Bob Hoover is one of history’s greatest aviators. His career spanned from barnstorming in prop planes, to dogfighting in World War Two and then on to flight testing supersonic jets and performing spectacular aerobatic demonstrations. As an experimental test pilot, he flight tested the Navy FJ-2 jet fighter and the USAF F-86 and F-100. Hoover was the backup pilot for the Bell X-1, and flew the chase plane as his friend Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14th, 1947. Smithsonian’s Air Space Magazine named Hoover Number Three on their list of all-time great pilots. In this special two-part episode, Bob Hoover takes us through his long, illustrious career in flight.
The Lockheed F-35 Lightning is replacing the F-16 in many countries. For the most part, if a country is flying F-16s, then it’s a safe bet that they will get the F-35. There may be some exceptions to that rule, of course, but for the most part, it rings true.
One country slated to receive the F-35 is Belgium. F-16.net reports that, at one point, the Belgian Air Component had as many as 160 F-16A/B Fighting Falcons. Many of these planes were manufactured as part of a consortium with Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands.
Today, that total stands at 45 F-16AM and nine F-16BM Fighting Falcons. These planes are divided into four operational fighter squadrons primarily equipped with F-16AMs, and one operational conversion unit equipped solely with F-16BMs. This comes out to roughly 11 F-16AMs per squadron.
According to a release on the Defense Security Cooperation Agency website, Belgium will begin to replace its F-16s with F-35s. The planned purchase total, coming in at just over $6.5 billion, is 34 F-35A Lightnings and 38 F135 engines (one for each F-35, plus four spares). This comes out to eight and a half F-35s per squadron.
Now, this may just be the first batch of planes, in which case, it comes out to a more reasonable 17 planes per squadron. A Belgian media report in 2016 noted that the Saab Gripen, Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet were also considered by the Belgian government.
In what seems to be a repeat of history, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, and Denmark are all buying the F-35 to replace the F-16. In recent years, the Belgian Air Component has seen action in the War on Terror, the NATO intervention in Libya, and has also taken part in the Baltic Air Policing mission, often using F-16AMs.
In the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, the utility helicopter almost everyone wanted was the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, best known as the “Huey.” This helicopter became very popular, selling to just about anyone who wasn’t a commie (although the communists did grab a few). Over 16,500 Hueys were purchased.
Today, it’s the UH-60 Black Hawk that is in high demand. Saudi Arabia recently bought 17 for the Saudi Arabian National Guard and the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces. Earlier this year, the Times of Israel reported that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan recently took delivery on the last two UH-60 Black Hawks of a 12-chopper order.
The report quoted a Tweet from the United States Embassy in Jordan noting that these helicopters will help strengthen the Quick Reaction Force of the Jordanian Armed Forces. This special operations unit is composed of three airborne battalions and a squadron of UH-60M helicopters. The UH-60M, according to Lockheed Martin, can hold 11 troops or roughly one squad of infantry.
The Quick Reaction Force also had a separate aviation brigade that is being handed over to the Royal Jordanian Air Force. This unit had UH-60L Black Hawks alongside MD-530F helicopters (roughly equivalent to the MH-6/AH-6 Little Bird helicopters) and CN-235 and C-295M transport planes. The unit also has the 37th Royal Special Forces Group, which has one group responsible for carrying out special operations and another assigned to counter-terrorism missions.
Jordan has been a part of the coalition taking on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), suffering the loss of a pilot in 2015 after he was burned alive following his capture by the radical Islamic terrorist group. The al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, has operated in Syria as well.
The new Black Hawks join a mix of S-70, UH-60A, and the aforementioned UH-60Ls currently in service. FlightGlobal.com noted in World Air Forces 2018 that Jordan had 20 Black Hawks of all types on hand and 10 more on order.
One thing for certain is that the helicopter of choice for most special operations units is the Black Hawk.
Fighter pilots have to pass a lot of tests before they get control of a jet. One of their first tests is the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test. We’ve pulled 15 questions from Air Force Personnel Test 997, an information pamphlet on the AFOQT. All questions included here are questions that would, on the AFOQT, count towards the pilot composite score. (We’ve also included awesome jet photos whenever a visual isn’t needed to answer a question. You’re welcome . . .)
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As you progress in your military career, you find yourself struggling to maintain the era of your youth. The bones creak, the muscles ache, the skin sags and for some of us… the hair starts to go.
It is not easy going bald (trust me, I know) but for many men, it is a part of life that we have to come to terms with at some point… or maybe not.
