This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF's deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain - We Are The Mighty
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This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

Sir Douglas Bader was a Royal Air Force hero in World War II, downing 23 German aircraft, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Order, and being named the 5th deadliest fighter ace in the RAF.


Making his feats even more impressive was the fact that he did these things without legs.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Douglas Bader as photographed in 1940 with two prosthetic limbs but massive balls. Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A

Bader was known for being an athletic kid. His family faced money problems after his father died of injuries sustained in World War I. Bader had to earn athletic scholarships to attend school. His prowess on the field also helped him get a cadetship to the Cranwell Air Force Academy in 1928 where he earned a reputation for skill in the cockpit.

Two years later, Bader graduated and began flying in aerobatic displays for the RAF. In a 1931 show, he attempted a low-level display and crashed into the ground, sustaining severe injuries. Doctors decided they would have to amputate both of his legs beneath the knees to save him.

The charismatic pilot later wrote in his diary for that day, “Crashed slow-rolling near ground. Bad show.” He was a bit stoic.

Bader was forced out of the RAF by the injury but was promised that he could come back if war was declared. He spent the next few years learning to play sports with his tin prosthetics.

In 1939, he got his chance to re-enter the service and took it. He attended a pilot refresher course and was sent to Duxford, England in 1940. At Duxford, he was introduced to the Spitfire which he described as “the aeroplane of one’s dreams.”

Soon, he was flying combat missions. He participated in the evacuation at Dunkirk where he scored his first victory over a German aircraft.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Douglas Bader’s logbook show his first kill at the Evacuation of Dunkirk. Photo: Royal Air Force online exhibitions

With the English kicked out of Europe, Hitler quickly began laying the groundwork for an invasion of the kingdom and Bader was called on to help keep the Nazis out of England. In Jul. 1940, the Battle of Britain was on. Bader and his commander, Trafford Leigh-Mallory, pioneered the Big Wing strategy that summer which envisioned squadrons of fighters descending on German bombers and their fighter escorts.

It was credited at the time with forcing the Nazis to cease daytime bombing missions and postponing the potential invasion of Britain from 1940 to 1941. RAF pilots were heralded as heroes, Bader especially. Bader had racked up a stunning 23 aircraft kills, counting the one at Dunkirk. This made him the 5th most lethal pilot in the RAF.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Royal Air Force Spitfires, like the plane Douglas Bader piloted, fly in formation. Photo: Public Domain

Unfortunately for Bader, his luck ran out Aug. 9 when he was hit over northern France and forced to bail out. At the time, Bader thought it was due to a collision with a Messerschmitt 109, but historical research decades later pointed to the possibility that another British pilot may have shot him down on accident.

Regardless, Bader found himself in a plane going down but was stuck in the cockpit because a prosthetic had become trapped under the rudder pedal. Bader made it out of the plane, but his right prosthetic was torn off in the process.

When he hit the ground, he was quickly captured by a group of Germans. In the United Kingdom, the Battle of Britain pilots had become famous and the double amputee/wing commander/fighter ace was one of the best-known pilots on the Allied side. The Germans quickly realized who they had captured and attempted to give Bader a pretty easy run of it. They recovered his wrecked leg and repaired it as best as they could.

Bader immediately attempted to escape on the repaired leg, climbing down a rope made of blankets and running away. He was soon recaptured.

Despite Bader’s escape attempt, the Germans offered safe passage for a British bomber to drop a replacement prosthetic for the damaged leg, but the RAF knew that the Germans would use it for publicity. Instead, they sent the leg on a bombing mission and had a Blenheim bomber drop the leg onto the camp during an otherwise normal bombing mission.

Bader again attempted to escape once he got his new leg. The pilot was transferred from one camp to another, attempting to escape whenever he could until the Nazis finally sent him to Colditz Castle, a prison that was considered inescapable.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Colditz Castle as seen in 1945. The castle was used as a POW camp by the Nazis until it was liberated in 1945. Photo: US Army

There, Bader’s attempts to escape slowed but he found ways to make life miserable for the guards. One day, he refused to go to the formation to be counted. When the guards arrived at his room to order him out, he engaged in a shouting match with the guards and eventually told them, “My feet would get cold in the snow. If you want to count me, come to my room and do it.”

The guard then drew his pistol on Bader who immediately changed his tact and infuriated the guard further. “Well, of course I’ll go if you really want me to,” Bader said before picking up a stool, dragging it out to formation, and sitting on it to be counted.

Bader continued his hijinks for the rest of the war. The RAF promoted him to group captain and Bader led a 300-aircraft victory formation over London after the Axis forces surrendered.

In 1946 he turned to a civilian career. He was knighted in 1973 for his work to help other amputees before dying in 1982 of a heart attack. His story was featured in the 1956 movie, “Reach for the Sky.”

