We’ve all see the Avengers movie featuring SHIELD’s massive flying aircraft carrier — you know, the one with the gigantic fans and stealth cloaking?
But what you may not know is that the concept of an actual flying carrier isn’t really anything new, and the US military has investigated it time and time again throughout its history. The most recent proposal for such a vehicle came in the form of a highly modified Boeing 747 called the Airborne Aircraft Carrier.
The concept of a flying aircraft carrier isn’t as far fetched as it seems. (Photo via AgentsofShield WIKIA)
While oceangoing aircraft carriers can bring their complements of fighter and attack aircraft quite literally anywhere around the seven seas, areas deeper inland are far less accessible and sometimes require the use of larger numbers of support assets like refueling tankers, which aren’t always available for a variety of reasons.
The AAC concept tried to solve that problem by using a larger aircraft to fly smaller aircraft above or near deployment zones, where it would release its fighters to carry out their missions.
In the 1930s, the US Navy first began exploring the idea of an airborne carrier by outfitting two dirigible airships, the USS Akron and the USS Macon, with a trapeze mechanism for recovering and launching small propeller fighter planes, along with an internal hangar for storage.
Both the Akron and Macon were lost in storms that decade, but not before they were able to successfully demonstrate that with enough practice and patience, aircraft could be deployed from airbases in the sky.
The onset of World War II made the Navy forget about this idea. But during the Cold War, the notion of having an airborne carrier was resurrected — this time by the Air Force.
At first, the Fighter Conveyor project attempted to put a Republic F-84 “parasite” fighter in the belly of a B-36 Peacemaker nuclear bomber, launched in-flight for reconnaissance operations. The creation of the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane made the FICON project a moot point, sending it to the graveyard after four years of testing.
Later on, famed defense contractor Lockheed proposed a gigantic nuclear-powered flying mothership with a crew of over 850 and an aerial endurance of 40+ days. The Air Force, by 1973, decided to go a slightly more conventional route instead.
At the time, the Boeing 747 was easily the largest civilian aircraft in the world, serving as a long-range passenger airliner and a cargo transport for a number of freight companies. It wasn’t wholly unreasonable to suggest that such an aircraft could be converted for use as an airborne carrier, fielding a small group of aircraft inside its cavernous interior.
The Air Force’s Flight Dynamics Laboratory, based out of Wright-Patterson AFB, was put on the case to determine the feasibility of such an experiment.
The AAC project called for a Boeing 747-200 to be hollowed out and refitted with a two-level internal hangar that would hold “micro fighters”, small short-range fighter aircraft that could fight air-to-air and air-to-ground sorties after being dropped out of the underside of the jumbo jet. Should the fighters need an extension on their range, the AAC mothership could refuel them as needed from a rotating boom on its rear. Upon concluding their sorties, the micro fighters would simply fly underneath the AAC and be picked up by a mechanism, bringing them back into the hangar.
The AAC would also contain storage for extra fuel, spares and parts, as well as a magazine for missiles and bombs for the microfighters. In addition, sleeping quarters for the crew and pilots, and a small crew lounge for breaks in-between missions was also to be part of the hypothetical flying carrier.
All in all, the concept seemed to be absolutely doable and certainly something the Air Force seemed interested in pursuing, given that the report also projected that conventional Navy aircraft carriers would apparently be obsolete by the year 2000.
However, the project was stalled when research into the design and development of the AAC’s necessary microfighters went nowhere. An airborne warning and control version of the AAC was also proposed, replete with a pair of reconnaissance micro aircraft for surveillance missions; this was also shot down.
Eventually, the Air Force shelved the concept altogether not long after the Flight Dynamics Laboratory claimed it was possible.
While the US military hasn’t done much, if anything at all, to investigate flying aircraft carriers in the four and a half decades since, this seems to be an idea that just won’t go away. Maybe, just maybe, we might see these bizarre vehicles in the not-so-distant future, as technology advances and mission types evolve!
The Central Intelligence Agency on Monday defended live-tweeting the U.S. military raid that killed Osama bin Laden to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the covert mission.
The Langley, Virginia-based agency the day before had posted a series of tweets chronicling key moments during the May 2, 2011, raid by Navy SEALs on the terrorist leader’s home in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“1:25 pm EDT-@POTUS, DCIA Panetta, JSOC commander Admiral McRaven approve execution of op in Abbottabad,” it tweeted, referring to the local time the go-ahead was given by President Barack Obama, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta and then-Joint Special Operations Commander Navy Adm. William McRaven.
The agency’s decision to do so came under fire from many observers on Twitter and other social media sites.
One of those was Phillip Carter, a former Army officer who served in Iraq and now works as a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank in Washington, D.C., where he directs the organization’s military, veterans and society research program.
“I get @CIA desire to take victory lap but tweeting #UBLRaid seems contrary to Intel Community ethos good judgment,” Carter tweeted.