For me, the loss was sudden. I joined the Marines late at the ripe old age of 24. At this point, I knew my hair was thinning, although it wasn’t that bad. I figured I had a good six years or so before it was gone and didn’t think much of it heading to boot camp. At boot camp, like everyone else, I had my head shaved every week.
But my journey at Parris Island took slightly longer than 13 weeks. I got dropped twice (once was because my arms got infected from so many sand flea bites). As soon as I got back into training, I got pneumonia in both lungs at the Crucible and was dropped again. By the time I graduated, I had been on the Island for five months. My last haircut was supposed to be the first “Marine” cut — when you get the high and tight and start looking like a Marine and not a recruit.
But for me, that didn’t quite work out. I sat in the chair and the barber buzzed the sides of my head, took a step back and started laughing. I was confused until I turned around. In the span of just five months, my hair … was… gone! Yup, it happened that fast.
Instead of a high and tight, I had what my Drill Instructors called a “low and loose,” two strips on either side of my head. It was embarrassing and I asked if I could just shave my head. I was told that because I was bald, I could… but only after I left the Island. (To this day, I am convinced that they made up the last part because they wanted to mess with me).
When my mom saw me, she asked if my haircut was some type of crazy hazing the military did.
Needless to say, the minute I left Parris Island, I “Bic’d” my head.
In the end, it worked out. While I didn’t have access to any hair loss products that worked, I learned rapidly that there was a benefit to being bald in the Marines.
Every Sunday, when all my buddies had to pull themselves out of bed and stumble into town to get haircuts, I slept in. While they waited in line for hours with everyone else, I went to the beach, downtown San Diego, bars and drove around enjoying my Sunday. On Monday morning, I grabbed my clippers, did a quick shave and headed to PT.
That being said, while hair loss is hair loss is preventable, there are options for when you lose your hair in the military. Some are good, some are… options.
Here are the 5 best haircuts you can get if you are going bald:Horseshoe Haircuts | LCpl Ogle, Pvt Martin, & LCpl Wilson sp… | FlickrHorseshoe Haircuts | LCpl Ogle, Pvt Martin, LCpl Wilson sp… | Flickr
1. Horseshoe (and reverse shoe)
Other than the stripes on your collar, nothing says you are salty than breaking out the old horseshoe cut.
If you are suffering from male pattern baldness, this is the cut to go with (assuming it is allowed). Just shave the sides and allow the bald spot to turn into the “landing strip” that a B-52 can land on. The cut isn’t for everyone, but if you are a senior enlisted that has been around the block and is saltier than the Dead Sea, this is the cut for you.
If you are a boot, this is not the way to go.Imitation Male Pattern Baldness | Brian Omura | FlickrImitation Male Pattern Baldness | Brian Omura | Flickr
2. Low and loose
Yup, you can have my travesty of a haircut and just go with it provided you aren’t actually bald yet like I was. For some of us, balding is just your hair slowly thinning away. While you can take steps to prevent baldness, you can also still rock your high and tight but with a little less on the top. The only issue you have to be aware of is the PONR (Point of No Return). If you have gone bald, there is a point where you just can’t fake the funk anymore. The low and loose works until you get to that point. Then you just have to move on.
3. Low reg with a combover
The Recon or low reg works great if you are starting to thin from the front. What was usually the haircut of choice for the high-speed guys or the guys who couldn’t wait to get out, the low reg is your path to still having a great head of hair. Just grow it out and comb it forward. It’s easy, leaves you with a full head of hair (for now), and helps cover up the receding hairline. The only downside: You might incur the wrath of a First Sergeant or Sergeant Major who may not like the hippie-style haircut you are sporting.Bruce Willis – hi res scan | Photo taken at 61st Academy Awa… | FlickrBruce Willis – hi res scan | Photo taken at 61st Academy Awa… | Flickr
4. Bruce Willis hold out
If you followed the career of Bruce Willis, you saw the gradual and dignified way he slowly went bald. No combover, no toupees, no hair plugs, no headbands (looking at you LeBron). He just slowly went bald and over the course of his career aged well. Now, the caveat to this is that he had a nice, even, slow receding hairline which for many of us, doesn’t happen. But if you are a John McClane type, you can just go gracefully without having to do much. But eventually Bruce had to resort to Plan B, which was…..File:Bruce Willis Comic-Con 2010.jpg – Wikimedia CommonsFile:Bruce Willis Comic-Con 2010.jpg – Wikimedia Commons
Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, Vin Diesel, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Gandhi, Common, Britney Spears (jk), and many others have shown us that bald is beautiful. Shaving your head is easy, saves you money, and might make you look more badass than you were before.