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

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


MARINE CORPS:

Lithuanian soldiers and U.S. Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force engaged opposition forces in a partnered attack during Exercise Saber Strike at the Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Sgt. Paul Peterson/USMC

Cpl. Tyler R. Garretson, a crew chief assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, monitors the flight line out of the rear of a MV-22B Osprey after completing fast-rope and rappelling training with Marine Corps Special Operations Command, near Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Sgt. Orlando Perez/USMC

ARMY:

A Green Beret, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group-Airborne, conducts free-fall training in a wind tunnel while a civilian sky dive instructor observes in Eloy, Arizona.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Spc. David Welker/US Army

A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier, assigned to 926th Engineer Brigade, 412th Theater Engineer Command, conducts security operations during a route clearance mission at their annual Combat Support Training Exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton/US Army

NAVY:

Sailors participate in a low light small arms training exercise aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71). Ross is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/USN

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Kyle Cawein, from Lake Isabella, Calif., stands by to prepare an aircraft to be launched from the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ignacio Perez

COAST GUARD:

Rescue swimmers and aircrewmen from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Mass., conduct hoist training evolutions.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell/USCG

Rescue swimmers and aircrewmen from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Mass., conduct hoist training evolutions.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell/USN

AIR FORCE:

Team Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Air Force Tech. Sgt. Isreal Del Toro braves the 110 degree heat index during track and field competition for the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: AW2 Staff Sgt. Tracy J. Smith/USAF

U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Krystalane Laird (front) and Helena Palazio, weapons loaders with the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, download munitions from an F-16 fighter jet that was just landed after a monthlong deployment to Łask Air Base, Poland.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released/USAF

NOW: More incredible military photos

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‘The Finest Hours’ vividly portrays one of the Coast Guard’s most heroic rescues ever

“The Finest Hours” depicts the events of Feb. 18, 1952, when a horrendous winter storm broke two large tankers in half. Coast Guardsmen operating out of the Chatham, Massachusetts lifeboat station managed to save 70 of the men from death by hypothermia or drowning.


The two tankers, both 520 feet long and carrying kerosene and heating oil, were called the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer. The Pendleton broke first, cracking in half near dawn in the middle of a nor’easter that created 60-foot waves and 70-knot winds.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
The two sections of the Pendleton after it was broken in a storm Feb. 18, 1952. Photos: US Coast Guard

The way the Pendleton broke resulted in a circuit tripping, cutting electricity to the front of the ship where the captain could have sent out an S.O.S. signal. The captain and seven other men in the front of the ship would die before anyone knew to rescue them.

In the bow of the Pendleton, 33 men were fighting for their survival. They struggled to keep their ship afloat and sound alarms while knowing they had only hours to live.

A short time later, the Fort Mercer was broken in half by the same storm. The Coast Guard first learned about the Fort Mercer and dispatched a motor boat from Chatham and a number of Coast Guard cutters and aircraft responded.

The rescue of the Fort Mercer crew was dramatic. Crew members tried to climb on ropes from their sinking vessel to a cutter, but were thrown around by the wind and waves. A particularly brave cutter captain ordered his vessel to make runs beneath the stern, allowing survivors to jump from one ship to another as the waves tried to crash them together.

38 men were eventually rescued from the Mercer. It was during this that a Coast Guard aircraft spotted a floating section of the Pendleton and reported that there were two broken ships out there.

So, a second motorboat was dispatched from Chatham station. It is this one that “The Finest Hours” seems to focus on. A small crew of 3 volunteers led by a young boatswain’s mate, Bernard Webber, set out into the storm to attempt the rescue.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
The crew of the motorboat that saved the Pendleton crew. Photo: Cape Cod Community College Richard Kelsey via US Coast Guard

En route, their 36-foot lifeboat was twice swamped by the waves. The first simply flipped the self-righting ship, while the second flipped it and broke out the windshield, threw Webber against the deck, and broke the small vessels compass. Webber and his men would complete the rest of the rescue without being sure of where they were going at any time.

When they made it to the Pendleton, the survivors lined the deck and waved their arms to get the Coast Guardsmen’s attention. A nearby cutter had also come to the aid of the Pendleton, but was unable to assist because the Pendleton stern section was crashing against an underwater bar that would destroy the cutter.

So the small motorboat, designed to hold just a few people, began taking on the crew of the Pendleton. It took twenty passes of the motorboat for the entire crew to make it off. For each man that jumped onto the motorboat, the vessel became harder to maneuver and more sluggish, a potentially lethal problem in the turbulent storm.

Finally, on the last pass, the Coast Guardsmen had taken on 32 of the 33 survivors from the Pendleton. But the final survivor dropped too early, crashing into the water between the ship’s stern and the Coast Guard boat. When he floated back to the surface, a wave pushed the vessels together and the man was crushed between them.

Though Webber was hurt by the loss of the man, he began the challenging process of getting his crew and the 32 remaining survivors back to safety. With no compass for guidance, he radioed the shore for help. As Chatham Lifeboat Station and a Coast Guard cutter argued about the best course of action, Webber got fed up and shut off his radio.

He headed in a direction that he thought would let him beach the craft, allowing men to scramble ashore. As he moved forward though, he spotted a navigational buoy and alerted Chatham Station that he was coming up to the pier with his survivors.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Cape Cod Community College via U.S. Coast Guard

Other Coast Guardsmen and civilians from Chatham came out to meet the heroes and help the survivors. The next day, Coast Guard Rear Admiral H. G. Bradbury wrote a letter thanking the men for their heroism. Each member of the crew later received Gold Lifesaving Medals from the Treasury Department for their efforts.

