This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
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This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

Imagine, as a fighter pilot, being able to see your enemy without them knowing you’re even in the area. Sounds like some newfangled stealth capability you’d expect to come stock on a fifth generation fighter, like the F-22 Raptor or the F-35 Lightning II, right?


But what if I were to tell you that the US Air Force possessed such a capability as far back as the early 1970s, far before the F-22 and concepts of its ilk were even on the minds of engineers who’d eventually design them? Heck, more than half of those engineers and designers were probably still finishing off college or hadn’t yet completed grade school.

Called the APX-80, but more popularly known by its codename, “Combat Tree”, this top secret technology was first equipped on McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom IIs, the US Air Force’s primary fighter-bomber aircraft. Today, we call the system involved “Non-Cooperative Target Recognition”, after having developed it for years. Back then, Combat Tree was a next-generation game-changer which would only be equipped on a select number of F-4Ds, which would fly in hunter/killer packs with other F-4Es (Phantoms built with internal rotary cannons). The precise details of how Combat Tree worked are still classified to this very day, but we do know, to an extent, how Phantom aircrews used it.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

Instead of activating the powerful radar scanner in the nose of the Phantom, weapon systems officers (WSOs) in the rear cockpit of the fighter would use Combat Tree to look around the sky for specialized transponders built into enemy aircraft flown by the Vietnamese People’s Air Force (VPAF; North Vietnam’s military aerial element). These transponders were actually designed to prevent friendly-fire incidents, where North Vietnamese ground-controlled interception (GCI) stations and surface-to-air missile (SAM) emplacements would accidentally target and hit friendly fighters in a bid to shoot down enemy American aircraft. Referred to as “IFF” transponders or (Identification Friend or Foe), these beacons would relay a code to scanners built into SAM and GCI search radar computers, allowing their crews to distinguish between their own fighters and marauding jets of the USAF, US Navy and Marine Corps.

Combat Tree would “challenge” or “interrogate” each transponder it came across, asking in return whether or not the aircraft mated to the transponder was allied or otherwise. As soon as Combat Tree ascertained the allegiance of the aircraft after receiving the automatic response from the VPAF MiG-21’s transponder (completely unbeknownst to the MiG’s pilot, mind you), it would accurately plot its quarry’s location on a display in the rear cockpit of the F-4, and open up the hunt for the pilot flying in the front seat of the Phantom. Conversely, using the Phantom’s radar would have likely tipped off enemy fighters that they were being “painted” or tracked by other aircraft in the sky, thus losing any edge of surprise that the American fighters would have previously owned. Not only did this make MiG interceptions by Phantoms “stealthier”, it also allowed F-4 pilots to engage VPAF MiG-21s at greater distances, beyond visual range (BVR).

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
A U.S. Air Force McDonnell Douglas EF-4C Phantom II aircraft (s/n 63-7474) of the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 18th Tactical Fighter Wing over North Vietnam in December 1972. | U.S. Air Force photo

Prior to the existence and fielding of Combat Tree, all US military fighter pilots operating in Vietnamese skies were forced to get closer to VPAF MiG fighters to gain a positive identification on enemy aircraft before attacking them. Since radar only determines whether or not there are other aircraft in the sky ahead of your own, a visual identification is required to figure out whose aircraft those are. While American F-4 Phantom IIs were much more technologically advanced, they were still less maneuverable within the parameters of a close-in dogfight than a MiG-21 or the older MiG-19, also flown by the VPAF. This led to frustratingly high loss rates for American fighters. Combat Tree exponentially enhanced the margin of safety for American pilots by allowing them to gain positive identifications without pushing them into envelopes which greatly favored North Vietnamese MiG drivers.

The North Vietnamese eventually wised up to the presence of such a technology, though, they didn’t quite know what it was or how it functioned. The VPAF’s ranking officers began noticing a sharp increase in attrition rates with their fighter forces, especially those that found themselves tangling with US Air Force fighter jets. Cells of MiG-21s were reportedly being engaged at distances never before seen during the war, and with deadly accuracy. Radio transmissions between pilots, intercepted by picket stations, were able to pinpoint the reason for the suddenly high MiG-loss rate the North Vietnamese were sustaining – their aircraft’s IFF transponders. The VPAF’s pilots were instructed, there on out, to only turn them on when absolutely necessary, but to otherwise fly without any IFF protection, making them vulnerable to their own surface-to-air missiles in addition to the threat posed by American fighters in the area of operations.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

Combat Tree’s effectiveness as a device that allowed American pilots to own the first look/first shot/first kill advantage wasn’t completely diminished by this discovery, however. By the end of American involvement in Vietnam in 1975, Combat Tree had earned assists in a number of US Air Force kills against North Vietnamese aircraft. In fact, Combat Tree was was responsible for helping Air Force legends Richard “Steve” Ritchie and Charles “Chuck” DeBellevue reach ace status (achieving five confirmed kills) between May to September, 1972. Since the early 1970s, the APX-80, or at least the lessons learned from Combat tree, has likely been redeveloped and extensively modernized for use with America’s current fighter fleet. Combat Tree, in a way, can be considered the forerunner of the modern sensors you’d find today on an F-35 or the F-22, which allow the aircraft to “see” the enemy before they even enter the playing field.

