What makes her unique is that the Sao Paolo is one of the last conventionally-powered aircraft carriers in service.
Most aircraft carriers today are nuclear-powered. The Foch and her sister ship Clemenceau — both named for French leaders in World War I — were to be replaced by a pair of nuclear-powered carriers. Only one of the new carriers was built, but France disposed of both carriers, selling the Foch to Brazil, and the Clemenceau to a scrapyard. The Foch was commissioned in 1963, and served with the French Navy for 37 years before she was sold to Brazil, where she served another 17 years.
The French had hoped to keep her in service until 2039, but the Foch was proving to be the maritime equivalent of a hangar queen.
The demise of the Foch is part of a larger trend. Most navies seeking a carrier that launch high-performance planes (as opposed to those that operate V/STOL jets like the AV-8B Harrier and Sea Harrier) have gone nuclear. The United States has 11 nuclear-powered carriers, France has one.
India, Russia, and China each have one conventionally-fueled carrier that launch high-performance jets, and India and China are building more. But Russia and China are planning to go to nuclear-powered carriers. The British are building the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, but they’re only flying the V/STOL version of the F-35 Lightning.
Why are conventional fuels like oil or gas fading out for supercarriers? It’s very simple: endurance matters. When you’re launching a conventional plane from a carrier, you need to get them up quickly or they go in the drink.
The Foch’s forward deck, showing some of the planes she operated in French service. (Wikimedia Commons)
To get those planes to climb quickly, carriers use catapults, but it helps when they can turn into the wind and go at speed. A nuclear-powered carrier can do that for years. Really, the only limits are how much ordnance and gas for the planes and food for the crew it can carry.
For a conventionally-fueled carrier, well… it’s got to refuel, too. That means you need to invest in a lot more ships.
So, as the Foch heads off to become razor blades, joining many other conventionally-fueled aircraft carriers not designed to use high-performance jets, it marks the departure of one of these magnificent vessels. The United States has been scrapping many of its old conventionally-fueled carriers, too. The fact is, if you want a carrier that can operate high-performance jets, you gotta have a nuke – and that leaves no future for ships like Foch.
Sikorsky’s SB-1 Defiant, an aircraft that uses a modified helicopter design to achieve great speed and fuel-efficiency as well as maneuverability, took its first flight on March 21, 2019, exciting military aviation fans who hope that it’s selected for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Program.
Sikorsky-Boeing #SB1 Defiant Completes First Flight
The SB-1 Defiant is one of two top contenders for the Future Vertical Lift program, the Army’s effort to replace its aging helicopter fleet. The Army will select a new utility helicopter, likely either the SB-1 Defiant or the V-280 Valor from Bell, that will ferry troops and lighter loads, carry out the wounded in MEDEVAC missions, and fill the rest of the roles currently carried out by the UH-60 Black Hawk.
The current aviation debate is interesting for military aviation aficionados for a few reasons. One is that this sort of contest only occurs every few decades. Another is that neither of the top contenders for the program is a conventional helicopter. The SB-1 Defiant is an evolution of Sikorsky’s X-2 demonstrator. It has two rotor blades similar to a conventional helicopter, but it’s pushed forward by a rear propeller and has no conventional rear rotor.
This makes it much more efficient and faster than a conventional helicopter while retaining all the versatility and maneuverability.
The Sikorsky SB-1 Defiant takes its first flight. It’s a strong contender for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program.
Its primary contender, meanwhile, is of a tiltrotor design. It can fly fast and far, even farther than the Defiant, but is not as maneuverable or able to fit in as small of places and landing zones. It’s also a direct successor to the controversial V-22 Osprey, a plane that had a horrible safety record during testing. The V-22 did do well with the Marine Corps in the field for a few years, but has run into trouble again recently, suffering four catastrophic crashes from 2015 to 2017.
So, yeah, soldiers care who wins because it decides what will carry them into battle in the 2030s, 2040s, and beyond. And whatever aircraft the Army chooses will instantly have thousands of orders, allowing it to be produced at scale, meaning the manufacturer can offer additional copies to the other services for cheap.
So, the Army’s choice will impact what aircraft the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps can afford to buy for their own services, heavily pushing them to use the same aircraft in at least some roles. (The U.S. Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps all bought UH-60 variants after the Army did, though the Marine Corps bought very few and placed them only in specialty roles.)
With all this competition and the long-term impact of the decision, it was a mark in the V-280 Valor’s favor that its aircraft had been flying since December 2017 while the SB-1 Defiant was still limited to ground tests until the March 21 test. Now that both aircraft have flown without shaking themselves apart, the manufacturers will have to prove whether each aircraft can live up to the hype.
And then the Army will begin to make its choice, setting the tone of military aviation for the next few decades.
As if shortages of toilet paper, bottled water and hand sanitizer were not enough; shooters are reporting ammunition shortages amid the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak. The response to the virus seems to be responsible for the next nationwide shortage of ammunition and possibly firearms.
The ever prescient Alexander Crown, recently penned an article for RECOIL, When the Brass Dries Up and lays out some of the more recent ammunition shortages and how to cope with them. It seems very timely amid reports we have been hearing since early February.