(h/t to the U.S. Coast Guard for their articles “The Fort Mercer and Pendleton Rescues” and “The Pendleton Rescue,” which provided most of the information for this article. Click on the linked articles for even more information and additional photos from the rescues.)

Disney’s “The Finest Hours” hits theaters on Jan. 29.

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This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals

DARPA wants Navy SEALs to be more seal-like, so they invented PowerSwim.


“Technically it’s called an oscillating foil propulsion device,” DARPA program manager Jay Lowell says, in a video from DARPA TV. “That’s a really fancy way of saying it’s a wing that helps push a diver through the water.”

The typical swimmer fins are no more than 15 percent efficient in their conversion of human exertion. By contrast, PowerSwim helps divers swim 80 percent more efficient. This dramatic improvement in swimming efficiency will enable a subsurface swimmer to move up to two times faster than what’s currently possible, improving performance, safety, and range, according to DARPA.

Watch this video to see PowerSwim in action:

NOW: 19 photos of Navy SEALs doing what they do best

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2 obvious ways to revitalize America’s nuclear arsenal

Donald Trump broke major news on his Twitter account on Dec. 22, tweeting, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”


The tweet came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to strengthen the Russian nuclear arsenal. So, how can we revitalize the nuclear arsenal?

1. Modernize the Tech

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
A collection of floppy disks. Your parents and grandparents used these for your computers, but they also handle nuclear launch codes. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

As 60 Minutes reported in 2014, our land-based ICBMs still use 8-inch floppy disks for the computers that receive the president’s launch orders. In an era where a MicroSD card that can hold 128 gigabytes is available on Amazon.com for about $40, it seems like the computers could have been upgraded and made much more reliable a long time ago.

Related: The US nuclear launch code during the Cold War was weaker than your granny’s AOL password

Some systems have fared better than others. The B61 gravity bomb is slated for some modernization. So have the planes that deliver that bomb, like the B-2 Spirit. The B-1 and B-52 have received upgrades as well.

That said, those upgrades are mostly for delivering conventional weapons.

2. Develop New Delivery Systems

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jovan Banks

According to Designation-Systems.net, the LGM-30 Minuteman entered service in 1962. The AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile entered service in 1981. The BGM-109 Tomahawk was operational in 1983. The B-52H entered service in 1961, while the B-1B Lancer entered service in 1986.

The only strategic systems younger than music superstar Taylor Swift (born on Dec. 13, 1989) are the UGM-133 Trident II, which entered service in March, 1990, and the B-2 Spirit, which entered service in 1997.

At the end of the Cold War, some new systems were also chopped, notably the AGM-131 Short-Range Attack Missile II and the Midgetman small ICBM, while the LGM-118 Peacekeeper was negotiated away.

Newer means of delivering nukes might be a good idea, including versions of the AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon, or the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.

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The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

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


AIR FORCE

F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing in Tucson fly over an eastern Arizona training range. The 162nd Wing conducts international F-16 pilot training and manages a fleet of more than 70 F-16 C/D and Mid-Life Update Fighting Falcons

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/USAF

Combat controllers from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron fast-rope from a CV-22 Osprey during Emerald Warrior near Hurlburt Field, Fla.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder/USAF

C-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 317th Airlift Group, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, help U.S. Army and British paratroopers perform a static line jump at Holland Drop Zone in preparation for Combined Joint Operational Access Exercise 15-01 at Fort Bragg, N.C.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Staff Sgt. Sean Martin/USAF

NAVY

Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Marcus Jones, from Anderson, S.C., directs a helicopter during flight operations aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58).

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Desmond Parks/USN

A shooter launches an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the Thunderbolts of Marine Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 251 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Josh Petrosino/USN

ARMY

A crew chief watches another CH-47F Chinook helicopter from 1st Battalion, 52d Aviation Regiment fly along the crevasses of Kahiltna Glacier April 27, 2015, on the way to the 7,000-foot high base camp on Mount McKinley.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: John Pennell/US Army

Soldiers, rappel from a Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, during the air assault course at Fort Bliss, Texas, April 21, 2015. The training is one of the final tests for students enrolled in course.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Sgt. Alexander K. Neely/US Army

MARINE CORPS

Senior Airman Nicholas Oswald, a loadmaster, 374th Operations Support Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, sits with Philippine air force aircrew members during a night flight.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Staff Sgt. Nathan Allen/USMC

Marines and U.S. Navy Sailors with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and amphibious assault ship USS Wasp man the rails of the Wasp as it travels up the Mississippi River for Navy Week 2015 April 23, 2015. Marines and Sailors of the MEU, from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., participated in Navy Week New Orleans April 23-29.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Sgt. Austin Hazard/USMC

COAST GUARD

Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile, Alabama.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: USCG

As many Americans prepare for bed, Coast Guard men and women stand the watch.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: USCG

NOW: 13 lessons every new sailor learns the hard way

AND: 5 brilliant military hacks that are useless everywhere else

OR: Watch ‘Pearl Harbor’ in under 3 minutes:

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This simple exercise will help determine if you really want to be a sniper

Quora is the ultimate resource for crowdsourcing knowledge. If you’re unfamiliar, you ask the Quora world a question and anyone with expertise (and some without it) will respond. One user asked the world what service he should join if he wanted to be a sniper. One Marine veteran gave him some necessary information.

