Here’s a short list of things we already knew about Kaj Larsen:
1. He’s a former U.S. Navy SEAL
2. He’s an Emmy-nominated producer and war correspondent for VICE and he has a masters from Harvard University.
3. He’s a total hottie a founder of The Mission Continues, an organization that empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact.
But you might not know that he has rather eclectic taste in music and even learned to play while deployed.
“We’d sit around as a platoon. A couple of us played guitar, and we’d play and sing and that was extraordinarily significant for me on that first deployment. It helped carry us through.”
In a conversation with We Are The Mighty, Larsen shares the songs that meant something to him at different moments during his military career — whether it was the shotgun rack in M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” hitting home before a mission, or the patriotism of Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” during a controversial time in American history.
Larsen easily carries the gravitas of a combat-experienced SEAL, but he isn’t concerned about being vulnerable. He can laugh about being afraid of his jump training and how R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” helped get him out the door.
That’s the thing about music — in many ways, it becomes the soundtrack to our lives , and Larsen’s has been a rather inspiring one.
Check out what he had to say about music and his SEAL career in this video:
On January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden will be sworn in as America’s 46th president. This year will look very different due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Prior to the 20th amendment, Inauguration Day was always March 4, the anniversary of the Constitution taking effect. January 20 has been “the day” since 1933, unless it falls on a Sunday. This and some of the more modern traditions are the only things that will still be the same. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has continued to ravage the globe and our country. With this in mind, the majority of the inaugural events will be virtual. The Presidential Inauguration Committee has created some special events leading up to the big day. Here’s a partial list of televised events (all times listed are in eastern time).
Saturday, January 16 at 7pm there will be a virtual welcome event, American United: An Inauguration Welcome Event Celebrating America’s Changemakers, featuring musical guests and speakers to kick off the festivities. The focus will be on the country’s unsung heroes and the impacts they have made with their work. Sunday, January 17 at 8pm, the inaugural committee will have a concert titled, We the People.
Monday, January 18 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The soon-to-be president has dedicated the day to service. To honor the spirit of King, it has been designated as the National Day of Service. The call to action is for Americans all over the country to engage in a day of volunteerism within their own communities and the event has been titled United We Serve. That evening at 8pm eastern, there will be a virtual event with entertainers and speakers who will celebrate the legacy of King.
Tuesday, January 19, will be a somber day; the day is dedicated to American lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee is inviting cities and communities across the country to join in on a moment of unity and remembrance at 5:30pm, by lighting their buildings and ringing their church bells. In Washington, D.C., there will be a lighting ceremony around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
As in years past, Biden will be sworn in on the west side of the U.S. Capitol alongside his soon to be Vice President, Kamala Harris. The attendance at the event will be minimal, with only congressional members present in accordance with safety protocols. But all across the National Mall there will be 200,000 American flags waving in the wind, in the place of Americans who would normally be there to witness the momentous event.
Following the swearing in ceremony, the new president will make his address to the nation. The last part of this event will include the pass in review, a longstanding military tradition to reflect on the peaceful transfer of power. After that, the newly sworn in president and vice president will head to Arlington National Cemetery with their spouses to lay a wreath on the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. They will be joined by President Barack Obama, President George W Bush, President Bill Clinton and their spouses.
Instead of the traditional parade to the White House that Americans are used to, the new president and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will receive a presidential escort to the White House by representatives from every military branch. There will then be a full televised virtual parade, showcasing communities and citizens from all over the country. At 8:30pm, Tom Hanks will host Celebrating America, a prime-time television event in lieu of the traditional inaugural balls. President Biden and Vice President will offer remarks as well as a host of other speakers that represent the diversity of America. After that, President Biden and Vice President Harris will go to work.
Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay is part of the U.S. military’s Special and Incentive pay system and is intended to help the services address their manning needs by motivating service members to volunteer for specific jobs that generally otherwise pay them more in the civilian sector.
Each hazardous duty incentive pay amount is in addition to base pay and other entitlements.
Title 37 U.S. Code, chapter 5, subchapter 1, outlines several types of S&I pay, and sections 301a and 310 specifically address Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay and Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger pay, respectively.
HDIP is payable to both enlisted and officers of all the service branches unless specified.
Section 301 (a) addresses the following S&I:
1. Flying Duty (crew members)
Who: Flight crew who are not aviators and regularly fly.
How much: $110 – $250 per month, determined by rank
2. Flying Duty (non crew members)
Who: Anyone on flying duty who isn’t crew, but still performs duties related to flight.