But the intelligence agency defended the move.
“The takedown of bin Ladin [sic] stands as one of the great intelligence successes of all time,” Glenn Miller, a spokesman for the CIA, said in an emailed statement to Military.com, using a different spelling for bin Laden. “History has been a key element of CIA’s social media efforts. On the fifth anniversary, it is appropriate to remember the day and honor all those who had a hand in this achievement.”
Miller added, “In the past we have done postings to note other historical events including the Glomar operation, Argo, U-2 shootdown, and the evacuation of Saigon.”
In an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” show, CIA Director John Brennan said the raid on bin Laden’s compound less than a mile from Pakistan’s prestigious military academy represented “the culmination of a lot of very hard work by some very good people at CIA and other agencies.”
He added, “We have destroyed a large part of al-Qaeda. It is not completely eliminated, so we have to stay focused on what it can do. But now with this new phenomenon of ISIL, this is going to continue to challenge us in the counterterrorism community for years to come.”
He was referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, which overtook large parts of both countries following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in late 2011 and the start of civilian uprisings in Syria against the regime of President Bashar al Assad.
Brennan said killing bin Laden was an important victory for the U.S. in both a symbolic and strategic sense, given that he was the founder of the terrorist group and a key player in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.
“It was important after 9/11 that we remove the person responsible for that,” he said.
While Brennan said eliminating ISIS’ leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, “would have a great impact on the organization,” he also called the al-Qaeda offshoot a “phenomenon” that appeals to tens of thousands of followers in not only Syria and Iraq, but also Libya, Nigeria and elsewhere in part because of endemic corruption and a lack of governance and economic opportunity in those regions.
“Although the counterterrorism community has an important obligation to try to prevent these attacks, we need to give the diplomats and other government officials both here in this country and other countries the time and space they need to address some of these underlying factors and conditions that facilitate and contribute to the growth of these organizations,” he said.
Brennan also pushed back against a recommendation from former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat from Florida who helped lead a congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks, to release a 28-page chapter from the investigation that may help determine whether the attackers received Saudi support.
“I think there’s a combination of things that are accurate and inaccurate,” Brennan said of information in the pages in question. “I think that the 9/11 Commission took that joint inquiry and those 28 pages or so and followed through on the investigation and they came out with a very clear judgment that there was no evidence that indicated that the Saudi government as an institution or Saudi officials individually had provided financial support to al Qaeda.”
Declassified CIA documents give guidance for UFO photographers
The past few years have seen a massive resurgence in UFO research and discussion, both throughout the media and, publicly speaking, from elements of the nation’s own defense apparatus. From 2017’s revelation that the Pentagon had been directly funding investigations into unusual sightings (along with a litany of other unusual phenomena) to last month’s announcement that the U.S. Navy was formalizing UFO reporting procedures, it seems clearer now than ever that something unusual is going on in the skies above our pale blue dot, and that Uncle Sam wants to know what it is.
Of course, for those that have served in high ranking positions throughout America’s defense and intelligence apparatus over the decades, that comes as no revelation at all, as the U.S. Government actually has a long and illustrious history of covert and semi-covert investigations into the unknown.
Some of these efforts, like Project Blue Book, aimed to explain away sightings of strange lights in the skies, while others, like these declassified documents from the CIA’s archive, had a different aim. These documents were meant to serve as a how-to manual to capture the best possible images of flying saucers (or whatever they may be) for further examination. These documents may not prove the existence of alien visitors, but they certainly prove that even America’s foreign intelligence service has long had their eye on the skies.
The CIA readily acknowledges its involvement in UFO investigations dating all the way back to its very inception in 1947, which UFO buffs will be quick to note was the same year as the now-legendary Roswell incident. According to the CIA, they closely monitored Defense Department UFO initiatives throughout this era, even going so far as to draft up the document shown below offering ten tips to UFO investigators who had been struggling to capture clear images of the strange phenomena. This included an attached “UFO Photographic Information Sheet” to be filled out by the photographer whenever a sighting occurred.
The CIA’s guidance for UFO Photographers was, according to the CIA, first published in 1967 and remained classified until December of 2013, though it wasn’t until three years later that the document was uploaded to the CIA’s digital archive, making it readily available to readers from all over the world.
According to the CIA, these are the tips you need to follow in order to get the best possible evidence of your UFO encounter:
“Guidance to UFO Photographers” was first published in 1967 and declassified in 2013.
(Courtesy of the CIA Archive)
1. Have camera set at infinity.
2. Fast film such as Tri-X, is very good.
3. For moving objects shutter speeds not slower than one hundredth of a second should be used. Shutter and f-stop combination will depend upon lighting conditions; dusk, cloudy day, bright sunlight, etc. If your camera does not require such settings, just take pictures.
