Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight - We Are The Mighty
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Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

The most advanced version of the F-15 ever built took to the skies in St. Louis, MO, on April 14, 2020, and highlighted just how impressive its capabilities are. In the 90 minute flight, the F-15QA (QA stands for Qatar Advanced) showcased its speed, maneuverability and, in general, just how badass of a force this new jet will be.


What’s a “Viking takeoff”? Watch as the Qatar Emiri Air Force #F15 demonstrates the maneuver during its first flight.pic.twitter.com/wLHEuvH0Lt

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With the F-15QA’s unmatched speed and maneuverability, Chief Test Pilot Matt Giese was able to showcase the capabilities by performing a vertical “Viking” takeoff and by pulling nine Gs during the test in various maneuvers. The maiden flight highlighted just how advanced this aircraft is. Avionics, radar and other systems all performed as designed and the flight was deemed a success.

“This successful first flight is an important step in providing the QEAF an aircraft with best-in-class range and payload,” said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager in a press release issued by Boeing. “The advanced F-15QA not only offers game changing capabilities but is also built using advanced manufacturing processes which make the jet more efficient to manufacture. In the field, the F-15 costs half the cost per flight hour of similar fighter aircraft and delivers far more payload at far greater ranges. That’s success for the warfighter.”

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

Image via Boeing

The F-15QA was developed for the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF). The Department of Defense awarded Boeing a .2 billion contract in 2017 to manufacture 36 F-15 fighter jets for the QEAF with delivery date being 2021. To put it mildly: the QEAF is stoked.

“We are very proud of this accomplishment and looking forward with great excitement to the continued successes of this program,” Col. Ahmed Al Mansoori, commander, QEAF F-15 Wing said in a press release. “This successful first flight is an important milestone that brings our squadrons one step closer to flying this incredible aircraft over the skies of Qatar.”

In addition to being able to perform seamless Viking takeoffs, Boeing shared the other impressive features of the advanced aircraft. According to Boeing, the F-15QA brings to its operators next-generation technologies such as fly-by-wire flight controls, digital cockpit; modernized sensors, radar, and electronic warfare capabilities; and the world’s fastest mission computer. Increases in reliability, sustainability and maintainability allow defense operators to affordably remain ahead of current and evolving threats.

[VIDEO]: Qatar Emiri Air Force F-15QA will get large area display cockpit with touch screen made by Elbit Systemspic.twitter.com/6kUzF0VHby

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Don’t worry, this fun and excitement isn’t only for Qatar. Boeing is preparing to build a “domestic variant” of the F-15QA, the F-15EX, as approved in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. According to Boeing, in January, the Air Force announced their intention to award a sole-source contract to Boeing for eight of the F-15EX, with future plans for as many as 144.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

The F15EX. Image via Boeing

Boeing considers the F-15EX the cost-effective, ready solution. According to their website:

In support of the National Defense Strategy, the United States Air Force must purchase an additional 24 combat aircraft per year. F-15EX is the only way to rapidly and affordably meet the Air Force’s critical requirements.

Boeing’s F-15EX is the most cost-effective, ready, advanced solution to meet U.S. Air Force capacity requirements and add capability to the fleet. Driven by Boeing’s active production line, the next-generation jet enables pilots and mechanics to transition in a matter of days as opposed to years while delivering unmatched total life cycle costs.

The F-15EX leverages B+ in technology investments over the past decade to bring the U.S. Air Force the world’s most modern variant of the undefeated F-15. Complementing other aircraft, the F-15EX enhances the air combat capabilities of the fleet to ensure the U.S. remains ahead of current and emerging threats. With next-generation technologies to provide unrivaled capabilities in a broad spectrum of environments, Boeing’s F-15EX delivers more payload, capacity and range than any fighter in its class.
Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

Image via Boeing

We can’t wait.

Articles

What would happen if modern Marines conducted the Iwo Jima landings

The invasion of Iwo Jima was one of the most costly battles in the Pacific in World War II, largely because the aerial bombings and naval artillery bombardments that preceded the invasion failed to do serious damage to the 22,000 Japanese troops or their network of 1,500 bunkers and reinforced rooms carved into the island.