How much: $150 per month
3. Parachute Duty
Who: The crazies who jump out of perfectly good planes.
How much: $150 per month, except for High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jumps at $225 per month
Who: Navy personnel who are part of a team that conducts VBSS in support of Maritime Interdiction Operations — basically modern-day American pirates on the good guys team.
How much: $150 per month. Commence to booty jokes.
Section 310 Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay
Who: Those who are subject to hostile fire, explosions of hostile mines; on duty at/ deployed to areas where their status as a service member could put them at risk of threats of physical harm as a result of civil unrest, civil war, terrorism, or wartime conditions
Larry Thorne enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private in 1954, but he was already a war hero. That’s because his real name was Lauri Törni, and he had been fighting the Soviets for much of his adult life.
Born in Finland in 1919, Törni enlisted at age 19 in his country’s army and fought against the Soviet Union in the Winter War of 1939-40, according to Helsingin Sanomat. He quickly rose to the rank of captain and took command of a group of ski troops, who quite literally, skied into battle against enemy forces.
In 1942, he was severely wounded after he skied into a mine, but that didn’t slow him down. In 1944 during what the Finns called The Continuation War, he received Finland’s version of the Medal of Honor — the Mannerheim Cross — for his bravery while leading a light infantry battalion.
Unfortunately for Törni, Finland signed a ceasefire and ceded some territory to the Soviets in 1944 to end hostilities. But instead of surrendering, he joined up with the German SS so he could continue fighting. He received additional training in Nazi Germany and then looked forward to kicking some Commie butt once more.
But then Germany fell too, and the Finn-turned-Waffen SS officer was arrested by the British, according to War History Online. Not that being put into a prison camp would stop him either.
“In the last stages of the war he surrendered to the British and eventually returned to Finland after escaping a British POW camp,” reads the account at War History Online. “When he returned, he was then arrested by the Finns, even though he had received their Medal of Honor, and was sentenced to 6 years in prison for treason.”
He ended up serving only half his sentence before he was pardoned by the President of Finland in 1948.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Getting to America
Törni’s path to the U.S. Army was paved by crucial legislation from Congress along with the creation of a new military unit: Special Forces.
In June 1950, the Lodge-Philbin Act passed, which allowed foreigners to join the U.S. military and allowed them citizenship if they served honorably for at least five years. Just two years later, the Army would stand up its new Special Forces unit at Fort Bragg, N.C.
More than 200 eastern Europeans joined Army Special Forces before the Act expired in 1959, according to Max Boot. One of those enlistees was Törni, who enlisted in 1954 under the name Larry Thorne.
“The Soviets wanted to get their hands on Thorne and forced the Finnish government to arrest him as a wartime German collaborator. They planned to take him to Moscow to be tried for war crimes,” reads the account at ArlingtonCemetery.net. “Thorne had other plans. He escaped, made his way to the United States, and with the help of Wild Bill Donovan became a citizen. The wartime head of the OSS knew of Thorne’s commando exploits.”
A Special Forces legend
Thorne quickly distinguished himself among his peers of Green Berets. Though he enlisted as a private, his wartime skill-set led him to become an instructor at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg teaching everything from survival to guerrilla tactics. In 1957, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and would rise to the rank of captain just as war was on the horizon in Vietnam.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
But first, he would take part in a daring rescue mission inside of Iran. In 1962, then-Capt. Thorne led an important mission to recover classified materials from a U.S. Air Force plane that crashed on a mountaintop on the Iran-Turkish-Soviet border, according to Helsingin Sanomat. Though three earlier attempts to secure the materials had failed, Thorne’s team was successful.
Thorne quickly made it into the U.S. Special Forces and in 1962, as a Captain, he led his detachment onto the highest mountain in Iran to recover the bodies and classified material from an American C-130 airplane that had crashed. It was a mission in which others had failed, but Thorne’s unrelenting spirit led to its accomplishment. This mission initially formed his status as a U.S. Special Forces legend, but it was his deep strategic reconnaissance and interdiction exploits with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, also known as MACV-SOG, that solidified his legendary status.
In Vietnam, he earned the Bronze Star medal for heroism, along with five Purple Hearts for combat wounds, War History Online writes. According to Helsingin Sanomat, his wounds allowed him to return to the rear away from combat, but he refused and instead requested command of a special operations base instead.
On Oct. 18, 1965, Thorne led the first MACV-SOG cross-border mission into Laos to interdict North Vietnamese movement down the Ho Chi Minh trail. Using South Vietnamese Air Force helicopters, his team was successfully inserted into a clearing inside Laos while Thorne remained in a chase helicopter to direct support as needed. Once the team gave word they had made it in, he responded that he was heading back to base.