When I lost mine, I realized that I actually looked better bald than with hair. Luckily, I have a nice shaped head. If you don’t, then shaving might not be the best course of action and you need to find something else. But shaving your head saves you money on haircuts and shampoo, saves you time in the morning, makes you look hardcore and shows that you are ok with being who you are. If you got it, flaunt it.
Losing your hair isn’t easy regardless if you have time like Bruce Willis or lose it pretty fast like me. You can always find a great solution to hair loss like Xcellerate35, and you can also find confidence in rocking out a great style that makes you feel great both in and out of uniform.
Canada is the second largest country in the world in terms of land mass and size, with harsh, unforgiving territory marking the majority of its geographic map. Air traffic nevertheless crisscrosses these large expanses of land, boats and ships still ply the rough seas around, and hikers and the adventurous of heart still navigate their way through the desolate north to explore the country’s natural beauty.
But when the unthinkable happens – be it an airplane crash in a remote area, a stranded an grievously ill hiker in the middle of forest, or a sinking vessel off Canada’s coast, the Canadian armed forces are among the best prepared in the world.
We Are The Mighty recently flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force to watch its search and rescue teams in action.
The RCAF’s mission is known as Canadian Armed Forces Search and Rescue, CAFSAR for short, conducted by teams of fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, which can seamlessly integrate with Canadian coast guard and naval vessels for waterborne rescue missions, should the need arise.
From recovering downed aviators to rescuing civilian boaters adrift at sea, CAFSAR’s various units can do it all.
Canada’s SAR units primarily use fixed-wing aircraft like the CC-130H Hercules and the CC-115 Buffalo to function as “spotters.” On missions, these aircraft fly low to the Earth, with aircrew inside maintaining vigilance over the terrain below for telltale signs of the imperiled.
To better facilitate these missions, the RCAF has modified their H-model Hercs with plexiglass “spotting stations” where the para-doors once existed towards the rear of the aircraft.
Both the Herc and the Buffalo are capable of remaining on-site for extended periods of time, and they often contain supplies and support materials relevant to the mission. For example, sometimes crews carry inflatable air-dropped life rafts and bilge pumps for at-sea rescues or recoveries. They also carry a complement of orange-clad SAR Technicians, who represent the backbone of the CAFSAR apparatus.
SAR “techs” are among the most elite of the Canadian Forces, numbering only 140 out of the nearly 70,000-strong military. Techs are considered specialists in their field, trained to provide “advanced pre-hospital medical care,” and are broadly qualified to perform missions in all areas of the Canadian wilderness and North, ranging from lakes, oceans, heavily-forested areas, mountains and onward to the bleak Arctic tundra.
SAR tech training is arduous and difficult. The attrition rate for students is high, and only the best students of each training class are posted to CAFSAR’s various joint rescue commands across the country.
CAFSAR also uses rotary aircraft— namely the CH-146 Griffon and CH-149 Cormorant — to move SAR techs to hard-to-reach places, and to conduct seaborne rescue operations. These aircraft can hover in place while techs are lowered and raised via winches, horse collars, and metal baskets. Rotary assets are often “vectored” to the site of a rescue by the spotter aircraft, when the site of the incident has been triangulated and located.
Given the urgent nature of rescue operations, missions can appear when least expected, and require crews to be alert and ready at a moment’s notice. In a matter of minutes, a Herc or a Buffalo can be loaded up and prepared for launch while SAR techs and the aircrew ready themselves for the mission at hand. Simultaneously, Griffons and/or Cormorants begin spooling up nearby for their own inevitable launch.
When on a larger joint SAR operation, a Herc or a Buffalo will lift off with the intention of finding and marking the location of the incident/rescue with a smoke canister. This can happen within minutes of reaching the general area, or after an hour of low-level flying. Depending on the nature of the emergency, support materials are prepped and deployed, while rotary units are flown over to the area with SAR techs ready for action.
Should the circumstances merit immediate assistance, CAFSAR’s SAR techs have one very important and versatile trick up their sleeves. Its members are qualified to perform “pararescue” operations, which involve parachute jumps from Hercs and Buffalos to reach areas on the surface where aircraft can not hover or land nearby.
The careful coordination of these assets, the advanced and well-developed abilities of SAR techs and rescue aircrews, and years of experience in performing rescue missions throughout Canada has helped CAFSAR become what it currently is – one of the most competent and effective search and rescue apparatuses in existence today.
