This plane left the SR-71 Blackbird in the dust - We Are The Mighty
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This plane left the SR-71 Blackbird in the dust

The SR-71 Blackbird was the fastest military jet that has ever taken to the skies. But there was a plane that not only went twice as fast, but it also went much higher.


That speedy plane was the North American X-15.

The X-15 was one of the first true spaceplanes, with a number of flights going beyond Earth’s atmosphere, according to a 2005 NASA release. It was capable of going over 4,500 mph, or nearly Mach 6, and it went as high as 354,200 feet – or just over 67 miles – above the Earth.

This plane left the SR-71 Blackbird in the dust
North American X-15A. (NASA photo)

The plane didn’t actually take off from the ground. In fact, it needed the help of a B-52 bomber before it could reach those dizzying heights and super-high speeds. NASA used two of the first B-52s, an NB-52A known as the “High and Mighty One,” for some flights before a NB-52B known as “Balls 8” took over the duty.

Once released from the B-52 at an altitude of 45,000 feet and a speed of 500 miles per hour, the X-15’s Reaction Motors XLR-99 would activate providing 70,400 pounds of thrust, according to a NASA fact sheet. At most, the plane had two minutes of fuel.

This plane left the SR-71 Blackbird in the dust
A X-15A with external fuel tanks and a new paint job is dropped from a NB-52 aircraft. (NASA photo)

Among the pilots who were at the controls of this marvel was Neil Armstrong – you’d know him as the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong didn’t get into space with this plane in any of his seven flights, but he did post the 6th-fastest speed among the X-15 sorties, according to an official NASA history.

One of those who achieved the rating of astronaut, Major Michael Adams, received the honor posthumously after he was killed in a crash of his X-15A on Nov. 15, 1967. Adams had broken the 50-mile barrier that the Air Force and NASA used to define entering space on his seventh and final flight, reaching an altitude of 266,000 feet and a top speed of 3,617 mph, according to the NASA history’s list of X-15 flights.

Below, take a look at the video from Curious Droid, which talks about the X-15 – and the awesome career it had.

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5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever

As the saying goes, “a man’s home is his castle.”


While this rings true for people who own a house, it was even more important for the leader in charge of a kingdom, an empire or even a republic. The reason for this is that the man in the “high castle” had much a stake. So to make sure that the country is strong, a king would build a fortress — or a wall with many fortresses — to project the centralized strength and influence of his nation throughout his realm and beyond.

Understand that a fortress is not just a building with a certain amount of walls and towers, but also can be a wall. Below is a list of the strongest fortresses ever built in the history of the world.

5. Masada, Israel

On a rocky plateau situated on a hill in southern Israel near the edge of the Judean desert, one can find the fortress of Masada. Almost all information on Masada and the siege that took place comes from the first-century Jewish Roman historian Josephus.

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The fortress of Masada withstood a year-long siege by Roman Gov. Lucius Flavius Silva. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In 66 AD, the Kingdom of Judea was in upheaval over Rome’s prolonged occupation and revolted. In doing so, a small group of rebels known as the Sicarii captured Masada after slaughtering its Roman garrison. In 72 AD, Lucius Flavius Silva, commander of the Legio X Fretensis, laid siege to Masada.

To reach the top, Lucius gave the order to build a massive ramp that was 375 feet high and 450 feet long. Once the legionaries made it to the top, they rolled the siege engines in and battered Masada’s walls until they fell.

Once inside, the Romans didn’t find an enemy in sight. Rather, they found over 900 dead. Only two women and five children survived.

4. Great Wall of Gorgan, Parthian/Sassanid Empire

The Great Wall of Gorgan is a fortress that remains mostly unknown. Located in northeastern Iran, the wall stretches from the Caspian Sea to the Kopet Dag Mountain Range. In total, the wall was 121 miles long.

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The Great Wall of Gorgan. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The date of its construction is disputed. Some say it is 1,000 years older than the Great Wall of China. While little is known about the wall, the Parthians (247 BCE – 224 AD) who ruled Iran, are said to have built on the original remains of the wall.

The original height and width is unknown, but when the Sassanid Empire (224–651) overthrew the Parthians they repaired, enlarged, and added fortresses to the wall. The height of the Gorgan wall has yet to be determined. The width of the wall was between 20 to 30 feet wide and featured 30 fortresses.