Choosing what branch to join can be tough for anyone. Different branches have different lifestyles, they come with different job opportunities, and they each have their own difficulties. If you’re 100-percent sure you want to be a sniper, that doesn’t narrow your selection. At all.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Yes, the Air Force has snipers.

To be fair, the asker asked, “Which branch is better?” Many users thoughtfully answered his question with answers ranging from the Coast Guard’s HITRON precision marksmen to arguing the finer points about why Army snipers are superior to SEALs and Marine Scout Snipers (go ahead and debate that amongst yourselves).


Many answering users wondered if the original asker really wanted to be a sniper. Some answers were condescending, some were went as far as accusing him of simply wanting to kill people (this is still the internet, after all). But one Marine veteran gave the young asker an exercise. One that would help him see if it was something he really wanted to do.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Gunny Hathcock approves.
(Hathcock Family photo)

That Marine was a trucker, an artilleryman, and a Desert Storm veteran. He “wasn’t a sniper, but I served with them, and listened in awe to how they train.” He then gave the asker a 15-step exercise to see if sniper training was something he really wanted to do:

  1. Wait until the middle of summer.
  2. Get a wool blanket and three quart-size ziplock bags.
  3. Fill the bags with small meals.
  4. Get two one-quart canteens and plenty of water purification tablets.
  5. Locate a swamp that is adjacent to a field of tall grass
  6. Before the sun comes up on day one, wrap yourself in the wool blanket.
  7. Crawl through the swamp, never raising any part of your body above the one-foot level.
  8. Lay all day in the field with the sun bearing down on you.
  9. Eat your food while never moving faster than a sloth.
  10. If you need water, crawl back to the swamp, fill the canteens, and use your water purification tablets to hopefully not get sick.
  11. Put any bodily waste in the zip-lock bags as you empty them of food. This includes any vomit if you didn’t decontaminate your water well enough.
  12. Bees, fire ants, and any predatory animals are not a reason to move faster than a sloth or move any part of your body above the one-foot level.
  13. Sleep there through the night.
  14. When the sun rises crawl back through the swamp.
  15. Just before you stand up and go home, ask yourself if you want to be a sniper.

Always remember: If you use the Quora world for advice, be sure to consider your source.

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One of the F-35’s most expensive features was made possible by flying saucers

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
An F-35B using its central lifting fan. Photo: Lockheed Martin


The US Air Force’s push to develop operational flying saucers 60 years ago laid the conceptual groundwork for one of the variants of Lockheed Martin’s F-35, MIT Technology Review reports.

The F-35 comes in three variants, with key mechanical differences for the Air Force, Marines, and Navy – the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C respectively.

Of the three models, the F-35B is the most technologically different.

Unlike the F-35A and F-35C, the Marines needed their variant to be capable of conducting short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) operations.

This request necessitated that the F-35B be given a lifting fan. And, as Desire Francine G. Fedrigo, Ricardo Gobato, Alekssander Gobato note in a paper at the Cornell University Library, the F-35B’s lifting fan has its conceptual roots in flying saucers.

Between 1954 and 1961, the US Air Force spent $10 million attempting to develop a flying saucer that became known as an Avrocar. The Avrocar was a vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) saucer that was powered by one giant central fan.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Despite its seven years of development, the Air Force failed to make the Avrocar into a mission capable vehicle that could potentially replace helicopters.

MIT Technology Review notes that the aircraft was “hot and almost unbearably uncomfortable for the pilot. And it demonstrated various idiosyncrasies such as taking five seconds to turn 90 degrees to the left but 11 seconds to turn the same amount to the right, presumably because of its central rotating fan.”

However, despite the Avrocars’ failings, the technology did point researchers towards the feasibility of developing and embedding a central lift fan turbine within an aircraft for variations of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: US Air Force

“The concept of a lift fan, driven by a turbojet engine is not dead, and lives today as a key component of Lockheed X-35 Joint Strike Fighter contender,” Fedrigo notes, adding that the conceptual framework of the Avrocar helped General Electric’s own development of a booster fan propulsion system.

Whereas the Avrocar’s development ultimately failed, though, GE’s “Vertifan” went on to prove the concept of successful lifting fan technology. This in turn lead to a DARPA sponsored development challenge that gave birth to lifting fans being used in the F-35B.

The F-35B was declared ready for combat by the Marine Corps on July 31.

More from Business Insider:

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

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What It’s Like Flying With The US Navy’s Elite Blue Angels

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
The author’s POV during the echelon pass portion of his flight with the Blue Angels. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


The Blue Angels’ high level of precision begins nearly 90 minutes before the six gleaming F/A-18 Hornets take to the skies, and when Blue Angel number one — the commanding officer — announces the start of the preflight brief, banter between the officers ceases and the team puts on the collective game face.

This week the Team is borrowing the hangar spaces of a fleet Hornet squadron that’s currently deployed, but the set-up of the ready room has been modified significantly from that normally seen in a fleet squadron. Instead of having a room full of the classic metal and faux leather chairs arranged theater-style facing a large dry-erase board at one end, the pilots are seated in high backed executive chairs around a large conference table.