4. Do not move camera during exposure.
5. Take several pictures of the object; as many as you can. If you can, include some ground in the picture of the UFO.
6. If the object appears to be close to you, a few hundred feet or closer, try to change your location on the ground so that each picture, or few pictures are taken from a different place. A change in position of 40 or 60 feet is good. (This establishes what is known as a base line and is helpful in technical analysis of your photography.) If the object appears to be far away, a mile or so, remain about where you are and continue taking pictures. A small movement here will not help. However, if you can get in a car and drive l/2 to a mile or so and-take another series of pictures this will help.
Single images of UFOs don’t offer much in the way of context (the photographer of this UFO believes it may be a bird)
(Image captured by James Havard on Flickr)
7. After pictures of UFO have been taken, remain where you are: now, slowly, turning 360 degrees take overlapping, eye level, photography as you turn around. By this technique the surrounding countryside will be photographed. This photography is very valuable for the analysis of the UFO you have just photographed.
8. Your original negative is of value. Be sure it Is processed with care.
9. If you can, have another negative made from the original.
10. Any reproductions you have made for technical study and analysis should be made from the original negative and should be printed to show all the picture including the border and even the sprocket holes, if your film has them.
An estimated 1.2 million social media users have expressed an interest in storming Area 51, with the idea that the United States Air Force, who is presumed to run the top-secret facility, could not possibly stop (or kill) all of them. As of now, the storm is scheduled for 3 a.m. local time in Amargosa Valley, Nevada – not far from the site of the testing facility.
Recently, an Air Force spokesperson warned that such a storm would be a “dangerous” idea.
The Air Force, of course, knows what you’re up to on social media, just like any other governmental organization when the group is focused on committing a crime. While Area 51’s existence was acknowledged by the United States government in 2013, it is still a military base, and any attempt to enter it illegally is a crime. What the CIA and USAF didn’t acknowledge is the long-held presumption that the area was used as a test site for alien technology. And while the Air Force would like to assume the plan is a joke, local hotels have seen a bump in reservations for the time period.
“Oh, it’s insane,” Connie West, a co-owner of The Little A’Le’Inn, a hotel in nearby Rachel, Nev. said in an interview on Sunday. “My poor bartender today walked past me and said, ‘I hate to tell you, but every phone call I’ve had is about Sept. 20.’… People are coming.”
If people do come, the Air Force wants them to know that Area 51 is a testing facility for combat aircraft and that its defense is in the hands of nearby Nellis Air Force Base – and the base has plenty of troops and helicopters to repel storming of the perimeter.
“[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” a spokeswoman told The Washington Post. “The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”
Peter Oakley was a British pensioner and widower from Bakewell, Derbyshire, England.
On the Internet, he was known as geriatric1927, or “the Internet Grandad,” a YouTube personality whose long-running show Telling It All consisted of five to ten minute autobiographical videos, including his service as an 18-year old Royal Navy radar mechanic during World War II.
“It’s a fascinating place to go to see all the wonderful videos that you young people have produced so I thought I would have a go at doing one myself,” he told the Guardian in 2006. “What I hope I will be able to do is to just bitch and grumble about life in general from the perspective of an old person … and hopefully you will respond in some way by your comments.”
While that may not seem like a lot by todays standards (Jenna Marbles, one of YouTube’s current top channels, has more than 15 million subscribers), in the early days of social media, Oakley’s stories were beating YouTubers signed by large networks and other brands. People were interested in watching Oakley muse on how the world had changed. His first video, called “First Try” now has almost 3 million views.
Oakley’s discussions on life, war, motorcycles, and more led to a YouTube stardom which allowed the widower to avoid the lonely life of a traditional aging pensioner, traveling all over the world, earning extra income. He was even asked to weigh in on other YouTube phenomena.
Oakley would be diagnosed with untreatable cancer in 2012. By that time, he had made more than 350 videos. His final video, the 434th on the page, was posted on February 12, 2014 and he died on March 23 that year.
His final words to his audience: “In conclusion, I would say my possibly final goodbye. So goodbye.”
Technology and manpower never guarantee a military victory by themselves. And neither can tactics and strategy — sometimes, it takes an extra measure of trickery and subterfuge to swing the tide on the battlefield.
During World War II, the British launched a successful disinformation plan called Operation Mincemeat. The operation was created in an effort to convince the Germans that the Allies planned on invading Sardinia and Greece — instead of Sicily, where they actually landed in July 1943.
The operation was carried out successfully by obtaining the corpse of a homeless man in London, who was then given a false identity as a major in the Royal Marines. This man was then given false plans documenting an invasion of Sardinia and Greece, before being thrown to the tide off the coast of Spain.
The British alerted the Spanish, who were nominally neutral during the war, to be on the lookout for a British Marine carrying documents that had to be recovered. The papers were promptly handed over to the Nazis by the Spanish and convinced Hitler to reposition troops away from Sicily.