What made this wall significant was that for many centuries it prevented nomads from the north, like the Dahae, Massagetae, Hephthalites and other various nomadic elements from getting in.

3. Hadrian’s Wall, England/Scotland

Hadrian’s Wall is well known to most casual students of history.

The Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD ordered for the construction of the wall along with 16 fortresses garrisoned with static troops. The length of the wall expanded from the Irish Sea to the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea — a distance of 73 miles.

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The author walking on Hadrian’s Wall in Great Britain. (Photo courtesy Cam Rea)

The purpose of the wall is obvious, but as to why it was constructed, remains disputed. The reason for this is that there is no clear evidence that suggests Roman Britain, south of the future wall, was under any real substantial threats — even though there had been some minor rebellions in the province and within the Roman Empire. This was probably the reason why Hadrian built the wall — as a symbol and reminder that it is best to separate one from the barbarians.

Hadrian’s Wall would provide Roman Britain security from the Celtic/Pictish tribes in the north until Rome abandoned Britannia in 410 AD.

2. Walls of Constantinople

In 324 AD, Emperor Constantine I moved the capital from Rome to the small port town of Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople. The reason for this move was to be closer to the eastern portion of the Roman Empire due to its lucrative trade.

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To ensure the safety of this second Rome, Constantine issued an order to build of a wall. The Wall of Constantine was laid out in a series of four rows, with the inner two featuring towers 50 feet apart.

While very effective in repelling invaders, the Roman Emperor Theodosius II decided to expand the walls. The Theodosian Walls consisted of two — an inner and outer wall — which consisted of 96 towers. The inner wall was 40 feet high while the outer wall stood at 30 feet high.

The walls of Constantinople paid off for many centuries and were able to throw back 12 sieges from 559-1203 AD. However, the city was captured in 1204 during the fourth crusade, but afterward was able to withstand five more sieges until that fateful day in 1453, when the Ottoman Turks bashed down the walls and captured the city.

1. Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China needs no introduction. Many assume that the Great Wall was built and finished during the lifetime of a Chinese emperor. Instead it was constructed by multiple emperors over 1,000 years.

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The height, length, and thickness of the wall — or walls — vary, depending on which emperor built it and how much they could afford.

For example, once the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) pushed out the Mongols, they set about to expand and enlarge the Great Wall. The total length of the Great Wall under the Ming was over 5,000 miles long and 25 feet high and 15 – 30 feet thick at the base. If one were to take the wall and line it up, the length would be over 13,000 miles, according to study in 2012.

While the Great Wall looks good, it provided only temporary protection. The problem was that due to its size, it was too cumbersome and too costly to man.

The purpose of the Wall was to keep nomads out from the north. Instead, it kept the people of China isolated within and the wars that came with it.

The Mongols, however, just went around it during their invasion in 1211. The Ming would later enhance the wall, but it didn’t make a difference when the Manchu invaded in 1644.

From that point on, the Great Wall was more of a monument to look upon with amazement.

 

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5 fairy tales as told by your platoon sergeant

Platoon sergeants aren’t just managers and leaders, they’re also mentors — proxy parents even.


But they’re (in)famously gruff about it. After all, they didn’t father any of these kids, and they didn’t pick them either. And their primary job isn’t to turn them into beautiful snowflakes but honed weapons.

So, below are 5 classic fairy tales as recited by cigar-chomping and dip-spewing platoon sergeants:

1. Red Riding Hood Learns to Secure Her Logistics Chain

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Photo: Public Domain

So, this little girl was getting ready for a trip to her grandma’s house. Red Riding Hood started by doing a map recon and checking with the intel bubbas to see what was going on along her route. After she heard about the increase in wolf-related activity in the area, she requested additional assets like a drone for overwatch and more ammunition for the mass-casualty producing weapons systems.

When a wolf attempted to hit her basket carriers and then fled, she had her drone operator follow the wolf to the cave. Red and her squad conducted a dynamic entry into the cave and eliminated the threat. Now, they conduct regular presence patrols to deter future wolves from operating in their area of operations.

2. Goldilocks and the Three Tangos

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Photo: Israeli Defense Forces

Goldilocks was moving tactically through the forest when she spotted a large wooden structure with a single point of ingress/egress. Since she wasn’t an idiot, she didn’t just burst inside to try out the beds. Instead, she practiced tactical patience and established an observation post.