Originally published on The Tactical Air Network in January 2017.

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This is General Nicholson’s vow to annihilate ISIS in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s security forces, with the help of US and NATO ground and air support, will annihilate the Islamic State group affiliate in the country and crush remnants of al-Qaeda, General John Nicholson, the top US general in Afghanistan, vowed August 24.


Nicholson also had a message for the Taliban: “Stop fighting against your countrymen. Stop killing innocent civilians. Stop bringing hardship and misery to the Afghan people. Lay down your arms and join Afghan society. Help build a better future for this country and your own children.”

Nicholson and Hugo Llorens, the US Embassy’s Special Chargé d’Affaires, told reporters in the capital Kabul that President Donald Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan, announced August 21, was a promise to Afghans that together they would defeat terrorism and prevent terrorist groups from establishing safe havens.

“We will not fail in Afghanistan,” Nicholson said. “Our national security depends on it, as well as Afghanistan’s security, and our allies and partners.”

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Incoming Resolute Support Commander, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., addresses the audience during the change of command ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 2, 2016.

But Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid was defiant in a telephone interview with The Associated Press: “We are not giving our guns to any one and our Taliban are fighting until the last US soldier is no longer here in Afghanistan.”

Senior US officials have said that Trump may send up to 3,900 more troops, with some deployments beginning almost immediately. Nicholson did not offer a timeframe for deployment, however, saying only that “in the coming months, US Forces Afghanistan and NATO will increase its train, advise, and assist efforts in Afghanistan. And we will increase our air support to Afghan security forces.”

Nicholson had particular praise for Afghanistan’s commandos and special forces known as Ktah Khas, saying they had yet to lose a battle and plans were being made to double their size.

“The Taliban have never won against the commandos and Ktah Khas,” he said. “They never will.”

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Ktah Khas Afghan Female Tactical Platoon members perform a close quarters battle drill drill outside Kabul, Afghanistan May 29, 2016. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis.

Nicholson told reporters that the losses among Taliban foot soldiers have exceeded those of the Afghan National Security Forces, though he didn’t offer figures.

The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in its latest report released July 31 said 2,531 Afghan service members were killed in action in just the first five months of this year and another 4,238 were wounded.

Nicholson said efforts were being made to tackle corruption within the Afghan security force, an issue that was flagged in the same July Inspector General report that identified more than 12,000 Afghan Ministry of Defense personnel that were “unaccounted for,” fearing some could be so-called “ghosts” who exist only on paper.

Trump too addressed the need for reforms by the Afghan government in his August 21 speech.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo by Michael Vadon

“The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results. Our patience is not unlimited,” Trump said. “We will keep our eyes wide open.”

Reporters questioned both Nicholson and Llorens about how the US would force Pakistan to close Taliban sanctuaries in its territory. Trump was uncompromising in his demand that Pakistan close the safe havens that the US and Afghanistan have repeatedly accused them of allowing on their soil.

“For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror,” he said. “That will have to change, and that will change immediately.”

Nicholson said discussions with Pakistan would be held in private, adding “it has already started” without offering more details.

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The Air Force is running out of bombs to drop on ISIS

The United States Air Force is dropping so many bombs on Daesh (aka ISIS) targets in Iraq and Syria, that it’s running out of them. Not that there are no bombs at all in the Air Force arsenal, but the Air Force’s supply chain is having a hard time keeping up with the number of bombs the ISIS threat requires.


“We are now expending munitions faster than we can replenish them,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in a statement.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Master Sgt. Adam, middle, NCO-in-charge of conventional maintenance, preps the KMU-572 fins for assembly onto the MK-82 munition in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Carrie Hinson)

The top Air Force General estimates at least 20,000 bombs were dropped on ISIS targets since the air campaign against the terrorist organization started last year. B-1 bombers are dropping bombs in record numbers, leaving munitions supplies in the region at record lows. Gen. Welsh called the need to replenish funds and munitions a “critical need.”

The Air Force now has an estimated 142,000 guided munitions and 2,300 Hellfire missiles, used in drone strikes.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
From America, with love: Six GBU-38 munitions are dropped by a B-1B Lancer aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

In the first ten months of the American response to ISIS in 2015, Air Force fighters and bombers dropped munitions during half of their 18,000 sorties (a sortie is a single air mission with a takeoff and landing). In 2014, one third of sorties flown used weapons.

