidarity.

“I’m not going to make it back from this flight,” Koramov told his friend, KGB agent Venyamin Russayev, but he would man the mission anyway because his backup was Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space. If Komarov refused to fly in the craft, Gagarin would be flying in the unsafe craft and would most certainly die.

Gagarin was a close friend of Komarov’s, so he agreed to the flight so Gagarin wouldn’t be put in that position.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Gagarin and Komarov

The mission launched April 23, 1967. There were immediate issues. One of the solar panels did not deploy, so his craft only had half of its needed power supply. The panel in its stuck position disrupted the craft’s guidance system. It blocked a number of necessary instruments, including attitude control, spin stabilization, and engine firing. Frustrated, he even tried kicking it.

After 26 hours, the craft began to return to Earth. With only one panel, the capsule started spinning uncontrollably. Chairman of the Council of Ministers Alexei Kosygin spoke to Komarov and told him he was a hero. Komarov was also able to talk to his wife, say goodbye, and tell her what she should say to their children.

U.S.National Security Agency listening posts in Turkey recorded him crying in a rage, “cursing the people who had put him inside a botched spaceship.”

Soyuz I entered the atmosphere completely out of control, as the malfunctions included the parachutes, which would not deploy even though the parachutes tested perfectly. They didn’t deploy because the chutes were either packed improperly or accidentally glued in. Despite all the other  malfunctions, functioning parachutes might have saved Koramov’s life.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
The Soyuz 1 crash site

The capsule landed with the force of a 2.8-ton meteorite and was immediately flattened. The largest, most recognizable piece of the Cosmonaut the Soviets could retrieve was his heel bone.

After the official investigation, Yuri Gagarin’s sadness turned to anger. Rumor has it that Gagarin threw a drink in Brezhnev’s face over the incident. When he died testing a MiG-15 in 1968, conspiracy theorists started a rumor that Brezhnev had ordered Gagarin killed in retaliation or jealousy. Only 40 years later, new evidence emerged indicating that the jet had, in fact, crashed.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Valentina Komarov, the widow of Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, kisses a photograph of her dead husband during his official funeral, held in Moscow’s Red Square on April 26, 1967. (Soviet Photo)

Koramov was given a state funeral and his name is included on the Fallen Astronauts plaque commemorating the 14 U.S. and Soviet astronauts who died during the Space Race. The plaque was left on the moon by Apollo 15 crew members.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
A close-up view of a commemorative plaque left on the Moon at the Hadley-Apennine landing site in memory of 14 NASA astronauts and USSR cosmonauts. (NASA Photo)

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North Korean threats affect Marine relocation

A plan to relocate 4,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa, Japan, to Guam is under review because of North Korean threats.


U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told the Senate Appropriations Committee May 24 a realignment plan for the military could be delayed, Kyodo News reported.

“The capabilities of our adversaries have changed the dynamic there,” Neller said, referring to North Korea.

Tokyo did not confirm Neller’s statement.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters May 25 that the “relocation to Guam remains unchanged and I’m not aware of anything otherwise.”

Pyongyang most recently launched a midrange ballistic missile on May 21, and claimed the projectile was a solid-fuel missile that can swiftly target South Korea’s missile defense system KAMD, as well as U.S. military bases in Japan and the Pacific.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. (KCNA/Handout)

The original plan was to move 4,000 Marines to Guam and another 5,000 Marines to Hawaii by 2022.

Neller also said he and Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command Harry Harris have reviewed and “looked at different options for where they might at least temporarily base aircraft because of the evolving threat.”

U.S. military experts and Japanese government officials are looking into relocation alternatives in Hawaii or Darwin, Australia, if transferring Marines to Guam presents challenges.

Maintaining forces in Guam, Tinian and other nearby islands must first take the environment into account, one Marine officer said, according to Japanese press reports.

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
The launch of satellite-carrying Unha rockets is watched closely, since it’s the same delivery system as North Korea’s Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which was tested successfully in December 2012 and January 2016. (Photo: Reuters/KNCA)

A separate decision to relocate a U.S. military base within Okinawa has been met with strong local opposition.

“They should not make Okinawa shoulder the burden of hosting [U.S.] bases anymore,” one protester said as a new base was being built in the Henoko area of the island in April.

The relocation within Okinawa has been a work in progress since 1996, and the United States and Japan had agreed a relocation facility in the Henoko area would be the “only solution” to problems with the current U.S. Air Station Futenma.

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Marine who raised first flag on Iwo Jima dies at 94

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Marines greet John Keith Wells on his 91st birthday. (Photo: Arvada Press)


“Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.” – Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

First Lt. John Keith Wells, the Marine commander responsible for raising the first flag atop Mt. Suribachi, died on February 11, just days shy of the 71th anniversary of his time on Iwo Jima.