After tracking patterns of life for a few days, she was certain that the structure housed three bears of various sizes. In her head, she rehearsed the battle dozens of times before engaging. When the dust settled from the firefight, she found herself in possession of a defendable combat outpost deep in the woods.

3. Hansel and Gretel Learn About SERE

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Photo: Public Domain. Cartoon bubbles by WATM Logan Nye

When two privates were led by their evil stepmother to play deep in the woods, they brought a compass and map. The stepmother then attempted to abandon them in the forest. Since they knew their stride counts and checked their azimuth often, the kids were able to quickly move back to their home.

Near the house, the kids prepared a number of traps normally used to hunt game for food. These traps were positioned on areas the stepmother was known to frequent and the kids waited. When she trapped herself in a snare near the river, the kids bundled her up and sent her to a black site hidden under a candy cottage. The HUMINT guys got valuable information about witch operations and everyone else lived happily ever after.

4. Jack Gives the Army Instant Cover and Concealment

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GIF: YouTube/loverhole

Jack was a pretty forgettable little science nerd in his high school but he went on to join DARPA and invented some techno-wizardry-magical device that allowed soldiers to plant a single bean and create a towering observation post from which to cover the surrounding battlefield.

So soldiers began tossing these things all over the place to create forests overnight. Then, they’d slip into one of the beanstalks to get eyes on roads and other important battlefield objectives. The height of the stalks ensured them a clear line of sight for miles and since they could be grown overnight, troops could plant their own cover and concealment ahead of major operations.

5. The Three Little Pigs Use Concentrated Combat Power

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Photo: Public Domain

Three little pigs were preparing for an imminent invasion by a big, bad wolf when one proposed that each pig should fall back to their own home, the senior pig got pissed. “What are you, some kind of dumb boot!?” he asked. “We should concentrate our forces in the most defensible territory we have.”

That pig led his brothers to his house made of brick where they took shelter behind the thick walls. When the wolf arrived, the oldest pig engaged him from a second-floor window while his brothers maneuvered behind the enemy. Then, the pigs established fire superiority and cut the wolf down.

If you have your own platoon sergeant fairytale, share it with us on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #PltSgtFairyTales.

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Police just discovered a huge trove of Nazi artifacts hidden behind a bookcase in Argentina

Earlier this month, police in Argentina raided the home of an art collector and found a door leading to a room full of Nazi knives, sculptures, medical devices, magnifying glasses, and a large bust portrait of Adolf Hitler.


“There are no precedents for a find like this,” Nestor Roncaglia, the head of Argentina’s federal police, told The Associated Press. “Pieces are stolen or are imitations. But this is original, and we have to get to the bottom of it.”

Patricia Bullrich, Argentina’s security minister, told the AP: “There are objects to measure heads that was the logic of the Aryan race.”

Investigators are trying to figure out how such an extensive collection of Nazi memorabilia made it into the South American country, where several Nazi officials fled at the end of World War II.

After finding some illicit paintings at an art gallery, Argentinian police raided a Buenos Aires art collector’s home and found close to 75 items of old Nazi memorabilia that the man kept hidden by a bookcase that led to his secret shrine.

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Members of the federal police carry a Nazi statue at the Interpol headquarters in Buenos Aires. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge)

A Hitler photo negative, Nazi sculptures, knives, head-measuring medical devices, and children’s toys with swastikas on them were among some of the items found.

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A knife with Nazi markings was found in the man’s home. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge).

This device was used to measure the size of a person’s head.

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A World War II German army mortar aiming device, right, is shown at the Interpol headquarters in Buenos Aires. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge)

The police handed over the items to investigators and historians, who are trying to figure out how such a large collection made it into the home of one South American man.

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A box with swastikas containing harmonicas for children. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge).

After World War II, many high-ranking Nazi leaders fled to Argentina to escape trial. “Finding 75 original pieces is historic and could offer irrefutable proof of the presence of top leaders who escaped from Nazi Germany,” Ariel Cohen Sabban, the president of a political umbrella for Argentina’s Jewish institutes, told the AP.

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An hourglass with Nazi markings. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge).

MIGHTY HISTORY

Andrew Jackson was held captive during the Revolutionary War

For Andrew Jackson, living through the Revolutionary War did more than just decide to whom the land belonged. It shaped his entire family … and him into an eventual politician and leader. It was a war that made him into an orphan — both his brothers and mother were killed (his father died while he was still in the womb). 