The White House recently signed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which allowed for more funding to fight the air campaign in Iraq and Syria. In a televised statement to the nation, President Obama also asked Congress for a new Authorization for Use of Military Force in early December to provide funding for further operations against ISIS.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Good thing the Air Force upgraded its B-1 Bomber fleet in 2011 so it carries three times the payload.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Shannon Hall)

The American public is ready for an expanded fight against ISIS, including looser rules of engagement and a more aggressive air campaign. Congressional Republicans are even calling for an American ground force, which the Iraqi government has repeatedly denied.

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Another US Navy ship dodges a rebel missile off of Yemen

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) transits through the Suez Canal. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky)


While the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) dodged three anti-ship missile attacks in one week, and USS Nitze (DDG 94) sent a three-Tomahawk salvo in response, another American ship came under attack in the Bab el Mandab.

According to a release on the Facebook page of USS San Antonio (LPD 17), the amphibious vessel was targeted by anti-ship missiles on October 13. The attack failed, according to Commander D. W. Nelson’s post. The amphibious vessel was transiting the chokepoint between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, carrying the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The attack could prompt the Navy to act on proposals to fit two 8-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems on to the San Antonio-class ships. The systems would then be able to accommodate the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. With a range of up to 27 nautical miles and a top speed in excess of Mach 4, this would give the San Antonio-class ships another layer of air defense.

The San Antonio is the lead ship of a class of amphibious vessels and can carry up to 700 Marines, and has a crew of 28 officers and 335 enlisted personnel. The 25,000-ton ship has a top speed of 22 knots and is armed with two SeaRAM launchers and two 30mm Bushmaster II chain guns. The vessel carries two Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft and can also carry upwards of four helicopters or two V-22 Ospreys.

On 9 October, USS Mason was attacked while accompanying USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) in the Red Sea. The Mason was attacked again on October 12 and 15. The American naval vessels were deployed to the Gulf of Aden after HSV-2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel now operated by a company in the United Arab Emirates, was attacked on October 1.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch a Venezuelan F-16 shoot down an OV-10 Bronco

Venezuela and the United States didn’t always have such a contentious relationship. The country was traditionally awash with funds from oil sales, and when you have that kind of cash, everyone wants to be your friend. In 1982, Venezuela signed a deal for fifteen F-16A and six F-16B fighter aircraft from the U.S.

The country would need them just a few years later.


The threat to Venezuela’s government didn’t come from an external invader, it came from within. In 1992, the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement attempted to overthrow the government of Carlos Andres-Perez, who survived two such attempts in just a year’s time. Both were led by a guy named Hugo Chavez, whose supporters were angry about the country’s outstanding debt and out-of-control spending.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

TFW you’re about to run South America’s richest economy into the ground.

Venezuelan armed forces, under the command of Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez, launched two coup attempts in 1992. The second coup, which took place in November of that year, saw leaders from the Air Force and Navy take command while Chavez was still in prison for the first attempt. They learned from the mistakes of the previous attempt and seized major air bases — but not all of the pilots.

Chavez’ rebels used OV-10 Broncos to support rebel operations, but loyalist pilots were already in the air and they were flying F-16s. That’s what led to the confrontation below, filmed on the ground by a civilian.

The video above shows a government F-16 turning into the Bronco before hitting its speed brakes and firing its 20mm cannon. The burst sent the OV-10 down in flames. There’s another angle of the dogfight, taken by a local news crew.

Though both of the coups failed, Chavez ultimately became president, but through legitimate means in 1998. He won the Venezuelan presidency with 56 percent of the vote. After his election, Venezuela’s relations with the United States soured and the country could no longer maintain its fleet of F-16s due to an arms embargo slapped on by the administration of George W. Bush.

Now, the Venezuelan Air Force relies on the Russian-built Sukhoi-30 multirole fighter for the bulk of its fighter missions. It still has at least 19 F-16s, but has little capacity to care for the aging aircraft.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what could happen if India and Pakistan have a nuclear war

Pakistan and India have fought three wars over Kashmir, a disputed territory to which both nations lay claim. Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, recently suggested the countries could be headed toward another.”

There is a potential that two nuclear-armed countries will come face to face at some stage,” Khan said at the United Nations annual summit in September 2019, referring to the Kashmir conflict.

Together, India and Pakistan possess 2% of the world’s nuclear arsenal: India is estimated to have around 140 nuclear warheads, while Pakistan is estimated to have around 160. But they’re in an arms race to acquire more weapons.


By 2025, India and Pakistan could have expanded their arsenals to 250 warheads each, according to a new paper that predicts what might happen if the two nations entered into a nuclear war.