On Easter Sunday, April 2, 1972, two EB-66 aircraft, call signs Bat 21 and Bat 22 were flying pathfinder escort for three B-52s, which were assigned to bomb the two primary access routes to the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos. Gene Hambleton, a navigator aboard Bat 21, was shot down behind North Vietnamese lines. His rescue became known as the largest, longest, and most complex search-and-rescue operation during the entire Vietnam War. In this episode, Gene Hambleton recounts his dramatic story, in his own words.
John Nicely was a Sergeant in the US Marine Corps during the brutal Pacific island campaigns of WWII. He saw his first action in the battle for the island of Saipan on June 15th, 1944. From there he continued fighting from island to island and eventually prepared for the invasion of Japan. Nicely and his unit entered the devastated city of Nagasaki, just 25 days after the nuclear blast. We met up with him at a reunion of the 2nd Marine division in 1994 and he shared his vivid personal memories of front-line combat.
The US Army’s commander in Europe says Russia broke up its Zapad war games with Belarus into parts to avoid having international monitors watch the weeklong exercises last month.
Lieutenant General Ben Hodges said Oct. 2 that the two countries deployed “way over 12,700” personnel, the limit beyond which Europe’s OSCE security organization should be allowed to send observers.
Hodges said, “My guess is that there probably were over 40,000 service members.”
He told reporters at NATO headquarters that Russia and Belarus “broke it up into all these little exercises” but that “these were all connected, because this was a whole of government effort.”
Russia’s defense ministry said the Zapad exercises would involve 12,700 Russian and Belarusian troops, about 70 aircraft, up to 250 tanks, 200 artillery systems, and 10 warships.
China on Oct. 11 protested the sailing of a US Navy ship near its territorial claims in the South China Sea, saying it would continue to take measures to protect Beijing’s interests in the vital waterway claimed by several nations.
A US official said the destroyer USS Chafee sailed near the Paracel Islands on Oct. 10, coming within 16 nautical miles (30 kilometers) of land. The Navy does not announce such missions in advance and the official spoke on condition of anonymity.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying denounced the mission as dangerous and a violation of China’s sovereignty. She said the military verified the presence of the US ship by sea and air and warned it off.
“The Chinese government will continue to take firm measures to safeguard national territory, sovereignty, and maritime interests,” Hua told reporters at a daily briefing.
China claims the South China Sea and its islands virtually in their entirety, and its military expelled Vietnamese forces from the Paracels in 1974. The US does not take an official position on sovereignty claims, but the Navy regularly sails through the area to assert freedom of navigation.
China usually claims to have “expelled” Navy ships on such missions and its relatively mild response this time suggested the Chafee had not entered what it claims are its territorial waters.
The South China Sea has crucial shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and potential oil, gas and other mineral deposits. China has carried out extensive land reclamation work on many of the islands and reefs it claims, equipping some with air strips and military installations.
Frightening attacks on US personnel in Havana struck the heart of America’s spy network in Cuba, with intelligence operatives among the first and most severely affected victims, The Associated Press has learned.
It wasn’t until US spies, posted to the embassy under diplomatic cover, reported hearing bizarre sounds and experiencing even stranger physical effects that the United States realized something was wrong, individuals familiar with the situation said.
While the attacks started within days of President Donald Trump’s surprise election in November, the precise timeline remains unclear, including whether intelligence officers were the first victims hit or merely the first victims to report it. The US has called the situation “ongoing.”
To date, the Trump administration largely has described the 21 victims as US embassy personnel or “members of the diplomatic community.” That description suggested only bona fide diplomats and their family members were struck, with no logical motivation beyond disrupting US-Cuban relations.
Behind the scenes, though, investigators immediately started searching for explanations in the darker, rougher world of spycraft and counter-espionage, given that so many of the first reported cases involved intelligence workers posted to the US embassy. That revelation, confirmed to the AP by a half-dozen officials, adds yet another element of mystery to a year-long saga that the Trump administration says may not be over.
The State Department and the CIA declined to comment for this story.
The first disturbing reports of piercing, high-pitched noises and inexplicable ailments pointed to someone deliberately targeting the US government’s intelligence network on the communist-run island, in what seemed like a bone-chilling escalation of the tit-for-tat spy games that Washington and Havana have waged over the last half century.
But the US soon discovered that actual diplomats at the embassy had also been hit by similar attacks, officials said, further confounding the search for a culprit and a motive.
Of the 21 confirmed cases, American spies suffered some of the most acute damage, including brain injury and hearing loss that has not healed, said several US officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the investigation and demanded anonymity. They heard an unsettling sound inside and in some cases outside their Havana homes, described as similar to loud crickets. Then they fell ill.