A family who emigrated from Ireland two years before he was born, the Jacksons made their home along the North Carolina/South Carolina border, where they worked as farmers. 

Only to be torn apart by the onset of war. 

Less than two decades later, at 14, Andrew Jackson was left alone, with incredible life experience under his belt. Including a stint as a prisoner of war. Yes, the future president was captured by the British and held against his will.

Jackson joins war efforts as a teen

Jackson’s eldest brother, Hugh. was first to join the efforts of the Revolutionary war. He fought in the Battle of Stono Ferry in 1779, but succumbed shortly after due to heat exhaustion. This was the first slight that Jackson is said to have felt personally from the British. 

But he wasn’t alone, soon after, widespread British distaste would grow among the locals. 

During the battle of Battle of Waxhaws in 1780, the Continental Army was losing and attempted to surrender. However, a British commander was shot during the transaction, causing the British to charge full force on the remaining Continental forces. It’s now known as the Waxhaw Massacre.

Outraged and encouraged by their mother, Elizabeth, Andrew and his brother, Robert, joined themselves. Just young teenagers — Andrew was 13 — they began attending local militia drills, where they found work as messengers.

Captured by the British

andrew jackson revolutionary war
Revolutionary War reenactors

It was in April of 1781, that the pair was captured by the British while delivering mail. In captivity, the brothers were severely malnutritioned and were struck with smallpox and became close to death.

Jackson himself was slashed from a sword after he refused to clean an officer’s boots. His brother, too, refused and was slashed, but less noticeably so. The scars on Andrew’s  head and left hand were still visible in adulthood. It’s also said to have even further intensified his hatred for the British.

Meanwhile, their mother negotiated their release. She met them upon said release to take them home, some 40-plus miles away. With one horse between the three of them, Robert was placed on the animal due to his declining health. Unfortunately, Robert died two days after making it back home. Andrew was able to recover.

Elizabeth returned to the war efforts, volunteering to nurse other prisoners of war back to health. However, she contracted cholera and died in November of that year, leaving her youngest son as an orphan at just 14 years old.

It’s said that, even as an adult, Jackson personally blamed the British for all three deaths.

Life after the Revolutionary War

Jackson went on to live with distant relatives, until he received an inheritance from his grandfather, who remained back in Ireland. Jackson then went to school and worked as a teacher, before embarking to study law at just 17. Then by 21, he began his career as a politician. He is said to have been wild, ambitious, and one who loved to gamble in taverns and carry on with friends. 

He’s the last U.S. President to have involvement in the Revolutionary War, and the only U.S. President to have been a prisoner of war.

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This Irish woman shot and almost killed Mussolini in 1926

Benito Mussolini was a bad person. I don’t think there’s any argument against that. The Italian dictator is one of the biggest mass murderer in history. Moreover, his fascist totalitarian regime inspired Adolf Hitler whom he later aligned with and helped plunge Europe into WWII. Naturally, there were plenty of people who would have liked to assassinate Mussolini while he was in power. Four assassination attempts were made, but only one came close to succeeding.

Violet Gibson was born in 1876 to an affluent Anglo-Irish family. Her father was Lord Ashbourne, a senior Irish judicial figure. During her youth, Gibson served as a debutante in Queen Victoria’s court. She grew up often traveling between London and Dublin. However, she was described as a sickly child who suffered from hysteria, what we would call a physical and/or mental illness today.

When Gibson was in her mid-20s, she converted to Catholicism. Later, she moved to Paris where she worked for pacifist organizations. She became passionate about both religion and politics. It was a combination of these factors that led her to make the attempt on Mussolini’s life in 1926.

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Gibson’s mug shot (Italian Ministry of the Interior)

On April 7, 1926, the Italian dictator delivered a speech to a conference of surgeons in Rome. He was walking through the Piazza del Campidoglio when a “disheveled-looking” 50-year-old Gibson approached him. However, as she raised her pistol to Mussolini’s head, he turned to look at a chorus of students who began singing in his honor. As a result, Gibson’s first shot only grazed the bridge of Mussolini’s nose. Although she fired a second shot, the bullet lodged itself in the barrel. Gibson was pounced on by the crowd before she could fire a second shot.