In that extreme scenario, the researchers write, a cloud of black soot could envelop the sky, causing temperatures to fall dramatically. Key agricultural hotspots would lose the ability to grow crops, triggering a global famine.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

Truck-mounted Missiles on display in Karachi, Pakistan.

“It would be instant climate change,” Alan Robock, an author of the study, told Business Insider. “Nothing like this in history, since civilization was developed, has happened.”

His paper estimates that up to 125 million people could die.

Nuclear weapons are becoming more powerful

Robock said the situation outlined in the paper isn’t likely, but it’s possible. So to determine the hypothetical consequences of a nuclear war between Pakistan and India, the researchers sought the advice of military experts.

“We clearly don’t want to burn cities and see what would happen,” Robock said. “Most scientists have test tubes or accelerators. Nature is our laboratory, so we use models.”

The paper doesn’t speculate as to which nation is more likely to initiate a conflict. But it estimates that if India wanted to destroy Pakistan’s major cities, the nation would need to deploy around 150 nuclear weapons. The calculations assume that some of these weapons might miss their target or fail to explode, so the model is based on the explosion of 100 weapons in Pakistan.

If Pakistan attacked India’s major cities, the researchers estimated, about 150 nuclear weapons would likely go off.

If all of those bombs were 15-kiloton weapons — the size of the “Little Boy” atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan — the researchers predict that 50 million people would die.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

“Little Boy” atomic bomb.

(Public domain)

But Robock said the US’ nuclear weapons today are around 100 to 500 kilotons, so it’s likely that India and Pakistan will have acquired more powerful weapons by 2025, the year in which his simulation takes place. If the nations were to use 100-kiloton weapons, the study suggests, that conflict could kill about 125 million people.

A nuclear war between India and Pakistan could wreck Earth’s climate

Nuclear explosions produce sweltering heat. Structures catch on fire, and then winds either spread those flames or the fire draws in the surrounding air, creating an even larger blaze known as a firestorm.

Either way, enormous amounts of smoke would enter the air, the researchers write. A small portion of this smoke would contain “black carbon,” the sooty material that usually comes from the exhaust of a diesel engine. That substance would then get pumped through the troposphere (the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere) and into the stratosphere. Within weeks, black carbon particles could spread across the globe.

It would be “the biggest injection of smoke into the stratosphere that we’ve ever seen,” Robock said.

Smoke particles can linger in the stratosphere for about five years and block out sunlight. In Robock’s simulation, that could cause Earth’s average temperature to drop by up to 5 degrees Celsius. Temperatures could get “as cold as the Ice Age,” he said. With less energy from the sun, the world could also experience up to 30% less rain.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

An Indian Agni-II intermediate range ballistic missile on a road-mobile launcher.

The researchers estimate that it would take more than a decade for temperatures and precipitation to return to normal. In the meantime, farmers around the world — especially in India, China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, tropical South America, and Africa — would struggle to grow food.

Entire marine ecosystems could also be devastated, which would destroy local fishing economies.

In sum, the authors write, a nuclear war could trigger mass starvation across the globe.

“As horrible as the direct effects of nuclear weapons would be, the indirect effects on our food supply would be much worse,” Robock said.

This isn’t the first time Robock has modeled this type of scenario: In 2014, he contributed to a paper that predicted what would happen if India and Pakistan deployed 50 weapons apiece, each with the strength of a “Little Boy” atomic bomb.

Even that “limited” nuclear-war scenario, he found, would cripple the ozone layer, expose people to harmful amounts of ultraviolet radiation, and lower Earth’s surface temperatures for more than 25 years. But those explosions wouldn’t release nearly as much black carbon as the scenario in the newer model, so the cooling effect wouldn’t be as severe.

‘We’ve been really lucky’

Robock said this type of global climate catastrophe has happened before, but has never been created by humans. He compared the nuclear conflict modeled in the recent paper to the asteroid crash that triggered the extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago. That explosion released billions of tons of sulfur into the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to plummet.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after the dropping of Little Boy.

Robock emphasized that unlike that disaster, nuclear war is preventable.

“There are all kinds of ways that something like this could happen, but if nuclear weapons didn’t exist, then it wouldn’t produce a nuclear war,” he said.

A key takeaway of the paper, he said, is that when nations threaten to nuke one another, they threaten their own safety, too. A nuclear war between two countries would “affect everybody in the world, not just where the bombs were dropped,” he added.

“We’ve been really lucky for the last 74 years” since Hiroshima, Robock said. “Our luck might run out sometime.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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The 6 worst things about being the junior soldier in your squad

Being the new guy in a squad is just something every soldier has to go through. They work hard, prove themselves, and earn a little respect and rank as fast as they can. Until they do, junior soldiers put up with these 6 problems.