Roughly five minutes later while flying in poor visibility and bad weather, the helicopter crashed. The Army first listed him as missing in action, then later declared he was killed in action — in South Vietnam. The wreckage of the aircraft was found prior to the end of the war and the remains of the South Vietnamese air crew were recovered, but Thorne was never found.
Thorne’s exploits in combat made him seem invincible among his Special Forces brothers, and with his body never recovered, many believed he had survived the crash and continued to live in hiding or had been taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese, according to POW Network.
“Many believed he was exactly the sort of near-indestructible soldier who would have simply walked back out of the jungle, and they found it hard to believe he had been killed,” writes Helsingin Sanomat.
In 1999, the mystery was finally put to rest. The remains of the legendary Special Forces soldier were recovered from the crash site. DNA confirmed the identities of the air crew, while dental records proved Törni had died on that fateful night in 1965, reported Helsingin Sanomat.
“He was a complex yet driven man who valorously fought oppression under three flags and didn’t acknowledge the meaning of quit,” U.S. Army Special Forces Col. Sean Swindell said during a ceremony in 2010.
As of 2015 the Berlin Wall has been down almost as long as it stood separating the German people. The wall built by the Communist German Democratic Republic (GDR – better known as East Germany) around the Western sectors of Berlin became a longstanding symbol of the divide between Western Capitalism and Eastern Communism during the Cold War. In the 28 years it stood, no place on Earth was so central to world events as Berlin and the reason for that is the Berlin Wall. Twenty-six years after its fall, it’s worth a look to see the how Cold War history played out surrounding such a central, divisive symbol.
After World War II, West Germany was occupied by France, England, and the United States, East Germany was occupied by the Soviet Union. Berlin, despite being deep in Soviet-occupied territory, was also partitioned in a similar way. After the Berlin Airlift ended a Soviet blockade — really an attempt to push the West out of Berlin through economic strangulation — fears of further drifts toward a full Communist state in the East prompted many to emigrate to West Germany in exponential numbers. These were mostly young, well-educated Germans whose flight became known as a “Brain Drain” of East German intelligentsia and workers. Only 61% of the East’s working age population remained. Something had to be done and what better way to make people want to stay in your country than by walling them in and threatening them with constant torture and execution?
The borders around West Berlin were closed on August 13, 1961 as the Soviets tore up the streets, erected fences, and placed barbed wire. Families were suddenly split, jobs were lost and the United States had no official response. The U.S. didn’t actually think there was valid reason for its permanent erection. Then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk said, “The Wall certainly ought not to be a permanent feature of the European landscape. I see no reason why the Soviet Union should think it is—it is to their advantage in any way to leave there that monument to Communist failure.”
Erected in 1961, it was called the “Anti-Fascist Protective Wall” by the GDR, who placed rows of barbed wire a guard towers along the wall. It would soon become a symbol for the corruption and lack of freedom for those living in the Soviet Union-dominated Eastern Bloc, as the world recognized it as a true “Iron Curtain,” a means to keep East Germans from getting to West German freedom, instead of keeping West Germans out of the East Germany. It would be upgraded three times after its construction.
President Kennedy denounced its construction and appointed retired Army General Lucius D. Clay as Ambassador. Clay was the mastermind of the Berlin Airlift, former military governor of American-controlled Germany, nicknamed “the Kaiser” and was wildly popular with Berliners. Following Kennedy’s order to reinforce the Allied defenders of West Berlin, Clay ordered 1,500 men with vehicles and trailers from West Germany, through East Germany to West Berlin, where they were met by Clay and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson as a show of strength and a reassertion of the Allies’ access to Berlin.
In June, 1963, President Kennedy visited the Berlin for the first time with General Clay to reaffirm the U.S. dedication of support for West Germany and to remind the Soviet Union of that support.
Hundreds of East German died trying to get to freedom on the other side of the wall, thousands were successful in defecting across the wall. They would dig tunnels below the wall, flying hot air balloons, through the sewers, or just driving cars at max speed through weaker sections. One East German guard even drove his tank through the wall to defect. Western guards were not able to help defectors until they were on the Western side of the wall.
In 1988, the year before the Berlin Wall fell, Bruce Springsteen played the Berlin Wall in a concert organized by East German Communist authorities in an attempt to pacify East German youth. Communist authorities saw rock music as a “nefarious cultural weapon” (and for much of the music of the 1980’s, that assertion isn’t far off), so the concert was a surprising shockk to much of the world, most of all East Germans. Springsteen didn’t miss the importance of the event. After playing Born in the U.S.A. in front of 300,000 East Germans, he delivered a short speech in German:
“I’m not here for any government,” he began. “I’ve come to play rock and roll for you in the hope that one day, all the barriers will be torn down.”