The Marines were forced to fight bitterly for nearly every yard of the island, and Japanese defenders emerged from hidden caves and bunkers at night to kidnap, torture, and kill American invaders.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
Two flags were raised over Mount Suribachi during the fight to take Iwo Jima. The raising of the second flag became one of the most iconic photos of the war and Marine Corps history. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Archives)

Modern Marines would enjoy two big advantages that their predecessors lacked — night vision devices, including thermal and infrared technologies and bunker-busting weapons like thermobaric warheads. Other modern advances like counter-fire radar would play a role as well.

When the invasions first hit the beaches in 1945, the Japanese defenders refused to heavily contest the landings. Instead, they huddled in their miles of tunnels and waited for the Marines to come to them across minefields or to group up where mortars and artillery could kill many Americans in one hit.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
Harriers, Hornets, and potentially even F-35 Lighting IIs could fly missions over Iwo Jima, annihilating Japanese mortar and artillery positions pinpointed by counter-fire radar. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gregory Moore)

In those first hours, the counter-fire radar would shine. Japanese mortar positions and artillery were well protected and hidden. The counter-fire radar would be able to nearly pinpoint those weapons’ locations and the fire direction center would feed those locations to Marine Corps aviation assets.

Harriers and Hornets launching from amphibious assault ships could then hit these positions with guided bombs. Destroying the weapons would require accurate hits, but that’s sort of the point of precision weapons. And, if the Marine pilots brought along their F-35Bs, they could potentially carry the high velocity penetrating weapon, a bunker buster small enough to be carried on a smaller jet.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
The SMAW-NE explosive warhead fills the target area with reactive metals and then ignites the cloud, creating a massive explosion. (GIF: YouTube/Discovery)

Meanwhile, the infantry Marines would find themselves with more options than their World War II counterparts. While the flamethrower — which was so important at Iwo Jima — is now a thing of the past, thermobaric rounds for the SMAW and other missiles would make up the difference.

The SMAW-Novel Explosive warhead is fired through an opening or thin wall of a a cave, building, or bunker and disperses a metal cloud that is then ignited, causing a large explosion that overpressurizes the area, killing or severely wounding everyone inside.

And other missiles like the TOW and Javelin are no slouches against bunkers.

With the Marines capable of destroying bunkers anytime the Japanese compromise their camouflage by firing from them, the defenders would fall back to their other major tactic on Iwo Jima, creeping out under cover of night to hit the Americans.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
The Marines can see at night now. Your move, Imperial Japanese defenders in this imaginary battle. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Ashley Calingo)

But this would go even worse for them. While night vision was in its infancy in 1945, modern systems can amplify ambient light (what’s typically happening in green-tinted night devices), detect infrared energy (black and white night vision), or provide a detailed thermal map (blue, green, orange, yellow, and red vision). Any of these night optics would be able to see Japanese troops.

Aviation assets with infrared and light-amplifying devices could watch any defenders crawling from their bunkers and either hit them or report their locations to infantry and artillery units. The infantrymen could strongpoint their camps with vehicle and tripod mounted machine guns and missile systems with night optics.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
When your artillery spotter is wearing night optics, there’s really no reason to stop firing when the sun goes down. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Juan Bustos)

Between the two, the Marines would enjoy a massive advantage in night fighting. Even if the defenders had their own systems, the 2017 Marines would be in a better position than their 1945 counterparts since in 1945 the Japanese were able to own the night. In 2017, they would be evenly matched at worst.

With the shift in power with modern technology, the Marines might even take Iwo Jima while inflicting greater casualties than they suffered. As it was, the Iwo Jima invasion was the only major engagement in World War II where they didn’t inflict more casualties than they suffered.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How stealthy are the world’s subs?

There used to be a rough ranking system for people who followed sub warfare. The best diesel submarines are the most quiet when they aren’t running their diesel, followed by the best nuclear submarines, followed by crappy and older subs.

But over the past couple of decades, submarine technology has gotten so advanced that the engine might not even be the limiting factor. Now, sub hunters look for a lot more than a bit of engine or pump noise under the water.


Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
The Swedish HMS Gotlund, a diesel-powered attack submarine that uses a very stealthy Stirling engine for propulsion, sails through San Diego Harbor in 2005.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patricia R. Totemeier)

They search for heat trails created by friction between the water and the hull, listen for bubbles that form in the low pressure zones on the backs of propellers, and search for magnetic signatures given off by some sub components. Though modern submarine hulls are often made out of non-magnetic or low-magnetic materials to reduce this signature, some components are naturally magnetic and electrical currents passing through circuits and motors creates small magnetic fields.

Taking a look at these minute details, it’s clear why submarine technology is so heavily guarded. If the enemy finds out that your new motor is quieter but makes a magnetic field that is larger than old designs, they’ll buy better magnetic anomaly detectors (yes, that’s a real name). And if they find out your engine is stealthier than their engine, they’ll try to steal it (looking at you, China).

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
The Norwegian diesel-electric HNOMS Utvaer arrives at Naval Station Norfolk in 2010 for an anti-submarine exercise with the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Marlowe P. Dix)

So, what’s the hierarchy of subs look like right now?

At the top are a few kinds of air-independent propulsion systems, meaning that the subs never or very rarely have to surface to let in oxygen during a cruise. There are two major kinds of AIP submarines, those that use diesel or similar fuel and those that use nuclear power.

In general, the stealthiest subs are generally acknowledged to be non-nuclear boats when they’re running on battery power. Sweden has a sub that fits this bill that is well-regarded across the world and has managed to evade a U.S. carrier group’s anti-submarine screen so well that it “killed” a U.S. aircraft carrier during an exercise. China and Russia also have subs in this category and use them for shoreline defense.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
The propeller of a French Redoubtable class submarine decommissioned in 1991. Propellers like these could propel subs quickly but also risked cavitation, forming bubbles which instantly collapse and give away the sub’s position.
(Absinthologue, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Just beneath that group is nuclear submarines that generate electricity and then use an electric motor to drive the propeller or the pump jets (pump jets are preferred because they are less likely to create cavitation, more on that in the next paragraph). America’s newest submarines fit into this category. They have a small disadvantage against advanced AIP diesel-electric because the nuclear reactors must be continuously cooled using pumps which generate some noise.

Many of America’s subs were created before pump jets matured and have more traditional propellers. At the right depths and propeller speeds, propellers cause cavitation where the water boils in the low-pressure zone near the propeller despite the low temperatures. The telltale bubbles collapse almost immediately, letting good sonar operators follow the noise directly to the enemy sub.

Regardless of whether the sub is using pump jets or conventional propellers, it’s less stealthy when the reactors provide power directly to the propeller. U.S. subs are transitioning to only generating power and then using the electrical power to control the engines. China recently claimed to have developed the components necessary for the same upgrade.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
The diesel engines of the former HMS Ocelot, an English submarine decommissioned in 1991. The diesel engines charged batteries that were used for undersea operations.
(ClemRutter, CC BY-SA 2.5)

Another step down for diesel subs is when they have low-capacity batteries. Having a low capacity forces the sub to surface and run its engines more often, making them much more likely to be found via radar or satellite.

The oldest diesel subs are also less likely to be designed with sufficiently quiet engines or sound dampening. These older diesel subs are also more likely to be made with steel that can be detected by magnetic anomaly detectors, but at this point, we’re only talking about navies like North Korea’s.

The fact is, however, even at the level of antiquated diesel submarines with direct power going to the engines, small batteries, and little sound dampening, it takes a relatively advanced navy to detect enemy subs.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
Sonar Technician (Surface) 3rd Class Michael E. Dysthe participates in an anti-submarine exercise while serving onboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Schneider)

Sub hunters need solid sonar systems and well-trained operators that can distinguish an enemy sub running quiet from the surrounding ocean noise, especially if the sub moves into a noisy patch of ocean like littoral or tidal areas, where the water rushing over rocks and coral hides the acoustic signatures of all but the noisiest submarines.

While all truly modern navies can do this, not all ships are capable of hunting even older submarines, so older models still give an asymmetric advantage to a nation. But for modern navies like the U.S. and China, the competing sailors have to use every trick in their toolbox to retain an edge.

This is a relatively new development since Chinese subs were known as being laughably loud to U.S. forces just a few years ago. While it’s unclear in the unclassified world just how much China has closed the gap, they’ve made claims that they’re actually slightly ahead of the U.S. This seems unlikely, but China has shown off advanced technologies, like pump jets, that could put its tech within striking distance of the U.S.’