“He was a very warm, sensitive, spiritual man, all the way to age 94,” Connie Schultz, Wells’s daughter, told Denver 7.

He was also tough as nails.

“Give me 50 men not afraid to die, and I can take any position,” Wells said during the transit to Iwo Jima.

On February 19, 1945, he was ordered to lead the 3rd Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division in an assault up the base of Mt. Suribachi. In keeping with his claim, he succeeded.

1st. Lt Wells’ platoon is believed to be the most decorated platoon in Marine Corps history for a single engagement. His individual awards included a Navy Cross, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart.

Here is an excerpt from his Navy Cross citation:

When ordered to attack across open terrain and dislodge the enemy from a series of strongly-defended pillboxes and blockhouses at the base of Mount Suribachi, First Lieutenant Wells placed himself in the forefront of his platoon and, leading his men forward in the face of intense hostile machine-gun, mortar and rifle fire, continuously moved from one flank to the other to lead assault groups one by one in their attacks on Japanese emplacements. Although severely wounded while directing his demolition squad in an assault on a formidable enemy blockhouse whose fire had stopped the advance of his platoon, he continued to lead his men until the blockhouse was destroyed. When, an hour later, the pain from his wound became so intense that he was no longer able to walk, he established his command post in a position from which to observe the progress of his men and continued to control their attack by means of messengers.

In a 2013 interview with the Arvada Press his daughter Connie said, “He didn’t give an order. His men just followed him because they respected him so much as a leader.”

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
1st Lt. John Keith Wells, USMC. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Even after several wounds, including shrapnel and a chunk of his leg being severed, Wells continued to lead his men until he physically couldn’t do move because of severe dehydration. But he wasn’t down for long. He convinced a corpsman to give him sulfa powder and morphine so he could get off the hospital ship and back to his platoon.

Once Wells reached the base, one of the flag raisers, Charles Lindberg, helped him the rest of the way.

According to the 5th Marine Division’s “Legends” page, after the first flag was raised Wells’ commanding officer ordered him to relinquish command of the platoon and return to the aid station. Wells reluctantly passed the platoon to Sgt. Ernest “Boots” Thomas who was killed in action several days later. Wells remained on the island, although unable to lead his troops, until the island was declared secure.

Wells’ daughter pointed out that the famous Iwo Jima flag raising photo, the one used to design the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, was actually the second flag raised on the island. “The first one caused so much emotion that [one of the commanders] ordered a bigger flag be flown,” she said.

After World War II ended, Wells attended Texas Tech College and obtained a degree in Petroleum Geology. He worked in the oil industry and served in the Marine Corps Reserve until 1959, retiring as a major.

In 1995, he published a memoir titled Give Me 50 Marines Not Afraid to Die.

“He honored and loved the Marine Corps with all his heart and soul,” his daughter Connie said. “His last words were, ‘My family.'”

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Canadian and US generals discussed the possibility of fully ‘integrating’ the two countries’ militaries

This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages
Canadian soldiers set a perimeter position after disembarking a U.S. Navy landing craft during a simulated amphibious landing. (Photo: Wikimedia)


Top Canadian and US generals once explored the possibility of creating a fully integrated military force for expeditionary operations, James Cudmorewrites for CBC news in an exclusive report.

In a series of meetings that occurred prior to October 2013, top military officials from Canada and the US discussed ways of increasing interoperability between the two military forces. On several occasions, Cudmorewrites citing information from the Department of National Defense, then-Chief of the Defense Staff Gen. Tom Lawson of Canada and now retired US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey attempted to create plans for “fully integrated forces.”

In a “fully-integrated force,” US and Canadian military members would serve side by side within the same units under one unified command. Canadian and US soldiers would then be deployed around the world on expeditionary operations under a unified military command structure.

Although the discussions were carried out at the highest levels, Canada decided that it was not in its best interest to fully integrate its military with the US’s for these types of missions. Among the Canadians’ concerns were the implications of Ottawa potentially having to cede control over its forces to US commanders in certain situations.

“The two armies do not intend to field formally integrated forces at this time,” a Department of National Defense spokesman wrote to CBC.

“Instead, they are developing the capability to operate together on any mission authorized by the government of Canada. Canada-US cooperation is excellent; we are trying to make it better.”

Canada and the US already have a high level of military interoperability. The two countries are both members of the NATO military alliance, and the militaries have served together recently in Afghanistan and in the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

Additionally, Canada and the US operate a fully integrated military organization under the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). NORAD is responsible for defending North America from both external and internal aerial threats.

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

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