We’ve seen subtle signs of a panic buying here and there the past few weeks but it looks like the lid is about to blow off.
A looming shortage of ammunition and firearms
A reader from Arizona, Brent Stuart, tried to purchase two cases of pistol primers last week from Sportsman’s Warehouse in Phoenix, AZ, this afternoon and was told he could only purchase one case. The clerk at the counter told him there was a new corporate policy limiting the amounts of firearms, ammunition and reloading components purchased in a single day. According to the employee, he had received a copy of a memo from corporate headquarters that morning limiting firearm, reloading components and ammunition purchases temporarily.
The memo states:
With increased demand and limited supply on select items, Sportsman’s Warehouse has implemented the following purchase limits to ensure our product reaches as many of our customers as possible. Firearm Limits:
Handguns (any type): 2 per customer per day.
Modern Sporting Rifles: 1 per customer per day.
Ammunition and Reloading Components Limits:
All Bulk Handgun and Centerfire Rifle Ammunition (100 rd + count box): 1 Per caliber, per customer per day.
Bulk Rimfire (200 rd + count box): 1 per customer per day.
All Handgun, Rimfire and Rifle hunting ammunition: 3 boxes per customer per day
All 25 ct. shotgun shells: 10 boxes per gauge per day.
All primers: 1k per day.
Keg powder (4,5,8): 1 per day.
All 1lb powder cans: 1 per day.
We tried contacting Sportsman’s directly Friday 3/13 and our call was placed on hold for more than 30 minutes. So, we took the liberty of calling a few of the local stores in Reno and Carson City, Nevada. Both stores reported no limits on anything, but said ammunition was flying off the shelves. One employee reported a 75% decrease in stock on the shelves within the two hours he had been there. The other stated that it would not surprise him if such a policy would be put into place soon as a measure to stop ammunition and firearm shortages due to COVID-19.
Online retailer blames COVID-19 for buying surge
Online ammunition retailer, Ammo.com, reports a significant increase in sales since February 23, 2020. The company believes that this surge corresponds with the public concern regarding the COVID-19 virus.
When compared to the 11 days before February 23 (February 12 to 22), in the 11 days after (February 23 to March 4), Ammo.com’sber of transactions increased 68%.
Alex Horsman, the marketing manager at Ammo.com, said of the surge, “We know certain things impact ammo sales, mostly political events or economic instability when people feel their rights may end up infringed, but this is our first experience with a virus leading to such a boost in sales.” Horsman continued, “But it makes sense. A lot of our customers like to be prepared. And for many of them, it’s not just facemasks and Thera-Flu. It’s knowing that no matter what happens, they can keep themselves and their families safe.”
We queried another big box store, Cabela’s and Bass Pro-Shops, who reported that ammunition is selling at a record pace. Week to date tallies for Herter’s 9mm 115-grain FMJ ammunition is 5,589 boxes. That’s 279,450 rounds and it’s not even Saturday. Month to date sales are 40,152 boxes for 2,007,600 rounds and we are not even halfway through March for just that one type and brand of 9mm ammo.
Cabela’s had no plans to limit purchases at this time.
Firearm sales and COVID-19
Firearm sales numbers are always difficult to nail down definitively, but at least in Nevada, calls into the state’s background check system have been taking in excess of 2 hours. At certain times after waiting for 30 minutes or more a message tells the dealer that the queue is full and disconnects the line, causing them to call back in and having to wait again.
We’ve witnessed that happening while in several different gun shops and ranges over the past several weeks. It appears more people are buying firearms than usual.
Firearm and ammunition sales in California are reported to be five times above normal due to COVID-19.
A shooting range in Clovis, California, had to stop customers from buying ammunition to take home because they were running out of ammunition for the range. The Firing Line owner Jake Belemjian says people are stocking up on ammunition because of COVID-19 and the shop can’t keep up with the demand.
If this were not bad enough, the NRA is reporting that today, an ordinance has passed in Champaign, IL, to empower the mayor to “[o]rder the discontinuance of selling, distributing, dispensing or giving away of … firearms or ammunition of any character whatsoever.”
Apparently, politicians want to fan fears of limiting access to firearms and ammunition, leading more people into panic and creating more shortfalls in supply. We have speculated that the State of Nevada’s background check system’s extensive hold times may be the work of an anti-gun governor ordering staff cuts or allocating personnel elsewhere, but it seems coincidental with the timing of COVID-19.
The fact that it is an election year with an outspoken anti-gun candidate on the presidential ticket could add fuel to this fire and spur along potential ammunition and firearm shortages even without COVID-19, but probably not this early in the cycle.
Is This a Nationwide Shortage?
Dealers and distributors who have maintained good inventory should be able to continue to service customers. Most shooters who’ve gone through these shortages before have learned from the past and planned accordingly.
We aren’t yet seeing a firearm shortage due to COVID-19 in our neighborhood, but there may be an extended ammunition shortage on the way if it is not here already. In 2014, it was 22 LR, according to Ammo.com that caliber is moving a lot, but the surprise we found topping their list of most in-demand ammunition for the past few weeks was 40 SW.