And its subs have twice threatened U.S. carriers, once surfacing well within torpedo range and once shadowing a U.S. carrier near Japan. The U.S. Navy might have spotted the subs and decided to not risk starting a war by engaging it, but it’s also possible that the Chinese subs actually got the jump on them.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has completed its own submarine surprise against China. In 2010, the U.S. surfaced three submarines simultaneously, one each near South Korea, The Philippines, and Diego Garcia, all within range of Chinese forces or the Chinese mainland. Between the three boats, they could carry 462 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.

So, it seems that in submarine warfare, the advantage still lies with the subs. But modern submariners are still counting on every advantage that their training, scientists, and engineers can give them, because in a small metal tube hundreds of feet underwater is a horrible time to find out you’re not as stealthy as you’d hoped.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The interesting backstories to each of Gen. Jim Mattis’ nicknames

There has never been a United States Secretary of Defense that has been so universally beloved. Retired Gen. Jim Mattis was confirmed last year by a landslide vote of 98 in favor and 1 opposed, despite being on a waiver to circumvent the seven-years-since-retirement requirement to be appointed Secretary of Defense.


Long before he rose to the highest position in the Armed Forces, second only to the President, he earned several monikers, each from a different aspect of his ability to lead.

4. “Mad Dog” Mattis

For the record: He is not a fan of the name, “Mad Dog” Mattis. So, you probably don’t want to go saying it to a man that has admitted that the max effective range on his knife hand is hundreds of miles. It dates back to a 2004 Los Angeles Times article saying that U.S. troops in Fallujah called him “Mad Dog” behind his back and that it was “high praise” in Marine culture.

The “Mad Dog” label stuck following a series of intimidating quotes, such as, “be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet” and “a good soldier follows orders, but a true warrior wears his enemy’s skin like a poncho.” At Gen. Mattis’s confirmation hearing, former Maine Senator and the Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 2001, William Cohen, joked that it’s a misnomer and the nickname “Braveheart” would have been much more accurate.

 

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Zachary Dyer

 

3. “Warrior Monk”

The most accurate of his nicknames has to be “The Warrior Monk.” Another beautiful Mattisism is, “the most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”

Gen. Mattis is well known for his intelligence, extensive book collection, and giving his troops required reading lists that range from cultural studies to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. For his complete reading list, broken down by rank and region of deployment, click here.

 

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
One has to wonder about his take on fictional war novels, like Dune, Starship Troopers, and Ender’s Game. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

2. “CHAOS”

His preferred nickname is the call sign he used as a Colonel, “Chaos.” He joked at a conference that he’d like to tell people that it was for some dignified reason, but it’s not.

When he was a regimental commander at Twentynine Palms, he was leaving the S-3 office and noticed the words “CHAOS” written on the whiteboard. He asked someone what it meant and got, “Oh, you don’t need to know about that…” which, of course, only piqued his interest more. Finally, they broke it to him that it meant, “Colonel Has An Outstanding Solution.” It was a joke at his expense that he took in stride, so he wore it as a badge of honor.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
If anything, Gen. Mattis knows how to take a joke in stride. (Image via Instagram)

 

1. “Patron Saint of Chaos”

Secretary of Defense Mattis’ legendary status among the troops has earned him the title, “Saint Mattis of Quantico. Patron Saint of Chaos.”

The meme has spread far and wide from Terminal Lance to t-shirts to the sidebar of the USMC subreddit to even being posted by the MARSOC official Facebook page.

 

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
(Image via OAF Nation)

So, if you’ll join us in a quick reading,

Hail Mattis, full of hate. Our troops stand with thee. Blessed art though among enlisted. And blessed is the fruit of thy knife hand. Holy Mattis, father of War. Pray for us heathen, Now and at the hour of combat. Amen.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Australia won’t allow Chinese tech near its networks

The top cyber and communications spy in Australia has explained why Huawei and ZTE have been barred from the country’s 5G network and China is unimpressed.

Mike Burgess, the director-general of the Australian Signals Directorate, said in Canberra on Oct. 29, 2018, that the ban on Chinese telecom firms like Huawei Technologies and ZTE was in Australia’s national interest and would protect the country’s critical infrastructure.

