A dramatic video released by the Saif Al Sham Brigades fighting in southern Syria shows an Islamic State guided missile ricocheting off a T-55 tank with a hard metallic smack.
It was close … seriously close. For whatever reason — a dud or a bad shot — the ISIS missile failed to explode. Had it, the blast could have blown up the tank, killed the crew and the rebel filming the incident. The camera operator, stunned by the blast, captures the tank backing off. The T-55 later returns and fires its cannon in a “shoot and scoot” maneuver.
The tank — almost certainly captured from the Syrian army — had no discernible “active protection” systems which can scramble a missile’s guidance systems. The ISIS missile was almost certainly captured … but the origin is unknown.
The Saif Al Sham Brigades is a Free Syrian Army group active in southern Syria and has appeared on lists of CIA-vetted rebel factions. Saif Al Sham counts itself as part of the Southern Front coalition of rebel groups, but this is a loosely-knit organization at the best of times.
The Front has also received support from Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It’s unclear if Saif Al Sham specifically has received any funding or weapons from any of these nations.
What the video does demonstrate is the intense pressure anti-tank guided missiles can put on armed combatants in the Syrian civil war. Despite failing to knock out the tank, which was quickly back in action, the close call was enough for the rebels to back up — fast.
Tank-killing missiles have proliferated so much, they’ve effectively halted armored breakthroughs and contributed to a five-year-old stalemate.
In the years since the west’s most hated terrorist was killed in a raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, many new details have emerged. From Twitter leaks during the raid to the surprising conduct of Osama bin Laden’s fifth wife, here are 7 surprising and surreal details from the raid:
1. The Situation Room was catered by Costco
Apparently, the White House is into getting a deal because they decided Costco sandwiches were the best finger foods for the table in the Situation Room where the senior leaders would watch the raid play out.
2. The first leak of the raid was a local on Twitter
Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant living in Abbottabad, heard the helicopters hovering over the compound and decided to mention it on Twitter. He didn’t know that he was live-tweeting the raid that would kill the world’s most notorious terrorist.
Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).
3. Osama bin Laden’s porn stash was a terrorist cliche
According to an extensive description of the 2011 raid in The New Yorker, Osama bin Laden’s famous porn stash was actually a common find in terror raids.
A special operations officer quoted in the piece said, “We find it on all these guys, whether they’re in Somalia, Iraq, or Afghanistan.”
4. The top-secret helicopter was first destroyed with a hammer
A helicopter notoriously crashed during the raid, partially because of a difference in temperature between where pilots rehearsed the raid and the actual site. The temperature difference accelerated a loss of lift when the helicopter ended up in its own rotor wash.
The pilot completed a masterfully controlled crash and then got to work destroying classified parts. While the helo would eventually be burnt with thermite and other incendiaries, the first wave of destruction was completed with a common hammer kept on board for that purpose.
5. One of bin Laden’s wives was talking sh-t the whole time like a spouse on “Cops”
According to testimony in the New Yorker article, Osama bin Laden’s wife was all about attacking the SEALs. When bin Laden went to hide behind her and another wife, Amal al-Fatah made a motion to charge the Americans. She was shot in the calf.
But she wasn’t done. Even as she and other survivors were left in the courtyard near the burning helicopter and the SEALs were exfiltrating the compound, al-Fatah was screaming insults at the Americans like she was telling the police not to take her man away on an episode of “Cops.”
6. The President met the SEAL dog after the operation, and that scared the Secret Service
When President Barack Obama went to Fort Campbell, Kentucky to meet the SEALs and other operators on the mission, the Navy SEAL military working dog who was on the raid was closed in an adjoining room because of a request by the Secret Service.
7. Because no one thought to bring a tape measure, bin Laden’s height was measured by a SEAL lying next to him
When Adm. William H. McRaven called the CIA headquarters to try and make sure that the man killed in the raid really was Osama bin Laden, one of his questions was the exact height of the body. Bin Laden was between 6 feet, 4 inches and 6 feet, 5 inches tall.
No one at the site had a tape measure handy, so a SEAL laid down next to it. Reports vary on whether the SEAL was 6-foot or 6-foot, 4-inches. Regardless, the final verdict was that the body matched bin Laden’s height. DNA evidence would later prove that it really was the terrorist who was killed.