The British and Ottomans were locked in extremely slow-moving trench warfare during World War I’s Palestine Campaign. Eventually, the British learned that the Ottomans had run out of cigarettes. In an attempt to demoralize their enemy, the British began sending cigarettes wrapped in propaganda to the Ottomans.
Instead of surrendering, the Ottomans threw away the propaganda and smoked. So, before the British scheduled one raid, they switched tactics and threw over cigarettes laced with heroin.
The British met little opposition from the Ottoman forces during their assault.
During the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the invading Turks faced a major challenge. The Byzantines had erected a giant chain across the Golden Horn, a stretch of water that connected Constantinople to the sea. This chain effectively blocked the Ottoman navy from making their way to the enemy capital.
In order to overcome the chain, the Ottomans moved their navy overland using log rollers. This allowed the Ottomans to bypass the chain and attack the Byzantines from multiple fronts, ultimately aiding in the capture of the city that’s now called Istanbul.
During the American Civil War, Confederate General John B. Magruder faced off against Union General George B. McClellan at the Siege of Yorktown. Magruder and the confederate forces were outnumbered by an estimated 4 to 1.
In order to overcome the Union forces, Magruder marched his troops in a repetitive back-and-forth in an effort to convince Union scouts that the Confederate force was larger than it appeared.
The Union was deceived, and halted the assault instead of pushing its advantage. This allowed Magruder time to reinforce his position, leading what would have been a certain Union victory to an inconclusive finish.
During World War II, the British housed captured senior Nazi officials in a country mansion in England as opposed to a prison camp. The officers were given plenty of food and drink, were allowed to listen to German radio, and were allowed to speak to each other freely.
Unbeknownst to the Nazis, the British had wired the entire mansion and had intelligence personnel working in the basement recording their conversations. The British learned about Nazi strategy and tactics, as well as about relationships between commanders and Hitler within the Nazi army.
In 525 B.C., the Persians were pushing their empire into Egypt. Knowing that the Egyptians held cats in extremely high regard — and even considered them to be sacred animals — the Persians made use of the felines as a weapon of war, at least according to one ancient source.
During an invasion of Egypt, the Persians painted cats on their shields and brought hundreds of actual cats and other sacred animals onto the front lines during the siege of the Egyptian city of Pelusium.
The Egyptians refused to attack the Persians out of fear that the might injure the cats, allowing the Persians to seize the city.
Call of Dutyhas become a staple of military gamers. Both casual and hardcore gamers can enjoy picking up a controller and going a few rounds with their buddies in the barracks while waiting for their command to tell them it’s time to clean weapons at the armory or reorganize that connex container. While it’s a great pastime, there are plenty of titles to choose from, and not all of them are as good as the others.
Since the first release in 2003, Call of Duty has been the title of around 15 video games with the most recent being Black Ops 4, and there is another one on the way later this year. While a lot of people enjoy the multiplayer in the game, the franchise has also done a great job with storytelling in several of its installments.
It’s tough to choose from the 15 title roster, so we’re going to look at titles from the past decade that gave us a great story to play:
That last mission is one of the best.
World at War
Okay, okay, this one was released in November of 2008 so not technically from the last decade, but it’s January 2019 so deal with it. This game needs to be on this list. The reason for this is that World at War featured some more mature thematic elements, showing World War II as a tragic and horrific event and showing that there’s a lot of moral gray areas.
The game also gave you control of a Russian character to see their side of the war, as well as giving birth to the Black Ops series.
You fight off a Russian invasion of the United States.
Modern Warfare 2
While the first Modern Warfare installment was great, its sequel built on the strengths of its predecessor and made an even better game. This game’s story felt more like a military-action thriller, giving you a mystery to uncover, while still bringing realistic, war-related thematic elements and even serving up some controversy as a side dish.
Sgt. Woods is one of the best characters in the entire series.
The first game in the series to start in Vietnam, going into the Cold War, this game seriously delivered on some awesome story. This game also featured some of the best three-dimensional characters in the franchise and gave us a taste of Vietnam, something we want more of.
This series is a lot of fun.
Black Ops II
The third installment of the series and definitely worth mentioning, Black Ops II was the first in the line-up of futuristic warfare games. Building off the story of the previous installments of the Black Ops series, this story gave you some insight into the ripple effect of one’s actions, showing how the previous two story-lines bled into the future.
This also led to the creation of the best fictional unit for stolen valor.
Not loved by many but there are some of us who loved the story and the concept. This game really focuses on what brotherhood means as it follows two literal brothers as they fight to stop an organization known as the “Federation of the Americas” and their father’s former teammate.
President Donald Trump has confirmed that Mike Pompeo, the CIA director who is awaiting confirmation as secretary of state, met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea early April 2018.
Trump said the two men interacted “very smoothly” and formed a “good relationship.”