It is the first time the nation’s chief cyber spook has publicly explained the move since August 2018 when Australia made the call to block the Chinese telecom giants from supplying equipment to the nascent Australian 5G network.


Burgess said that the stakes “could not be higher” and that if Australia used “high-risk vendor” supplies then everything from the country’s water supply and electricity grid to its health systems and even its autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles would be compromised.

In response, a miffed, but totally unsurprised China on Oct. 30, 2018, again called on Australia to drop “ideological prejudice” and “create a level playing field for Chinese companies doing business in the country.”

Australia is a member of the so-called “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance alongside Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US, and while Australia is also a close trading partner, there is certainly an understanding to follow the US on sensitive intelligence issues that can compromise the alliance.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

ZTE booth at Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona.

So that obviously puts the kibosh on allowing any access to critical infrastructure for any companies aligned with the Chinese state.

And since the Chinese government has been leveraging the state’s position, role and function within its growing portfolio of world-beating mega-tech companies, the decision out of Canberra to err on the side of caution — and Washington — would have surprised precisely no one.

But that didn’t stop China from responding the way it did.

In a restrained retort from the English language tabloid, The Global Times, China accused Canberra of being part of a US-led global conspiracy to leave Chinese tech companies behind.

“Australian officials and think tanks in recent days continued to raise security concerns over Chinese companies’ operations in the country and have made accusations about China stealing its technologies, in what Chinese analysts say is an attempt to, in collaboration with other Western powers, derail China’s steady rise in telecom and other technologies,” the Global Times noted.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a press briefing on Oct. 30, 2018, that “the Australian side should facilitate the cooperation among companies from the two countries, instead of using various excuses to artificially set up obstacles and adopt discriminatory practices.”

Back in August 2018 Marise Payne, the Australian foreign affairs minister, said the move was not targeted specifically at Huawei and ZTE, but applied to any company that had obligations clashing with Australia’s national security.

In response, China’s Ministry of Commerce released a statement chilling in its brevity: “The Australian government has made the wrong decision and it will have a negative impact to the business interests of China and Australia companies.”

China is Australia’s largest trading partner and 30% of Australian exports end up in the Middle Kingdom, it’s a bit of a fraught relationship when the US is also the isolated Pacific nation’s most important and closest military ally.

Huawei is the largest maker of telecom equipment worldwide, and in Australia for that matter too. But its sales here are still a fraction of the broader economic ties between the two countries, and it is China that has historically been unwilling to open much of its own telecom markets to foreign companies.

Describing Australia’s ban on Chinese telecommunication companies as “discriminatory” and based on manufactured “excuses,” China on Oct. 30, 2018, called on Australia to drop its “ideological prejudice” and “create a level playing field for Chinese companies doing business in the country.”

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

In the annals of majestic propaganda, it’s low-key bluster coming as it does from the world’s first digital dictatorship, as Business Insider UK’s Alexandra Ma describes here.

It’s just that not getting your tech-giants invited to global infrastructure parties is one of the unforeseen costs of setting up the greatest, most powerful intelligence-collection systems ever devised.

That success makes it hard for the Chinese government and its state-owned media to credibly look surprised, hurt, or bewildered when such a decision is made.

China’s vast data-collection platforms — WeChat alone has more than a billion users — are harvesting ever-deeper and more granular material on behalf of the state.

That’s great news for China’s state machinery when it comes to monitoring the population, but it’s a double-edged sword too, and wielding it has its price.

According to Danielle Cave, a senior analyst at the Australian Security Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, requiring Chinese citizens, organisations and companies to support, cooperate with and collaborate in intelligence activities, of course, comes at a cost to China.

“And that cost will be the international expansion plans of Chinese companies — state-owned and private — which have been well and truly boxed into a corner.

“The CCP has made it virtually impossible for Chinese companies to expand without attracting understandable and legitimate suspicion. The suspicion will be deeper in countries that invest in countering foreign interference and intelligence activities, Cave wrote in 2018 in The Strategist.

Most developed countries, including Australia, fall into that group and will come to fear the potential application and reach of China’s technical successes.

But then again, there are a good few states out there that could be willing to risk being watched by China, if they can use China’s tech to watch their own populations.

For now the Global Times insists that “such accusations are baseless.”