40 SW: 410%
12 gauge: 95%
380 ACP: 43%
45 ACP: 35%
308 Winchester: 32%
22 lr: 29%
We would never tell anyone to not buy ammunition. Just don’t act all panicky and act like the folks who are building toilet paper forts in their garages.
Speaking of which, Franklin Armory has a smoking deal on Government issue “MRE” toilet paper and it comes with a free BFS-III binary trigger. Of course, that means that you will probably need to buy more ammunition.
They aren’t the shoot-em-up kind of superheroes, but equally awesome in their own way.
1. Maj. Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel)
Major Danvers is a trained military intelligence officer and erstwhile spy. She’s one of the most distinguished officers in the superhero universe, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, where Nick Fury recruited her for the CIA. Retiring from the Air Force as a Colonel to be Chief of Security at NASA before becoming half-Kree (a militaristic alien race in the Marvel Universe) and then becoming Captain Marvel after meeting a Kree alien named Mar-Vell, but she acquired superpowers after an explosion merged her DNA with the first Captain Marvel… well, it’s complicated. She is an author and feminist and her powers include flight, enhanced strength and durability, shooing energy bursts from her hands, and being able to verbally judo one Tony Stark.
2. Capt. Hal Jordan (Green Lantern)
He was an elite pilot who joined the Air Force on his 18th birthday and immediately became a test pilot (it doesn’t have to be realistic, it’s a comic, ok?) before joining the Green Lantern Corps. He was also a hot shot fighter pilot who fought aliens as well as North Koreans. He was kicked out after decking his superior officer, who wouldn’t let him take leave.
3. Sam Wilson (Falcon)
Falcon is actually an enlisted airman, not an officer. He’s a former Air Force Pararescue Jumper (PJ), which makes him a great candidate for the superhero’s tendency to jump into the middle of a combat situation to ice evildoers and save lives. Not content with all that, he also counsels veterans with post-traumatic stress issues in his free time.
4. Ben Grimm (The Thing)
Another Air Force test pilot (those guys are pretty ballsy, so it makes sense to turn them into superheroes), Grimm was also a Marine and an astronaut, which is how he became the Thing in the first place. For all the clobberin’ and poor use of the English language depicted in the films, Grimm is clearly the superhero with the most book learnin’ and the most distinguished military career. Ben Grimm’s rock skin gives him super strength, durability, and resistance to extreme temperatures.
5. Lt. Col. James Rhodes (War Machine)
What better Air Force job could there be than to be the USAF Liaison to Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist — and your best friend, Tony Stark. That job is so awesome, it led to him being the only other person on Earth who gets to pilot a suit of armor on the level of Iron Man’s.
6. Travis Morgan (Warlord)
Flying a recon mission over the North Pole led to a plane malfunction and an ejection over what should have been Northern Canada. when Morgan touched down, he found himself in the land of Skartaris, a barbarian world in another dimension, hidden inside the Earth’s core. He defeated an evil magician attempting to conquer Skartaris and became Warlord. He was able to return to Earth on occasion, which makes all of this sound like a deployment to Afghanistan.
It’s easy now to think of Operation Overlord as fated, like it was the armies of Middle Earth hitting Mordor. The good guys would attack, they would win, and the war would end. But it actually fell to a cadre of hundreds of officers to make it happen and make it successful, or else more than 150,000 men would die for nothing.
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)
But the planners of Operation Neptune and Operation Overlord had an insane number of factors to look at as weather, moon and starlight, and troops movements from London to Paris would affect the state of play when the first Allied ships were spotted by Axis planes and lookouts. Planners wanted as many factors on their side as possible when the first German cry went out.
The map above allowed the planners to get a look at what sort of artillery emplacements troops would face at each beach, both during their approaches and landings and once they were on the soil of France.
Looking at all the overlapping arcs, it’s easy to see why they asked the Rangers to conduct the dangerous climbs at Point Du Hoc, why they sent paratroopers like the Band of Brothers against inland guns, and why they had hoped for much more successful bombing runs against the guns than they ultimately got.
Instead, paratroopers and other ground troops would have to break many of the enemy guns one at a time with infantry assaults and counter-artillery missions.
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)
Speaking of those bombers, this is one of the maps they used to plan aircraft sorties. The arcs across southern England indicate distances from Bayeux, France, a town just south of the boundary between Omaha and Gold beaches. The numbers in England indicated the locations of airfields and how many fighter squadrons could be based at each.
These fighter squadrons would escort the bombers over the channel and perform strafing missions against ground targets. Bayeux was a good single point to measure from, as nearly all troops would be landing within 30 miles of that city.
But planners were also desperate to make Germany believe that another, larger attacking was coming elsewhere, so planes not in range of the actual beaches were sent far and wide to bomb a multitude of other targets, as seen below.
(U.S. Military Academy)
Diversion attacks were launched toward troops based near Calais, the deepwater port that was the target in numerous deception operations. But the bulk of bomber and fighter support went right to the beaches where troops were landing.
Bombings conducted in the months ahead of D-Day had reduced Germany’s industrial output and weakened some troop concentrations, but the bulk of German forces were still ready to fight. Luckily, the Allies had a huge advantage in terms of weather forecasting against the Axis, and many German troops thought the elements would keep them safe from attack in early June, that is until paratroopers were landing all around them.
