U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Paul T. “PJ” Johnson is right up there with the best pilots to have ever flown the A-10. While serving as a captain during Operation Desert Storm, he was decorated with the Air Force Cross for leading the rescue mission of a downed Navy F-14 Tomcat pilot deep behind enemy lines.
Capt. Johnson was en route from another mission when he received the call to search for the F-14 crew that had been shot down the night before. During the next six hours, he lead the search through three aerial refuelings, one attack on a possible SCUD missile site, and three hours of going deeper into enemy territory than any A-10 had ever flown. When he finally spotted the survivor, an enemy vehicle was heading in his direction, which Johnson proceeded to destroy, thus securing the target.
The mission was successful and a first for the A-10. A few days later, Johnson’s skills were on full display when he was hit by an enemy missile while trying to take out a radar site. The explosion left a gaping hole on his right wing, which disabled one of the hydraulic systems. Still, he managed to fly back to safety.
This video shows how Johnson pulled through his “high pucker factor” experience, which he credits to a “wing and a prayer.”
Gen. Johnson received his commission in 1985 from Officer Training School, Lackland Air Force Base. He’s a command pilot with more than 3,000 hours on the A-10 and served as commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron, Pope AFB, N.C.; the 354th Operations Group, Eielson AFB, Alaska; the 355th Fighter Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; and 451st Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. He’s retiring on July 01, 2016, according to his Air Force profile.
On Wednesday, two Communist Party members who are deputies in the Russian Duma called on the Kremlin to deploy missiles to Cuba, a request they say is in retaliation to U.S. plans to deploy a rocket system to southeastern to Turkey as part of the battle to counter ISIS in nearby Syria.
There’s no word on the class of missiles that they want placed on the Caribbean island or whether the Kremlin will comply, but the deputies aren’t shy about comparisons between their request and the 1962 Soviet decision to place nuclear-tipped intermediate range ballistic missiles in Cuba.
“It is worth noting that according to available data the (American) weapons system uses missiles with a range of up to five hundred kilometers, a potential threat to Russian allies in the CSTO, primarily Armenia,” they said in the memo.
Furthermore, “we are talking about the deployment of Russian launchers similar to or of even greater range in Cuba,” the deputies continued.
On Tuesday, the Department of Defense announced that it will deploy a single truck-mounted M-142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) in Turkey to stop cross-border attacks by ISIS in Syria. Another HIMARS system is on its way to northern Iraq to assist in the battle to retake Mosul from the radical Islamist group.
The CSTO or Collective Security Treaty Organization is a six-member mutual defense pact comprised of Russia and several post-Soviet states, including Armenia. Other members include Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
Armenia is a country landlocked in the South Caucasus that shares a 165-mile border with Turkey and has cordial relations with Russia – so cordial that some observers believe Russia is taking advantage of the situation to expand its military presence right next to Turkey, a NATO ally.
Concerned parties point out recent developments: in March, a snap drill in cooperation with the Armenian military that involved 8,500 Russian troops, 900 ground weapons, 200 warplanes and about 50 warships; in December, the two nations signed a cooperative air defense agreement; even a recent basing arrangement agreement between the two governments for more than 5,000 Russian troops.
In addition, the deputies are calling for the reopening of the Lourdes signals-intelligence station located outside Havana, which the U.S.S.R. built in 1962. The Cuban government closed the station in 2002, although there is speculation that the Cubans and the Russians have recently discussed reactivation of the base.
Rashkin and Obukhov also wrote: “At a time when Russia is once again positioning itself in the international arena as a great power, our country should be more active to restore the destroyed military and economic ties with our allies, primarily with the fraternal Cuban Republic.”
The request by the two deputies echoes the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis – the 13-day standoff between United States and the Soviet Union in 1962 that brought both nations to the brink of a nuclear war.
Eventually, the Soviet Union agreed to remove the missiles based in Cuba because of a secret agreement forged between Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. Pres. John F. Kennedy that led to removal of American Jupiter IRBMs from Turkey.
The following year, both superpowers agreed to install a direct “hot line” communication link between Washington and Moscow to manage any future confrontations, and the U.S. and U.S.S.R. signed treaties limiting atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.
Are the Russians serious about basing missiles in Cuba today? The chances of that happening are remote at best.
What is probably happening is part of an on-going effort by Putin’s allies to remind the world that Russia is still a nation to be reckoned with – and feared.
What would the United States do if Russian missiles were once again only 90 miles away from American shores? So far, the White House has not commented.
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter has earned eight platinum records in a music career that started in the 1960s, and he has received numerous security clearances and contracting jobs since the 1980s as a self-taught expert on missile-defense and counterterrorism.
Baxter was one of many luminaries at the White House on Oct. 11, 2018, to watch President Donald Trump sign the Music Modernization Act, which reforms copyright laws.
Baxter dropped out of college in Boston in 1969 to join a short-lived psychedelic-rock band. After that, he moved to California and become one of the original six members of Steely Dan, which he left in 1974 to join the Doobie Brothers, which he left in 1979.
Baxter has said he “fell into his second profession almost by accident.”
While living in California in the 1970s, Baxter helped a neighbor dig out their house after a mudslide.