“They are in line with the Australian government’s overall approach toward China — a tougher approach that (is) derived from suspicion about China rise’s (sp) that they perceive as threat, a fantasy to contain China’s further development and ideological prejudice against China.”

It might be infuriating, but taken from this perspective it is a mark of sheer awe and respect for China’s technocratic achievements that Australia has balked at letting Huawei loose inside its critical networks.

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

Articles

The Air Force names its futuristic bomber after World War II Tokyo raid

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — The Air Force went deeply into its history to name its proposed new strategic bomber, announcing Sept. 19 that it will be the called the B-21 “Raider” in honor of Jimmy Doolittle’s Tokyo raiders from World War II.


The name was announced by retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole, who was Doolittle’s copilot and is the last surviving member of the 80 Army Air Corps airmen who flew 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers from the Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, to bomb multiple targets in Japan.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
The USS Hornet had 16 U.S. Army Air Forces North American B-25B Mitchells on deck, ready for the Tokyo Raid on April 18, 1942. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Cole, now 101, said he was “humbled to be here representing Gen. Doolittle and the raider. I wish they were here.”

The announcement came in the opening session of the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, Cyber conference here. Cole was introduced by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who said “the legacy of Air Force strategic air power continues” with the proposed stealthy bomber, which is to be built by B-2 Spirit bomber builder Northrop Grumman.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
Retired Lt. Col. Robert E. Cole, a B-25 Mitchell bomber co-pilot and survivor of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, answers questions in the Airman’s Hall at the Pentagon, Nov. 5, 2105. Cole toured the Pentagon and met with service members to share the history of the Doolittle Raiders. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

The Air Force has said it wants at least 100 B-21s at a projected cost of $550 million each. It would replace the B-52Hs, which are approaching 50 years old, in the nuclear deterrence missions. Later, it also could replace the 1980s-vintage B-1Bs, which are limited to conventional bombing.

But the program already has come under attack from arms control advocates and from other defense critics who argue that the nation cannot afford another hyper-expensive aircraft while still struggling with the fifth generation F-35 fighters.

James listed the B-21 among the Air Force’s top three acquisition programs, along with the Lockheed Martin produced F-35 and the KC-46A aerial refueling plane, being built by Boeing.

In a panel session later in the day, Gen. Rand, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command which would employ the new bomber, said the B-21 was necessary to keep the nation’s long-range strike capabilities reliable and effective.

Rand said he has set 100 B-21s as the absolute minimum required, based on the current and projected requirements from the geographic combatant commanders. And, Rand noted, the Air Force currently has 158 combat ready bombers. “I cannot imagine the nation or the Air Force having one less than we have now.”

Although the actual buy would be determined after the first of the new bombers are delivered, Rand said, “I’m going to stick to my guns, that 100 is the minimum.”

The panel was asked how they could expect the B-21 coming in on time and at the estimated cost when every major weapon system in decades has fallen behind schedule and run well over projected price.

Lt. Gen. James Holmes, deputy Air Force chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, said they were doing a base lining study with the contractor, but had a cost-plus contract for research and development that has incentives for Northrop “to deliver on cost and on schedule. The contract also sets a fixed price for the first five blocks of bombers, “which  normally are the most expensive,” Holmes said.

“All indications are we will beat the $550 [million] estimated cost,” he said.

The B-21 program also is being managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which is designed to reduce the bureaucracy and paperwork involved with procurement.

Randall Walden, director of that office, said the B-21 was being designed with “open architecture” requirements, which make it easier to upgrade technology, particularly in the sophisticated electronic systems that drive up much of the cost of new high-tech weapons. He estimated that could save “upward of 50 to 80 percent of the cost” over the life of the bomber.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight
Artist rendering of B-21 Raider bomber. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

Holmes was asked how the Air Force could afford its top three procurement program along with all the other expenses it had and the limited budgets expected. He said that because the F-35, KC-46 and B-21 were the top priorities, they are funded first when the Air Force crafts its budget and the other programs are funded with what is left.

He also said the Air Force plans to push through some of the lesser programs, such as replacing the Vietnam-vintage UH-1 helicopters that provide security and mobility at its Minuteman III missile bases, before the big spending starts on the B-21 and the Minuteman replacement.