1. Crappy roommates

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: Youtube.com

All enlisted soldiers start off with a random roommate in the barracks, but they get more say on roommates the longer they’re in the unit. If they get tight with the barracks noncommissioned officer, they may even have their own room.

The new guy to a unit has cultivated no relationships, and so can’t influence anyone. They are going to be roomed with whichever member of the squad is most disliked by the barracks NCO. This member is usually dirty, undisciplined, and annoying. Also, since the roommate is senior to the new guy, he can order the new guy around. Have fun in your new home, boot!

2. Literally everyone is in charge of them

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson

There’s an Army saying, “If there are two privates on a hill, one of them is in charge.” It’s meant to illustrate that soldiers are never without leadership, but it also means that even the young soldiers in the squad can give the younger guy a legal order. And what about the youngest guy?

Well, he’s in charge of nothing and every squad member is in charge of him. If he screws up, he’s hearing about it from everyone in the squad.

3. No respect

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

Taking orders from everyone is bad enough, but the junior soldier doesn’t get any respect even though they do all the work. It makes sense. The squad has endured combat together. They’ve cleared buildings, fought for ground, and buried friends as a unit. Then this new guy comes along and wants to be part of the group? Nope. Gotta earn your camaraderie, noob.

4. Most dangerous positions and assignments

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: US Army Sgt. Kimberly Lamb

The junior-most members will get plenty of chances to prove themselves, since they’re often in the most dangerous positions. For the infantry, he’s likely to be the first one in the door on a clearing mission, and he’s more likely to be assigned as gunner in a vehicle on a movement.

For the POGs, the junior squad member is the one most likely to get tasked out on a mission. Commander needs someone to pull a guard shift at the gate? It’s not like Pvt. Snuffy has anything going on. Gunny wants a volunteer for convoy security? Pfc. Schmuckatelli better grab his gear.

5. They’re the canaries in the coal mine

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

The most dangerous time to be the junior member is when there is a chemical or biological attack. The military dons protective gear when it’s hit with biological or chemical agents, and troops don’t take the gear off until their best detection kits say the threat is gone. But, the kits can’t detect everything and someone has to take the first unprotected breath.

And that’s where the junior soldier comes in. The unit takes away their weapon and has them unmask for a short period. If they don’t show signs of trouble, the rest of the unit unmasks. If the soldier does start reacting to a chemical compound, the unit keeps their masks on and sends the junior guy to a hospital. Get well soon!

6. Long hours and low pay

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: US Army Sgt. John Crosby

No one in the military is getting rich, and just about everyone works long hours. But, the junior guys usually work the same hours for even less pay than everyone else. A new E-2 in the military makes $1734 a month. They work an eight-hour day plus do an hour of mandatory physical training every morning. So, not counting any assignments, overnight guard duty, or additional physical training, an E-2 makes about $8.67 an hour before taxes.

They may get great benefits and education incentives, but the paychecks can be depressing.

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Here Are The Best Military Photos Of The Week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

An 81st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot flies an A-29 Super Tucano March 5, 2015, over Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The A-29 is a two-seat training aircraft flown by an instructor pilot and student pilot.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan/US Air Force

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform their demonstration March 2, 2015, in preparation for the commander of Air Combat Command at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The Thunderbirds perform their show several times a year at multiple locations across the U.S. The solo pilots integrate their own routines, exhibiting some of the maximum capabilities of the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter jet.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: Senior Airman Thomas Spangler/ US Air Force

NAVY

A French navy Rafale Marine aircraft from Squadron 11F embarked aboard the French navy nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91) launches from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) during carrier qualifications.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Philip Wagner/US Navy

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 returns to the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11) after depositing supplies on the flight deck of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), not pictured, during a replenishment-at-sea.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin V. Cunningham/US Navy

ARMY

An Army paratrooper, assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, trains for the upcoming Army’s Best Ranger Competition by maneuvering through the Pre-Ranger Obstacle Course on Fort Bragg, N.C., Mar. 2, 2015.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: Sgt. Eliverto V. Larios/US Army

Soldiers assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment participate in a live-fire exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Area located near Rose Barracks, Germany, March 5, 2015.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: Sgt. William Tanner/US Army

MARINE CORPS

A U.S. Marine with the Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, cleans up a training area aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 6, 2015. The Marines made drinking water by running ocean water through a tactical water purification system during Amphibious Squadron/Expeditionary Unit Integration Training (PMINT).

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: Cpl. Elize McKelvey/US Marine Corps

Marines with Tank Platoon, Company B, Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, send rounds down range via lanyard fire at Range 500, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, March 1, 2015.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: Cpl. Paul S. Martinez/US Marine Corps

COAST GUARD

In 1979, Beverly Kelley became the first woman to command a Coast Guard Cutter (Editor’s note: While this is an old picture, the USCG published this photo this week in honor of Women’s History Month).