Over time, the attacks seemed to evolve.
In many of the more recent cases, victims didn’t hear noises and weren’t aware an attack was occurring, identifying the symptoms only later. That has raised concerns among investigators that the attacks may be getting more sophisticated and harder to detect, individuals briefed on the investigation said.
Though the State Department has called all the cases “medically confirmed,” several US officials said it’s unclear whether all of the victims’ symptoms can be conclusively tied to attacks. Considering the deep sense of alarm among Americans working in the embassy, it’s possible some workers attributed unrelated illnesses to attacks.
Almost nothing about what has transpired in Havana is perfectly clear. But this is Cuba.
For decades, Washington and Havana pushed their rivalry to unprecedented levels of covert action. The former enemies tracked each other’s personnel, turned each other’s agents, and, in the case of the CIA, even mounted a failed attempt to overthrow the Cuban government in the 1961 “Bay of Pigs” invasion.
There were hopes, though, that the two nations were starting to put that bitter history behind them after renewing diplomatic relations in 2015. When the attacks first occurred, the US and Cuban governments were hard at work on clinching new commercial and immigration agreements. No new spat among intelligence services was publicly known.
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) shakes hands with former US President Barack Obama, 2015. Photo courtesy of the White House.
Eleven months on, the US cannot guarantee the threat is over. Last week, the State Department warned Americans to stay away from Cuba and ordered more than half the embassy staff to leave indefinitely. The US had previously given all embassy staff the option to come home, but even most of those struck by the mysterious attacks had opted to stay, individuals familiar with the situation said.
For those staying and new arrivals, the US has been giving instructions about what to watch and listen for to identify an attack in progress. They’re also learning steps to take if an attack occurs that could mitigate the risk, officials said.
But the US has not identified whatever device is responsible for the harm. FBI sweeps have turned up nothing.
So to better identify patterns, investigators have created a map detailing specific areas of Cuba’s capital where attacks have occurred, several individuals familiar with the matter said. Three “zones,” or geographic clusters of attacks, cover the homes where US diplomats live and several hotels where attacks occurred, including the historic Hotel Capri.
Since first disclosing the situation in August, the United States had generally avoided the word “attacks.” It called them “incidents” instead until Sept. 29. Now, the State Department deems them “specific attacks” targeting Americans posted in Havana, without saying what new information, if any, prompted the newfound confidence they were indeed deliberate.
The most obvious motive for attacking Americans in Havana would be to drive a wedge between the US and Cuba. If that’s the case, the strategy appears to be succeeding.
Last week’s embassy drawdown added to the growing friction between the nations. And an accompanying new travel warning deemed Havana’s hotels unsafe for visitors, threatening to drive down tourism, a backbone of Cuba’s economy.
In Havana, American diplomats are frantically selling off possessions — from mattresses to canned goods to children’s toys — and hurriedly making plans to return to the US, where some haven’t lived in years. The State Department has worked feverishly to arrange transportation, temporary jobs, and places to live for those coming back early from Cuba.
“Heartbroken? Me too, but this will make you feel better,” one seller posted in a chatroom for foreigners in Cuba, under a picture of a Costco artichoke hearts jar selling for $6.
For Cubans, it may be no better. The US has been providing 20,000 visas a year to Cubans moving to the United States. It has issued thousands more to Cubans wishing to visit family in America. The reduction in US staff in Havana means visa processing there has been suspended indefinitely.
Cuba has vehemently denied involvement or knowledge of the attacks. Some in the US government believe the Cubans may be telling the truth, officials said.
When President Raul Castro denied any culpability in February, he did so on the sidelines of a meeting in Havana with five visiting US members of Congress, the AP found. The US had raised complaints about the attacks to Cuba just days earlier through diplomatic channels.
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Havana. Photo from US State Department.
But the visiting lawmakers knew nothing of the attacks taking place in the country they were visiting.
Nor did they know that Castro had used the occasion of their meeting to pull aside Jeff DeLaurentis, then the top US diplomat in Cuba, to say privately that his government was equally alarmed and willing to help.
The lawmakers all declined to comment. Cuban officials say they’re disappointed in the US retaliatory measures but will continue cooperating with the investigation.
Hours before the Allied Forces hit the beaches of Normandy, courageous British and American soldiers entered France with parachutes and gliders to secure key bridges and enemy artillery positions. Their dangerous missions led the way for the D-Day invasion and ultimate victory in Europe. Wally Parr, Terance Otway and Bill True recount their dramatic stories, In Their Own Words.
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