Gibson was dragged away by police and deported back to England. Doctors declared her insane and her family placed her in a Northampton mental asylum. She remained there until her death in 1956 at the age of 79. Although her family distanced themselves from her at the time, her surviving family members are making pushes to have her remembered as a political hero rather than an insane person. After all, she almost killed Mussolini.

Although the Italian dictator survived his close call with Gibson’s gun, the event was an outrage to him. “He was very misogynistic, as was the entire fascist regime,” said historian Frances Stonor Saunders said of Mussolini. “He was shocked to be shot by a woman. And he was shocked to be shot by a foreigner. It was a kind of injury to his great ego.” You never want to be on the bad side of an angry Irish woman with a pistol.

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Mussolini wearing a bandage after getting shot by Gibson (Public Domain)
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13 Funniest military memes for the week of March 10

It was a hectic week, what with revelations that Rangers are in Syria, radioactive boars in Japan, and as-holes taking nude photos everywhere.


For a quick break from the insanity, check out these 13 funny military memes.

1. Sorry, first sergeant, we’re all busy looking for hiding spots (via Military Memes).

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Unfortunately, some of us didn’t find our spots in time.

2. You were my boss and an as-hole. Look elsewhere for buddies (via Pop smoke).

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Go tell Army stories to your cousins or something.

ALSO SEE: Watch the F-22 take on 5 F-15s — and dominate

3. Coast Guard is going to be looking for a lot of lifehacks in the next few years (via Coast Guard Memes).

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Maybe you guys can buy your way into the DoD or something?

4. The coveted “pace and distance” profile protects from all formation runs (via Lost in the Sauce).

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You can still run 10 miles if you want, but only if you want.

5. Why are the machines doing all the heavy work?

(via Maintainer Nation)

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In machine circles, all humans are nonners.

6. Aging pretty well for a Devil Dog (via Imgflip).

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Only 10 more years to 50% retirement.

7. The only bad thing about this is the red, mirrored sunglasses (via Coast Guard Memes).

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Bet the Coast Guard is just jealous that they aren’t in the Paw Patrol.

8. Yeah, but earning compensation days is rarely worth it (via Air Force Nation).

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Unless it turns a normal weekend into a 3-day.

9. Army logic isn’t logic (via U.S Army W.T.F! moments).

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In other news, no more eating in the dining facility.

10. But if you can’t do your guard shifts, you can’t keep your fire watch ribbon (via The Salty Soldier).

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Looks like someone is losing a piece of chest candy.

11. If you had brought a dang-ole bayonet, you might be able to fight your way out of this (via Pop smoke).

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Should’ve joined a real military.

12. Just remember: On V-A day, everything hurts (via The Salty Soldier).

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We’re not saying cheat to get free Veterans Affairs money, but don’t downplay anything, either.

13. Pretty sure that “missing specialist” just faked his death for an early discharge and huge life insurance payout (via The Salty Soldier).

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But don’t investigate too hard or the E-4 mafia will disappear you for real.

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The days of the US military’s obsession with the 5.56 rifle may be numbered

The U.S. military has been talking about it for years, but now the stars may be aligning to force a closer look at replacing the standard military rifle issued to most American troops.


The Army is reportedly exploring how it might outfit all its front-line troops with a rifle chambered in a larger round than the 5.56mm M4 and M16 for the current fight in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, insiders claim. Service officials are increasingly worried that that soldiers are being targeted by insurgent fighters wielding rifles and machine guns that can kill U.S. troops at a distance, while staying out of the effective range of America’s current small arms.

“A Capability Gap exists for 80 percent of US and NATO riflemen who are armed with 5.56mm weapons,” weapons expert and former Heckler Koch official Jim Schatz stated in a recent small arms briefing. “The threat engages friendly forces with 7.62mmR weapons 300 meters beyond the effective range of 5.56mm NATO ammo.”

“These 5.56mm riflemen have no effective means to engage the enemy.”

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A Special Forces soldier takes a rest during a patrol in Afghanistan. The Army is considering outfitting its front-line troops with a 7.62 battle rifle like this Mk17 SCAR-H. (Photo from US Army Special Operations Command)

So the service is considering options to outfit soldiers with a true “battle rifle” chambered in 7.62×51, a more powerful round with a greater range than the 5.56, analysts say. It’s unclear which system the Army will pick if it decides to go this route, with rifles like the Mk-17 SCAR-H, M-110 and now the M110A1 CSASS either getting set for fielding or already in the inventory.