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: US Coast Guard

Cutter Alert returned home today following a 61-day patrol, in which the crew accomplished missions ranging from law enforcement operations to protecting living marine resources.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Photo: Petty Officer David Mosley/US Coast Guard

NOW: Female Vet Says ‘They’ll Have To Pry My Uniform Out Of My Hands’

And: This Female Vet Is One Of History’s Most Decorated Combat Photographers

OR WATCH: What Life Is Like In The US Marine Infantry

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the Panzerfaust was one of the best weapons against tanks

The Panzerfaust had limited range, limited stopping power, and required brave troops to draw deeply into a tank’s range to kill it, but it was still one of the more effective tank weapons of the war, and they instilled fear in Allied tank crews forced to drive against it.


Panzerfaust – How Effective was it? – Military History

www.youtube.com

As World War II progressed, tanks got beefier and beefier, forcing infantrymen to find new ways to wreck panzers. They eventually turned to an idea first pioneered in the 1880s by German and American scientists.

The scientists had found that when a hollow was left in explosives, they produced a jet of hot air that did more damage than a solid block would, and the effect with high explosives was much greater than the effect by any other explosives. This knowledge was largely unexploited in World War I but many academics, especially in Germany, did research and weapons design in the 1930s.

In 1943, the first Panzerfaust was created, and the shaped-charge breakthroughs were key to its design. It was a recoilless rifle that could launch a shaped charge anywhere from 30 to 200 yards, depending on the model. When the munition hit a tank, a shaped charge at the front of the warhead detonated and sent a jet of hot metal into the tank’s cabin, usually killing the crew and potentially setting off fuel or ammo stores in the vehicle.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

A soldier with a Panzerfaust from the Panzer Division Hermann Göring smiling to the camera, Russia, 1944.

(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY 2.0)

Early Panzerfaust could penetrate 5.5 inches of steel, and Germany later upgraded it to penetrate almost 8 inches of armor. Meanwhile, a T-34 turret had 3.5 inches of armor, and the M4 Sherman had up to 3 inches. This overkill could terrorize Allied tank crews who knew that, if it was hit with a Panzerfaust, it was likely all over.

Luckily for them, the Panzerfaust did have one big shortcoming: It was an infantry weapon with a range between a few dozen yards and 200 yards, and the 200-yard variants weren’t deployed during the war. So, tank crews could slaughter Panzerfaust crews from hundreds of yards outside of the anti-tank team’s range.

But only if they could spot the anti-tank teams from out of the weapon’s range. Panzerfaust teams would hide in brush or trenches and wait for tanks to roll up, or they would sneak through buildings and hit the tanks from close range.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

A soldier inspects his Panzerfaust.

(Bundesarchiv Bild, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Either way, the weapon was the most effective Germany had against tanks at close range, taking out about half of the Allied tanks killed at short range. And the weapon was nearly on par with dedicated anti-tank guns, requiring just a little over twice as many shots per tank killed despite having much lower logistics and training requirements.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China tries to warn off Poseidon 6 times

Chinese forces deployed to the hotly contested South China Sea ordered a US Navy reconnaissance aircraft to “leave immediately” six times on Aug. 10, 2018, but the pilot stayed the course, refusing to back down.

A US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane flew past China’s garrisons in the Spratly Islands, giving CNN reporters aboard the aircraft a view of Chinese militarization in the region.


Flying over Chinese strongholds on Mischief Reef, Johnson Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, and Subi Reef, CNN spotted “large radar installations, power plants, and runways sturdy enough to carry large military aircraft.” At one outpost, onboard sensors detected 86 vessels, including Chinese Coast Guard ships, which China has been known to use to strong-arm countries with competing claims in the South China Sea.

Lt. Lauren Callen, who led the US Navy crew, said it was “surprising to see airports in the middle of the ocean.”

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

View from Spratly Islands.

The Chinese stationed in the area were not exactly kind hosts to the uninvited guests.

Warning the aircraft that it was in Chinese territory — an argument an international arbitration tribunal ruled against two years ago — the Chinese military ordered the US Navy plane to “leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding.”

Six warnings were issued, according to CNN, and the US Navy responded the same every time.

“I am a sovereign immune US naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state,” the crew replied, adding, “In exercising these rights guaranteed by international law, I am operating with due regard for the rights and duties of all states.”

The incident comes on the heels of a report by the Philippine government revealing that China has been increasingly threatening foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea.

“Leave immediately,” Chinese forces in the Spratlys warned a Philippine military aircraft in early 2018, according to the Associated Press. “I am warning you again, leave immediately or you will pay the possible consequences,” the voice said over the radio.

The US Navy has noticed an increase in such queries as well.