The crowd went wild. Sixteen months later, on November 9, 1989, the government of the German Democratic Republic, better known as East Germany, announced Germans living in the East would then be free to visit West Germany and West Berlin. That day, East and West Germans crowded the Berlin Wall, and systematically chipped away and demolished it.
Stranded on a beach; 400,000 lightly armed soldiers; fully-loaded enemy fighter planes bearing down on you — there’s a word for that: Dunkirk.
It’s a moment in history that gives every veteran that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach, a sense of utter helplessness staring straight at death spitting from the wings of an enemy attacker with no way to fight back.
But the story of Dunkirk is much more than that, and the latest trailer released by Hollywood moviemakers who tell the story of that fateful episode demonstrates that hope, courage and tenacity played as much a role in that historic moment as fate.
In this modern adaptation, Christopher Nolan has now applied his moody and precise visual style on World War II. The “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” director tells the story of the “Miracle at Dunkirk,” a large-scale evacuation that saved around 338,000 Allied troops.
“Dunkirk” features frequent Nolan collaborator and “Mad Max: Fury Road” star Tom Hardy, Academy Award winner and “Bridge of Spies” star Mark Rylance, and Shakespeare master and robot-spider enthusiast Kenneth Branagh.
“Dunkirk” opens July 21, 2017. Watch the trailer below.
According to popular legend, in 1859, “the quatrefoil” design was added and stitched onto the top of Marine officer’s cover to help identify them from the rest of the personnel.
The quatrefoil — adapted from the French — is a cross-shaped braid with many different symbolic interpretations. Some think of it as representing the four cardinal directions, while in architecture it is an icon of design (and it’s fancy).
Whether it kept them entertained in the barracks or inspired them to enlist, there are certain films that every Marine knows and loves.
Just about every Marine can quote Gunnery Sgt. Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket.” The same can be said of the intense courtroom scene in “A Few Good Men” that has Col. Jessup proclaiming, “You can’t handle the truth!”
Super quotable lines, great stories, or intense combat scenes are just some of the reasons why we picked the following nine films as “must-watch” for Marines. But whether you are in the Corps or a civilian, these movies shed some light on the U.S. military’s smallest service.
Plot: Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming.
Reason to watch: While most military movies focus on battle scenes, “Taking Chance” focuses on the part often overlooked: What happens when troops lose their lives in combat. As people in the military know, the belongings are packed and shipped, the body is taken to Dover, and an escort brings them to their final resting place. Actor Kevin Bacon does a superb job of depicting the real-life story of one such escort duty, for Pfc. Chance Phelps.
Plot: Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford’s best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and about his experiences fighting in Kuwait.
Reason to watch: While the main character is a less-than-stellar Marine who often gets in trouble, this film shines in realistically depicting infantry life. The camaraderie, the dumb games, and the sheer boredom grunts experience when they are in a combat zone but not seeing combat is what makes this worth watching.
Plot: A dramatization of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.
Reason to watch: It has John Wayne. Really, that should be enough. But seriously, it’s a classic war film that shows Marines battling it out on Tarawa and Iwo Jima — site of the famous flag raising in 1945 — which also includes cameos by the three Marines who raised the flag over the island that was captured in the iconic Joe Rosenthal photo.
Plot: A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the U.S.-Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.
Reason to watch: “Full Metal Jacket” is really two films in one, with act one depicting a realistic look at Vietnam-era boot camp, and act two showing life for Marines in the battle of Hue City. The performance Marines love — and can perfectly quote — comes from R. Lee Ermey, who plays Drill Instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, a seemingly never ending source of great zingers.
Plot: The life stories of the six men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima, a turning point in WWII.
Reason to watch: While most people have seen the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima, many don’t know the flag raising happened just days into the battle, when it was not yet clear when the Japanese would be defeated. Three of the six flag raisers would be killed later in the battle, while the remaining three would be brought back to the U.S. to help raise war bonds. This film, directed by Clint Eastwood, tells that story. (You should also check out Eastwood’s telling of the Japanese side, in “Letters from Iwo Jima”).
Plot: A hard-nosed, hard-living Marine gunnery sergeant clashes with his superiors and his ex-wife as he takes command of a spoiled recon platoon with a bad attitude.