Seriously, as if the first viral video of actor Keanu Reeves slamming steel like a freaking Delta Force ninja wasn’t badass enough, now famed tactical firearms instructor and 3-Gun maestro Taran Butler has released more footage of the “John Wick” star getting his pew pew on.
Butler is a world champion 3-Gun competitor (a shooting sport that requires mastery of a shotgun, handgun and AR-style rifle) and frequently trains actors to properly handle weapons for Hollywood blockbusters.
An earlier video of Reeves slinging lead like a boss exploded online last year, with the actor demonstrating some serious skills in weapons handling and accuracy. In the newest video made up of more clips from the training last year — and includes some help from WATM friend Jaqueline Carrizosa — Reeves displays skills and speed that would make any top-tier competitor (and even some of America’s elite special operators) smile.
His transitions are lightning fast, his shot placement is about as “down zero” as it gets, and his trigger speeds are borderline full-auto, with minuscule splits and solidly low stage times. He even executes difficult “with-retention” handgun shots and moves from a close-in optic to a distance shot with his AR and drops steel every time.
Mark Tufo wrote Zombie Fallout, a nine-book series that follows Marine Corps veteran and family man Mike Talbot as he tries to keep his family safe in a world overrun by zombies.
Like the character Talbot, Tufo served in the Marine Corps before returning to civilian life, starting a family, and adopting an English bulldog. The similarities end when Talbot’s neighborhood is taken over by flesh-eating and brain-hunting zombies, forcing him and his family to fight their way out.
Now, Talbot and his family might be getting their own TV series. Brad Thomas, a television producer and fan of the series, has teamed up with Tufo to bring the zombie epic to the masses. WATM got to spend a day with them and some military veteran fans on the set as the crew filmed a teaser for the show.
WATM’s Weston Scott interviewed Mark Tufo on the set of the music video teaser (and in full zombie wardrobe). Mark speaks about his writing process and the inspirations behind his main characters, and the transition between the Marine Corps and drawing from those experiences to become an author.
Archibald credits these shortcomings to the plane’s design period, when the US Air Force placed a budget cap on developing the avionics for the Raptor.
This means that the Raptor is blind to the infrared spectrum, which has extreme value to fighter jets as all planes and missiles emit heat. The lack of side-looking radars limits how the plane can guide missiles flying at more than 90 degrees away from the plane’s nose.
For the Flanker, the IRST provides a vital but limited tool against the ultra-stealthy F-22. As the Flanker has almost no hope of detecting the F-22 by conventional radar, it must rely on finding the F-22’s heat signature; but, as combat aviation expert Justin Bronk previously told Business Insider, looking for fifth-generation aircraft in the open skies with IRST is like “looking through a drinking straw.”
“Just because I knew I could outmaneuver an enemy, my objective wouldn’t be to get in a turning fight and kill him,” Berke said.
However, cheek-mounted radars have utility beyond dogfights, and by requiring the pilot to point his nose at a target to guide a missile, the plane has essentially handcuffed the pilot who could be doing other tasks.
When years of world war come to an end, the troops who fought are going to party hard. From New York to Moscow to Paris, the Allied cities celebrated their victories with abandon.
1. The end of World War II in Europe saw Moscow run out of booze.
Russia suffered some of the worst devastation of any of the Allies during World War II, possibly even worse than France. So, when the German surrender was announced in Moscow at 1:10 in the morning, the Soviets sure as hell weren’t waiting for the sun to start partying.
Russian soldiers and citizens spilled into the streets in their pajamas and started drinking the town dry. And that’s not an exaggeration, the party got so boisterous that people reported that vodka just didn’t exist in the city by the time the partying ended.
2. Canadian authorities tried to limit drinking at the surrender of Germany and sailors rioted.
3. Paris celebrations started slow and then built to a crescendo.
France tried to hold off the celebrations until noon on May 8 after Germany surrendered, but her people were having none of it. People closed their shops and milled towards the building where Gen. Charles de Gaulle announced the official surrender of Germany and Paris really got the party going.
