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This ‘Magic Carpet’ will help Navy pilots land on carriers

Landing on an aircraft carrier is one of the most difficult tasks any aviator can face. A 1991 Los Angeles Times article quoted one Desert Storm veteran as saying that the stress really came “when I got back to the ship and started landing on the carrier in the dark,” rather than when he was being shot at by Iraqi SAMs.


How can that stress be eased? This is an eternal question – mostly because there are lots of variables. One carrier landing could be in daylight with clear skies and a calm sea. The next could be in the middle of a thunderstorm in pitch black darkness. A pilot has to keep all of that in mind, not to mention the fact that the carrier itself is moving.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

Boeing, though, has been working on some new software for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the EA-18G Growlers to make this most difficult and stressful of tasks a little less so. It’s called the Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies. The acronym appropriately spells “MAGIC CARPET.”

This system handles calculating the many variables pilots making a carrier landing have to deal with, allowing the pilot to make simpler adjustments as the plane heads in for a landing.

Boeing put out a video about MAGIC CARPET. Take a look at the future of carrier landings!

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The Abrams is getting an invisibility cloak against missiles

The U.S. Army is making progress on a modular system for blinding and tricking incoming missiles, thereby protecting vehicles, tanks, and soldiers.


A system under development by the U.S. Army would make tanks like this one impossible for anti-tank missiles to pin down. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Modular Active Protection System employs a “soft-kill” method for defeating tank killers. It only works on weapons that use sensors, and it tricks those sensors into losing track of the tank or by offering it fake tank signatures to chase.

So, it’s a combination: equal parts invisibility cloak, smoke screen, and decoy system. And it can work in conjunction with a hard-kill system that literally shoots down the incoming rounds if they aren’t tricked or blinded.

Hard-kill systems are generally cooler looking than the soft kill ones. (Photo: Raytheon Company)

The hard kill is necessary even if the soft kill system is perfect because many weapons, like most rocket-propelled grenades, don’t have any sensors to spoof. But the system would work against most modern anti-tank missiles which are led to their target by a laser or follow the tanks infrared or electronic signatures.

Russia’s T-14 Armata Main Battle Tank is protected by its own active protection systems, according to Russian state media. The Armata’s protections are allegedly even strong enough to intercept depleted uranium sabot shells fired from the M1 Abrams and other NATO tanks.

If U.S. Abrams and other vehicles don’t get their own protections, they could find themselves outmatched in future armored conflict even if they aren’t outgunned. The Modular Active Protection System could put American crews on equal footing.

MIGHTY CULTURE

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

The wind blows viciously as it sweeps across the open waters, but the sound of gum being popped out of the pack is a familiar feeling that Senior Chief Quartermaster Steve Schweizer will never forget, even after retirement. It’s something that he takes on every mission, a lucky charm that he’ll leave behind when he walks out of the Assault Craft Unit Four (ACU-4) facility for the very last time.


“I won’t fly without it,” said Schweizer. “I’ve actually been on the ramp getting ready to go and I was feeling my pockets and thought ‘oh it’s not there, no I have to run back inside I know it’s in my desk.’ I’ll look at the water, look at the weather, and I’ll just kind of almost go into a quiet place, like just relax. I know that as soon as that mission starts, it’s ‘go go go’, it’s stress, it’s just operational, operational, operational.”

Schweizer first thought of joining the Navy after being unsure what he wanted to do in life.

“I took half a semester of college and realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” said Schweizer. “I had an uncle in the Navy who I didn’t talk to very much, but I told him I decided to join the military and he told me how much fun he had in the Navy so I figured I may have made the right decision.”

Schweizer first joined the LCAC program in 2004 and enjoys what he does.

“I’ve been here for fifteen years and I love what I do,” said Schweizer. “I love flying the crafts, I love teaching people how to fly the crafts, and I like our mission.”

Schweizer began running as a hobby before his 2014 deployment, describing it as an escape and a stress reliever.

“I just put my music on, go for a run, and I just tune everything out,” said Schweizer. “It’s just my relax time, my alone time. It’s definitely one of those things where it’s like if you think of work all the time, if you think of the stress of your job all the time, it’s going to get to you, so it’s my outlet.”

The program has a very high attrition rate and has a difficult training pipeline.

“This is a 90×50 foot hovercraft, it weighs about 200 thousand pounds,” said Schweizer. “You’re controlling it with three different controls. Your feet are doing one job and both hands are doing separate jobs. It takes a lot of coordination and it’s not easy.”

Training in the simulator and manning the live craft are completely different, and requires a lot of attention.

“You always have that heightened sense of awareness,” said Schweizer. “Anticipation of what the craft is going to do and how to counteract it. Never take anything for granted.”

On a small craft that is only manned by five personnel, personnel develop a closer relationship with crew members quicker, Schweizer explained.

“They develop that bond because you know that person has your back, or you know that person is looking out for you,” said Schweizer. “I know my crew, I know their families, I know what they like to do in their spare time, they know that if they’re ever in trouble they know they’ll call me first, or they’ll call one of their crew members first.”