“Afterward, he invited me into his study and I saw all these pictures of airplanes and missiles on the wall — it turned out he was one of the guys who had invented the Sidewinder missile,” Baxter said in a 2013 interview. “As a gift for helping him clean out his house he gave me a subscription to Aviation Week and to Jane’s Defense. It was amazing.”
Baxter found the technical aspects of music and of defense, particularly missile defense, coincided.
“Technology is really neutral. It’s just a question of application,” he told MTV in 2001. “For instance, if TRW came up with a new data compression algorithms for their spy satellites, I could use that same information and apply it for a musical instrument or a hard disc recording unit. So it was just a natural progression.”
He immersed himself in technical journals and defense publications during the 1980s.
“The good news is that I live in America and am something of a, I guess the term is an “autodidact,” he said in 2013, when asked about his formal education. “There’s so much information available. The opportunity for self-education in this country is enormous.”
The big shift came in 1994.
Inspired by a friend’s work on an op-ed about NATO, Baxter sat down and punched out a five-page paper on the Aegis ship-based antiaircraft missile system, arguing it could be converted to a missile-defense system.
“One day, I don’t know what happened. I sat down at my Tandy 200 and wrote this paper about how to convert the Aegis weapon system,” he said in a 2016 speech. “I have no idea. I just did it.”
Baxter, who had recently retired as a reserve police officer in Los Angeles, was already in touch with California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as an adviser. Baxter gave his paper to Rohrabacher.
“Skunk really blew my mind with that report,” Rohrabacher told The Wall Street Journal in 2005. “He was talking over my head half the time, and the fact that he was a rock star who had basically learned it all on his own was mind-boggling.”
Rohrabacher gave the paper to Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee, who asked, “Is this guy from Raytheon or Boeing?” according to Baxter.
Rohrabacher replied, “No, he’s a guitar player for the Doobie Brothers.”
Like Rohrabacher, Weldon was struck by Baxter’s prowess. In 1995, he nominated Baxter to chair the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense, a congressional panel.
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper, equipped with the Aegis integrated weapons system, launches a missile during an exercise in the Pacific Ocean, July 30, 2009.
(Department of Defense Photo)
“The next thing I knew, I was up to my teeth in national security, mostly in missile defense, but because the pointy end of the missile sometimes is not just nuclear, but chemical, biological or volumetric, I got involved in the terrorism side of things,” Baxter told MTV in 2001.
The appointment to the panel “sort of opened up a door for me to end up working in the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), which then morphed into the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which then morphed into the Missile Defense Agency (MDA),” Baxter said in 2013.
He’s also worked with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and contractors like Northrup Grumman.
“We did some pretty cool stuff,” Baxter said in 2016 of his work on SDI, which President Ronald Reagan first proposed in 1983. “Reagan’s plan was a bit much. It was a plan to drive the Russians nuts, and it worked. They believed what we were doing was real and spent lots of money trying to counter it.”
He was also a hit at the Pentagon.
“Some of these people who are generals now were listening to my music when they were lieutenant colonels or lieutenant commanders, so there was a bond there,” Baxter said in 2001. “But what they realized is that they’re looking for people who think out of the box, who approach a problem with a very different point of view because we’re talking about asymmetrical warfare here.”
Military leaders brought him in to consult, regularly asking him to play the role of the enemy during war games.
“I’m told I make a very good bad guy,” Baxter said in 2005. People who worked with him also told The Journal he could be a self-promoter.
Baxter has kept up his musical work. He became a sought-after session guitarist, working with acts like Dolly Parton, Rod Stewart, and Eric Clapton.
In 2004 he flew 230,000 miles to reach all his gigs. That year he also made more money from his defense work than from music.
For his part, Baxter has pointed to his creativity as his biggest asset.
“We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles,” he said in 2005.
“My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A contingent of senior Air Force leaders and other high-ranking officials are visiting multiple locations across the Arctic April 27-May 3, 2019, in an attempt to better understand operational challenges and refine approaches for meeting the changing security dynamics in the region.
“The Arctic has always been a vital, indispensable part of any strategy to ensure the security and prosperity of the United States, our allies and our partners,” said Maj. Gen. Brian S. Robinson.
“While that has not changed, there are new activities and concerns in the Arctic, and our allies and partners are on the front lines of those changes. This trip provides important, firsthand insight on how our partners are preparing for a shifting landscape and how we can best adapt our policies, activities, and partnerships to successfully meet the emerging challenges in the region,” Robinson said.
The group includes Robinson along with Air Force Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, Brig. Gen. Michael G. Koscheski as well as senior Air Force officials Kenneth E. Bray and John M. Trumpfheller. All of them are touring facilities in Norway, Finland, and Sweden to see how Arctic allies and partners of the U.S. view security and operate in the region’s harsh conditions. The trip also offers opportunities for representatives of the countries to discuss joint operations and other activities that contribute to the shared interests and priorities of each country.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Paul McKenna, the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Command Senior Enlisted Leader, visit units and tour facilities at Thule AB, Greenland, April 24, 2019. The Arctic is strategic terrain in the defense of our northern approaches and is critical to our national security.
(Photo by Preston Schlachter)
The visit is especially important given changes in the Arctic’s climate and environment, which have increased activity in the area from nations and commercial interests. Also notable is its timing, since the Department of Defense is required to deliver to Congress a detailed strategy for the region by June 1, 2019.