Aviators from all the allied countries started flying around the city at treetop level as a group of men fired celebratory cannon shots nonstop. Soldiers lined up to receive kisses from French girls. Crowds gathered around Allied flags and sang the anthems of each nation as soldiers stood nearby and joined in.
5. Liquor flowed through Paris after the World War I armistice was signed.
Paris is apparently the place to be when a world war ends. After the first one, Allied soldiers found themselves plied with liquor, celebrated as heroes, and in some cases, surrounded by mobs singing their praise.
America’s F-16 multi-role fighters are some of the most advanced aircraft on the planet, carrying precision weapons and using them to kill bad guys around the world.
But in March 2003, two F-16 pilots were called to assist 52 British special operators surrounded by 500 Iraqi troops — meaning the friendlies were outnumbered almost 10 to 1.
Worse, there was essentially no light on the battlefield. It was so dark that even the pilots’ night vision goggles weren’t enough for the F-16s to tell where forces were on the ground.
But the pilots could hear through the radio as the situation on the ground went from bad to worse. The Iraqi troops were pressing the attack, pinning the Brits down and preparing to overrun them.
Thinking fast, Lt. Col. Ed Lynch climbed to altitude and then went into a dive, quickly building up sonic energy around his plane as he approached the speed of sound.
As he neared the ground with the massive amount of sound energy surrounding his cockpit, he broke the sound barrier and pointed the bulk of the energy at the ground where he believed the Iraqi troops to be. Lynch pulled up a mere 3,000 feet from the ground, sending the massive sonic boom against the troops below.
The energy wave struck with enough force that the Iraqi troops thought the F-16s were dropping bombs or firing missiles. The Iraqi troops broke apart and the British special operators were able to get out during the chaos.
The Navy SEALs who raided Osama bin Laden’s in 2011 found a treasure trove of information on the workings of al Qaeda leadership, but one “bro” is concerned with only one thing: the terror mastermind’s porn stash.
“What I want to know is what he jerked it to,” wrote David Covucci, at the college “bro” site, BroBible. “Because when he was killed, it was reported — probably as an attempt to disgrace him — that Bin Laden had a significant stash of pornographic material.”
Indeed, Reuters reported bin Laden had “modern, electronically recorded video” that “is fairly extensive,” according to U.S. officials. So Covucci did what any bro would do when searching for the truth. He filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA:
“With regard to the pornographic material Osama Bin Laden had in his possession at the time of his death, responsive records, should they exist, would be contained in the operational files. The CIA Information Act, 50 U.S.C 431, as amended, exempts CIA operational files from search, review, publication, and disclosure requirements of the FOIA. To the extent that this material exists, the CIA would be prohibited by 18 USC Section 1461 from mailing obscene matter.”
Two months ago Nadja Y. West became the Army’s first black surgeon general, and on Feb. 9 she will be promoted to lieutenant general, the first female U.S. Military Academy graduate as well as the first African-American woman to hold that rank.
West was also the first Army officer to hold a leadership role at the National Naval Medical Center, a top-tier center in Bethesda, Maryland where she served as a deputy commander.
“I was once an orphan with an uncertain future,” West said of her promotion in a piece from theGrio. “And I am incredibly honored and humbled to lead such a distinguished team of dedicated professionals who are entrusted with the care of our nation’s sons and daughters, veterans, and family members.”
According to her biography, West deployed to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Later, she was part of a medical mission with the 5th Special Forces Group. She has held command at two Army medical centers as well as Europe Regional Medical Command. Most recently, she was the Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon.
As the Army’s surgeon general, West will advise the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff on all Army health care matters, according to a press release from the Office of the Surgeon General. West will also oversee Medical Command and its 48 hospitals which serve 4 million active duty service members, retirees, and their family members.
West graduated from West Point with a degree in engineering. She later earned a Doctorate of Medicine from the George Washington University School of Medicine.
Representative government has been a luxury that relatively few people have enjoyed throughout human history.
And while the vast majority of dictators fall short of Hitler- or Stalin-like levels of cruelty, history is rife with oppressors, war criminals, sadists, sociopaths, and morally complacent individuals who ended up as unelected heads of government — to the tragic detriment of the people and societies they ruled.