Reason to watch: In the main character of Gunny Highway, Marines will see the one staple of just about every unit: The crusty old-timer who doesn’t take any crap from anyone. Clint Eastwood plays Highway, delivering such classic lines as “Be advised. I’m mean, nasty and tired. I eat concertina wire and piss napalm and I can put a round in a flea’s ass at 200 meters,” and “if I were half as ugly as you, Sergeant Major, I’d be a poster boy for a prophylactic.”
Plot: An attorney defends an officer on trial for ordering his troops to fire on civilians after they stormed a U.S. embassy in a third world country.
Reason to watch: Starting in Vietnam with two Marine lieutenants — played by Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson — a firefight sets them on separate career paths that ultimately see them coming back together after an embassy evacuation in Yemen goes terribly wrong. Col. Childers (played by Jackson) gives the order to fire into the crowd — which he says is armed — and he’s later charged with murder. Besides the intense courtroom drama, the movie shows the strong brotherhood among Marines, with Jones and Jackson picking up right where they left off many years before in the jungles of Vietnam.
Plot: Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.
Reason to watch: Again, John Wayne. Another classic from the fifties, this film gives a look at Marine air power in World War II, with Wayne playing Maj. Kirby, a gruff commander who takes over a squadron of fliers before they head into combat at Guadalcanal.
Plot: Neo military lawyer Kaffee defends Marines accused of murder; they contend they were acting under orders.
Reason to watch: It’s a great courtroom drama which explores the question of what is a legal order. When two junior Marines are told to carry out a hazing ritual by their commander, should they have followed it? That’s what a court-martial is to decide, which ultimately ends in an epic shouting match between Navy Lt. Kaffee and Col. Jessup (played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson).
BONUS: Generation Kill / The Pacific
While they aren’t movies, these two HBO miniseries show Marines in combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the island-hopping campaigns of World War II, respectively. In “Generation Kill,” viewers follow along with the men of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion as they battle their way into Iraq in 2003, while “The Pacific” melds together narratives from Marines who took part in the Pacific campaign to tell their story.
The scramble to attain the top of the opposite hill is a familiar cinematic theme that binds American’s filmmaking tradition with our military history. Famous battles do indeed make for great filmmaking, but the story of Allen Touring’s epic code cracking of Germany’s enigma machine as told in the recent film “The Imitation Game” illustrates a whole other facet of warfare that has been neglected for years. As the film shows, there are important people who remain unrecognized for their contributions to America’s winning military history. One such figure is Alexander Kartveli, perhaps the greatest among the early pioneers in military aviation.
Kartveli emigrated from his home country of Georgia to pursue a dream to design aircraft. In the 1920s and 1930s, aviation captured the imagination of entrepreneurs and financiers looking for glory and riches – not unlike today’s Internet boom. Fleeing the Bolsheviks, Kartveli moved to Paris, studied aviation and, in his early 20s, designed an aircraft for Louis Bleriot that established a world speed record.
As a result of early success in the Paris aviation scene, Kartveli met and eventually moved to the United States to work with entrepreneur Charles Levine. When Levine’s aviation company failed, Kartveli joined forces again as chief engineer for Alexander de Seversky, another early aviation pioneer who also happened to be born in Tbilisi, Georgia. Seversky Aircraft eventually became Republic Aviation, a major force in aircraft manufacturing through World War II and the conflicts that followed shortly thereafter.
At Republic Aviation, Kartveli oversaw the design of some of the era’s most important fighter planes including the A-10 Thunderbolt II (nicknamed the “Warthog”), the P-47 Thunderbolt (nicknamed the “Jug”), the F-84 Thunderjet (nicknamed the “Hog”) and the F-105 Thunderchief. In fact, the A-10 remains in service today, nearly five decades after it was introduced, despite quantum leaps in aviation technology.
Kartveli’s P-47 Thunderbolt shows the power of design genius at work long before the A-10 was conceived. It was the largest, heaviest and most expensive fighter aircraft in history to be powered by a single piston engine. Its design encompassed advances in both edges of a sword – it was simultaneously one of the most lethal planes in the air and was also the safest for pilots. The P-47 could carry half the payload of a B-17 on long-range missions, yet it was effective in ground attack roles when armed with five-inch rockets.
Kartveli’s contributions were not limited to Republic Aviation. His capacity to translate ideas into reality led to his role as an advisor to the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, the predecessor to NASA, where he contributed designs that proved to be the seed concepts for the space shuttle. Here is a reference to Kartveli’s work on ramjet technology as described by NASA’s History Office in “The Space Shuttle Decision” published in 1999. Kartveli and Antonio Ferri collaborated on some notable early ramjet designs.