But military planners aren’t stopping there.

Multiple sources confirm that the service is also looking at fielding a so-called “intermediate caliber” round that can be used in both machine guns and infantry rifles that deliver better range and lethality than the 5.56 but in a smaller, lighter package than the NATO M80 7.62×51 ammo.

Dubbed the .264 USA, the Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Georgia, has been shooting a prototype intermediate caliber round for years. Similar to the 6.5 Grendel but with a case sized for use in a standard M4 magazine, the .264 USA has an 800 meter effective range and better terminal ballistics further out than a 5.56.

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A slide from a 2016 briefing by the late Jim Schatz who argued the .264 USA round being used by the Army Marksmanship Unit could be the perfect caliber to replace the 5.56 and the 7.62. (Photo from DTIC.mil)

The round is also being developed with a polymer case instead of brass, which cuts down the weight significantly, experts claim.

“Stand-off shooters in Afghanistan employ the suppressive merits of 7.62x54R weapons by raining down .30 caliber projectiles onto troops armed mostly with 5.56mm rifles incapable of returning effective fire,” Schatz wrote. “A lightweight polymer-cased intermediate caliber cartridge and projectile would thus improve the probability of hit, incapacitation and suppression for all members of the squad without the weight and recoil penalties associated with 7.62mm NATO ammunition and weapons.”


The notion is to field one caliber that can work for a variety of missions — from close-in battle clearing houses to distant engagements using a rifle or a machine gun. In fact, there’s increased interest within the service to evaluate a new medium machine gun chambered in .338 Norma Magnum that would replace the M240 and potentially even the decades-old M2 .50 cal in some missions.

The Army has not taken an official position on the fielding of 7.62 battle rifles for its front-line troops or on the development of an intermediate caliber. The service did conduct a Small Arms Ammunition Configuration Study to look into the issue, but the results have not yet been publicly released.

And weapons experts within the military and in industry confirm to WATM that the debate is heating up.

Two experts who spoke to WATM questioned the wisdom of fielding a 7.62 battle rifle as an interim solution, arguing the current M4 could benefit from better constructed, longer length, free-floated barrels and top-notch ammunition to make up for some of the ballistic shortfalls.

Another veteran and firearms expert said the M4’s range problem is more a training issue than it is a caliber one, calling the Army’s marksmanship program “a joke” and arguing good ammo and a longer barrel could solve many of the engagement distance problems.

Additionally, one world champion competitive shooter and tactical trainer told WATM that top-tier special operators who’ve taken his classes are using 18-inch barrels on their carbines, moving away from shorter options geared for tight spaces in favor of the range advantages of a longer gun.

The military has been debating the wisdom of sticking with the 5.56 since operations in Somalia prompted discussions over the terminal ballistics of the “varmint” round, but despite multiple studies claiming there are better options out there, the Army and the rest of the services haven’t seen a compelling enough reason to make a change.

Yet with the potential for increased defense budgets, a replacement for the M9 pistol coming on board and a Pentagon leadership that seems more in tune with the needs of troops fighting terrorists on the ground, the drive to rethink America’s arsenal could lead to major changes.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time some guy seized power in Montenegro and won a full-scale war

There’s been a lot of attention on the tiny Balkan country of Montenegro in recent days — are they an aggressive people? Are they any more or less aggressive than any other people? What’s the metric to use for aggression? That equation changes when you combine Serbia with Montenegro, like the rest of the world did until 2006.

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In that case, you can measure aggression by the number of World Wars started.

But there is one story in Montenegro’s military history that stands out above all others. In 1767, a man dressed in the rags of the monastery in which he lived arrived in the country’s capital of Cetinje, claiming to be the long-thought-dead Tsar Peter III of Russia. And everyone believed it.

He became Šćepan Mali — known in the West as Stephen the Small.


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Ah, the days before Google.

Today, no one knows who he really was before he became the absolute ruler of Montenegro and no one knows his real name. All we know is that the little country was in a full-on war with the Ottoman Empire, then a major world power, who was not thrilled to have a Russian Tsar next door. The tiny, mostly Eastern Orthodox Christian country sought support from mighty Orthodox Russia for its rescue from an Islamic invasion, but Russia was not about to lend help to this pretender to the Montenegrin throne.