The support staff – the supply officer, the maintenance officer, the flight surgeon, and the public affairs officer among others – line the walls (also seated in executive chairs) forming a ring around the core team of jet pilots – Blue Angels 1 through 6. The rest of the pilots scribe imaginary lines along a Google Earth print outs of the airfield and surrounding area while Blue Angel No. 1 – commonly called “The Boss” – goes through the sequence of events from marching to the jets through the four-plane diamond takeoff and into the first moves of the airborne routine.

Without warning the team suddenly pushes back from the conference table and lowers their chairs. Each pilot hunches over, gripping an imaginary stick with his right hand and throttle with his left. Their heads tilt in the same directions they’ll face while flying close formation during the flight. Their eyes narrow in what looks to be a Zen-like trance as the Boss goes through his radio cadence.

“Up . . . we . . . go,” the Boss chants. “A . . . little . . . more . . . pull. Easing . . . power.   Easing . . . more . . . power. A . . . little . . . pull. Rolling out.” The atmosphere is generally like that of a church congregation at prayer with the Boss playing the role of priest. Then suddenly the team comes out of the trance, pops up in their chairs, and moves back to the table.

After reviewing the next maneuvers in the show sequence, they push back once again and go back into the role playing – the Zen state – as the Boss again sings his radio commands. The brief ends with other members of the Team briefing items required by their secondary roles. The supply officer briefs the weather. The maintenance officer briefs the field conditions and which runway they’ll most likely use for takeoff. And just like a regular fleet squadron, the pilots review an “emergency procedure of the day” and any other safety of flight items that might be germane.

The main brief ends and the support staff along with the C-130 “Fat Albert” crew files out, but only after shaking each pilot’s hand. One can sense that these traditions aren’t arbitrary. They underwrite the intangibles that surround the Blue Angels’ mission, one that’s not reckless but inherently hazardous nonetheless.

After a short van ride from the hangar to the flight line, the Blue Angels march over to man up, peeling off in front of their respective jets in a 90-degree pivot at each Hornet’s nose. Each gets in without a lot of fanfare. The pilots apply electrical power to their jets, and after a quick radio check the canopies come down. They taxi to the duty runway in numerical order, waving and giving the thumbs up to the enthusiastic crowd as they pass.

Soon they’re in position for takeoff. The Boss calls over the radio: “Let’s run ’em up . . . smoke, on . . . off brakes now . . . burners ready now . . .” and 1 through 4 are on their way down the runway. They’re barely off the ground when No. 4 slides from the right wing into the slot as the four airplanes simultaneously raise their landing gear.

Then it’s “up . . . we . . . go” into the vertical for the first part of what they call the “Diamond Half Squirrel Cage” which is basically a four-plane Half Cuban Eight. The weather is beautiful so the team does the “high” version of the show, which allows them to perform all of their vertical moves in their entirety.

The Squirrel Cage is followed by a few other diamond moves: the 360, the roll, the aileron roll, and the dirty (gear down) loop. Then it’s time for some upside down action, what they call the “Double Farvel” – a level pass down the show line with Blue Angels No. 1 and 4 inverted the whole time. The Boss transmits “hit it!” and No. 4 mirrors him in putting the Hornet on its back.

From there the four-plane does some echelon moves – a parade pass followed by a roll. Then Blue Angel No. 5 joins the formation for a line-abreast loop. To this point there has been some G on the airplanes but nothing very taxing. That is about to change with what they call the “break out” maneuvers.

The Low Break Cross, the Fleur De Lis, and the Loop Break Cross all involve the diamond separating, crossing along various axes, and then quickly rendezvousing back into the diamond. The beginning and end of those moves means lots of G. Fighting off the G forces is a lot of work, like the most intense ab workout you can imagine while a giant sits on you.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
The author with iPhone at the ready in the rear cockpit of Blue Angel No. 4 during the Diamond Pass. (Photo: David F. Brown)

And G forces are something the Blue Angels train to very seriously. In the spring of 2007 Lieutenant Commander Kevin Davis, then Blue Angel No. 6, was killed after he put himself out while attempting a high G rendezvous towards the end of a show over MCAS Beaufort, SC. He was unable to recover the jet before hitting the tree line.

Now the Blue Angel pilots go through centrifuge training on an annual basis to ensure their anti-G techniques are sound and their G tolerance is the best it can be. The Loop Break Cross is followed by a couple other high G maneuvers – the Delta Break Out, and the Delta Pitch Up Break.

After that the jets land in order. The precision continues as the jets park. The Hornets shut down and open their canopies simultaneously. The crowd cheers as the Blue Angels dismount their fighters and march back to where they started about 45 minutes earlier.

They finish with handshakes all ’round. Another successful show in the books.

After some photos in front of one of the jets with fans, the Blue Angels are back in the ready room for the debrief. The flight may be over, but the Blue Angels aren’t done working.

The pilots hold a kangaroo court of sorts, calling themselves on their transgressions during the event, starting with the Boss. The tone is at once serious and lighthearted. A video review follows, starting with the pilots marching to their jets. They freeze the playback, critiquing minor synchronization flaws as the team went from parade rest to attention or saluted a plane captain as they passed each jet.