The visit is just the latest effort on the part of the Air Force to develop an Arctic strategy nested within DoD objectives. In broad terms, the DoD’s objectives are to prevent and deter conflict in the Arctic and prepare to respond to a wide range of challenges and contingencies, with the ultimate goal of a secure and stable region where U.S. national interests are safeguarded and nations work together to address challenges.
As an Arctic nation, the U.S. has long been active in the region. Key allies and partners in the Arctic include: Canada, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, all NATO allies and NATO’s Enhanced Opportunity Partners, Sweden and Finland. These nations work together in numerous fora to address shared regional concerns (e.g., fisheries management, shipping safety, scientific research).
Americans love them some Navy crime drama. Nothing shows more evidence of that than the success of the Emmy-winning, long-running show, JAG. If the show’s 227 episodes weren’t enough proof, consider that this show also spun off an even more popular show, NCIS, and its own spin-offs.
That’s right, JAG has grandchildren.
But the show wasn’t going to survive on mundane drama — no one cares if Petty Officer Valle was late coming back from LIBO — it needed some real juicy crime drama. The show was among the first to use “ripped from the headlines” plots — and no one can garner headlines like the U.S. military.
The show ran from 1995-2005 and, along the way, it covered some very interesting moments in U.S. Navy history. Now, JAG has finally found a home on cable television on WGN America, so you can experience these classic episodes and many, many more.
“Valor” – Season 6, Episode 17
This episode from 2001 features a character who was found aboard a boat laden with explosives. Terrorists captured a U.S. Marine and coerced her into helping them use the boat to hit an American destroyer. The Marine in question is held as the JAG officers try to determine if she was forced to assist the terrorists or if she had been turned by them.
The terrorist plot depicted in “Valor” is based on the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole while it was refueling in Yemen’s port city of Aden. Unlike the boat in the episode, the boat that attacked the Cole was completely destroyed and had no potentially traitorous Americans aboard.
The real bombing killed both boat drivers, along with 17 sailors. The blast wounded 39 more U.S. troops.
“Defensive Action” – Season 1, Episode 13
In the 1990s, the U.S. was heavily invested in the Balkan Conflict of the former Yugoslavia, especially the areas around Bosnia. So it makes good sense that conflict found its way onto the show. On a mission to return a Hind helicopter to Serbia, a Navy F-14 Tomcat malfunctions and explodes and the Serbian Hind begins strafing the ejected pilots. The Tomcat’s wingman lights up the Hind, earning a court-martial in the process. One of those ejected Tomcat pilots survives and evades Serbian patrols on the ground until he’s eventually rescued.
This is in reference to the rescue of U.S. Air Force pilot Scott O’Grady, who was shot down in an F-16C by Bosnian Serb SAM batteries. O’Grady evaded Serbian patrols for a solid week until he was rescued behind enemy lines by a force of United States Marines.
“Clipped Wings” – Season 3, Episode 22
During an exercise in the Mediterranean, an F-14 Tomcat collides with an Italian civilian helicopter, killing six people. The Italians demand to prosecute the pilot, and the Italian people are outraged. The pilot swears there was another aircraft he was avoiding when he ran into the helicopter.
In the real world, a Marine Corps aircraft did kill a number of Italian tourists as an EA-6B Prowler cut the cable of a cable car while flying lower than it should have been near Cavalese, Italy. The falling gondola killed all 20 people aboard, and the crew of the Prowler was put on trial for involuntary manslaughter, of which they were acquitted.
“Into the Breach” – Season 5, Episode 12
On April 19, 1989, a 16-inch gun turret aboard the USS Iowa exploded, killing 47 sailors and damaging the turret. The Navy concluded that one of the crewmen purposely caused the explosion. Congress, however, hated the Navy’s explanation and sent the GAO in to do an independent review. The GAO’s scientists found that an overram of powder bags was the likely explanation for the explosion.
In this episode, Harm and Mac are working an old case for law students in a mock trial — a case in which 29 sailors were killed when a disgruntled gun captain exploded his own turret. In the process of reviewing the old case, however, the two JAG officers find new evidence and new witnesses – enough to retry it.
“The Court-Martial of Sandra Gilbert” – Season 3, Episode 2
In this episode, Sandra Gilbert is a top-rated Cobra pilot who was suddenly grounded and charged with conduct unbecoming and disobeying orders when she begins an illegal relationship with an enlisted man, a Gunnery Sergeant. As it turns out, however, the Gunny is a married man. So, Harm has to defend Gilbert as the Corps tries to railroad charges against him.
A similar incident happened to U.S. Air Force Lt. Kelly Flinn, the first female B-52 pilot in Air Force history. In 1997, Flinn was discharged from the Air Force as a result of her adulterous affair with an enlisted subordinate’s husband, lying to Minot AFB officials about the affair, and then disobeying her superior’s order to break off the relationship.
As you can imagine, the media had a field day with the news.
So, if you’re in the market for heart-pounding drama and high-stakes operations, look no further than JAG.
Peter E. asks: What could I do during freefall after falling out of a plane to maximize my chances of surviving?