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

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5 general officers who were almost certainly crazy

These five American generals and admirals did things that played with the thin line between cunning and crazy, but they were awesome at their jobs so most everyone looked the other way.


1. A Navy admiral dressed up in a ninja suit to ensure his classified areas were defended.

Photo: US Navy

Vice Adm. John D. Bulkeley was an American hero, let’s get that straight right out of the gate. He fought to attend Annapolis and graduated in 1933 but was passed over for a Naval commission due to budget constraints. So he joined the Army Air Corps for a while until the Navy was allowed to commission additional officers. In the sea service, he distinguished himself on multiple occasions including a Medal of Honor performance in the Pacific in World War II. War. Hero.

But he was also kind of crazy. As the commander of Clarksville Base, Tennessee after the war, Bulkeley was worried that his Marines may not have been properly protecting the classified areas. So, he would dress up in a ninja suit, blacken his face, and attempt to sneak past the armed Marines. Luckily, he was never shot by any of the sentries.

2. Lt. Gen. George Custer was obsessed with his huge pack of dogs.

Gen. George Custer had “crazy cat lady” numbers of dogs with between 40 and 80 animals at a time. It’s unknown exactly when he began collecting the animals, but while in Texas in 1866 he and his wife had 23 dogs and it grew from there.

Custer’s love of the animals was so deep, his wife almost abandoned their bed before he agreed to stop sleeping with them. On campaign, he brought dozens of the dogs with him and would sleep with them on and near his cot. Before embarking on the campaign that would end at Little Bighorn, Custer tried to send all the dogs back home. This caused his dog handler, Pvt. John Burkman, to suspect that the campaign was more dangerous than most.

Some of the dogs refused to leave and so Burkman continued to watch them at Custer’s side. Burkman had night guard duty just before the battle, and so he and a group of the dogs were not present when Native American forces killed Custer and much of the Seventh Cavalry. It’s unknown what happened to the dogs after the battle.

3. Gen. Curtis LeMay really wanted to bomb the Russians.

Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay is a controversial figure. On the one hand, he served as the commander of Strategic Air Command and later as the Air Force Chief of Staff. He shaping American air power as it became one of the most deadly military forces in the history of the world, mostly due it’s strategic nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, he really wanted to use those nukes. He advocated nuclear bombs being used in Vietnam and drew up plans in 1949 to destroy 77 Russian cities in a single day of bombing. He even proposed a nuclear first strike directly against Russia. Any attempt to limit America’s nuclear platform was met with criticism from LeMay. Discussing his civilian superiors, he was known to often say, “I ask you: would things be much worse if Khrushchev were Secretary of Defense?”

4. LeMay’s successor really, really wanted to bomb the Russians.

Gen. Curtis LeMay may have been itchy to press the big red button, but his protege and successor was even worse. LeMay described Gen. Thomas Power as “not stable,” and a “sadist.”

When a Rand study advocated limiting nuclear strikes at the outset of a war with the Soviet Union, Power asked him, “Why are you so concerned with saving their lives? The whole idea is to kill the bastards … At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win.”

5. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne made his soldiers fight without ammunition.

Portrait: Anna Claypoole Peale

In the Revolutionary War, bayonets played a much larger role than they do today. Still, most generals had their soldiers fire their weapons before using the bayonets.

Not Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne. He was sent by Gen. George Washington to reconnoiter the defense at Stony Point, New York. There, Wayne decided storming the defenses would be suicide and suggested that the Army conduct a bayonet charge instead.

Shockingly, this worked. On the night of July 15, 1779, the men marched to Stony Point. After they arrived and took a short rest, the soldiers unloaded their weapons. Then, with only bayonets, the men slipped up to the defenses and attacked. Wayne himself fought at the lead of one of the attacking columns, wielding a half-pike against the British. Wayne was shot in the head early in the battle but continued fighting and the Americans were victorious.

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Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

MC-130J operating from desert airstrip. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)


After polling members of the U.S. Air Force community, the service announced the name of the upcoming B-21 would be Raider on Sept. 19. Unlike the stealth bomber’s crowd sourced moniker, most of the flying branch’s planes get their official nicknames through a much less public process. In usual circumstances, some aircraft even get more than one.

On March 9, 2012, the Air Force announced Commando II as the formal name for the specialized MC-130J transport. For five months, crews had called the plane the Combat Shadow II.

“This is one of the first name changes we approved,” Keven Corbeil, a Pentagon official working at Air Force Materiel Command told Air Force reporters afterwards: “I think ‘Commando’ had historical [significance].”

The Air Force leads the shared office within Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that approves all official aircraft and missile designations and their nicknames. According to records that We Are The Mighty obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the Air Force’s top commando headquarters felt both Combat Shadow II and Commando II had important significance. These were not the only names in the running either.

A 71st Special Operations Squadron, CV-22 Osprey, is refueled by a 522nd Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Combat Shadow II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Bell)

Starting in 1997, the flying branch had explored various options for replacing the MC-130E Combat Talon and MC-130P Combat Shadow. Both aircraft first entered service during the Vietnam War.

With the Combat Talons, aerial commandos could sneak elite troops and supplies deep behind enemy lines. The Air Force Special Operations Command primarily used flew the Combat Shadows to refuel specialized helicopters, though they could also schlep passengers and cargo into “denied areas.”