They knew Tsar Peter was dead. In his place, Catherine II ascended to the throne. She would later be honored as Catherine the Great and her first step toward greatness was having her husband Peter murdered.

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Catherine the Great pictured with all the f*cks she gives.

While most people might think a homeless, religious nut taking control of their country and immediately getting invaded by their larger neighbor would be an absolute disaster, Montenegrins’ fears were put to rest in a hurry. It turns out Stephen was really, really good at this whole “Tsar” thing.

With 50,000 Turkish soldiers marching into a country the size of the greater Los Angeles area in 2018, Stephen managed to silence his naysayers (one bishop who had actually met Tsar Peter III tried to sound the alarm, but no one listened), use his natural charm to win the support of the country’s religious establishment, and then unite the country’s tribes for the first time in centuries.

He’s like a Montenegrin Ronald Reagan.

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Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem… specifically, every government but me.”

The first thing Stephen did was send the Turks packing. With his outdated and outnumbered Montenegrin forces, he routed the Turks just south of Montenegro’s capital and took to the internal matters of his small but new job.

By this time, Catherine sent a delegation of Russians to Montenegro to out the impostor as a fake or kill him, but one of the things she didn’t know about Stephen (which was actually a lot) is that he was really, really likable. So likable, in fact, that when the Montenegrins learned he wasn’t actually Tsar Peter III (for real, though), they shrugged and declared him Tsar Šćepan. Most importantly, no one killed him — they enjoyed his company instead.

The Russians now accepted that there was no getting rid of Stephen and that his strict control of the country actually reduced instability there. And so, they began to help him. They sent the supplies and cash he needed to upgrade his military.

Just in time to fend off another invasion of Montenegro. This time, 10,000 Venetians landed in Montenegro to avenge their Ottoman allies’ crushing defeat, only to be defeated themselves near Kotor. Venice was forced to retreat, taking heavier casualties, having to pay Stephen for permission to leave, and being forced to leave their weapons behind.

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Montenegrins don’t take kindly to sucker punches, as it turns out.

This particular victory was so great, even Catherine sent Stephen a medal, a Lieutenant General’s rank, and the uniform to go along with it.

But Montenegro’s glory was short-lived. The Tsar was murdered in his sleep by his barber, whose family was taken hostage by the Ottoman Turks. The Ottomans threatened horrible things unless the Greek barber did their bidding. Sadly for his country, the peace enforced among its tribes by their Little Tsar quickly fell apart without him. The Turks invaded again while they were distracted by infighting.

popular

13 more of the best military morale patches

The first time we posted some of our favorite morale patches, readers responded with their own and gave us more than enough fodder to present a sequel.


This time we asked Air Force veteran Julio Medina, who’s the founder of Morale Patch Armory, why these moto patches endure in popular military culture – even when a command may not fully appreciate them.

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“Morale patches are a simplistic form of art that most people can relate to in some way or another,” Medina says. “Whether it’s humorous or something that will make you embrace your inner patriot, morale patches send strong messages.”

 

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The Latin in the patch above means “not worth a rat’s ass.” During the Vietnam War, troopers who ferreted out Viet Cong insurgents hidden in complex subterranean hideouts became known as “Tunnel Rats.” These brave servicemen had to dodge human enemies, animals (like bats), and potentially deadly gasses — not to mention VC booby traps. The story alone makes for a great patch.

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The DICASS (Directional Command Activated Sonobuoy System) sends submariners range and bearing data via and FM frequency.

Medina also talked about the elements of a good morale patch.

“Relevance, clean design, and a clear message are key factors in a successful morale patch drop,” he says. “There are some amazingly talented artists out there, but unless you have the ability to get relevant eyes on the patch, it will start collecting dust no matter how good it is.”

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A Combat Search and Rescue patch. Old timers know a similar patch with Elvis on it. This patch, for a new generation, features Tupac.

“Military active duty, veterans, and law enforcement are the largest consumer base,” Medina says. “There are quite a few airsoft players in that bunch, too. I’m sure none of these groups come as a surprise. There are so many different styles of patches out there.”

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The patch above is for the USAF’s 509 Operations Group, which pilots the B-2A Spirit stealth bombers out of Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. The chicken is a reference to an old Twilight Zone episode where aliens start to eat people. Most of you will probably get the Simpsons reference better.