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)
This map shows additional beaches between the Somme and the Seine Rivers of France along with the length of each beach. These beaches are all to the northeast of the targets of D-Day, and troops never assaulted them from the sea like they did on Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches.
But these beaches, liberated by maneuvering forces that landed at the D-Day beaches, would provide additional landing places for supplies until deepwater ports could be taken and held.
But all of that relied on actually taking and holding the first five beaches, something which actually hinged quite a bit on weather forecasting, as hinted above. In fact, this next two-page document is all about meetings on June 4-5, 1944, detailing weather discussions taking place between all of the most senior officers taking part in the invasion, all two-stars or above.
(Maj. Gen. H.R. Bull, the memo author, uses days of the week extensively in the memo. D-Day, June 6, 1944, was the Tuesday he was referring to. “Monday” was the June 5 original invasion date. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were D-Day+1, +2, and +3.)
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)
This might seem like a lot of military brainpower to dedicate to whether or not it was raining, but the winds, waves, and clouds affected towing operations, the landing boats, fighter and bomber cover, and the soil the troops would fight on.
The fate of France could’ve been won or lost in a few inches of precipitation, a few waves large enough to swamp the low-lying landing craft, or even low cloud cover that would throw off even more bombs and paratroopers. So, yeah, they held early morning and late night meetings about the weather.
There’s an old military saying that goes, “if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid.” As enlisted personnel rise through the ranks, they tend to encounter more and more questionable practices that somehow made their way into doctrine. This isn’t anything new. Most of the veterans reading this encountered at least one “WTF Moment” in their military careers. Few of these bizarre scenarios will get a troop wounded or worse.
Then there are the tactics that could mean the difference between life and death – and you have to wonder who decided to do things that way and why do they hate their junior enlisted troops so much? These are those tactics.
“Walking Fire” with the Browning Automatic Rifle
When introduced in the closing days of World War I, the Browning Automatic Rifle – or “B-A-R” – was introduced as a means to get American troops across the large, deadly gaps called “no man’s land” between the opposing trenches. The theory was that doughboys would use the BAR in a walking fire movement, slowly walking across the ground while firing the weapon from the hip.
Anyone who’s ever used an automatic weapon has probably figured out by now that slowly sauntering across no man’s land, shooting at anything that moves will run your ammo down before you ever get close to the enemy trench. It’s probably best to stay in your own trench, which is what the Americans ended up doing anyway.
Soviet Anti-Tank Suicide Dogs
The concept seems sound enough. In the 1930s, the USSR trained dogs to wear explosive vests and run under oncoming tanks. In combat, the dogs would then be detonated while near the tank’s soft underbelly. It seems like a good idea, right? Well, when it came time to use the dogs against Nazi tanks in World War II, the Soviets realized that training the dogs with Soviet tanks might have been a bad idea. The USSR’s tanks ran on diesel while the Wehrmacht’s ran on gasoline.
Soviet tank dogs, attracted to the smell of Soviet diesel fuel, ran under Soviet tanks instead of German tanks when unleashed, creating an explosives hazard for the Red Army tanks crews.
Flying Aircraft Carriers
In the interwar years, the U.S. military decided that airpower was indeed the wave of the military’s future, and decided to experiment with a way to get aircraft flying as fast as possible. For this, they developed helium airships that housed hangers to hold a number of different airplanes. It seemed like a good idea in theory, but it turns out the air isn’t as hospitable a place as the seas and flying, helium-borne craft aren’t as stable as a solid, steel ship on the waves.
After the two aircraft carriers the Navy built both crashed, and 75 troops were dead, the military decided to go another way with aircraft.
In World War II, there wasn’t always a metal detector around. Sometimes, troops had to get down and dirty, literally. In areas where land mines were suspected, soldiers would get down on the ground, with their heads and bodies close to the ground and – without any kind of warning or hint of where mines might be, if there were any at all – poke into the ground at a 30-degree angle.
The angle helped avoid tripping the mines because the trigger mechanisms were usually located at the top of the mines. If the terrain was a bit looser, the mines could be raked up by the prodders instead.
The British have a long history with armored fighting vehicles. In fact, they were the first to introduce the tank to modern warfare during World War I. Today, the British Army’s armored vehicles are among the best in the world. That’s why it’s no surprise that the MCV-80 Warrior infantry fighting vehicle has been around for over three decades and is still going strong.
The vehicle arose from a need to get British troops onto the battlefield while protecting them from enemy fire and keeping up with Challenger main battle tanks. And, of course, this vehicle would need to be able to bring the hurt to enemy forces.
The Warrior satisfies all of those requirements and then some. This vehicle, also known as the FV510, was first introduced in 1988. It weighs in at just under 31 tons, packs a 30mm Rarden auto-cannon, and can carry seven grunts to the battle at speeds of up to 47 miles per hour. A single tank of gas will take it 410 miles.
The Kuwaiti version of the Warrior, parked center-right, next to the A-4Ku, packs a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun and two BGM-71 TOW missiles.
British Warriors have seen action in Desert Storm, Bosnia, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. That’s an impressive resume, but these aren’t the only Warriors out there. In the wake of Desert Storm, Kuwait made some very big upgrades to their military — in the process, they bought a version of the Warrior that packs a 25mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun and two BGM-71 TOW missiles.