The attention to detail grows as the playback rolls to the airborne portion of the show. They run the tape back and forth like a football coach working the clicker. Most of the dings involve discrepancies that are invisible to the untrained (read “average air show attendee”) eye – a hair early on a roll or barely off on a crossing move. The focus is amazing considering these guys have been flying the exact same show for nine months, literally hundreds of times, but they still seem to share a concern that it isn’t quite right.

The conduct of the debrief is the answer – beyond what it takes to fly the jet – to why it’s so hard to be a Blue Angel. Anyone who’s spent time in the carrier aviation world probably knows someone who’s rushed the Blues – someone who seemed perfect for the Team in terms of stick and rudder skills, demeanor, and personal appearance – but who ultimately didn’t get the nod. But watching these guys interact is a study in zero ego in spite of pointed criticism, even that that could have been interpreted as a less-than-totally-positive view of piloting ability. They are earnest to a man. They all want to get better, and they see the next show as an opportunity to do just that.

And maybe that’s the lesson of the Blue Angels: It’s not enough to get it right most of the time; it needs to be all the time.

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Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

With the rhetoric about global trade deficits heating up on the campaign trail, it might appropriate to momentarily shift our focus away from the asymmetric threats of the Taliban and ISIS and look at the world of conventional warfare. Here’s how the world’s three most powerful militaries stack up in 4 major categories:


1. Stealth fighters

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane

While America holds the current stealth jet lead with the only fielded fifth-generation fighter, Russia and China are both gunning for it. There are only 187 F-22s, and the F-35 that is supposed to be joining them is running into all sorts of problems in the test phase, including the hi-tech helmet that is supposed to put all kinds of info in the pilot’s visor that doesn’t work right yet.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Xinhuanet

Meanwhile, China is developing four stealth fighters. The J-31 debuted in air shows in 2014 and is the most advanced current threat, and the J-20, which may have just entered full-scale production, is probably a match for the F-35 if not the F-22. The two newest designs, the J-23 and J-25, are mostly rumors and Chinese propaganda right now.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Rulexip CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing only one stealth fighter but it has capabilities that some put on par with the F-22. The T-50 will likely enter service in late 2016 or early 2017. Also known as the PAK FA, it’s less stealthy than the Raptor but more maneuverable. The F-22 would likely get a jump on the Russians in a war, but would be in serious trouble if it was spotted first.

Likely winner: As long as the other planes are still more hypothetical than real, the F-22 remains the clear victor. Still, Raptor drivers can’t rest easy knowing that multiple aircraft are being developed with the primary mission of bringing them down, and those planes are being developed with engineers who have the F-22’s schematics.

2. Tanks

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy J. Fowler

The U.S. Army fielded the first M-1 Abrams in 1980. But the tank has undergone so many upgrades, including those to the armor, drivetrain, and weapons systems, that everything but the shell is new. It has a 120mm main gun, great electronics, remote-operated weapon stations, and an armor configuration that incorporates uranium, kevlar, reactive, and Chobham armor layers.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing the prototype T-14 on the Armata platform, but right now it relies on the T-90A, which is still an awesome tank. One even survived a direct hit from a TOW missile in Syria. Originally fielded in 2004, the T-90A features an autoloader, reactive armor, a remotely-operated machine gun, and a 125mm cannon. The crew can fire anti-tank guided missiles from the main gun.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Max Smith Public Domain

Like Russia, China fields a few varieties of tanks and has new ones in development. It’s go-to for tank-on-tank engagements is the Type 99. It features a 125mm smoothbore gun with auto-loader that can also fire missiles. The tank has been upgraded with reactive armor and is thought to be nearly as survivable in combat as Western or Russian tanks.

Likely winner: Strictly looking at the gear in a one-on-one fight, it’s a draw. But America has more top-tier tanks and a better history of training crews, plus (Ukraine notwithstanding) U.S. forces have more recent combat experience than their rivals.

3. Surface ships

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

With the largest Navy in the world, America has any surface fight in the bag if it happens in the middle of the ocean. The crown jewels are the Navy’s 10 full-sized aircraft carriers and 9 landing helicopter docks. But the Navy’s technological advantages and sheer size might not be enough to overcome China’s missiles or Russia’s diesel subs if it had to fight in enemy waters.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Public Domain George Chernilevsky

Russia still struggles with force projection, but the launch of Kalibr cruise missiles at ground targets in Syria proved that Russia has found a way to give even their small ships some serious bite. An anti-ship version of the missile is thought to be just as capable and, if fired in a large enough salvo, may be able to overcome U.S. ship defenses like the Phalanx. Russia also fields the Club-K missile system, a land-attack and anti-ship cruise missile system that can be hidden in shipping containers.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
A Chinese destroyer pulls into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 2006. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales

China is pushing for a maritime revolution in both its Coast Guard and the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Coast Guard is used to establish sovereignty in contested waters and is getting the world’s largest and most heavily armed Coast Guard ships. The Navy features hundreds of surface ships with advanced missiles and other weapons in addition to great sensors.

Likely winner: The U.S. Navy is still the undisputed champ across the world but it would take heavy losses if it fought China or Russia at home. A full-scale invasion might even fail if planners aren’t careful.