Here’s a look at 22 brutal dictators that you may not have heard of.
Francisco Solano Lopez (Paraguay, 1862-1870)
Last picture of Francisco Solano López, 1870. Wikimedia
After that war concluded, Brazil, Argentina, and the winning faction in Uruguay secretly agreed to a plan in which they would annex half of Paraguay’s territory.
Lopez rejected the peace terms offered by the “triple alliance,” incurring a full-on invasion.
What followed was a devastating conflict in which an overmatched Lopez conscripted child soldiers, executed hundreds of his deputies (including his own brother), incurred steep territorial losses, and triggered an eight-year Argentine military occupation.
Hungarian leader Miklós Horthy had been an ally of Nazi Germany, collaborating with Adolf Hitler’s regime in exchange for assistance in restoring Hungarian control over lands the country had lost as a result of World War I.
Horthy began attempting to chart an independent path from the Nazis as the German war effort flagged in 1944 and largely refused to deport the country’s Jews — triggering a Nazi invasion and Döme Sztójay’s installation as the country’s puppet leader even while Horthy officially remained in power.
Sztójay, who had been Hungary’s ambassador to Nazi Germany for the decade leading up to World War II, was captured by American troops after the war and executed in Hungary in 1946.
Ante Pavelic (1941-1945)
Ante Pavelic started out as a politician who was opposed to the centralization of what later became officially known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
After Yugoslavia’s king declared himself dictator in 1929, Pavelic fled the country in order to organize an ultra-nationalist movement called Ustaše.
The Ustaše was dedicated to creating an independent Croatia, and sometimes resorted to terrorism. Ultimately, the group assassinated King Alexander in 1934.
After Axis forces took over Yugoslavia in the 1941, Pavelic took control as the head of the Independent State of Croatia (or NDH).
The country was nominally ruled by the Ustaše, but was essentially a puppet state of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Under Pavelic’s leadership, the regime persecuted Orthodox Serbs, Jews, and Romani living in the NDH.
After Germany was defeated in 1945, Pavelic went into hiding, and eventually escaped to Argentina. He died in Spain in 1959.
Mátyás Rákosi (1945-1956)
Mátyás Rákosi. Hungarian Government
Mátyás Rákosi became the communist leader of Hungary after consolidating political power in 1945.
Rákosi managed to stick around for a bit, until the USSR officially decided he was a liability.
Moscow removed him from power in 1956 in order to appease the Yugoslav leader, Mashal Tito.
Khorloogiin Choibalsan (Mongolia, 1930s-1952)
After several meetings with Stalin, Choibalsan adopted the Soviet leader’s policies and methods and applied them to Mongolia.
He created a dictatorial system, suppressing the opposition and killing tens of thousands of people.
Later in the 1930s, he “began to arrest and kill leading workers in the party, government, and various social organizations in addition to army officers, intellectuals, and other faithful workers,” according to a report published in 1968 cited in the Historical Dictionary of Mongolia.
In late 1951, Choibalsan went to Moscow in order to receive treatment for kidney cancer. He died the following year.
Enver Hoxha (Albania, 1944-1985)
Albania’s communist dictator feuded with both the Soviet Union and China before promoting a ruinous policy of national self-reliance that turned his country into a Balkan version of modern-day North Korea.
One of the most controversial figures in post-colonial African history, Ian Smith, a decorated fighter pilot during World War II, led the secession of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from the British empire in 1965.
His aim was to preserve white rule in an overwhelmingly black colony.
Although whites were less than 4% of Rhodesia’s population, Smith’s government survived nearly 15 years of international isolation and civil war.
He agreed to a power-sharing accord that elevated Robert Mugabe to prime minister in 1980.
Although sometimes lauded for his willingness to surrender power — something that meant Rhodesia was liberated from minority rule some 15 years before neighboring South Africa — he still led a racially discriminatory regime for well over a decade.
Ramfis Trujillo (Dominican Republic, May 1961-October 1961)
Ramfis’s father, the more infamous Rafael Trujillo, ruled the Dominican Republic for over 30 years.
His oldest son, who was made a colonel at the age of 4, only spent a few months as the Caribbean nation’s dictator — but he used them to mount a brutal reprisal campaign against those he suspected of assassinating his father on May 30, 1960.