“Our ships and aircraft have observed an increase in radio queries that appear to originate from new land-based facilities in the South China Sea,” Cmdr. Clay Doss, a representative for the US 7th Fleet, told the AP, adding, “These communications do not affect our operations.”

Of greater concern for the US military are recent Chinese deployments of military equipment and weapons systems, such as jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. While the US has accused China of “intimidation and coercion” in the disputed waterway, Beijing argues it is the US, not China, that is causing trouble in the region.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to comment on Aug. 10, 2018’s exchange between the Chinese military and the US Navy.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

Time to slay the myth around the magical unicorn called the “VA Loan”

Since transitioning out of the military, I’ve had the, um, “pleasure” of being around a lot more civilians. Some of the questions I’m asked on an annoyingly regular basis are, “Aren’t VA loans awesome? Don’t you get a free house? Did you get yours?”


This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

After polling some veterans, I realized I should give a little brief on the subject. Time to slay the myth around what a VA loan is or isn’t.

First: The VA loan is, in fact, not a loan at all.

The VA Loan Program, created in 1944 as part of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, is a service the Department of Veteran Affairs created to help veterans returning from WWII buy a home.

According to the VA website, “VA Home Loans are provided by private lenders, such as banks and mortgage companies. VA guarantees a portion of the loan, enabling the lender to provide you with more favorable terms.”

Essentially, the VA will co-sign a loan with you, and that gives you a few perks.

Why is co-signing helpful?

When new adults try to rent an apartment or buy a car, most people won’t trust them unless they get a “guarantor” to co-sign the loan or the lease, usually in the form of a parent or older family member. After faithfully paying rent and payments on a loan or two, civilians in their 20s build up credit and no longer need anyone to sign off their financial choices.

Military personnel and veterans are a bit different. Our lifestyle inherently makes us look financially untrustworthy.

How are you 24 with no rental history?” I live in a barracks.

You seem to have moved every two years...” Yep.

You disappeared from our system for over a year except for credit card transactions from… Afghanistan. Are you a terrorist?” It’s called deployment!

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

Luckily, we have an Uncle Sam willing to co-sign on such a big purchase, or what’s called a Purchase Loan. You’ll be able to get better interest rates than your credit alone could get you, and you can skip the down payment.

Bonus: Uncle Sam will also insure the transaction, allowing you to skip Private Mortgage Insurance.

The Devil’s Details

Just because you can get a loan for down, doesn’t mean you should. Regular people are expected to drop at least 20% value of the house as a down payment.

Here are three different scenarios. Same house, same interest rate, same 30-year loan.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

The less you pay upfront, the more you have to pay in compounded interest for the next 30 years. 30 years. That’s your entire military career plus half your next career!

Being able to do less of a down payment is useful in a few scenarios. For example, if you live in California, chances are you won’t ever have 0K cash for a 20% down payment on the crazy prices out here.

A few resources to see how much you can afford while buying a house: RedFin has a quick calculator (above) as well as a more in-depth option. USAA also has one with different loans they offer.

Warning: Anything offered by Uncle Sam comes with a catch

According to the VA website, “VA-guaranteed loans are available for homes for your occupancy or a spouse and/or dependent (for active duty service members). To be eligible, you must have satisfactory credit, sufficient income to meet the expected monthly obligations, and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE).”
This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

A few takeaways:

  • VA Loans are only for houses you will live in, NOT commercial or investment properties.
  • You have to live in the house for at least one year.
  • You can’t buy a multi-family or multi-unit property. No duplexes or apartment buildings (Trust me, I tried).
  • Banks set the terms of the loan (interest rate, payment schedule, etc.) based on your credit and current job, not the VA.
  • The VA might not approve you.
  • Requires at least 181 days active duty completed to be eligible.
  • Dishonorable discharge not eligible
  • Some dependents are eligible
  • Can be used to BUILD a house
  • Receiving a Certificate of Eligibility is required
  • There is a loan fee charged by the VA
  • Closing costs still have to be paid (typically 2-5% of the loan)
  • There is a limit on how much you can borrow without making a down payment based upon where in the country you live.

When good loans go bad

After nearly an hour and being transferred 7 times, I finally spoke to the most unenthusiastic Federal Employee in existence to answer my unanswerable question: “Are VA loans any different in foreclosure or the foreclosure process than a regular civilian mortgage?”

The answer: No, mostly.

The VA will not step in and save you, there are no cash handouts, and the VA will not shield you from the banks that are after their money. The VA will take care of a few fees dealing with the lenders, but that is about it. For more questions: 1-877-827-3702 or visit the payment problems page.

Humor

5 popular debates Marines are passionate about

When you’ve got nothing but time on your hands, it’s hard not to get into a discussion with a fellow Marine. And, with all the possible topics, you’ll inevitably stumble across something you disagree on.