The Air Force’s new plane would take over both roles. For a time, the flying branch considered a plan to simply rebuild the older MC-130s into the upgraded versions.

More than a decade after the first studies for a replacement aircraft, the service hired Lockheed Martin to build all new MC-130s based on the latest C-130J aircraft. Compared to earlier C-130s, the J models had more powerful engines driving distinctive six-bladed propellers, upgraded flight computers and other electronics and additional improvements.

A basic C-130H transport has a top speed of just more than 360 miles per hour and can carry 35,000 pounds of equipment to destinations nearly 1,500 miles away. The regular cargo-hauling J variant can lug the same amount of gear more than 300 miles further with a maximum speed of more than 415 miles per hour.

So, on Oct 5, 2009, the Maryland-headquartered plane-maker started building the first of these MC-130Js. By the end of the month, the Air Force was already debating the plane’s name.

Four months earlier, Air Force Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, then head of Air Force Special Operations Command offered up three possible nicknames: Combat Shadow II, Commando II and Combat Knife.

“The MC-130J mission will be identical to the Combat Shadow mission,” the top commando headquarters explained in an email. “The MC -130E already has its namesake preserved in the MC -130H, Combat Talon II.”

Keeping around well-known monikers is important both to Air Force history and public relations. The nicknames are supposed to both reflect the plane’s mission and help make it catchy during congressional hearings and interviews with the media.

Combat Shadow II would easily convey to lawmakers and the public that the plane was the successor to existing MC-130s. And otherwise, there wouldn’t be another Combat Shadow anytime soon.

Dating back to World War II and when the Air Force was still part of the U.S. Army, Commando II had different historic relevance. Largely obscured from common memory by the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Curtis’ C-46 Commando was a vital contributor in the China, Burma India theater.

A modified MC-130J awaits its next mission at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The aircraft has been fitted with vertical fins on each wing, called winglets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

“The Commando was a workhorse in ‘flying The Hump’ (over the Himalaya Mountains), transporting desperately needed supplies from bases in India and Burma to troops in China,” the Air Force noted in the same message. “Only the C-46 was able to handle the adverse conditions with unpredictable weather, lack of radio aids and direction finders, engineering and maintenance nightmares due to a shortage of trained air and ground personnel and poorly equipped airfields often wiped out by monsoon rains.”

Though a Commando hadn’t flown in Air Force colors in more than four decades, the name fit with the air commando’s dangerous missions in unknown territory. In addition, the type had a storied history flying covert missions for the Central Intelligence Agency with contractors such as Air America.

The last option, Combat Knife, was a reference to the codename for the first unit to get the original MC-130E Combat Talon. In 1965, the Air Force created the element inside the 779th Troop Carrier Squadron at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina.

As the unit evolved, it took over responsibility for training all Combat Talon crews. On Nov. 21, 1970, one of the group’s MC-130s flew into North Vietnam as part of the famous raid aimed at freeing American troops at the Son Tay prison camp.

As Lockheed began building the MC-130Js, Air Force Special Operations Command decided to try and have it both ways. In another memo , the top commando headquarters proposed calling the aircraft set up to replace the MC-130Ps as Combat Shadow IIs, while the planes configured to take over for the MC-130Es would become Combat Talon IIIs.

The only problem was that there weren’t really two different versions. The entire point of the new plane was to have a common aircraft for both missions.

Back at Wright-Patterson, the officials in charge of names balked at the idea of two names for one plane. Air Force Materiel Command ultimately approved Combat Shadow II for all MC-130Js.

This solution wasn’t really what Air Force Special Operations Command wanted for the newest member of its fleet. As early as March 2009, the elite fliers had argued in favor of Commando II if they had to pick a single moniker.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

“If the MC-130J will ultimately take on both the Talon and Shadow missions, then perhaps ‘Commando II’ is a nice compromise,” the vice commander of Air Force Special Operations Command Wurster in a hand-written note. “I like it better regardless!”

Censors redacted the officer’s name from the message.

On Oct. 25, 2011, Wurster’s successor Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel asked Air Force Materiel Commando to change the name to Commando II. Over the course of the debate, air commandos had also put Combat Arrow into the running.

Until 1974, Combat Arrow was the nickname applied to the Air Force’s Combat Talon element based in Europe. Combat Spear was the moniker for the element flying missions in Asia, particularly in Southeast Asia, during the same period. However, the MC-130W – a less intensive upgrade of the MC-130H Combat Talon II – had already gotten that nickname.

With new plans to eventually replace the Combat Talon IIs with MC-130Js as well, Fiel wanted “a new popular name that embodies the broader lineage of special operations force aircraft,” according to his message. “[Commando II] best reflects the multimission role of the aircraft and the units that will fly them.”

The officials responsible for naming agreed with Fiel’s request. They no doubt appreciated his suggestion of a new, single name.

Since then, the Air Force has clearly considered the matter settled. No one is likely interested in going through another drawn-out debate to change the MC-130J’s nickname anymore.