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“FIGMO”: aka “F*ck It, Got My Orders” – Vietnam-era aviator patches

Medina believes the enduring popularity of morale patches comes from how they poke fun at the mundane or at high-stress situations. The common denominator is the camaraderie built from shared experiences – the tension and hard times that troops go through as a cohesive unit.

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“Military members of all branches deal with common military-related stressors day in and day out that the average individual may not even experience in a lifetime,” Medina says.

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A patch commemorating an aviation unit’s participation in the second battle of Fallujah

“Morale patches are key to lightening the mood by making things funny … making you feel like a proud American, just the way you felt when you graduated basic training and became a part of something bigger than yourself,” Medina explained.

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Morale patches have always been an interest for Medina. As a former enlisted Air Force Security Forces airman, Medina kept his own collection of quirky patches since 2007.

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“I kept seeing really creative patches being made and sold by hobbyists,” Medina recalls. “As opposed to the few mainstream brands in the industry that sell mass quantities of a single design.”

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That’s how Medina started his own patch business. His passion for the industry combined with his appreciation of the humor and artistry led him to establish Morale Patch Armory.

“I once heard ‘Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life,’ ” Medina says. “Since the inception of Morale Patch Armory, every day has been fun and exciting even through the toughest challenges.”

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Be sure to check out the Morale Patch Armory to get your unit’s patch going.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Warsaw remembers the historic ghetto uprising 75 years later

Commemorations are being held to mark the 75th anniversary the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, when thousands of young Jewish fighters took up arms against occupying Nazi German forces during World War II.

The uprising broke out April 19, 1943, when about 750 Jewish fighters armed with pistols and other light arms attacked a German force more than three times their size.


Many left last testaments saying that they knew they would not survive but that they wanted to die at a time and place of their own choosing and not in the gas chambers at the Treblinka death camp, where more than 300,000 Warsaw Jews had already been sent.

Only a few dozen fighters survived when the Germans crushed the uprising. Most have since died or are no longer healthy enough to attend the observances.

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With more than 400,000 imprisoned Jews at its highest point, Nazi Germany’s Warsaw Ghetto was the largest in Poland during World War II. The final act of Jewish resistance started 75 years ago, on April 19, 1943, a month before the ghetto was burned down in May of that year.

Polish President Andrzej Duda is scheduled to visit a Jewish cemetery and then take part in the official ceremony at the Ghetto Heroes Monument.

The commemoration comes at a time of heightened tensions between Poland and Israel over Warsaw’s new Holocaust law, which came into effect in March 2018, and led to harsh criticism from Israel, Jewish organizations, and others.

The legislation penalizes statements attributing Nazi German crimes to the Polish state with fines or a jail term. Polish government officials say the law is meant to protect the country from false accusations of complicity.

Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany in World War II and ceased to exist as a state. An estimated 6 million Poles, about half of them Jews, were killed.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

11 military propaganda posters that are surprisingly convincing

Rifles, grenades, and heavy machinery are the weapons of war, but there’s another, subtle and powerful form of warfare. Images, words, films, and even songs engage the hearts and minds of citizens to support wars.


The following posters are examples of persuasion used in the past to sway public opinion and sustain war efforts.

1. Fear is a powerful motivator. After all, it’s either them or us.

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2. Nothing like a woman and child in imminent danger to jump-start our natural protective instincts.

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3. This poster draws on the similarity of a child’s college fund.

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4. Events like the massacre at Lidice gave Nazis a reputation for their brutality. This poster is a reminder of the atrocities that await should they invade American cities.

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5. Posters like the one below alerted citizens to the presence of enemy spies lurking in everyday society. These posters reminded well-meaning citizens of the consequences careless talk may cause, such as compromising national security and troop safety.

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6. “Uncle Sam” was extensively used during World War II. He was a fighter, a laborer, a recruiter and more.

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7. “Avenge Pearl Harbor” was a popular cry after the surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

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8. Posters like the one below encouraged continued support for the war.

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9. Humor was also used in propaganda posters.

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10. But direct and emotional messages were more effective.

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11. World War II took place during the golden era of comic books, which lasted from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. This poster made in the popular comic book style was a sure fire way to promote a message.

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NOW: The 8 most famous US military recruiting posters of World War II

OR: Watch 5 Hollywood directors who served and filmed real wars:

 

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