The heads down, thinking man stereotype associated with engineers partly explains why Kartveli remains obscured from history. What’s also an important factor is the alienation imposed on Kartveli due to unfounded fears of espionage. Despite these strictures, publications such as Time Magazine, the Washington Post and Think Magazine captured Kartveli’s immutable sense of imagination in articles where he expounded on the future of aviation and space flight.
A breed of people with new ideas and a determination to succeed proved that it takes all kinds to win a modern war. Starting with World War II, the power of innovation and advances in early computers opened up a whole new front of warfare that put scalable technology to work in the hands of individuals like Kartveli. What emerged was a group of people whose contributions formed an essential pillar of military supremacy and who ushered in foundational technologies that today impacts every military and civilian industry.
Aviation Media, LLC is the curator of AlexanderKartveli.com, a website dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing all things related to Alexander Kartveli. Please visit the site to learn more about this great innovator and military aviation pioneer.
Known for an ability to keep flying after taking multiple rounds of enemy machine gun fire, land and operate in rugged terrain, destroy groups of enemy fighters with a 30mm cannon and unleash a wide arsenal of attack weapons, the A-10 is described by pilots as a “flying tank” in the sky — able to hover over ground war and provide life-saving close air support in high-threat combat environments.
“It is built to withstand more damage than any other frame that I know of. It’s known for its ruggedness,” A-10 pilot Lt. Col. Ryan Haden, 23rd Fighter Group Deputy, Moody AFB, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The pilot of the A-10 is surrounded by multiple plates of titanium armor, designed to enable the aircraft to withstand small-arms fire and keep flying its attack missions.
“The A-10 is not agile, nimble, fast or quick,” Haden said. “It’s deliberate, measured, hefty, impactful calculated and sound. There’s nothing flimsy or fragile about the way it is constructed or about the way that it flies.”
A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the Warthog, has been in service since the late 1970s and served as a close air support combat aircraft in conflicts such as the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, among others.
Having flown combat missions in the A-10, Haden explained how the aircraft is specially designed to survive enemy ground attacks.
“There are things built in for redundancy. If one hydraulic system fails, another one kicks in,” he said.
If the aircraft loses all of its electronics including its digital displays and targeting systems, the pilot of an A-10 can still fly, drop general purpose bombs and shoot the 30mm cannon, Haden explained.
“So when I lose all the computers and the calculations, the targeting pod and the heads up display, you can still point the aircraft using a degraded system at the target and shoot. We are actually trained for that,” he said.
Unlike other air platforms built for speed, maneuverability, air-to-air dogfighting and air-to-air weapons, the A-10 is specifically engineered around its gun, a 30mm cannon aligned directly beneath the fuselage. The gun is also called a GAU-8/A Gatling gun.
“The 30mm cannon has 7 barrels. They are centered the way the aircraft fires. The firing barrel goes right down the center line. You can point the aircraft and shoot at the ground. It is designed for air to ground attack,” Haden explained.
Armed with 1,150 rounds, the 30mm cannon is able to fire 70-rounds a second.
Haden explained the gun alignment as being straight along the fuselage line without an upward “cant” like many other aircraft have. Also, the windows in the A-10 are also wider to allow pilots a larger field of view with which to see and attack targets.
The engines of the A-10 are mounted high so that the aircraft can land in austere environments such as rugged, dirty or sandy terrain, Haden said. The engines on the A-10 are General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans.
“I’ve seen this airplane land on a desert strip with the main gear buried in a foot of sand. On most planes, this would have ripped the gear up, but the A-10 turned right around and took off,” he added.
There have been many instances where A-10 engines were shot up and the pilots did not know until the returned from a mission, Haden said.
These aerodynamic configurations and engine technology allow the A-10 to fly slower and lower, in closer proximity to ground forces and enemy targets.
“The wings are straight and broadened. The engines are turbofan. They were selected and designed for their efficiency, not because of an enormous thrust. We have a very efficient engine that allows me to loiter with a much more efficient gas-burn rate,” Haden said.
Close Air Support
By virtue of being able to fly at slower speeds of 300, the A-10 can fly beneath the weather at altitudes of 100 feet. This gives pilots and ability to see enemy targets with the naked eye, giving them the ability to drop bombs, fire rockets and open fire with the 30mm cannon in close proximity to friendly forces.
“We shoot really close to people. We do it 50-meters away from people. I can sometimes see hands and people waving. If I get close enough and low enough I can see the difference between good guys and bad guys and shoot,” Haden explained.