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This milspouse went through the 9 circles of hell to get her family’s stuff out of storage

(Artist’s rendition)


The end of a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move does not always mean that you’re having your household goods delivered immediately.  Thankfully, the military offers some free storage with each move.  But what happens when your free government storage ends?

Last summer, my family PCS’d from Europe to the US.  We decided to renovate our house before moving in, and so we moved in with my mother “temporarily.”  In August.

Our household goods arrived in September, and so our 90 days of temporary storage began.  When the 90 days was up, my husband requested, and was granted, an extension for another 90 days.  Which ended a bit ago.  And we’re still at my mother’s house.

After evaluating all the options, my husband decided that our best choice was to keep our household goods in their current storage location, but start paying for the storage ourselves.   In this type of situation, the military still retains responsibility for the final delivery fees, which makes this option attractive.

After approximately 4,276 emails back and forth between the company who has our storage shipment, the personal property people, the transportation management people, and the legal services office, we were told that in order to “move” (not move) our items from government storage to personal storage, we would have to have the shipment inspected.  The price for the inspection is based upon weight; ours is somewhere in the $900 range.

We asked a lot of questions about who is responsible for the items at which point in the process, and got a lot of conflicting answers and a lot of “well, the rules keep changing” type of answers.

Then, we had to decide what type of insurance we wanted on the items in storage:  the free basic coverage or additional coverage for an additional cost.  There was a lot of back and forth about whether which insurance choice required inspection, but it seemed we were paying for an inspection anyway, so I never did get all the details about that issue.

Which brings us to today, when many questions were answered and even more questions were developed.

We were told to show up at the warehouse at 9 am to inspect our shipment.  When we arrived, we were taken to a corner of the warehouse with 11 of our 15 crates staged.  We repeatedly asked “how does this liability thing work?” and “At what point the process do we file a claim for damages that occurred prior to today?” but didn’t get a lot of answers.  We also didn’t get any instructions.

Our very nice crew started uncrating our items.  Anything that was in a box or a wrapped tub, we noted any damages to the carton, and all furniture was unwrapped and inspected.  The moving company rep was making notes and we were making notes and discussing which damage was new and how much was old moving damage or just normal wear and tear of life.  I took some pictures of damage that was notable, and I thought things were going pretty well.  Items were being re-crated as we went, and the process was smooth and organized.

After lunch, someone in the company decided that the process wasn’t moving fast enough, so they simultaneously added an extra crew member and instructed them to “just get everything unpacked.”  I should have put my foot down right then, but I couldn’t possibly have anticipated the chaos that ensued.  Instead of taking things out, inspecting what needed to be inspected, and then putting things back, it became a mad rush to empty the remaining 8 crates onto the warehouse floor.  I did occasionally ask, “Um, how is this going to work?” and was repeatedly reassured that they had a plan.

Once every crate was unpacked, the team decided to do a thorough search through the approximately 250 items, looking for 5 missing items.   This is when I realized that my discomfort was not irrational – this was madness!  The day was ending, we had 8 crates of stuff scattered across about 1000 square feet, with random things stacked this way and that, and about 10 items of furniture unwrapped but not yet inspected and additional items still wrapped.  I’m not sure if it was the tone or the actual words, but the crew finally got the message that we were not happy.  They pulled in additional crew members and everyone started frantically organizing and inspecting and (still!) looking for the missing items.

During this frenzy, it somehow became clear what was happening with regard to the inventorying.  The crew wasn’t helping us inspect for damage to make a claim; they were inventorying the condition of items to cover their own liability.  Any information being used for our claim needed to be coming from our notes.  This makes perfect sense, in retrospect, but it would have been significantly more helpful to have known that BEFORE we started, not 7 1/2 hours into unpacking and repacking.

At 5 p.m., some guy who we’d not yet seen (despite having talked to at least 10 people) showed up and announced that the warehouse was closing for the evening and we’d have to come back tomorrow.  Whoa, Nellie!  Number one, we’re not available tomorrow.  Number two, this is the sort of information that should have been shared at any point prior to now.  Number three, the reason we’re in this situation is because someone in your company decided that the previous system wasn’t working and messed with it.  I’m pretty irritated that has somehow become my problem.

After a few heated words, it became clear that we really didn’t have any choice but to return.  Neither my husband or I can cancel our activities for tomorrow, so it was decided that the company would do their inspection, repack as much as possible, and leave out the items that we needed to inspect when I return on Friday.

On the way out, we checked with our office contact and asked a few more questions.  It was at this point in time that we were told that we should have been making all those damage notes on the claim form.  I asked where we got those and was informed that we should have been given them at the beginning of the day.  She tracked down our forms and handed them over for us to transcribe all our notes before returning on Friday.  It seems that our 70 days to claim damage starts with today’s inspection.  Nice to know.

It feels like there is a lot more to say about this “process,” and I suspect I’ll be updating this as things evolve, but I want to get it all out to you while it is fresh in my head.

If you find yourself in a situation where your government storage ends before your storage needs end, be sure to explore all the other options.  Hopefully, this will provide some insight into the option of keeping your items with the same company that is already storing them.  It is by no means a complete or definitive guide, but our experiences that may help you do it better than we are.