The Warrior will be getting a bigger gun and other upgrades to keep it viable to 2040.
(UK Ministry of Defense)
The Warrior has proven versatile over the years. Variants of the Warrior include vehicles for command, artillery observation (the Brits gave this version a dummy cannon to make it look like less of an easy target), and recovery and repair.
This infantry fighting vehicle is far from reaching the end of the road — there are plans in place to further upgrade this vehicle with a 40mm gun. We’ll likely see the Warrior in the fight until at least 2040.
Learn more about Britain’s troop-carrying Warrior in the video below!
Hunkered down in sniper positions on the top floor of an abandoned building in the Syrian city of Raqqa, two Americans and a British volunteer face off against Islamic State snipers on the other side of the front line. The trio, including two who were battle-hardened by experience in the French Foreign Legion and the war in Iraq, have made the war against IS in Syria their own.
They are among several US and British volunteers in the decisive battle against the Islamic State group for Raqqa, the city in northeastern Syria that the militants declared the capital of their self-proclaimed caliphate in parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.
The men joined US-allied Syrian militias for different reasons — some motivated by testimonies of survivors of the unimaginable brutality that IS flaunted in areas under its control.
Others joined what they see as a noble quest for justice and a final battle with the “heart of darkness,” in a belief that violence can only be met with violence.
Taylor Hudson, a 33-year old from Pasadena, compares the fight for Raqqa to the 1945 Battle of Berlin in World War II that was critical to ending the rule of Adolf Hitler.
“This is the Berlin of our times,” said Hudson, who doubles as a platoon medic and a sniper in the battle against the militants. For him, IS extremists “represent everything that is wrong with humanity.”
Syria’s war, now in its seventh year, has attracted foreign fighters to all sides of the complicated conflict.
Islamic extremists from Europe, Asia, and North Africa have boosted the ranks of the Islamic State group, as well as rival radical al-Qaeda-linked groups. Shiite Iranian and Lebanese militias have sided with the Syrian government, deepening the sectarian nature of the conflict that has killed over 400,000 people and displaced over 11 million, half of Syria’s pre-war population.
On the anti-IS side — though far less in numbers than the thousands of foreigners who swelled the IS ranks — most Western foreign volunteers have been drawn to the US-allied Kurdish militia known as The People’s Protection Units, or by their Kurdish initials as the YPG. The US military has developed a close relationship with the YPG and its extension, the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the war against IS.
Some Western volunteers have died in battle — earlier in July the YPG announced that 28-year-old Robert Grodt, of Santa Cruz, California, and 29-year-old Nicholas Alan Warden, of Buffalo, died in the battle for Raqqa.
Since launching the push on Raqqa on June 6, the US-backed forces have conquered a third of the city.
Hudson, who has been fighting in Syria for the past 13 months, said he was moved to tears by stories in the media of Iraqi Yazidi women who were enslaved by IS militants and looked for a way to help. A pharmacy student who learned combat medicine in the field, he said he had treated some 600 wounded ahead of the march onto Raqqa.
The presence of Western anti-IS volunteers in Syria has created something of a conundrum for their governments, which have often questioned them on terrorism charges.
“I am not a terrorist,” said Macer Gifford, a 30-year former City broker in London, who came to Syria three years ago to volunteer first with the Kurdish militia. Now he is fighting with an Assyrian militia, also part of the US-backed forces battling IS militants.
“I am here defending the people of Syria against terrorists,” he added.
Gifford has been questioned by both his British government and by the US government. At home, he has written and lectured about the complex situation in Syria, offering a first-hand experience of IS’ evolving tactics.
He believes the militants can only be defeated by sheer force.
“The Islamic State (group) is actually an exceptional opponent,” Gifford said. “We can’t negotiate them away, we can’t wish them away. The only way we can defeat them is with force of arms.”
For Kevin Howard, a 28-year old former US military contractor from California who fought in Iraq in 2006, the war against the Islamic State group is more personal.
A skilled sniper who prides himself in having killed 12 IS militants so far, Howard said he is doing it for the victims of the Bataclan Theatre in France, where the sister of one of his best friends survived. The Nov. 13, 2015 attacks claimed by IS killed 130 people at Paris cafes, the national stadium, and the Bataclan, where 90 died.
“This is a continuation of that fight, I think if you leave something unfinished, it will remain unfinished for a lifetime,” he said, showing off his 1972 sniper rifle.
On his forehead and neck, he has tattooed the “Rien N’empêche” — or “Nothing Prevents”— words from the song of the French Foreign Legion in which he served, and “life is pain.”
“For me this is a chance to absolutely go to the heart of darkness and grab it and get rid of it,” he added.
From his sniper position on Raqqa’s front line, he peeked again through the rifle hole. For Howard, the orders to march deeper into the IS-held city can’t come soon enough.
There is a special bedtime story that all platoon sergeants and petty officers tell their troops; there exists a special rank of chief warrant officer that is the premiere technical expert in their field. This mythical rank is called “Chief Warrant Officer 5.”