According to the Aircraft Crashes Record Office in Geneva, between 1940 and 2008 there were 157 people who fell out of planes without a parachute during a crash and lived to tell about it. A full 42 of those falls occurred at heights over 10,000 feet (above 3,000 meters), such as the tale of 17 year old Juliane Koepcke who not only survived an approximately 10,000 foot free fall, but also a subsequent 10 day trek alone through the Peruvian rain forest with no real supplies other than a little bag of candy.
Now, while you might think surely nothing like that could ever happen to you, it turns out whether falling from 30,000 feet or a much more common 30, the same basic strategies apply. And for reference here, approximately 30 feet or about 9 meters is around the height at which you begin to be more likely to die from your injuries than survive. At heights as little as about 80 feet, only about 1 in 10 people survive and it pretty much all goes to hell from there.
So what can you do to increase your chances of survival if you ever find yourself doing your best impression of Icarus?
To begin with, if you find yourself plummeting to the Earth at heights above around 1,500 feet, the higher you are the better, at least to a certain point. You see, at a mere 1,500 feet, you will reach your terminal velocity before you hit the ground, which is around 120-140 mph for a typical adult human who is trying their best to fall as slowly as possible. The problem for you is that starting your fall at around 1,500 feet is going to only give you approximately 10-12 seconds before you go splat. Not a whole lot of time to do anything useful.
On the other end of things, falling from, say, 30,000 feet will see you initially having to endure extremely unpleasant temperatures in the ballpark of -40 C/F and air rushing all around making it all the more frigid. You also may well briefly lose consciousness from lack of oxygen. So why is this better? Well, on the one hand if you never regain consciousness, you at least are spared the terrifying few minute fall. But, for most, you’re likely to regain consciousness with around 1-2 minutes or so to execute your survival plan.
Sure, you’re probably going to die anyway, but, hey, having something — anything — to do will help distract you from the truth that your adventure here on Earth is about to end and, no matter who you are, the fact that you ever existed will soon be forgotten — for most, in a shockingly short amount of time…
But do not go gentle into that good night my friends. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
So to begin with, to give you the maximum amount of time to execute a plan and reduce your speed as much as possible, you should first spread out in the classic X/W belly down skydiver pose. This is shockingly effective at slowing you down. For example, in the most streamlined of free fall cases, it turns out it’s actually possible to reach speeds well over twice the aforementioned 120-ish mph that is more typical in this X pose.
There is a way to slow down significantly more, but it’s not yet time to try this trick. For now, once position assumed, your first priority is to look for any object to cling to — bonus points if the object is falling slower than you. It turns out so called “Wreckage Riders” are about twice as likely to survive such a fall vs. those who have nothing to cling to but the knowledge that they wasted so much of their lives worrying and seeking after things that didn’t actually matter and now can do nothing about it.
As for why Wreckage Riders have such a significantly higher survival rate, this is not only because of the potential for the object to slow one’s terminal velocity a bit in some cases, but also potentially to use as a buffer between them and the ground.
As noted by professor Ulf Björnstig of Umeå University, when at speeds of around terminal velocity for humans, you only actually need about a half a meter or so distance to decelerate to make surviving at least theoretically possible. Every extra centimeter beyond that counts significantly at increasing your odds.
On that note, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box on this one — just as having a person by your side when you find yourself being chased by a bear can potentially be a huge advantage (changing almost certain death to almost certain survivability if you are a faster runner than said person), in free fall, the body of another passenger who is likewise about to bid adieu to the world and promptly be forgotten is also a major asset — in this case via placing said person between yourself and the ground before you hit it. Bonus Survivability points if you can find a morbidly obese individual. Sure, the terminal velocity will be slightly higher in such a case, but that extra padding is going to go a long way.
Just be sure that the other passenger doesn’t have the same idea.
Pro-tip for avoiding your last moments being spent cartwheeling through the air trying to elbow drop a person from low orbit — go in like you’re wanting to give them a loving hug; to shed this mortal coil in the arms of another. As if to say, it’s going to be OK, we’re in this together. Then shortly before striking the ground, quickly rotate to have their body beneath you. They’ll never see it coming.
And don’t underestimate the power of a group hug forming in this scenario. All those soft, soft bodies to put between you and the ground…
On the other hand, should you want to be selfless for some weird reason, and say, save your child or something, a couple of parents stacking themselves with child on top face up not only would give the child the greatest chance of surviving, but also maybe even a genuine decent one as kids, particularly under the age of 4, are noted as being significantly more likely to survive falls from any height anyway, let alone when you give them a nice thick buffer of two bodies who have spent way too much of their lives eating delicious KFC.
Regardless of whether you manage to find some wreckage or another human to ride all the way down, continuing the theme, you want to do your best to aim for the softest thing you can see. And the target doesn’t even have to be that close per se. For those who know what they’re doing, traveling a horizontal distance of even as much as one mile for every mile they fall is fully possible without any special equipment. It turns out this is actually how you can shave another 20-40 mph off your decent rate via what’s known as tracking — essentially positioning your body in such a way that you will gain speed in the horizontal direction as you fall; for a good tracker able to achieve horizontal speeds approximately equal to their vertical speed.