The talks are the highest-level meetings between US and North Korean officials since Madeleine Albright, then secretary of state, met Kim Jong Il in 2000.
“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week,” Trump tweeted April 18, 2018. “Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”
The meeting was remarkable given that only one year ago North Korean propaganda accused the CIA of plotting to kill Kim.
Pompeo’s trip, which reports out April 17, 2018, said happened over the Easter weekend, an apparent conflict with Trump’s announcement, had been kept quiet as the US and North Korea deliberate on how best to coordinate a planned summer meeting between Trump and Kim.
(Photo vy Michael Vadon)
The news of Pompeo’s secret trip comes after South Korea confirmed that its officials were in talks to end the 68-year war on the Korean Peninsula with a peace deal, something to which Trump has given his blessing.
Any peace deal, however, would require Chinese and UN approval as well, since both are signatories to the 1953 armistice that paused, rather than ended, the war between North Korea and South Korea.
Other reports indicate that Trump has a plan to disarm North Korea of nuclear weapons by 2020. Experts, however remain deeply skeptical of Kim’s intentions.
Kim turns over a new leaf?
Though North Korea has touted its missile program as being able to hit the US with nuclear payloads, a capability experts believe the country has or is close to obtaining, Kim has recently opened himself up diplomatically like never before, starting with North Korea’s participation in 2018’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.
In recent weeks, Kim left North Korea for the first time since he took power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. He has also opened up his country to South Korean pop bands, which he is thought to love. Kim actually attended a K-pop concert where he was reportedly in good humor and made jokes.
North Korea strictly controls the media in its country, and citizens caught enjoying South Korean media have been put to death or taken to labor camps.
Do Jong-hwan of South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism told foreign media that K-pop songs being performed in North Korea “could have considerable influence” on the country’s culture, according to NK News.
Experts have told Business Insider that Kim opening his country to the outside media could easily lead to his death, as his government holds power without input from its people and has kept them in meager conditions while South Korea has thrived.
Or is Kim waging a diplomatic offensive?
North Korea has moved toward talks with the US several times before, only to back out — though never under its current leader. Also, no other North Korean leader has met with a sitting US president, as Kim and Trump plan to summer 2018, though that has largely been because US presidents have rejected such meetings or imposed conditions that have not been met.
Thae Yong-ho, the highest-ranked North Korean defector, reportedly warned a meeting of the Mulmangcho Foundation organization that Kim was unlikely to deliver in the talks.
According to the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, he said: “Kim will act during his summits with Seoul and Washington as if he were determined to dismantle nuclear weapons in stages — first declaring dismantlement followed by incapacitating nuclear weapons and denuclearization.”
In Thae’s view, Kim will extract concessions from the US but never truly rid his country of nuclear weapons, given that Kim wrote possession of such weapons into the country’s constitution in 2011.
Despite the moves toward peace and reconciliation on both sides of the Korean Peninsula, the US and its allies have resolved to maintain what the Trump administration calls a “maximum pressure” strategy against Pyongyang, which calls for harsh sanctions and a buildup of military forces in the region.
In the 1970s, the United States faced a problem. Many of the World War II-era destroyers of the Gearing and Allen M. Sumner classes were finally showing their age. Not only were these ships entering the tail-ends of their primes, they were also very numerous — the U.S. had built 98 Gearing-class ships and 58 Sumner-class vessels. In fact, if World War II hadn’t ended when it did, we’d likely had even more of these hulls!
Many of these ships were passed on to American allies, where they went on to enjoy long careers. But selling ships off doesn’t eliminate the need for a new destroyer. The Navy was hard at work building a lot of guided-missile destroyers for anti-air action (the Coontz and Charles F. Adams classes), but the Soviets had a lot of subs, and the U.S. needed a vessel highly capable of protecting aircraft carriers and merchant ships from this burgeoning, sub-surface threat.
Six Spruance-class destroyers in the process of fitting out. All 31 vessels of the Spruance-class entered service between 1975 and 1983.
The answer was the Spruance-class destroyer. These ships were fast, notching a top speed of 32.5 knots, and packed two five-inch guns, an eight-cell Mk 29 launcher for the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile, and an eight-cell Mk 16 launcher for the RUR-5 Anti-Submarine Rocket. The ships also carried two triple-mounted 324mm Mk 32 torpedo tubes, two quad Mk 141 launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, a pair of Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In-Weapon Systems, and two anti-submarine helicopters.
The United States built 31 of these ships — but passed on creating a variant capable of carrying four helicopters. Two dozen of these ships were later upgraded with a 61-cell Mk 41 vertical launch system that later replaced the ASROC launcher.
USS Hayler, showing the upgrades to the Spruance design – including a Mk 41 vertical launch system.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Amy DelaTorres)
The ship proved so capable that the hull design was later reused for another 31 ships with advanced anti-air capability. Four Kidd-class guided-missile destroyers and 27 Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers were built using the hull design of the Spruance.