These are among the most popular debates you might find yourself embroiled in.

Related: 6 ways to be successful in the Marine infantry

5. Wearing an undershirt beneath your blouse

This one usually spawns after a higher up gives a lower enlisted an ass-chewing. If you’re stationed somewhere hot (say, Hawaii or Guam), the additional airflow from not wearing an undershirt can help make the day-to-day less miserable.

However, there are lower enlisted who believe in wearing an undershirt and they will debate you on this topic.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Notice the lack of skivvy shirt and f*cks given up front. (image via Okinawa Marines)

4. Rank versus billet

A billet in the Marine Corps is your specific position within your occupational specialty. According to doctrine, certain billets require certain rank, but since it might be more difficult for some to get the required rank, many will have the experience needed without having the position.

This becomes a debate when someone of higher rank with low experience (say, a Corporal fresh out of 8th and I) comes to the unit and they’re automatically thrown into a billet, like squad leader or team leader, when they know nothing about that position — since they just spent the last three years being set pieces at the White House.

3. Foliage on helmets

When you’re in a jungle, adding some of the local flora to your gear might complement your camouflage, but a problem invariable arises when a lance corporal takes a twig and sticks it in their helmet to be ridiculous. This, of course, ruins it for everyone else.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
It’s really effective until that one guy makes a joke out of it. (Image via Military History)

2. Favorite adult film star

Everyone’s got their preference and to each their own, but if you exclaim the name of a favorite, someone is bound to debate you on why their pick is better. They’ll go into insane detail, bringing up every film they’ve ever done and give you a complete breakdown of that star’s career as if they studied them in film school.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
If you know who this is, we’re tellin’. (Image via Reddit user 4noteprogression)

Also read: 6 easy ways for a grunt to be accepted by POGs

1. Peanut butter versus jalapeno cheese spread

Some like brown glue that tastes like a childhood favorite while others will argue passionately about why they prefer the yellow dog poop with jalapeno flavor more. They’ll also be sure to tell you why you’re wrong for enjoying the other. Either way, they both come in MREs and should be avoided if at all possible.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam
Mmm, dog sh*t. (image via Imgur)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here is the sniper rifle that the US Army, Marines, and the special operators all want to get their hands on

US military snipers in the Army, Marines, and the special operations community are getting new bolt-action sniper rifles, and they all want a certain one from Barrett.


The preferred choice is the Barrett Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) rifle, Task & Purpose first reported, citing budget documents and previous contracting information.

Rather than force snipers to choose between weapons capable of firing different rounds for different purposes, the multi-caliber rifle can be chambered in 7.62X51 mm NATO, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

“There are three ranges associated with the three calibers, and there are different target sets that we are trying for at those ranges,” Army Lt. Col. Chris Kennedy, the lethality branch chief for the soldier division at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, told Insider.

“It gives more flexibility to the sniper as to what configuration to put it in and what targets they are going after,” he added.

In its fiscal year 2021 budget request, the Army asked for 536 MRAD sniper rifles for a little over million for the Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) program. The Marine Corps, which is also buying MRAD rifles for the Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR) program, estimated that each one would cost about ,000.

The Army’s latest budget request described the rifle as “a multi-caliber, bolt-action sniper rifle, which is effective against personnel and material targets at extreme ranges.” The weapon is expected to replace the Army’s M2010 and M107 sniper rifles.

“What we are trying to achieve is to collapse those two systems into one instead of having the sniper choose one or the other,” Kennedy told Insider.

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

The Army PSR, not to be confused with the older special operations PSR, is expected to be lighter, more accurate, and have a greater range than legacy systems.

The rifle, the budget request said, also “includes a sound suppressor and direct view optics (with fire control capabilities), which allows snipers, when supplemented with a clip-on image intensifier or thermal sensor system, to effectively engage enemy snipers, as well as crew served and indirect fire weapons virtually undetected in any light condition.”

The goal is to offer a passive sighting system that is not emitting anything that could give away a sniper’s position, Kennedy said.

The Army’s PSR is the same MRAD rifle for which Special Operations Command offered Barrett a nearly million contract last year. It was selected for the command’s ASR program as a replacement for the older PSR for special operations snipers, Military Times reported last March.

In the Department of the Navy’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal, the Marines included a million request for 250 Barrett multi-caliber sniper rifles. The service wants the new rifles to “replace all current bolt-action sniper rifles in the Marine Corps.”

The recent budget request describes the rifle, part of the ASR program, as a “multi-caliber system featuring extended range, greater lethality and a wider variety of special purpose ammunition than current systems.”

The purpose of the PSR and ASR programs, according to the budget documents, is to provide US military snipers with capable modern rifles that will allow them to maintain standoff and overmatch against near-peer competitors.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.