Unfortunately there is no exact consensus as to what the best position is for tracking with maximal efficiency, as different body types respond differently and the like, but the general method is to straighten your legs rather than bend and bring them together. At the same time, bring your arms to your sides, with hands palms down, and then make your body fairly flat with head angled slightly lower than your feet.
Of course, someone with no experience maneuvering around while free falling is going to do a poor job at actually doing any of this, let alone then at some point managing to hit even a huge target. And as for the benefits of reducing vertical descent rate a bit in favor of increasing horizontal, it’s not really clear whether this would be worth it in the vast majority of cases. For instance, just imagine jumping out of a car going 100 mph and how that would work out for you. Now add in also dropping at around 100 mph at the same time… You’re going to have a bad time.
As for aiming at a soft target, this is definitely valuable. So if you find yourself plummeting towards the Earth, be sure and make a mental note to have past you go ahead and practice maneuvering while free falling at some point.
Moving swiftly on, what are the best soft things to try to hit? Well, when looking at the records of the people who have managed to survive such falls, deep snow is almost always going to be your best bet if there’s any around.
For example, consider the case of British Tail-gunner Nick Alkemade. In 1944, with his plane going down, he chose to jump from his burning aircraft despite the tiny insignificant detail of his parachute having been rendered useless before he jumped. While you might think his subsequent fall of over 18,000 feet would surely be his end, in fact, thanks to the magic of tree branches and deep snow, his most significant injury was just a sprained leg, though he was quickly captured by the Germans. More impressed by his near death experience than his nationality, they released him a couple months later and gave him a certificate commemorating his fall and subsequent survival.
Snow also has the huge advantage of the fact that, thanks to it more or less being everywhere when it’s present, you don’t really need to know what you’re doing to hit it.
Now, if it’s not the dead of winter, but any of the other seasons, a freshly tilled farm field or one with ultra thick vegetation will probably be your next best bet — both providing at least some deceleration buffer while also giving you a big target to aim for that you can see while still quite high in the sky.
For example, in 2015, veteran of over 2500 sky diving jumps, Victoria Cilliers, managed to survive a fall from about 4,000 feet by landing in a freshly plowed field. Granted, she did suffer broken ribs, hip, and fractured some vertebrae in her back, but she lived. As for her husband, who had intentionally tampered with both her main parachute and reserve so that they wouldn’t work properly (and previously attempted to kill her by creating a gas leak in their house), well, he got to move out of their house and into prison.
As for vegetation, even thorny blackberry bushes are better than nothing, though any chance of actually aiming and hitting them in reality is probably poor. But for whatever it is worth, in 2006 professional skydiver Michael Holmes managed just this, though not intentionally, when both his main chute and backup failed to deploy correctly. In his case, he suffered a concussion, a shattered ankle, and a slew of more minor injuries, but was otherwise fine.
Now you might at this point be wondering why we haven’t mentioned water, perhaps thinking it a great choice as a soft target to try to hit, and in some respects you’re not wrong. The problem is that at high velocity, water isn’t exactly soft- think belly flopping from a diving bored. That said, as many an extreme cliff diver has demonstrated, water can be a hell of a lot more forgiving than a cement sidewalk if you hit it properly.
The problem being most people aren’t exactly practiced at this sort of diving and even for the pros, at terminal velocity you’re almost certainly going to break a lot of bones, among many other issues. And don’t even get us started on the fact that hitting the water at those speeds can potentially cause said water to shoot into your anal orifice with enough force to cause internal bleeding.
Whether that happens or not, even if by some miracle you survive, you’re probably going to be rendered unconscious or unable to swim properly. So unless David Hasselhoff happens to be nearby, not a great choice.
Now, lacking something soft to land on or the Hoff to rescue you, you want to look for something — anything — to break your fall before you hit the ground. Illustrating just how valuable this can be, consider the case of Christine McKenzie who, in 2004, found herself plummeting to the ground from 11,000 feet. Just before impact, she first hit some live power lines. While you might assume that would have sliced, diced, and fried her, in fact, she walked away from the whole thing with nothing more than a couple of broken bones and bumps and bruises.
Once again illustrating just how valuable hitting just about anything before hitting the ground can be, in 1943 New Jersey native Alan Magee was at about 20,000 feet when he decided to jump from his B-17 bomber, which had recently had a wing partially blown off. Unlike the aforementioned Nick Alkemade who made a similar decision, Magee actually did have a parachute. Unfortunately for him, he blacked out after being thrown from the aircraft and never deployed it.
He eventually fell through the glass ceiling of the St. Nazaire train station in France, which slowed him enough that he managed to survived the impact with the stone ground below. Not exactly unscathed, when treated he was found to have a couple dozen shrapnel wounds from the previous air battle, then many broken bones and internal injuries as a result of the aftermath of falling 20,000 feet. While he was subsequently taken captive, he came through alright and lived to a whopping 84 years old, dying in late 2003.
As another example of a ceiling striker, we have the 2009 case of cameraman Paul Lewis whose main chute failed on a dive, at which point he cut it away and deployed his reserve chute… which also failed, resulting in his descent being little slowed. He ended up hitting the roof of an airplane hanger after about a 10,000 foot fall. Not only did he survive the incident, but his only major immediate injury was to his neck, though he apparently made a full recovery.