Watch the introduction of the Spruance in the video below!
Prior to WW2, knowing that they couldn’t compete with the numbers of the US navy, the Imperial Japanese Navy quietly authorized the construction of the two largest battleships by weight ever seen in warfare — the Musashi and her sister ship, the Yamato.
The origins of these two behemoths can be traced back to Japan’s 1934 withdrawal from the League of Nations. Amongst other things, doing this allowed Japan to ignore rules set by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and the London Naval Treaty of 1930, both of which aimed to limit the size of battleships as well as the right of participating nations to construct them.
Almost immediately following Japan’s withdrawal, a team working for the Japanese Navy Technical Department helmed by an engineer called Keiji Fukuda began submitting designs for a class of battleships superior in size and firepower to anything ever seen before.
While initially planning to build five of these battleships, ultimately only two were completed, with a third being converted to an aircraft carrier mid-way through construction.
The two completed ships, the Musashi and the Yamato, were quite literally in a class of their own, designed to displace some 73,000 long tons when fully equipped. For reference here, the United States’ Iowa class battleships created around the same time, while of similar length, weighed about 40% less.
Japanese battleship Yamato under construction at the Kure Naval Base, Japan, Sept. 20, 1941.
As one Japanese officer, Naoyoshi Ishida, described, “How huge it is! When you walk inside, there are arrows telling you which direction is the front and which is the back—otherwise you can’t tell. For a couple of days I didn’t even know how to get back to my own quarters. Everyone was like that…. I knew it was a very capable battleship. The guns were enormous.”
On that note, not just big, these ships also featured nine of the largest guns ever put on a battleship, featuring 460 mm barrels and weighing an astounding 3,000 tons each, with all nine combined weighing approximately as much as the United States’ Wyoming, New York, and Nevada class battleships.
These weapons were capable of firing shells that weighed up to 3200 pounds (1450 kg)- or, in other words, in the ballpark of what a typical full sized sedan car weighs. While you might think the range when shooting such an object must have been poor, in fact, these guns could hit a target over 25 miles (40 kilometers) away. They could also be fired at a rate of about once every 40 seconds.
The shockwave produced by one of these guns firing was noted as being powerful enough to tear the skin off of a human if an unlucky individual stood within 15 metres of it without proper shielding. This shockwave also resulted in nearby anti-aircraft guns having to be specially armored to protect them from this.
Speaking of anti-aircraft guns, ultimately these ships were equipped with approximately 150 25 mm guns. In between these and the massive 460 mm cannons previously described, the ships also featured six 155 mm and 24 127 mm guns.
Further, if not needing the 460 mm cannons for hitting ships far away, these battleships were equipped with so-called “beehive rounds” to fire from those cannons. In a nutshell, these rounds were filled with nearly a thousand incendiary tubes and hundreds of shards of steel. The round also included a fuse and explosive that would cause the shell to explode out, with the incendiary tubes igniting shortly thereafter, producing a wall of flame and molten steel meant to absolutely obliterate enemy aircraft. Essentially, the idea here was to convert these guns into comically large shotguns, able to pick any enemy birds out of the air.
Japanese Battleship Musashi taken from the bow.
Armor-wise, each ship possessed on its outer shell a protective layer some 16 inches thick.
While you might think this all combined must have made these ships slow as molasses, it turns out, they had a top speed of about 27 knots (31 mph). While not the fastest battleship in the world, this compared favorably to, for instance, the aforementioned Iowa class battleships that weighed about 40% less, but could only go about 6 knots faster.
Despite their awe-inspiring power and the full confidence of Japanese military brass that each ship was “unmatchable and unsinkable”, neither saw much combat. In fact, the Yamato spent so much time protecting Japanese ports that it was nicknamed the “Hotel Yamato”.
The reluctance of the Japanese navy to commit either ship to combat was motivated by both the scarcity of fuel in Japan during the war, with these battleships taking copious amounts of such to go anywhere, and the fact that military brass believed losing either ship would be a massive blow to the morale of the rest of the Japanese military.
Of course, in the closing months of WW2 with their forces almost completely obliterated, Japan reluctantly began committing both battleships to naval engagements. Unfortunately at this point these super battleships were so absurdly outnumbered in the limited engagements they’d ultimately take part in that they mostly just functioned as sitting ducks.
Most notably, they proved especially vulnerable to aircraft attacks. Even the aforementioned beehive rounds, which the Japanese believed would decimate aircraft, proved to be little more than a visual deterrent, with some American pilots simply flying straight through the flaming shrapnel they produced.
And while the near couple hundred anti-aircraft guns made it so it took a brave pilot to dive bomb the ships, the sheer number of aircraft that the Americans could throw at these battleships at the same time and how chaotic the battles got, ultimately saw these guns prove just as worthless in practice.