An “accomplished torturer” and inveterate playboy, when Ramfis left the Dominican Republic by yacht to go into exile in Spain in late 1961, he reportedly took his father’s coffin with him.
In March 1971, Khan ordered his army to crack down on a burgeoning separatist movement in Eastern Pakistan.
“Operation Searchlight” targeted Bengali nationalists and intellectuals and produced a wave of 10 million refugees that convinced India to intervene in Pakistan’s civil war, setting the stage for Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan the following year.
During a high-level meeting in February 1971, Khan was recorded saying to “kill three million of them,” in reference to the separatists and their supporters.
By the end of the year, hundreds of thousands of people were dead — and Khan had been deposed as president and sent into internal exile. He died in Pakistan in 1980.
Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio (Guatemala, 1970-1974)
Carlos Arana Osorio was one of the several military rulers who were president in Guatemala during the volatile years following a 1954 coup.
During his presidency, he amped up government efforts to subdue armed rebels and persecuted “student radicals,” workers groups, and political opponents.
Guatemala went had military presidents through 1986, but the country’s civil war continued until December 1996.
Jorge Rafael Videla (Argentina, 1976-1981)
Military officer Jorge Rafaél Videla took over Argentina during a coup d’état in 1976.
At the time, the country was straddled with a corrupt government and a battered economy, and was “besieged by attacks from guerrillas and death squads,” with many Argentines “welcoming Videla’s move, hoping the three-man military junta would put an end to the violence,” according to Biography.com.
Videla tried to bring back economic growth via free-market reforms, and was “moderately successful.” However, he closed the courts and gave legislative powers to a nine-man military commission.
His government conducted a notorious “‘dirty war,’ during which thousands of people considered to be subversive threats were abducted, detained and murdered,” among them intellectuals, journalists, and educators.
The official estimate of people killed during his presidency is 9,000, but some sources believe the number is between 15,000 and 30,000.
He was sentenced to life in prison in 1985, but pardoned in 1990. He was once again put on trial in 2010, and received another life sentence. He died in prison in 2013.
Francisco Macías Nguema (Equatorial Guinea, 1968-1979)
Francisco Macías Nguema. Wikimedia image.
The first president of Equatorial Guinea was a paranoid kleptocrat who declared himself leader for life, kept much of the national treasury in suitcases under his bed, and killed or exiled an estimated one-third of the former Spanish colony’s population of 300,000.
Nguema’s hatred of his country’s educated classes led to comparisons with Cambodia’s Pol Pot.
Extensive forced-labor programs brought to mind other historical cruelties as well: One visitor to the country during Nguema’s rule described it as “the concentration camp of Africa — a cottage-industry Dachau.”
Nguema was executed after his nephew, Teodoro Obiang, overthrew him in a 1979 coup.
Teodoro Obiang (Equatorial Guinea, 1979-present)
Teodoro Obiang overthrew his uncle Francisco Macías Nguema, the first president of Equatorial Guinea, in 1979.
In 1995, oil was discovered in Equatorial Guinea, which provided Obiang with an almost limitless means of self-enrichment.
Theodore Sindikubwabo (Rwanda, April 1994-July 1994)
Theodore Sindikubwabo bears little personal responsibility for the organization of the Rwandan genocide, which was largely the project of hardline army officers and government officials like Theoneste Bagasora.
But when Rwandan president Juvenal Habyrimana’s plane was shot down on April 6, 1994, Sindikubwabo was the man that the genocide’s architects selected as Rwanda’s head of state.
The former pediatrician was the official head of a government that perpetrated the slaughter of an estimated 800,000 people.
Far from attempting to stop the bloodbath, Sindikubwabo appeared in Cayahinda, Rwanda, on April 20, 1994, to “to thank and encourage” militants carrying out the genocide, and to “promise he would send soldiers to help local people finish killing the Tutsi who were barricaded” in a local church, according to Human Rights Watch.
Sindikubwabo fled into neighboring Zaire after the forces of current Rwandan president Paul Kagame invaded the country during the closing days of the genocide.
He died in exile in 1998.