The aircraft’s bombs, rockets and cannon attack enemies up close or from miles sway, depending on the target and slant range of the aircraft, Haden added.
“We deliver the munitions by actually going from a base position – then pointing the jet at the ground and then pulling the trigger once we reach the desired range,” he explained.
The A-10 uses both “Lightning” and “Sniper” pods engineered with infrared and electro-optical sensors able to find targets for the pilot.
“The aircraft uses the same targeting pod as F-15E and F-16. However, most of the fighters can’t transition between the two targeting pods and we can, based on our software,” Haden said.
The A-10 carries a full complement of weapons to include Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAM GPS-guided bombs; its arsenal includes GBU 38s, GBU 31s, GBU 54s, Mk 82s, Mk 84s, AGM-65s (Maverick missiles), AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and rockets along with illumination flares, jammer pods and other protective countermeasures. The aircraft can carry 16,000 pounds of mixed ordnance; eight can fly under the wings and three under-fuselage pylon station, Air Force statements said.
A-10 Avionics Technology
Pilots flying attack missions in the aircraft communicate with other aircraft and ground forces using radios and a data-link known at LINK 16. Pilots can also text message with other aircraft and across platforms, Haden added.
The cockpit is engineered with what is called the CASS cockpit, for Common Avionics Architecture System, which includes moving digital map displays and various screens showing pertinent information such as altitude, elevation, surrounding terrain and target data.
A-10 pilots also wear a high-tech helmet which enables them to look at targeting video on a helmet display.
“I can project my targeting pod video into my eye so I can see the field of view. If something shoots at me I can target it simply by looking at it,” he explained.
During the early months of combat in Operation Enduring Freedom, in a battle known as “Operation Anaconda,” Haden’s A-10 wound up in a fast-moving, dynamic combat circumstance wherein U.S. military were attacking Taliban fighters in the Afghan mountains.
During the mission in March of 2002, Haden was able to see and destroy Taliban anti-aircraft artillery, guns and troop positions.
“We could see tracer fire going from one side of the valley to the other side of the valley. We were unable to tell which was from good guys and which was from bad guys. Using close air support procedures in conjunction with our sensors on board, we deconstructed the tactical situation and then shot,” he said.
The Future of the A-10
Many lawmakers, observers, veterans, analysts, pilots and members of the military have been following the unfolding developments regarding the Air Force’s plans for the A-10. Citing budgetary reasons, Air Force leaders had said they planned to begin retiring its fleet of A-10s as soon as this year. Some Air Force personnel maintained that other air assets such as the F-16 and emerging F-35 multi-role stealth fighter would be able to fill the mission gap and perform close air support missions once the A-10 retired.
However, a chorus of concern from lawmakers and the A-10s exemplary performance in the ongoing air attacks against ISIS – has lead the Air Force to extend the planned service life of the aircraft well into the 2020s. Despite the claim that other air assets could pick up the close air support mission, advocates for the A-10 consistently state that the platform has an unmatched ability to protect ground troops and perform the close air support mission.
Sending the close-air-support aircraft to the bone yard would save an estimated $4.2 billion over five years alone, Air Force officials previously said.
The overall costs of the program including life cycle management, sustainment and upkeep had made the A-10 budget targets for the service, however many lawmakers pushed back on the plans.
There have been many advocates for the A-10 among lawmakers who have publically questioned the prior Air Force strategy to retire the aircraft. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. and Sen. John McCain have been among some of the most vocal supporters of the A-10.
Capt. Dustin Ireland fires a missile as his A-10 Thunderbolt II breaks over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex April 24 during live-fire training. | U.S. Air Force photo Master Sgt. Robert Wieland
On several occasions, Ayotte has challenged the Air Force decision to retire the plane.
“The A-10 has saved many American lives, and Senator Ayotte is concerned that the Air Force might prematurely eliminate the A-10 before there is a replacement aircraft—creating a dangerous close air support capability gap that could put our troops at risk,” an Ayotte official said several months ago.McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed the news that the A-10 might remain longer than the Air Force had planned.
“I welcome reports that the Air Force has decided to keep the A-10 aircraft flying through fiscal year 2017, ensuring our troops have the vital close-air support they need for missions around the world. Today, the A-10 fleet is playing an indispensable role in the fight against ISIL in Iraq and assisting NATO’s efforts to deter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe,” McCain said in a recent statement.
Also, the A-10 has been performing extremely well in ongoing attacks against ISIS, creating an operational demand for the durable aircraft and therefore reportedly informing this Air Force decision.