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The best military Meals Ready-To-Eat, ranked

Ah, the MRE.


Known by such illustrious nicknames as “Mr. E,” “Meal, Rarely Edible,” and “Meal, Ready to Excrete,” the military meals ready-to-eat aren’t exactly known for their delightful taste.


Luckily, the taste of (at least) some MRE’s has improved over the years. Troops these days don’t have to deal with the terror that was the “Four Fingers of Death” — aka hot dogs — or the bean burrito. If you are opening a box of meals out in the field, these are the ones to look for.

#6: Chili with Beans

It’s got a Ranger Bar! Sadly, this bad boy comes with cheddar cheese and snack bread — which sucks — so you should probably trade that out with the one weird guy in your platoon who actually likes snack bread. Oh, and the chili is kind of good too.

#5: Maple Sausage

This is obviously better around breakfast time, since most of the contents are geared toward that very important meal of the day. The sausage, if heated up, isn’t half bad. But the big takeaway here is the Maple Muffin Top. Unfortunately they couldn’t jam a full muffin in there, but hey, the top is the best part anyway.

This also has the trail mix, crackers and cheddar cheese, and orange beverage powder. Don’t eat it all in one sitting.

#4: Cheese Tortellini

There are so many MRE’s with totally crappy main meals. I’m throwing it out there right now: I actually like the cheese tortellini. Unless you don’t heat it up. Not only is the main meal pretty damn good, but it’s got all kinds of goodies, including wet pack fruits, a first strike protein bar, peanut butter and crackers, and beverage powder.

And if you are feeling extra brave, throw that extra hot hot sauce on top of the tortellini. Just make sure a port-a-john is on standby.

#3: Beef Ravioli

If you are Italian, you are going to hate this meal, since calling this concoction ravioli is probably a grave sin. But for the rest of us, it’s actually a decent meal when it’s hot. But the best part: Bacon cheese spread. In the field, you can probably sell that stuff and make serious bank.

#2: Meatballs in Marinara

Just like the beef ravioli, this one is pretty decent. It also has jalapeno cheese spread and tortillas, and who doesn’t like that Jal-op-eno? The potatoes au gratin are fairly terrible, but at least there’s a first strike bar, and beef snack strips. Unless you are a fatty who eats the entire meal, there’s lots of trading opportunity here.

#1: Chili and Macaroni

Chili Mac is the best. There’s no question. Main meal: delicious. But wait, there’s more. This has a pound cake, jalapeno cheese spread and crackers, candy, and beverage powder. Even the accessory packet is the best: There’s coffee AND matches in there. Brew up a cup of joe then burn things when you’re bored.

There are way more MRE’s in existence of course. We didn’t rank them all. If you want to see what’s in the current batch, you can check out MREInfo.com.

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This botched air strike on Lebanon changed Naval Aviation forever

A-7E Corsair II aircraft line the bow of the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV 62) about the time of the air strike against Syrian gun emplacements in Lebanon. (Photo: U.S. Navy)


American air power going against targets in the Middle East didn’t start with Operation Enduring Freedom or even Desert Storm. The first significant strike was conducted in December of 1983 by carrier-based assets against Syrian anti-aircraft positions in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and it was in many respects a disaster, one that radically changed the way the U.S. Navy conducted strike warfare.

The Bekaa Valley strike was supposed to be in direct retaliation for the Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 Marines on October 23, but the mission was delayed for months by lawmakers in Washington and the operational planners at the European Command in Germany. Finally Syrians firing SAMs at F-14 reconnaissance flights over Lebanon compelled decision-makers to action.

The strike planning process was cumbersome and not tactically agile.  Pentagon and EUCOM higher-ups made the call on strike composition, weapons loadouts, ingress and egress routes, and times on target. As a result, aviators who would ultimately fly the mission had little say in how it would be carried out.

The 28-plane strike package launched from two carriers – Kennedy and Independence (both decommissioned now) – on the morning of December 4, which proved to be the perfectly wrong time as the metrological conditions made it hard for the attack aircraft to see their targets (remember, these were the days before smart bombs, when pilots had to actually maneuver their airplanes toward the ground and pickle their bombs with a high level of skill). At the same time the weather and sun angle highlighted the American airplanes in the sky for Syrian anti-aircraft gunners. The strike package also flew toward their targets along the same route, which made it easy for gunners to train their weapons.

The Syrians managed to shoot down two A-7E Corsairs and an A-6E Intruder.  One of the A-7 pilots and the A-6 pilot were killed.  The other A-7 pilot – who also happened to be the Air Wing commander aboard the Independence – managed to get his jet over the Mediterranean before he ejected.  He was picked up by Lebanese fisherman and eventually returned to the Americans unharmed.

The A-6 bombardier/navigator, Lt. Robert Goodman, was captured by Syrian troops and taken as a hostage. The month-long stalemate between governments on his release was finally broken by Jesse Jackson, who took an interest in the young aviator because he was an African-American.