Than Shwe (Myanmar, 1992-2011)
Than Shwe was the leader of the ruling military junta in Myanmar (Burma) and had been criticized and sanctioned by Western countries for human-rights abuses.
Up to 1 million people were reportedly sent to “satellite zones” and “labor camps” under his rule.
There was virtually no free speech in the country, and “owning a computer modern or fax [was] illegal, and anyone talking to a foreign journalist [was] at risk of torture or jail,” the Guardian reported in 2007.
Although Shwe stepped down in 2011, The Wall Street Journal reports that he “still exerts considerable leverage behind the scenes.”
Most recently, he pledged support to his former foe, Aung San Suu Kyi, as the Myanmar’s “future leader” — even though during his rule, the country’s Nobel Prize-winning opposition leader was kept under house arrest.
Isaias Afwerki (Eritrea, 1991-present)
Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia in 1991 partly because of President Isaias Afwerki’s leadership in the armed struggle against Ethiopia’s brutal communist regime, which he helped overthrow.
Over the next 25 years, Afwerki built one of the world’s most terrorizing dictatorships.
Eritrea’s internal oppression has led to over 380,000 people fleeing out of a population of less than 7 million — despite the lack of active armed conflict in the country.
Afwerki’s foreign policy has been equally problematic.
A 1998 dispute with Ethiopia over the demarcation of the countries’ border quickly escalated into the last full-scale interstate war of the 20th century, with Afwerki bearing at least partial blame for failing to defuse a conflict in which an estimated 100,000 people were killed.
Lewis Millett was a man who was in love with war. He fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Millett started out in the Massachusetts National Guard in 1938 with the 101st Field Artillery. In 1940 he joined the Army Air Corps and went to gunnery school.
But when Roosevelt came out and said that Americans would not be fighting on foreign soil, Millett was more than a little disappointed. So he deserted in 1941.
Millett hitchhiked to Canada and enlisted in the Canadian Army and was promptly sent to the UK, where he served as an anti-aircraft radar operator during the Blitz. Of course, after he got to London, America entered World War II — and Millett turned around and tried to transfer back into the US Army.
Thus began a long and storied career in the US military, including his fabled bayonet charges in the Korean War when he wanted to prove a point.
You can learn more about Lewis Millett on the We Are The Mighty podcast! Check it out here.
Remember that scene in Top Gun when Maverick tells Goose that he’ll “hit the brakes” and the instructor pursuing him in an A-4 Skyhawk will just fly right by? Braking sharply, while in-flight, is indeed a tactic that can be utilized by fighter pilots in air-to-air combat, but no aircraft could ever do it quite as well as the venerable Harrier jumpjet. The technique was known as “VIFF”.
The Harrier, originally developed by Hawker Siddeley, and later, British Aerospace Systems (BAe), could achieve vertical flight by vectoring four large nozzles straight down towards the ground. The nozzles would vent exhaust at full thrust from the Harrier’s powerful main Pegasus engine, allowing the aircraft to hover, lift off the ground and land like a helicopter.
This carved out a brand new niche for the Harrier that wasn’t really challenged at all until the recent F-35B Lightning II: it could literally fly and land anywhere and everywhere. The Harrier could be launched from highways and unimproved fields and grass strips, or could be deployed to sea aboard small aircraft carriers, or even re-purposed cargo vessels.
The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, which operated the navalized version of the jumpjet – the Sea Harrier – was enthusiastic about using the aircraft on deployments aboard light aircraft carriers, especially the HMS Invincible (R05). The problem with the Harrier/Sea Harrier was the fact that the aircraft was almost entirely geared towards the strike mission (i.e. flying air-to-ground attacks) while the air-to-air role was more of an afterthought that wasn’t really accounted for. The Royal Air Force’s land-based Harrier, the GR.3, would typically require a flight of more capable air superiority fighters to fly top cover, or to clear the airspace ahead of them, lest they be engaged and taken out of the fight. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, took a different approach.