Young service members typically believe in the story for the first few years, but then begin to question it. If warrant officers 1 and chief warrant officers 3 could really grow up to be chief warrant officers 5, wouldn’t they have seen one by now?
But now, in a We Are The Mighty exclusive, we can confirm that CW5s — a commonly accepted abbreviation for the species — do really, truly exist.
While many of their superpowers are still unknown, here are the ones they’ve demonstrated in view of our crack team of researchers so far:
1. Insane levels of knowledge (probably)
This photo reportedly depicts a CW5 from the New York National Guard dropping some major knowledge bombs on other troops. WATM could not independently verify that this particular CW5 exists, but the chest markings are consistent with the specimen we observed. (Photo: U.S. Army National Guard Master Sgt. Raymond Drumsta)
The video at the top highlights the power that supposedly makes the CW5s so valuable. Legend says that they know everything about their assigned area. Aviation CW5s can quote the length and placement of each storage panel on the body of an Apache. Signal CW5s can quote frequencies like chaplains quote chapter and verse.
Having witnessed one of the beautiful creatures in action, WATM can confirm that they say a lot of technical stuff that sounds super impressive. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if what they’re saying is accurate since it usually involves details so obscure that literally no one else knows where to check for answers.
2. CW5s can appear and disappear at will
A CW5 and chief warrant officer 4 sit in a helicopter together a short time before they disappeared without a trace. Aviation CW5s may be the most elusive of their breed since they can literally fly away from observers. An unsubstantiated report claims that the two chiefs in this photo are brothers. (Photo: U.S. National Guard Sgt. Jodi Eastham)
The only specimen which WATM was able to observe was working in an office with an open door on a separate floor of our building. We, of course, established a 24-hour watch with a duty log filled with hundreds of pages of blank paper that we thought would soon be filled with observations.
But, somehow, after only a few hours, the CW5 disappeared without a sign. According to troops of more common rank in the area, that’s how CW5s work. They’ll be present at a random formation or two and visible in the office for an hour at a time, but then they’ll be gone. When they return, everyone is so carried away with awe that they forget to ask the CW5 where they were.
3. CW5s are masters of camouflage
Think this is a prior service lieutenant? Then he fooled you. That’s a Marine Corps CW5. It takes only a slight amount of glare to render their markings indistinguishable from the lowly LT. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Timothy A. Turner)
One possible explanation for the disappearing act is that CW5s are able to blend in with lesser members of the military thanks to two important features of their markings. First, their skin is covered in the same pattern as other service members, allowing them to blend into the herd like zebras would.
Second, their identifying rank markings are a thin bar of blue, black, or red sandwiched between two silver bars. This causes many observers to mistake them for extremely old lieutenants.
4. Still, there’s a lot we don’t know
While WATM is excited and proud of this advance in warrant officer science, many avenues of research remain open and require answers. Is it true that CW5s retire from the military? Does the president really have to sign off on their rank? Do they really originate from the ranks of chief warrant officers 4?
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Dave Dale sprays down Chief Warrant Officer 5 Richard Wince following his final flight in a Delaware National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk on Wednesday, February 15, 2017. It’s possible that this ritual allows CW5s to prepare their knowledge to transfer into a new vessel. (Photo and first half of the cutline: U.S. Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Wendy Callaway)
WATM’s working theory is that CW5s do not retire and are not created by promotion. Instead, CW5s are reincarnated in a system similar to the Dalai Lama and Panchem Lama. When a CW5s mortal body fails, its knowledge moves to a new human frame. Other CW5s find this new repository and grant it the ancient markings of their people.
Of course, we will continue our research into this amazing discovery.
In honor of Russian Aerospace Force Day, the Russian Ministry of Defense has released its first official footage of the fifth-generation stealth aircraft, the PAK FA Sukhoi T-50.
The government unveiled the montage of its prized stealth fighters launching from an aircraft carrier’s ski-jump ramp, along with several other aircraft such as the MiG-29KUB naval fighter and the Su-35S.
Although the T-50s only appear for a few brief seconds, it’s enough to make out the the two camouflage patterns of the first new fighters produced after the Cold War.
However, despite the fancy paint job and Russia touting the T-50, critics say its features may fall short of it achieving the prized moniker of “fifth-generation aircraft.”
For one, the evolutionary technology onboard the T-50 doesn’t make the quantum leap that other aircraft, such as China’s Chengdu J-20 or the US’s F-35 Lightning II, incorporate. Instead, it seems to have inherited the same engine from the Su-35, an aircraft that’s considered to be 4++ generation — between fourth- and fifth-generation.
Additionally, the primary trait of fifth-generation aircraft, namely stealth, is also called into question when compared with others around the world. According to RealClearDefense, in 2010 and 2011, sources close to the program claimed that the T-50’s radar cross section, the measurement of how detectable on radar an object is, was estimated to be 0.3 to 0.5 square meters.
Although these figures may sound impressive, when compared with the US Air Force F-22 Raptor’s 0.0001-square-meter RCS or the F-35’s 0.001-square-meter RCS, it’s worth taking a second look at by engineers.
Despite the controversy, the T-50 excels where other fifth-generation aircraft have not: its cost. With each unit more than $50 million, it’s considered a bargain when comparing it with the F-22’s $339 million and the F-35’s $178 million price tags.