Lt. Robert Goodman in the back of a car with a Syrian soldier after being shot down during an air strike against targets in Lebanon. (AP photo)

As a result of this fiasco the U.S. Navy established the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at the air station in Fallon, Nevada, basically taking a page from the Top Gun playbook a decade or so earlier when that school was created to fix the problem of fighters getting shot out of the skies over North Vietnam because of inferior tactics. The staff at NSAWC studied better ways of getting bombs on target while surviving intense SAM environments, and their research yielded more thorough mission planning processes (including streamlining strike coordination up and down the chain of command), off-axis attack profiles, and the improved use of jammers to better suppress the SAM threat.

Although times have changed in recent years with the advent of stealth technology and precision-guided munitions, many of the lessons learned from Bekaa Valley are still relevant today.

Now: Top secret files detail how drone strikes target terrorists — and how they go wrong 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ‘pirate’ was the unsung hero of British carrier operations during the Cold War

Believe it or not, during the Cold War the British had a number of real carriers, not just the V/STOL carriers that have served for years.


These vessels were primarily a mix of two post-World War II classes: The Audacious-class fleet carriers (HMS Eagle and HMS Ark Royal), one World War II-era fleet carrier (HMS Victorious), and the Centaur-class light carriers.

One of the planes that the fleet carriers relied on most was the Blackburn Buccaneer. According to MilitaryFactory.com, this strike plane was fast (a top speed of 667 miles per hour), was equipped with an in-flight refueling probe, and could fly up to 1,108 miles on internal fuel. It could carry up to 7,000 pounds of bombs, and upgrades gave it the ability to use laser-guided Paveway bombs and stand-off missiles.

A Blackburn Buccaneer in flight. (Youtube Screenshot)

The Buccaneer also was equipped with the Martel air-to-surface missile which came in two variants — the AS 37 for attacking enemy radars, and the AJ 168 anti-ship version. Either version had a range of just over 32 nautical miles and came with a 330-pound warhead. The Buccaneer later was able to carry the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile, which had a range of just under 60 nautical miles.

The Buccaneer flew off the Royal Navy’s fleet carriers until 1978, when the Ark Royal was retired. They were then handed over to the Royal Air Force, where a dozen saw action during Operation Desert Storm, providing laser guidance for RAF Tornados and Jaguars. The RAF retired its Buccaneers in 1991 at the end of Desert Storm.

A Blackburn Buccaneer on HMS Eagle in the Mediterranean Sea. (Wikimedia Commons)

The only export customer was the Republic of South Africa, which acquired 16 Buccaneers. These planes saw action from 1965 to 1991 in the minor wars that country had with its neighbors.

The Buccaneer is now gone, but it served well when it was in the British fleet.

You can see a video about this fascinating plane below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvCD0VGfqEc
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Marines avoided killing officers because of this symbol

The Marine Corps hosts countless customs and courtesies that dates back hundreds of years that are reflected in the way they conduct business today.


Their uniform is intended to display courage (their prideful history), commitment (years of service), and self-achievements (medals and ribbons).

To the untrained eye, it’s difficult to pick out a particular individual from a sea of Marines — especially amidst the chaos of war.

Related: This is why some Marines wear the ‘French Fourragere,’ and some don’t

Can you spot the Marine officer in the image below? If so, could you identify them from above with one-eye closed?

These Marines prepare to get into the sh*t after exiting an Osprey helicopter.

Back in the 1800s, it was a common practice for Marines and sailors to patrol up to an enemy vessel and forcefully board the ship while under heavy fire.

The Marine and Navy sharpshooters would position themselves high up in the ship’s riggings, providing overwatch as their brother-in-arms moved in.

A replica of a U.S. Marine officer’s uniform during the mid-1850s. (Source: Pinterest)

During the confusion of war, the sharpshooters would occasionally fire their weapons and kill friendly forces, including officers, as they fought the enemy in clusters.

Also Read: This is why sailors have 13 buttons on their trousers

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).

The Marine quatrefoil

Whether or not this origin story is true remains ambiguous, but the quatrefoil nonetheless remains part of the officer uniform today.

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The F-16 could transition to an unmanned aerial asset

In its quest to meet and exceed the challenges of the future, the U.S. Air Force has been increasingly looking to unmanned systems — and a recent test proved that an unmanned F-16 can now think and fight on its own.


The U.S. has used F-16 drones before as realistic targets for the F-35 to blow up in training, but on April 10 it announced fully autonomous air-to-air and ground strike capabilities as a new capability thanks to joint research between the service and Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunkworks.

An F-35 Lightning II from Eglin AFB flies with an F-16 Fighting Falcon from Luke AFB at the Luke Airshow. Was the Viper just bait? (Lockheed Martin photo)

Not only did the F-16 drone figure out the best way to get there and execute a ground strike mission by itself, it was interrupted by an air threat, responded, and kept going.

“We’ve not only shown how an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle can perform its mission when things go as planned, but also how it will react and adapt to unforeseen obstacles along the way,” said Capt. Andrew Petry of the Air Force Research Laboratory in a Lockheed Martin statement.

But having F-16 drones plan and fly their own missions is only part of a much larger picture. The future of the U.S. Air Force may well depend on advanced platforms like F-35s commanding fleets of unmanned drones which can act as additional ears, eyes, and shooters in the sky during battles.