4. Submarines

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian G. Reynolds

The U.S. Navy has a staggering 14 ballistic missile submarines with a combined 280 nuclear missiles that can each wipe out an enemy city, four guided missile submarines with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, and 54 nuclear attack submarines. They’re technologically advanced, heavily armed, and stealthy.

Russia has only 60 submarines but those are very capable. Russia’s nuclear subs are at or near par with their Western counterparts for stealth while their diesel boats are some of the quietest in the world. Russia is also working on new submarine weapons including a 100-megaton, city-killing nuclear torpedo. To top it all off, their crews were already good but are getting better.

China has only five nuclear attack submarines, 53 diesel attack submarines, and four nuclear ballistic missile submarines, but they’re working on more. China’s subs are easy to track, but the U.S. and its Pacific allies are deploying sophisticated listening devices to keep track of them anyway.

Likely winner: The U.S. submarine fleet wins for both power projection onto land and sub-on-sub combat, but the gap is narrowing. Chinese and Russian innovations and the rapid construction in new shipyards will make the ocean a more dangerous place for American submariners.

Bottom line: ‘Merica!

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That time cadets at West Point rioted over Egg Nog

From the beginning, heavy drinking was fairly commonplace among the cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point (founded in 1802). In an attempt to stem this in 1826, the academy’s strict superintendent and the “Father of West Point,” General Sylvanus Thayer, began a crackdown by prohibiting alcohol on campus. As Christmas approached and the cadets realized that the prohibition would put a damper on their traditional Christmas Eve festivities that included consumption of a fair amount of eggnog, a bold few began to plan away around the problem.


This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: Flickr/Erin Stevenson O’Connor

Back then, eggnog was always an alcoholic beverage (see: What is Eggnog Made Of and Who Invented It?), often made with rum or whiskey. Luckily for the cadets, both liquors were plentiful near campus, being served by three taverns within easy travelling distance: Benny Haven, North’s Tavern and Martin’s Tavern, just across the Hudson River.

Determined to make their season bright, a small cadre of cadets set out to smuggle some liquor into the North Barracks and chose Martin’s Tavern across the river as their supplier. A few nights before Christmas, three cadets crossed the Hudson, drank a bit at the bar, then purchased three to four gallons of whiskey to go. They then ferried the contraband back across the river. Met at the dock by a guard, they reportedly bribed him with $0.35  ($7 today) to look the other way while they unloaded the loot and snuck it into their rooms where it lay hidden until Christmas Eve.

On the fateful night, the superintendent assigned only two officers to monitor the North Barracks: Lieutenant William A. Thorton and Captain Ethan Allen Hitchcock. Things were quiet at first, and Hitchcock and Thorton went to bed about midnight. At about 4 a.m., however, Hitchcock was awakened by noise coming from one of the cadets’ floors above him. Upon investigation, he discovered a small group of obviously drunk cadets and ordered them to return to their rooms.

No sooner had he dispersed that group than Hitchcock realized there was another party in an adjoining room. Crashing that one as well, Hitchcock found these cadets so inebriated that he later reported they attempting to hide under blankets, and one even thought he could avoid detection by stubbornly keeping his face behind his hat. Unlike the first party, however, things got heated in the second room, and after Hitchcock left, the drunk-mad cadets decided to arm themselves with their bayonets, pistols and dirks to attack, and perhaps even kill, Hitchcock.

Thus began the Eggnog Riot. While the drunken cadets were gathering their weaponry, it sounded to Thorton and Hitchcock a few floors below as if the parties had simply resumed. Returning to the cadets’ floors, Hitchcock met Jefferson Davis (yes, that Jefferson Davis), then a cadet who was also drunk. Vainly trying to help his friends, Davis burst into the party-room just ahead of Hitchcock shouting: “Put away the grog boys! Captain Hitchcock’s coming!” Hitchcock soon joined them and ordered Davis to his room, which likely saved him from later expulsion, since he missed out on the remainder of the riot. Had he been expelled, of course, his future in the military and politics, culminating in becoming the President of the Confederacy, likely wouldn’t have ever happened. (See: What Ever Happened to Confederate President Jefferson Davis?)

Other cadets who had already made preparations to attack began assaulting Hitchcock and now Thorton, who had joined the fray. Thorton was threatened with a sword and knocked down with a piece of wood, while another cadet actually shot at Hitchcock.

Realizing things were spiraling out of control, Hitchcock ordered a cadet sentinel (who apparently had not been invited to the party) to get “the ‘com,” meaning the Commandant of Cadets; however, in their drunken state the rioting cadets thought he had summoned regular army men from a nearby barracks to attack them. Seeking to defend the honor of the North Barracks, even more cadets armed themselves (in total including about one-third of all cadets at the academy), and, as is standard operating procedure in any proper riot, the mob began arbitrarily breaking anything in sight, including windows, furniture and other items.

Eventually, the ‘Com came, and since the cadets truly respected his authority, they finally regained a semblance of composure, and the so-called Eggnog Riot ended sometime Christmas day.