“With growing global chaos and turmoil on the rise, we simply cannot afford to prematurely retire the best close air support weapon in our arsenal without fielding a proper replacement. When the Obama Administration submits its 2017 budget request in the coming weeks, I hope it will follow through on its plan to keep the A-10 flying so that it can continue to protect American troops, many still serving in harm’s way,” McCain added.
Although the continued existence of the A-10 is assured well into the next decade, the debate about what, if anything, might be able to replace it is quite likely to continue.
The first casualty of a U.S. troop’s military service is usually his wisdom teeth. It’s as if the U.S. military secretly runs on some kind of wisdom tooth-based fuel.
There are many supposed reasons for the mass extraction of otherwise normal wisdom teeth, but we can all be glad they don’t get sold into, say, dentures or something.
But travel back in time a couple hundred years and they certainly could have.
By 1815, the British Empire’s acquisition of a steady source of sugar coming from its Caribbean colonies created an embarrassing source of tooth decay – and a huge market for dentures.
Both were only for the wealthy.
In the earliest days of oral care on the British Isles, “everyone dabbled in dentistry,” according to a BBC interview with the British Dental Association. And replacement teeth were made from a variety of material, including ivory and porcelain — each with its own set of pros and cons.
The best dentures, however, used real extracted teeth. As the demand for dentures grew, so did the demand for ones made with real teeth. To get a full set of real teeth, someone had to lose a full set of real teeth, and who would give up their teeth?
Someone who doesn’t need them anymore, of course.
Good thing the British just finished fighting a huge war with Napoleonic France. The recent Battle of Waterloo gave British dentists a huge source of teeth whose owners didn’t need them anymore.
And that’s just what happened.
Everyone, according to the British Dental Association Museum — from locals to other troops to scavengers — would have been pulling dead soldiers’ teeth out for sale back home. The demand was that great.
They wouldn’t take all of the teeth. Molars would be left in place because they were too hard to take out and difficult to turn onto dentures.
Once back in Britain, the “Waterloo Teeth” (as they came to be called) were sold at a price that couldn’t be beat, considering the demand for real teeth and the scarcity of them. It provided those battlefield scavengers with plenty of incentive to grab a pair of pliers and head out to Waterloo.
The recipients had no idea their new dentures came from the dead men on the battlefield of France. All they knew is that they could now eat all the boiled food the British Isles could muster. Which is a lot.
The failed coup in Turkey has thrown that country into a very high state of tension. What makes the stakes even higher is that according to the Federation of American Scientists, the United States military has about 50 “special stores” stored at Incirlik Air Base, bout 25% of the total stockpile in Europe. Those “special stores” are B61 gravity bombs.
The B61 is America’s primary tactical nuclear weapon that can be carried by just about all of the U.S. military’s attack aircraft, from Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers to the Air Force’s B-2 Spirit bombers. NATO aircraft like the Tornado flown by the Royal Air Force, Luftwaffe, and Italian Air Force can also carry it.
The bomb first entered service 50 years ago, and weighs about 700 pounds – slightly smaller than the M117 bomb often used by the B-52 Stratofortress for “grid square removal.” It features a “dial-a-yield” capability – setting the weapons to deliver as much as 340 kilotons (depending on the version), about 20 times the power of the bomb that destroyed Nagasaki. The United States produced over 1300 of these weapons. The B61 can be set with a variety of fuse options, but the most common delivery is a lob-toss method, using a parachute to delay its fall.
Since its introduction into service, the B61’s received upgrades to keep up with the times. The proposed B61 Mod 12 would give it a tail-guidance kit similar to that of the Joint Direct Attack Munition. The B61 Mod 12 has a yield of up to 50 kilotons, about one-seventh of earlier versions. Then again, when GPS guidance puts a nuke within 20 feet of its aiming point, 50 kilotons will be more than enough to deal with most targets. So far, plans are for about 500 B61s to be upgraded to the Mod 12 standard.
The B61 became the basis for a number of other warheads in American service. The B83,a strategic nuclear weapon with a yield of up to 1.2 megatons, is one derivative. The AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile’s W69 warhead was also based on the B61. So were the W80 warheads used on the BGM-109 Tomahawk, AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile, and the AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile. The W84 warhead used on the Ground-Launched Cruise Missile was also a variant of the B61 by way of the W80. The W85 used on the MGM-31C Pershing II was another derivative of the B61, and after the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed, the W85s were recycled into B61 Mod 10 gravity bomb.
The B61 Mod 12 will have a design life of nearly 20 years – meaning this bomb will likely serve until 2035, around the time the B-52 will be ready to retire.