F-16 Fighting Falcons from Kunsan Air Base and South Korean KF-16s taxi to the runway together during Exercise Buddy Wing 14-8 at Seosan Air Base, Republic of Korea Aug. 21, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Air Force has what’s called an “open mission system” where it designs all platforms to network together and share information. Essentially, even an unmanned drone will have decision-grade data fed to it from everything from satellites in the sky to radars on the ground.

Lockheed Martin calls it the “loyal wingman” program, where drone systems like old F-16s can seamlessly network with F-35s and think on its feet.

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Meet Russia’s all-women battalion of death

While much of this is well-known to the typical First World War buff, what many do not know is that Russia—and Russia alone—created all-female combat units to actively fight alongside men on the front. According to Melissa Stockdale’s article “‘My Death for the Motherland Is Happiness’: Women, Patriotism, and Soldiering in Russia’s Great War,” the most famous of these units was known as The First Women’s Battalion of Death, and it’s estimated that approximately 6,000 Russian women served in such battalions throughout the war.

To understand how these battalions came about, one must first understand some basics of the Russian domestic situation at this time.

In March of 1917, Tsar Nicholas, submitting to the fact that he could no longer fight the tides of revolution, abdicated the throne to an incredibly precarious—albeit democratic—new government. The following months saw a flood of liberal and egalitarian policies instituted throughout Russia, with women getting the vote, as well as legal entitlement to equal pay.

Meanwhile, the new government also believed that victory in the World War was vital to the country’s self-interest. Laurie Stoff, author of They Fought for the Motherland: Russia’s Women Soldiers in WWI and the Revolution, writes that this meant newly appointed Minister of War Alexandra Kerensky was now faced with the mammoth task of breathing life into a war effort of which the majority of Russians—especially Russian soldiers—wanted no more part. Insubordination rates and violence against officers (especially officers with aristocratic backgrounds) were at an all-time high, and after three years at the front in often horrific day-to-day conditions, most of Russia’s soldiers simply wanted to go home.

Kerensky’s answer to low morale was the creation of what he called “shock battalions,” or “battalions of death,” which he envisioned as brigades of the most disciplined, exemplary Russian fighters. They would theoretically be deployed to various places along the front to awe and inspire war-weary soldiers.

Kerensky’s vision of these shock battalions coincided almost exactly with an idea brought forward by a peasant-woman-turned-soldier named Maria Bochkareva (while by no means common, there were a number of known incidents of individual women serving in otherwise all-male units throughout Europe during this time). Bochkareva asserted that a disciplined, exemplary battalion of Russian women could serve to “shame” the weary and unmotivated soldiers at the front.

Wikimedia

While Bochkareva earnestly believed in a woman’s ability to fight, The Ministry of War mostly saw her proposal as the perfect propaganda tool to compliment their shock battalions—if even women, they reasoned, were answering their country’s call to arms, then surely men would feel obliged to follow suit. Thus, Kerensky gave his permission for the First Women’s Battalion of Death to be formed, led under Bochkareva’s command.

According to historian Richard Abraham, The First Women’s Battalion of Death was made public in late May with a major publicity campaign throughout St. Petersburg, and within a matter of weeks the Battalion had over 2,000 female recruits from a diverse range of backgrounds and education levels.

Enlistment was open to women aged eighteen and older, with women under the age of twenty-one required to have permission from their parents to join. According to Stockdale, the recruits were also made to swear an oath in which they promised everything from “courage and valor” to “cheerfulness, happiness, kindness, hospitality, chastity, and fastidiousness.” After these initial requirements were met, as well as the passing of a health evaluation, the women were marched off to training grounds to begin the process that would turn them from “women to soldiers.”

Wikimedia

This process first entailed the shaving of their heads, ridding the women of one of their most “impractical” and outwardly feminine features. As no uniforms for women existed, the recruits were administered clothes designed for men that were often ill-fitting on the female frame; this proved especially problematic in regards to footwear, as their boots were often impossibly over-sized. To further enforce their new identities, Bochkareva discouraged and punished excessive smiling and giggling—behavior she considered overly-feminine—and instead encouraged spitting, smoking, and cursing among her recruits.

Along with these physical transformations, the women also began a grueling daily training process designed to prepare them for battle. The recruits rose at five o’ clock each morning and drilled until nine o’ clock at night, at which point they slept on bare boards covered by thin bed sheets. Their training consisted of strenuous exercises, marching drills, lessons in hand-to-hand combat, and rifle handling.

Any behavior deemed “flirtatious” or at all feminine was strictly prohibited, and Bochkareva was known to punish even minor transgressions with corporal punishment. She stomped out any signs of traditional femininity not only in an attempt to make “warriors of the weaker sex,” but also in order to curb government anxiety that female soldiers at the front would result in illicit sexual relations. As one official stated, “Who will guarantee that the presence of women soldiers at the front will not yield there little soldiers?” Bochkareva thus deemed the sexlessness of her soldiers as a mark of her own professional dedication and triumph.