From the limited data at hand, a better choice of something to break your fall than power lines and roofs appears to be a thickly wooded forest. Not only is this easier to aim for, while trees can potentially skewer you, their branches have saved many a free faller in the past, such as Flight Lieutenant Thomas Patrick McGarry who fell from 13,000 feet and had his fall broken by a series of fir tree branches.
This all brings us around to what position you should be in when you actually hit the ground. As you might imagine, the data set we have to work with simply isn’t big enough to definitively answer this question, and for some weird reason randomly dropping thousands of people out of planes and asking them to try to land in various positions over various surface types isn’t a study anyone has ever done.
However, we do have some indications of what’s best thanks to, among other sources, data collected by the Federal Aviation Agency and countless experiments conducted by NASA who, when they’re not trying to keep the world ignorant of its flat nature and keep people away from the ice wall that keeps the oceans in (yes, there are actually people who believe this), has done their best to figure out the limits of what G-forces humans can reasonably survive and how best to survive them on the extreme end.
So what’s the consensus here? It’s almost universally stated that regardless of how high you fall from, you should land on the balls of your feet, legs together, all joints bent at least a little, then attempt to crumple slightly back and sideways (the classic 5 point impact sequence — feet, calf, thigh, buttock, and shoulder). In this recommendation, you should also have your arms wrapped around your head to protect it and completely relaxing every muscle in your body, lest everything just snap instantly instead of using the surprisingly extreme elasticity of your various bits to slow things down over some greater unit of time.
Something to keep in mind in some cases, however, is that NASA’s research indicates this so called “eyes down” impact (where the G-forces are such that your eye balls get forced downwards — so the widely recommended position here) actually maximizes your chance of injury and death in their studies of extreme G force effects on the human body. Their data instead shows that “eyes in” (so G forces pushing you back into something — think like accelerating in a car where you’re pushed back into the seat) is the way your body can take the most force and survive.
The problem, of course, is that the forces involved in free falling from great heights are too extreme in most cases for your body to survive in this eyes-in position. Thus, while you might receive a lot more injuries from the upright position landing, the whole point is to sacrifice your feet, legs, and on up in an attempt to reduce the ultimate G forces felt by your organs and, of course, impact force when your head hits the surface.
That said, from this there is some argument to be made that perhaps falling back instead of sideways may be superior, assuming you can manage to properly protect your head with your arms.
Whether that’s true or not, presumably there are some scenarios, such as landing in super deep, powdery snow, where landing face up in a bit of a reclined position with head tucked in and arms protecting said head, might actually be superior for similar reasons why stuntmen, trapeze performers, daredevils and the like will generally choose this reclined position for their landings onto soft things.
We should also probably mention that if you do hit the ground with a horizontal speed as well, the general recommendation, besides protect your head with your arms, is to quite literally attempt to roll with it and not try to fight that in the slightest. Resistance is futile in this case and attempts towards this end will only increase the odds of you being injured and dying.
The current world record for surviving a free fall without a parachute is held by one Vesna Vulovic, who managed to survive a plummet of about 33,330 feet on January 26, 1972. On that day, Vulovic found herself in such a situation after the commercial airline she was on was blown up mid-flight, with it presumed to be the work of Croatian nationalist. Whatever the case, everyone aboard the plane died but Vulovic, who not only benefited from being an accidental wreckage rider, but also had her wreckage hit some trees and land on snow on a slope- — literally all best case scenarios. While she did break many, many bones in her body, among a variety of serious injuries, and ultimately wound up in a coma for some time, it’s noted that when she woke up, pretty much the first thing she did was ask a doctor for a cigarette. We’re not sure if this makes her a stone-cold badass or just someone who really needed to think about the severity of her nicotine addition.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
There is a saying among the airborne forces (words to the effect): “The sky, even more so than the land or the sea, is terribly unforgiving to even the slightest mistake.”
I have been in ground combat units, airborne units both low and high-altitude operational in nature, and have extensive experience in both maritime undersea and surface operations. I agree that airborne operations are likely more dangerous than those maritime, but I insist that the land is by far the safest of all; in fact, I’m conducting a fairly safe land operation right this very minute!
Combat diving puts one in many claustrophobic situations. I happen to be mildly claustrophobic; I think a great percentage of us are, but I also happen to be clinically horrified of heights to the point of near incapacitation. For me, therefore, parachute training was the most stressful. That notwithstanding, I have ~800 parachute jumps to boast of.
While I know of many deaths, near deaths, and injuries from parachute operations (mostly broken limbs from landing and spinal injuries from hard parachute openings), I also have personal experience with two fatalities just in the basic training course for Special Forces underwater operations. In both cases the deaths were attributed to heart attacks. I should mention that the Army’s diving school is one of the most stressful, mentally and physically, in the world.
One of the concerns in airborne operations are early or late exits from the jump aircraft. As you may know, paratroopers try to land in a pre-designated area of land know as a Drop Zone (DZ) that is largely devoid of structures and obstacles like trees and communications lines. Therefore urban areas are avoided and deserts make for great DZs indeed. High altitude jumpers with highly maneuverable parachutes fancy the motto: “The whole world is a Drop Zone.”