The Sea Harrier, more commonly known as the “Shar”, was revamped to allow for it to assume both the ground attack, reconnaissance and fighter roles, giving the air wings assigned to the Invincible (and later, the HMS Hermes) a more diverse spread of available capabilities while in-theater (i.e. in the area of operation). The Shar could fly with AIM-9 Sidewiders short-range air-to-air missiles on under-wing pylons, and was equipped with ADEN 30mm cannons to be used for strafing land-based targets or attacking enemy fighters in the air. The Fleet Air Arm’s pilots needed to first develop the tactics required to help the Shar’s future pilots fight and win against enemy fighters that were likely more suited towards aerial combat than the high-wing strike jumpjet.
On the other side of the pond, the United States Marine Corps was busy beefing up its air-to-ground capabilities with the AV-8A Harrier. This new strike jet would give them a versatile fast attack option that could potentially be deployed really anywhere around the world, especially aboard aircraft carriers which would serve as forward-operating staging platforms. In 1976, Marines began taking the Harrier to sea, first aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Midway-class aircraft carrier. On the FDR, the Marine contingent would test out the Harrier’s ability to operate in adverse weather conditions, as well as pit it in air-to-air mock dogfights against the ship’s complement of F-4 Phantom IIs. Marine pilots quickly came to the conclusion that in a close-in fight, they could actually use the aircraft’s thrust vectoring to their advantage.
The Marine Corps put in a request with Rolls Royce, the designer and builder of the Harrier’s Pegasus engine, as to whether or not this technique would put unnecessary and unwanted stresses on the engine, or if it would outright spoil the engine’s functionality. They still carried on with testing before Rolls Royce got back to them with the “all-clear”! Thrust vectoring while in flight could prove to be the key maneuver they needed for closer air-to-air combat. Ultimately, what resulted was known as Vectoring in Forward Flight (VIFF for short).
VIFF basically involved pilots rotating the nozzles forward from the usual in-flight horizontal position. In doing so, pilots could quickly deplete their airspeed and bleed energy, causing their surprised pursuer(s) to overshoot, suddenly finding their windscreen devoid of any prey they might have previously been chasing. After dropping altitude as a result of VIFFing, the Harrier would now be free to turn the tables on the predator, making the hunter the hunted. In a turning fight, this was an immense advantage for the Harrier’s pilot. But as soon as the pilot VIFFed his opponent, he had to have had a plan for dealing with the bandit, or else he would be in for a world of hurt; that wasn’t a trick any combat pilot would fall for twice.
Among VIFF’s disadvantages was the fact that it could only really be used effectively in turning fights. If the pursuing aircraft was flying with a wingman, or as part of a larger attack flight, the odds would be stacked fairly high against the Harrier. Additionally, after VIFFing, any other enemy fighters that weren’t engaged in the melee between the Harrier and the first jet were placed in a prime position to take a shot at the jumpjet, which took time to rebuild energy from the very-taxing VIFF maneuver (i.e. regain airspeed).
During the Falklands War, in the early 1980s, British Harrier pilots might have attempted putting VIFFing to use against Argentinian Mirage fighters, which were decidedly more suited towards the air-to-air role than the Harrier. In fact, no conclusive evidence exists to prove that VIFFing was indeed the deciding factor in any engagement involving the Harrier. However, even with the Mirage being built for air combat, it still proved to be ineffective against the superior training of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots and technology (i.e. the AIM-9L Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile), who did not lose a single Harrier or Sea Harrier in air-to-air combat during the entire conflict, while inflicting losses on the Argentinian air force. RAF and Fleet Air Arm pilots were able to employ the tactics they developed like never before, proving that a Harrier, in the right hands, is truly a deadly and highly capable machine.
These missiles primarily engage their targets in space at the height of the ballistic missile’s flight path. To hit a DF-21D, the Aegis system will need to be on or near the projected flight path. Keeping carriers safe may require keeping an Aegis ship equipped with SM-3s permanently co-located with the carrier.
These are much cheaper than SM-3s, but the SM-6 is a final, last-ditch defense while the SM-3 is still the first call. That’s because SM-6s engage targeted missiles during their terminal phase, the final moments before the incoming missile kills its target. If the SM-6 misses, there isn’t time to do anything else.
The main problem for the Navy when using THAAD to protect its ships is that the THAAD system is deployed on trucks, not ships. It’s hard to keep land-based missiles in position to protect ships sailing on the open sea.