Iran’s missile strike on the Islamic State on June 18 appears to have been a massive failure, after only two of the seven missiles fired actually hit their targets.
Two of the Zolfaqar short-range missiles missed their targets in Syria by several miles, while three others did not even make it out of Iraqi airspace, according to Haaretz. Despite the apparent failures, Iranian state-affiliated media heralded the attacks as a success, referring to them as a “new and major” stage in the country’s fight against ISIS.
The strike was “a great deal less impressive than the media noise being made in Iran around the launch,” Israeli military sources told Haaretz.
The launching of an Iranian Fateh-110 Missile. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Iranian legislators claimed the strike was also a sign to the US that Iran’s ballistic missile program will not be deterred by sanctions.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a radical paramilitary wing, claimed it conducted the strikes in response to ISIS’s attack in Tehran earlier this month.
Iran’s larger, longer-range missiles have struggled with accuracy problems in the past, as many lack global positioning satellite receivers. The Zolfaqar missiles, a derivative of the Fateh-110 heavy artillery rocket, were fired from Iran’s western provinces, likely in an effort to maximize range and accuracy. June 18th’s strike was the first use of the missiles in combat, meaning it could have been as much a test as anything else. Iran has a large and diverse ballistic missile arsenal with weapons that comparatively more developed than the Zolfaqar.
Back in the ’80s – before 9/11 when the U.S. military’s focus shifted completely to the Middle East – aircraft carriers used to spend entire deployments in the Mediterranean Sea playing cat-and-mouse with the Soviet Navy, doing bi-lateral exercises with NATO allies, and pulling great liberty in ports like Cannes and Malta. During that time there was also a persistent pain-in-the-ass named Muammar Gaddafi who was the Libyan dictator.
A few decades before Gaddafi met his untimely demise at the hands of rebels, he made a sport out of provoking the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet assets, primarily by claiming that the entire Gulf of Sidra was territorial Libyan water. He called the line along the northernmost part of the gulf the “Line of Death” and warned that any American ships or airplanes that crossed it would be met with the full force of the Libyan military.
Fighters from the aircraft carrier’s air wing would routinely fly inside the “Line of Death” as part of the American Navy’s “freedom of navigation” operations (aka “FON ops”) designed to prove a commitment to the conventions of international admiralty law that said that the Gulf of Sidra was, in fact, a gulf so therefore the only territorial waters that Libya could claim were those that extended 12 miles off the coastline.
FON ops were generally boring in that the Libyan military didn’t respond at all in spite of Gaddafi’s bluster. Fighters would spend hours on combat air patrol stations drilling holes in the sky without a single vector from the controllers in the early warning aircraft whose radar screens remained blip-free.
But that wasn’t the case on January 4, 1989 when two F-14A Tomcats assigned to “The Swordsmen” of VF-32 got the call to investigate two contacts that had launched out of Tobruk – a dream scenario for Cold War-era aviators, but one that also had a few dubious moments, particularly for the pilot and his radar intercept officer (RIO) in the lead aircraft.
The rules of engagement at that time were more lenient than previous Sixth Fleet rules had been in that a Libyan aircraft didn’t have to fire at an American to be declared hostile but simply if it had turned toward an American aircraft that had attempted to turn away three times.
Analysis of the lead Tomcat’s mission recorder reveals the following (with video time stamp in parenthesis):
(0:11) – The lead RIO transmits “Bogeys have jinked back at me for the fifth time . . .” (Contacts on the F-14’s AWG-9 radar system had a tendency to “windshield wiper” when the aircraft maneuvered, showing erroneous heading changes, but at this point the RIO believes the ROE has been met to declare the Libyans “hostile.”)
(0:19) – Lead RIO transmits “Inside of 20 miles, master arm on,” telling the pilot to flip the switch in the front cockpit. The pilot responds with “good light,” which means the missiles are now ready to fire.
(0:41) – After an exchange between the lead RIO and the wing pilot regarding the bogey’s “angels” (altitude) the lead pilot is less convinced than his RIO that the ROE has been met. He transmits “Alpha Bravo from 207” – an attempt to speak to the admiral on the carrier to get a ruling – but gets no response.
(0:50) – Lead RIO transmits “13 miles . . . Fox-1!” as he pushes the launch button in the rear cockpit and fires an AIM-7M Sparrow missile. His pilot responds by muttering “ah, Jesus” over the intercom, an indication that he’s not entirely comfortable with his backseater’s zeal.
(1:00) – Lead RIO’s excitement gets the best of him, and he shoots a second Sparrow before the first one has time to make it to the target, which prevents either missile from guiding accurately.
(1:13) – Lead RIO calls “six miles” as the wing pilot transmits “tally two” and then says “turning into me.” The crews now know for sure that they’re engaged with MiG-23 “Floggers.”
(1:25) – Lead pilot says, “Okay, he’s got a missile off” over the intercom, referring to the fact his wingman just shot a Sparrow (a forward quarter shot from about 5 miles away).
(1:33) – Lead pilot transmits, “Good hit, good hit on one,” as the wingman’s Sparrow hits one of the MiGs.