In a jump aircraft, the pilot turns over control of the jump to the Jump Master in charge by way of a simple pair of lights located at the jump doors; one is red and the other green. Minutes from the DZ, the pilot will illuminate the red light indicating “no jump”. Once the pilot feels he is safely over the DZ, he will illuminate the green light indicating “safe for jump.”
(Sweet shot of a paratrooper just out the jump door with the green “Go” light illuminated.)
Paratroopers exiting on a red light is considered a major safety violation and is not tolerated across the community. Each incident warrants some measure of investigation to determine fault and safety conditions at the time. Such was the case of Red Light Randy.
Delta does very few if any low-level static lines drops, favoring the greater potential of drops from altitudes of 12,500 feet Above Ground Level (AGL) and above. Red Light Randy had a mission for which a low-level drop was needed, so he set out for a couple of rehearsal jumps prior to the mission.
The practice jumps went well, but on the night of the actual mission, the pilot failed to put the red light to green once over the DZ. Randy had positive visual recognition of his DZ reception party below, but had no jump authority. Frustrated at the sight of his DZ wasting away below him, he stuffed his team out the door with a frustrated enthusiasm. At a point along the exit the green light finally came on.
(A low-level drop has a much greater penchant to keep men less dispersed ever ground than a high-level drop.)
There was never a decent explanation given by the pilot for the late green light that caused Randy, the last to exit, to come down in some modest scrub past the far edge of the drop zone. There were no injuries or loss of equipment, and Randy and his men enjoyed a mission success for the night.
The Air Force reported the “incident” as an early exit on a red light, but the swift and efficient investigation that ensued determined that the pilot gave a late green, threatening a separation in Randy’s team. In combat it is not the prerogative to circle back and drop the rest of the team, so inevitably the loss of so many men of Randy’s team would have monumentally jeopardized mission success.
So the early red light incident was over… or was it? The “potential ball-breaking” alarm sounded. The details of the event were rocketed off to me, and I got to work straight away producing the feature cartoon:
The drop aircraft is depicted still on departure field runway with Randy announcing the command to jump, The first man exits only to splat face-down on the tarmac. Early exit on red for Red Light Randy!
A Belgian NGO is doing some incredible things with rats. The non-governmental organization, Apopo is dedicated to training African Giant Pouched Rats for land mine and tuberculosis detection. The critters make for very good pets because they are easily trained. This, with their sense of smell, said to be finer than a dog’s, make them perfectly suited for the job.
One rat can evaluate 100 samples in 20 minutes, equal to what a skilled lab technician, using microscopy, can do in two days. As of 2005, the rats were able to find 5 to 10 TB patients per week that were missed by microscopes.
More importantly for sub-Saharan Africa, a heavily mined region, the rats are able to smell explosives just as easily. Here, they are used effectively to uncover land mines in these areas. Whenever they find a mine, they are rewarded with a treat. The rats are so good at the search, they’re able to clear more than 650 square feet of earth in twenty minutes. According to handling teams interviewed by The Guardian, the rats are very accurate.
In Mozambique, heavily mined during the the country’s subsequent 15-year civil war, rat teams have found and destroyed more than 13,000 mines, reclaiming more than 11 million square meters.
If you’re worried about the rats setting off the explosives, rest easy. The rats weigh less than two pounds, not enough to set off the pressure-triggered anti-personnel mines.
Training starts at four weeks old, when the rats become accustomed to humans and then desensitized to sights and sounds. They associate a clicker with a food reward and are then trained to indicate the holes that contain explosive substances by put their noses against the holes. Finally, they’re trained to wear harnesses and find inactive mines under soil. After a blind test with a real handler, the animals become full-fledged minesweepers.
The rats, once considered a pest animal, get more than just their food reward for good work. They are fed a steady, good diet of fruits and veggies and even get sunscreen to protect their ears and tails from the harsh sun.
In order for a horror film to work, you need to have relatable characters. The more easily the audience can put themselves in the shoes of the cast, the more real the terror. That’s why, when a horror film is geared towards a younger crowd, the characters are primarily teenagers who are made to be as average and generic as possible.
Of course, while veterans come from every walk of life, one thing they all have in common is that they aren’t average. We’re generally brash, crude, and perform well in environments that would freeze your average horror film character.
And to be fair, there have been horror films that feature characters with military backgrounds, like Predator. The problem here is that troops and vets would easily turn any horror film into an action film. In fact, the 2018 sequel to the Schwarzenegger classic seems to be embracing this action/horror dynamic of “vets versus monster.”
But here’s why vets wouldn’t make the best fit in most horror flicks:
We’re not easily scared
Veterans often have a desensitized “fight or flight” reflex. When vets are spooked, it’s rare for them to freeze in place or scream like children. They’re conditioned to hop right into fight mode.
If a twig snaps, vets look in that direction. When someone screams off in the distance, they’re not just going to shrug it off and continue their party in the middle of the woods.
We would organize survivors
Veterans instinctively take control of situations when everyone stands around confused. It doesn’t need to be a life-or-death situation, either. At a kid’s birthday party, for example, vets expertly knifehand their way into getting balloons inflated and cake cut.
Vets would identify who’s useful and smack some sense into the idiots that say, “let’s split up!”
We could make due with few resources
In horror films, survivors often run around looking for supplies. Most would probably settle for finding a pair of safety scissors that they would then inexplicably throw at the unkillable monster.