It didn’t help that at this point in the war Japan’s own aircraft were ridiculously outnumbered and outclassed, providing little to no air cover to try to protect the massive battleships. (See our article, How Were Kamikaze Pilots Chosen?)
Ultimately the Musashi was lost during the battle of Leyte Gulf in October of 1944, taking 19 torpedo and 17 bomb strikes to sink it.
As for the Yamato, it took part in her final engagement in April of 1945 in operation Ten-Go, which was an intentional suicide mission.
Japanese battleship Yamato is hit by a bomb near her forward 460mm gun turret.
The Yamato was to be the tip of the spear of this final, last-ditch effort to repel the American advance. Its crew was ordered to beach the ship near Okinawa and use its main battery to destroy as much of the invading force as possible. Essentially, the ship would function as a base on the island, and members of the near 3,000 strong crew not needed to operate weaponry aboard the ship were to wage a land battle with any enemy forces encountered.
The mission plan was flawed from the outset, however, and performed under protest of some of the Japanese Navy brass involved, who noted there would be no chance of even reaching the target island in the first place given the stated plan, including no air support whatsoever, and time of day they were to execute the plan (broad daylight).
This turned out to be correct- en route on April 7, 1945, the Yamato and handful of accompanying ships were completely, and quickly, overwhelmed by a combined assault from 6 cruisers, 21 destroyers, 7 battleships, and a few hundred aircraft.
One surviving member of the Yamato crew, junior officer Yoshida Mitsuru, had this to say of the battle that they all had known was a suicide mission from the start,
How many times, in target practice, have we conducted such tracking? I am possessed by the illusion that we have already experienced searches under the same conditions, with the same battle positions, even with the same mood. What is going on before my very eyes, indisputably, is actual combat — but how can I possibly convince myself of that fact? The blips are not an imagined enemy but an enemy poised for the kill. The location: not our training waters, but hostile waters. More than one hundred enemy planes attacking!” Is it the navigation officer who calls this out? … The battle begins…. As my whole body tingles with excitement, I observe my own exhilaration; as I grit my teeth, I break into a grin. A sailor near me is felled by shrapnel. In the midst of the overwhelming noise, I distinguish the sound of his skull striking the bulkhead; amid the smell of gunpowder all around, I smell blood…. The tracks of the torpedoes are a beautiful white against the water, as if someone were drawing a needle through the water; they come pressing in, aimed at Yamato from a dozen different directions and intersecting silently. Estimating by sight their distance and angle on the plotting board, we shift course to run parallel to the torpedoes and barely succeed in dodging them. We deal first with the closest, most urgent one; when we get to a point far enough away from it that we can be sure we have dodged it, we turn to the next. Dealing with them calls for vigilance, calculation, and decision…. That these pilots repeated their attacks with accuracy and coolness was a sheer display of the unfathomable undreamed-of strength of our foes.
In the end, it took only 2 hours for American forces to destroy the single most powerful ship constructed during WW2, along with most of the tiny fleet it set out with. When the smoke cleared, around 4,000 were dead on the Japanese side vs. just around a dozen dead on the American side and a few more wounded.
Early in WW2 the Imperial Japanese Navy had plans to construct even bigger ships than the Yamato and Musashi as part of an even more powerful class of ships they called the Super Yamatos. These ships, if constructed, would have possessed 510 mm guns, displaced upwards of 82,000 tons and could have moved at speeds approaching 30 knots. Lack of resources stopped Japan from ever building the ships however.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
A healthy and strong military marriage is at the top of many people’s priority list, but accomplishing this takes effort.
Typically, tasks that aide this goal are not included on our to-do list. We do not think we need to add, “Daily say I love you”, but maybe we should. Reaching big goals, such as a successful relationship, is about taking little steps to get there. So, along with your task of weight-lifting Wednesdays for your hot bod, consider adding the following to-dos for your relationship.
1. Go for a walk.
There are numerous benefits to walking, but the point here is spending intentional time together away from the distractions of home. Walking is an extremely easy and effective way to get out of a communication rut. Change the scenery and see how the extra oxygen to your brain fuels creative conversations.
This is not another list of tasks, but a fun way to dream together. Think big and dream crazy dreams. Have fun imagining what you can accomplish/see/experience together. (Just keep your dates flexible!!)
3. Arm wrestle.
This was my husband’s response to things we could do to strengthen our relationship. Anyone who compared our size would know how ridiculous this is, but I’ve added it to my list. I’m not saying determining who has the most arm strength will improve your relationship, but adding something your significant other is interested in (or something just plain funny) is a good start! Find your version of arm wrestling!
There is a common misconception that going to marriage counseling is only for those in trouble. It is not. If you owned a business, you would evaluate its performance; if you want to stay healthy you do a yearly physical; if you want your car to run well, you have a maintenance check. Marriage is no different. Taking time to talk with a counselor, a mentor couple, or a real friend who will encourage and help you to grow together is an important part of keeping your relationship strong.