Over the next week, Inspector of the Academy and Chief Engineer of the Army, Major General Alexander Macomb, entered Orders No. 49 and 98, the latter of which placed 22 cadets under house arrest, and the former began a court of inquiry.

The investigation revealed that the riot caused $168.83 in damage (around $3,500 today), and identified 19 ringleaders who were subsequently court-martialed between January 26 and March 8, 1827. Cadets Aisquith, Berrien, Bomford, Burnley, Farrelly, Fitzgerald, Gard, Guion, Humphreys, Johnson, Lewis, Mercer, Murdock, Norvelle, Roberts, Screven, Stocker, Swords, and Thompson stood trial, and other cadets, including both Jefferson Davis (who was among the 22 originally under house arrest, but otherwise went unpunished) and Robert E. Lee testified for the defenses. Eleven of the group (Berrien, Bomford, Burnley, Farrelly, Fitzgerald, Guion, Humphreys, Johnson, Lewis, Roberts and Stocker) were dismissed, and the remainder were allowed to stay, although Gard, Murdock and Norvelle chose to leave the academy anyway.

As a result of the riot, in the 1840s when new barracks were constructed, they were designed so that the cadets had to actually go outside to move between floors in an attempt to prevent another mob uprising.

Bonus Eggnog:

Here’s George Washington’s (yes, that George Washington) eggnog recipe (not verbatim):

Mix together well:

1 pint brandy

1 cup rye whiskey

1 cup rum

½ cup sherry

Separately, separate the yolks and whites of one dozen eggs. Then beat with the yolks:

¾ cup sugar

Add the liquor into the sugar-egg mixture, slowly at first, beating constantly so it fully incorporates.

Then add, again beating together slowly:

1 quart cream

1 quart milk

Separately, beat the whites stiff and gently fold those into the mixture. When incorporated, let it set in a cool place for several days, and as George said, “taste frequently.”

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5 things you learned about America while being deployed overseas

Being deployed overseas means time away from family, friends and embarking on a life-changing journey that will probably change the way you think forever.


You may not see it at first, but the longer you’re away, you’ll start to form your own opinions about the world around you — especially the home you left.

Related: 7 ways to surprise your spouses when they return from deployment

So check out what we learned about America from our time deployed overseas.

1. There’s no place like America

After the first few months, your fighting spirit usually tends to die out, then you really do begin to believe those classic words Dorothy from Kansas once spoke. This motivation is usually what gets you through the rest of the deployment.

She ain’t lying. (Images via Giphy)America and its people are certainly flawed, but we love them anyway.

2. Bigger problems

Stateside you have all types of bills, some family drama and if you’re living in the barracks, room inspections.

Now that you’re deployed half way around the world, those issues still exist, but you put them on the back burner. Although combat stress can get pretty jarring, many prefer that headache over fighting heavy traffic.

Let’s face it, blowing sh*t up is a great stress reliever. (images via Giphy)Punching out a bad driver is illegal. Blowing up an ISIS village is totally legal.

3. Americans are true supporters

Mail call doesn’t come around too often, but when it does, it’s like Christmas no matter the time of year. Many don’t have families back home to support them while they’re off fighting the bad guys. So Americans from across the U.S. often come together and pack up goodies and send them off to deployed service members around the world.

YES! New socks and fresh baby wipes! (Image via Giphy)It’s an amazing feeling to get a package from someone you don’t know.

4. How good American air smells

Being stationed on a small patrol base, you incinerate all the trash you accumulate in a burn pit not far away from where you eat, sleep and stand post. The smell can be pretty nasty.

Come home after a year-long deployment and smell that good old fashion America breeze.

Yes, it is. (Images via Giphy)God bless America and its plumbing system.

Also Read: 4 insane things service members can do to stay awake

5. How little stuff we need to survive

As Americans, we buy a lot of crap we don’t need but convince ourselves we do. Live for months on an aircraft carrier or on a patrol base and you’ll have maybe 10 square feet of personal storage — you’ll still get by just fine with a whole lot less stuff.

 

That is all. (Images via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

In December 2003, Michael Trotter, Jr. was a soldier stationed in Baghdad, Iraq. His unit was camped out in one of Saddam Hussein’s bombed-out palaces when his commanding officer discovered a piano and suggested Trotter, who enjoyed singing, check it out.


“You had to crawl over soot and rut and rock and rubble from the war to get to this piano; it was like one of those dramatic movie scenes,” Trotter told Real Clear Life.

It’s common for troops to play the easier-to-transport guitar while deployed, but not many get the chance to tickle the ivory. Trotter didn’t know how to play piano, but he began to teach himself. Music became an outlet and an escape from the stress of combat.

When his friend, Army Captain Robert C. Scheetz, Jr., was killed by an IED, Trotter wrote a song called “Dear Martha,” which he then performed at Scheetz’s memorial service. Trotter would go on to sing at many more memorials, providing solace for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Dear Martha” is about the letters written between loved ones divided by war. Trotter recorded the song with his wife, Tanya Blount, as part of their musical duo, The War and Treaty, which explores the concept of creating music out of darkness and despair to find peace, tranquility, and a higher purpose.

While this video doesn’t include any visuals, you can hear their tranquil notes and haunting harmonies by clicking play below — and you really, really should:

(The War and Treaty | YouTube)