Stockdale states that while on the home front these female soldiers were publicly celebrated, their reception in combat was decidedly less welcome. Upon arriving at the front, the Battalion was met with boos, jeers, and an overall sense of resentment by male soldiers. Not only did the deep-rooted misogyny of the military complex and culture at large shine through, but in general, the exhausted men were antagonistic to anything that they perceived as an attempt by their leaders to prolong the fighting.

Even when the Women’s Battalion proved itself both disciplined and courageous under fire, male soldiers remained angered and insulted by their presence. Within just a few months, Bochkareva was forced to disband the unit, allowing her women to join groups elsewhere wherever they saw fit. In her memoir, Yashka, My Life As A Peasant, Exile, and Soldier, Bochkareva, wrote:

“They could not stand it much longer where they were. They were prepared to fight the Germans, to be tortured by them, to die at their hands or in prison camps. But they were not prepared for the torments and humiliations that they were made to suffer by our own men. That had never entered into our calculations at the time that the Battalion was formed.”

Upon the ultimate Bolshevik takeover in the fall, Russia withdrew from the war altogether, and the ill-fated women’s battalions faded into practically less than a footnote in Russian history. Some scholars speculate that this is because the battalions were so closely associated with the military propaganda of the old regime, whereas others assert that it had more to do with the Russian people’s desperate desire to return to some sense of normalcy after years of international and internal warfare.

Stockdale writes that the women soldiers themselves had an extremely difficult time readjusting after their return home. Their close-shaven heads made them instantly recognizable as former members of female battalions, and they were easy targets in the mist of the Bolshevik fervor taking hold of the country; there are eye-witness accounts of former battalion members getting beaten, sexually assaulted, and even thrown off moving trains during this period.

Remarkably, many of the former battalion members continued in their desire to fight, with a large number joining both the revolutionary and anti-revolutionary armies on individual bases in the years to come.

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6 armored vehicles Russia could parachute into your backyard

Who’s ready for summer, huh? Grills, pool parties, and long lazy days to replace all the cold dreariness, am I right?


NO! Because Russia is always watching, and it’s always capable of dropping a bunch of armored vehicles on our heads and forcing us into a Red Dawn-style conflict to preserve American freedoms.

The old Red Dawn, with Patrick Swayze and Soviets.

But don’t fear. The first step is always identifying the threat. Here are six armored vehicles that could erupt from the sky in the middle of your final exams, pool party, or whatever.

1. BMD-4M

(GIF: YouTube/armyreco)

The BMD-4M packs a 100mm gun, a 30mm automatic cannon, a Konkurs anti-tank guided missile launcher, two machine guns, and aluminum armor. It’s powered by a 500hp multi-fuel engine and moves on two thick treads. In addition to shells, the main gun can fire Bastion laser-guided anti-tank missiles.

The whole 13.6-ton shebang can be thrown out of the back of a plane with the crew already inside. The crew of three can be joined by five infantrymen. As a special bonus, they can swim and fire in the water.

2. BMD-3

(Photo: Vitaly V. Kuzmin CC BY-SA 4.0)

The BMD-3 is a predecessor to the BMD-4M and features the same Konkurs ATGM launcher, machine guns, and a 30mm automatic cannon, but it’s a little lighter at 13.2 tons and lacks the 100mm main gun. It also features a 40mm grenade launcher.

It can carry five infantrymen in its standard configuration and eight in an emergency. Like the 4M, it’s amphibious.

3. BTR-MD

(Photo: Smell U Later CC BY-SA 3.0)

The BTR-MD is based on the BMD-4 chassis but is designed as a multi-role armored transport. It has a crew of two and can be configured as a command and control vehicle, ammo or fuel transport, ambulance, or infantry fighting vehicle.

It carries a 7.62 machine gun and a 30mm grenade launcher and weighs just over 13 tons.

4. BTR-ZD

(Photo: Serge Serebro, Vitebsk Popular News CC BY-SA 3.0)

The BTR-ZD is an anti-aircraft vehicle based on the older BTR-D armored personnel carrier. It has little permanent armament, just a pair of 7.62mm machine guns. But it usually packs a ZU-23-2 antiaircraft gun either strapped to the roof or towed on a trailer. The ZU-23-2 has two 23mm machine guns.

It can also carry two man-portable air defense teams equipped with shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. The whole thing weighs only 8 tons, is amphibious, and can be airdropped.

5. 2S25 Sprut-SD

(Photo: SLonoed – Танки в городе CC BY 3.0)

With a 125mm smoothbore main cannon that can fire both conventional rounds and laser-guided anti-tank missiles that can also target enemy helicopters. The three-man crew can fire up to seven rounds per minute, but they can’t easily change the order of the rounds because it uses a 22-round autoloader.

The weapon is amphibious and, like many of the vehicles on this list, can be airdropped with the crew inside.

6. 2S23 Nona

The 2S23 Nona is in the center of the photo, just ahead of where Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is walking. (Photo: Office of the Ukrainian President CC BY-SA 4.0)

This self-propelled mortar can fire standard rounds to distances of over 5.5 miles, rocket-assisted ones to nearly 8 miles, and anti-tank rounds to over a half mile. The 2S23 Nona can swim and jump from planes.

Based on the BTR-80 armored personnel carrier chassis, the 2S23 rolls on eight tires rather than tracks.