(1:39) – Lead pilot says, “I’ve got the other one” as they merge and start a hard turn to get behind the second Flogger. His RIO directs him to “select Fox-2,” meaning he needs to switch the weapons firing control from the radar-guided Sparrow missile to the heat-seeking Sidewinder missile.
(1:48) – Lead RIO says, “shoot ’em!” over the intercom, and the pilot responds with “I don’t got a tone,” which refers to the aural cue that a Sidewinder missile gives the pilot when the seeker senses a heat source. But at this point the pilot doesn’t have a tone because he still has “Sparrow” selected (not “Sidewinder”) on his control stick.
(2:01) – Lead pilot requests that his RIO “lock him up” with the radar – an unnecessary step in Sidewinder firing logic, and the RIO responds with “I can’t. Shoot him, Fox-2!” The pilot, in turn, says, “I can’t. I don’t have a fucking tone.”
(2:04) – RIO starts to command pilot to select the right missile once again, but now the pilot has figured it out. (Fortunately for the American crew the Libyan pilot wasn’t skilled enough to use the American pilot’s “switchology” mistake to his advantage.) The pilot selects “Sidewinder” and the aural tone blares in his headset, indicating the missile is ready to be launched.
(2:06) – Lead pilot transmits “Fox-2” as he fires a Sidewinder missile from about two miles behind the MiG.
(2:09) – Lead pilot transmits “Good kill! Good kill!” as the heads up display shows the second MiG exploding.
While the crews earned the title of “MiG killers,” which makes them part of a rare breed in modern warfare, instructors at the Navy Fighter Weapons School summarized the lead aircraft’s performance as “professionally embarrassing.” (One senior member of the Top Gun staff characterized the shoot down as “punching kids coming off the short bus.”)
It’s also telltale that Fighter Pilot of the Year honors that year did not go to the lead pilot – who also happened to be the squadron’s commanding officer – but instead went to the wingman, who was only a first-tour lieutenant at the time.
Some ailing veterans can now use their federal health care benefits at CVS “MinuteClinics” to treat minor illnesses and injuries, under a pilot program announced April 18 by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The new program, currently limited to the Phoenix area, comes three years after the VA faced allegations of chronically long wait times at its centers, including its Phoenix facility, which treats about 120,000 veterans.
Veterans would not be bound by current restrictions under the VA’s Choice program, which limits outside care to those who have been waiting more than 30 days for an appointment or have to drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Instead, Phoenix VA nurses staffing the medical center’s help line will be able to refer veterans to MinuteClinics for government-paid care when “clinically appropriate.”
On April 19, President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation to temporarily extend the $10 billion Choice program until its money runs out, pending the administration’s plan due out by fall. That broader plan would have to be approved by Congress.
“Our number one priority is getting veterans’ access to care when and where they need it,” said Baligh Yehia, the VA’s deputy undersecretary for health for community care. “The launch of this partnership will enable VA to provide more care for veterans in their neighborhoods.”
Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., a long-time advocate of veterans’ expanded access to private care, lauded the new initiative as an “important step forward.”
“Veterans in need of routine health care services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment when they can visit community health centers like MinuteClinic to receive timely and convenient care,” he said.
The Veterans Health Administration said it opted to go with a CVS partnership in Phoenix after VA officials there specifically pushed for the additional option. They cited the feedback of local veterans and the success of a smaller test run with CVS last year in Palo Alto, Calif.
Shulkin has said he wants to expand private-sector partnerships in part by looking at wait times and the particular medical needs of veterans in different communities. Successful implementation of his broader plan will depend on the support of key members of Congress such as McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee.
The VA did not indicate whether it received requests from other VA medical centers or how quickly it might expand the program elsewhere.
The current Choice program was developed after the 2014 scandal in Phoenix in which some veterans died, yet the program has often encountered long waits of its own. The bill being signed by Trump seeks to alleviate some of the problems by helping speed up VA payments and promote greater sharing of medical records. Shulkin also has said he wants to eliminate Choice’s 30-day, 40 mile restrictions, allowing the VA instead to determine when outside care is “clinically needed.”
Despite a heavy spotlight on its problems, the Phoenix facility still grapples with delays. Only 61 percent of veterans surveyed said they got an appointment for urgent primary care when they needed it, according to VA data.
Maureen McCarthy, the Phoenix VA’s chief of staff, welcomed the new CVS partnership but acknowledged a potential challenge in providing seamless coordination to avoid gaps in care. She said a veteran’s medical record will be shared electronically, with MinuteClinic providing visit summaries to the veteran’s VA primary care physician so that the VA can provide follow-up services if needed.
The VA previously experimented with a similar program last year in the smaller market of Palo Alto, a $330,000 pilot to provide urgent care at 14 MinuteClinics. CVS says it’s pleased the VA has opted to test out a larger market and says it’s ready to roll the program out nationally if successful.
CVS, the biggest player in pharmacy retail clinics, operates more than 1,100 of them in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
“We believe in the MinuteClinic model of care and are excited to offer our health care services as one potential solution for the Phoenix VA Health Care System and its patients,” said Tobias Barker, chief medical officer of CVS MinuteClinic.