5. Build your calendar together.
It is extremely easy to get into a habit of living two completely separate lives. Even if you digitally share your calendar, take at least 15 minutes each week to do a rundown of what is happening each day. Verbally reviewing each other’s calendar allows you to be connected with each other’s events even when you are apart. It also provides background knowledge to ask questions more specific than, “How was your day?”
Words matter, and at some point in our military marriages, they are all we have to stay connected.Find ways to talk highly about your significant other when he/she is not around. Make a specific reminder to write encouraging notes, send messages listing their strengths or rent a billboard to highlight their accomplishments (to include choosing you). Your words count for something, make them count for your relationship’s good.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
The situation surrounding a number of Allied ships sunk in a series of desperate battles around what is now Indonesia 75 years ago is a mixed bag, a new report finds. Late last year, advocates worried that many of the wrecks had been looted by modern-day grave robbers, forever altering important monuments to World War II history.
At Tjilatjap, Java, Feb. 6, 1942, seen from USS Marblehead (CL-12), which was passing close aboard. Houston’s colors are half-masted pending return of her funeral party, ashore for burial of men lost when a bomb hit near her after eight-inch gun turret two days earlier during a Japanese air attack in Banka Strait. (US Navy photo)
According to a report by USNI News, recent sonar surveys show the wreck of the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA 30) is still in good shape, while there is inconclusive data on the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth.
Past surveys have revealed that other wrecks, including the Dutch destroyer HNLMS Kortenear, the British heavy cruiser HMS Exeter and the British destroyers HMS Encounter have been stripped by looters.
The British destroyer HMS Electra, also sunk in the battles around Indonesia, has been “picked over,” while the Dutch cruisers HNLMS Java and HNLMS Dr Ruyter have had large portions of their wrecks removed. In one special case, the submarine USS Perch (SS 176), scuttled by her crew, has also been salvaged.
According to the United States Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command, only 368 personnel survived the sinking of USS Houston when she sank as a result of gunfire from the Japanese cruisers HIJMS Mogami and HIJMS Mikuma. Of those 368, only 291 survived roughly three and a half years in captivity.
In a release, the Naval History and Heritage Command noted that the survey, conducted by the Australian National Maritime Museum and the National Research Centre of Archaeology Indonesia was the first survey to provide a full view of USS Houston’s wreckage, thanks to the use of remotely operated vehicles and multi-beam sonar scanning.
Past surveys had focused on sections of the ship, using underwater video cameras and still cameras to assess the status of the wreck.
“We’re grateful to the Australian National Maritime Museum and Indonesia’s National Research Centre of Archaeology for sharing this information with us,” Naval History and Heritage Command Director Sam Cox said in the release. “We take very seriously our obligation to remember the service of American and allied Sailors who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom. We’ll do everything we can, and work with everyone we must, to safeguard their final resting places.”
In the 1970s, the United States Navy was looking to upgrade their amphibious warfare capabilities. The Iwo Jima-class landing platform, helicopter (LPH) vessels had proven capable, but the Navy is always on the hunt for the next step in ability.
The Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship displaced only 11,000 tons, which makes it about the size of Commencement Bay-class escort carriers that were commissioned late in World War II. It could operate helicopters, OV-10 Broncos, and even AV-8 Harriers.
But the Navy wanted something bigger and better — the answer was a new class of amphibious assault ships.
A North American Rockwell OV-10A Bronco of U.S. Marine Corps observation squadron VMO-1 takes off from the flight deck of the U.S. amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA-4) in 1983.
(U.S. Navy photo by PHAN Dougherty)
The lead ship of a planned nine-ship class was named in honor of the Battle of Tarawa. It was much larger than Iwo Jima-class ships, displacing nearly 40,000 tons. In addition, it was over 200 feet longer, could go two knots faster (reaching a top speed of 24 knots), and had a wider flight deck. This enabled it to operate far more helicopters, Broncos, and Harriers than its predecessors. It also had a well deck, which enabled it to operate landing craft or amphibious assault vehicles.
USS Tarawa was commissioned in 1976 and four more of the class were in service by end of 1980. Although the high inflation rates of the 1970s put a premature stop to the program, the five constructed vessels proved to be a massive leap in capability for the Marines and Navy.
The amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA 2) prepares to launch a CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53 Super Stallion from its flight deck during Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) integration training.
The Tarawa-class design was later used as the basis for Wasp-class amphibious assault ships, with some slight modifications, including a well deck for three LCACs, a more spacious flight deck, and less vulnerable command and control facilities.
The five Tarawa-class ships have since been retired. One is looking at a future in a museum, another was scrapped, a third was sunk as a target ship, and the remaining two are in reserves. Learn more about these ships in the video below.