Meanwhile, the veteran has fashioned a ghillie suit using mud, sticks, and leaves and they’ve found the sturdiest club they could get their hands on — and set it on fire.
We’d probably be carrying
Chances are, the veteran probably doesn’t need to scavenge. The moment the idiot who went skinny-dipping starts screaming bloody murder, a veteran would chamber a round.
Unless the vet is fighting some supernatural force, the credits would start rolling shortly after the knife-wielding clown starts rushing them.
We know how to actually run and start cars
From the most macho grunt to the wimpiest supply guy, everyone has done Land Nav enough times to not trip on their own feet every ten seconds while running through the forest.
If the monster couldn’t be shot to death, the vet probably wouldn’t even bother and, instead, leave. Especially if the monster just comes at them at a walking pace…
We’ve secretly been preparing for this forever
Ask any veteran why they stockpiled arms and supplies and they may joke that it’s for the zombie apocalypse. The moment an actual zombie apocalypse happens, that cache is definitely coming in handy.
We also have at least seven different plans on what to do in every situation. Catching us completely off-guard isn’t a realistic plot point.
*Bonus* The downside to being a veteran in a horror film
But realistically our f*ck-off attitude would get us killed. The masked killer would probably show up, covered in blood, and we’d mock them for whatever reason. That’s maybe not the best idea…
Throughout history, communications troops have had one job: to make sure those on front lines are able to talk to headquarters. Today’s troops that operate satellite communications and line-of-sight radio waves through mostly barren terrain may not know just how difficult their same job was during the Vietnam War.
In training, it wasn’t uncommon to walk into the classroom and see the number “5” written on the board. When an unfortunate soul would ask about the number, the response was, “that number up on the board? That’s your life expectancy, in seconds, during a firefight.” This is because the PRC-77 radio system weighted 13.5 lbs without batteries. With batteries, spare batteries, and encryption, you’re looking at 54lbs total. The PRC-77 used either a 3-ft or 10-ft antenna but, since the 3-ft whip antenna rarely worked in the jungles, most commo troops were stuck using the 10-footer, which essentially put a big target on their back.
Just so we don’t have to get into detail on how FM radio waves work, trust me on this one: radio communication was laughably hard in the thick jungles of Vietnam. While the Army’s 1st Signal Brigade managed to set up a massive communications hubs in Saigon and Thailand, it was with the smaller signal sites scattered throughout the region that allowed troops to talk. Any hilltop would have to be stripped so giant antenna could be built to further amplify communications.
Commo guys always have — and always will — say “Yep, that antenna looks good enough!” (U.S. Army)
And finally, there’s the overly complicated radio encryption. The early forms of radio encryption, the NESTORs, functioned as the DoD planned, but they were bulky, prone to overheating, rarely worked, greatly decreased sound quality, lowered the range by 10 percent, and had easily-damaged, highly-valuable cables. While a very valuable tool, it was also determined that even if the enemy could decode the encryption, they still wouldn’t understand military jargon.
In short, it was hell for these commo guys. But these men stood among the greats, like Sgt. Allen Lynch and Pfc. Bruce W. Carter— radio operators who received the Medal of Honor for their actions during in Vietnam.
The leader of a close US ally is turning to rival Russia for submarines, arguing that if his country were to buy American submarines, they would probably “implode.”
President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte lashed out Aug. 17, 2018, after the US warned the Philippines against purchasing Russian Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines. He accused the US of selling its ally only hand-me-down weapons that endanger the lives of Filipino troops, according to local outlet Rappler.
“Why did you not stop the other countries in Asia? Why are you stopping us? Who are you to warn us?” Duterte asked Aug. 17, 2018, at an event in his hometown of Davao.”You give us submarines, it will implode.” He asserted that the US sent his country “used” and “rusted” North Atlantic Treaty Organization helicopters, claiming the poor condition of the platforms led to the deaths of local forces.
“Is that the way you treat an ally and you want us to stay with you for all time?” he asked. “You want us to remain backwards. Vietnam has 7 submarines, Malaysia has 2, Indonesia has 8. We alone don’t have one. You haven’t given us any.”
Russian Black Sea Fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar.
Duterte’s latest outburst was triggered by a warning issued Aug. 16, 2018, by Randall Schriver, the US Department of Defense Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs.
“I think they should think very carefully about that,” he said, referring to the Philippine government’s interest in acquiring Russian submarines. “If they were to proceed with purchasing major Russian equipment, I don’t think that’s a helpful thing to do [in our] alliance, and I think ultimately we can be a better partner than the Russians can be.”
“We have to understand the nature of this regime in Russia. I don’t need to go through the full laundry list: Crimea, Ukraine, the chemical attack in the UK,” he added, “So, you’re investing not only in the platforms, but you’re making a statement about a relationship.”
An interest in Russian weapons systems has strained relations between the US and a number of allies and international partners in recent months. As Duterte pursues an independent foreign policy often out of alignment with US interests, the Philippines has increasingly looked to develop defense ties with Russia. The country is looking to Russia for submarines as it looks to modernize its military.
“For a nation with maritime territory specially island nation, its national defense is incomplete without (a) submarine,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in early 2018, according to the Philippine Star.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.