The panel also was asked about whether the B-21 would be manned or remotely piloted. Rand and Walden both said current plans were to have it manned.

Rand said some future systems could be unmanned. “Personally, I like the idea of having a man, or a woman, in the loop,” he said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Confederate rivalry allowed 30,000 Union troops to escape

During the Civil War, a rivalry between two Confederate generals led to 30,000 pinned-down Union troops escaping encirclement in 1864, allowing them to go on and capture Atlanta, rallying Union morale, and ensuring a Republican victory in the elections and a Union victory in the war.


Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

The USS Hartford and Admiral Farragut forces their way past Confederate defenses at New Orleans in 1862,

(Julian Oliver Davidson)

The year 1864 was possibly the most important of the war. The presidential elections that year were framed as a referendum on the war. Supporters of a continued Union advance against the South were backing the Republicans as those who wished to create a negotiated peace backed George McClellan and the Democrats.

The Confederates, meanwhile, knew about the divisions and were doing everything they could to convince common Northerners that the war wasn’t worth the costs. Gen. Robert E. Lee invaded Maryland, privateers attacked Union shipping on the high seas, and commanders elsewhere redoubled their efforts to bleed the Union for every yard lost.

Amidst all of this, two capable Confederate generals in Louisiana were constantly arguing with one another. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith was the commander of Confederate troops in the Trans-Mississippi in 1863 and 1864, and one of his subordinates was Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor, son of former U.S. President Zachary Taylor and brother-in-law of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Both were described as having skill at tactics and strategy, but Smith was a cautious West Point graduate while Taylor was Yale-educated man with hot blood, constantly angling to take the fight to the Union.

In 1864, the Union was still trying to cement their control over the waterways in the south, completing their Anaconda Plan to choke off the South from external or internal resupply. To that end, massive numbers of troops were sent up the Red River that forms the border between Louisiana and Arkansas.

Smith wanted to slow the Union advance with defensive engagements punctuated by the occasional counterattack, while Taylor was itching to push his way back to the Gulf of Mexico and eventually re-take New Orleans.

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The Battle of Irish Bend Louisiana

(William Hall, Harper’s Weekly)

So, when Taylor saw Union Forces overextend themselves while moving up the Red River, he sent his forces to smash into their weak points, winning victories at the Battles of Mansfield and then Pleasant Hill. Union commanders, worried that they would soon find themselves separated from one another and encircled, fought their way south and finally holed up in Alexandria, Louisiana.

This was what Taylor had been waiting for. His enemy was in a weak position, outnumbered, and with no place to run. But Taylor didn’t quite have the forces necessary to finish the fight — all he needed was a little help from Smith.

Instead, Smith took the bulk of Taylor’s forces and re-deployed them to Arkansas where they helped harry an enemy that was already in retreat. The Union forces at Alexandria saw the sudden gap in the lines and broke out, making their way back east. 30,000 Union troops were now free to continue fighting.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

The Battle of Atlanta

This allowed them to arrive in the East just in time to join in important advances there, including Gen. William T. Sherman’s infamous push south. Sherman started his fight to Atlanta in May 1864 with 110,000 men split into three armies. If he hadn’t gotten the 30,000 from the Red River, he’d have been forced to decide whether to wait or advance with only 80,000 troops and two armies.

Follow that to the actual assault on Atlanta and following siege. While Union forces were able to get to Atlanta with relative ease — the last serious Confederate attempt to prevent a siege took place on July 22 and only 35,000 of the 100,000 Union troops actually engaged in the battle — the siege itself was a close-fought thing.

The siege ran from late-July to late-September, barely wrapping up in time for Northern newspaper reports to buoy Union morale and support for the war, leading to Lincoln’s strong re-election numbers. But Sherman relied on his numerical strength to win the fight. He used two of his armies to pin down Confederate troops or to draw their attention while his third army sneaked by to attack their rear or snip away supply lines.

With only two armies (or with three undersized armies), none of that would’ve worked. Instead, Sherman would have had to maintain a conventional siege against repeated and determined counterattacks, likely delaying the fall of Atlanta or even preventing it. The removal of 30,000 troops really might have tipped the scales against him and, therefore, against Lincoln.

Luckily, Sherman never had to face that possibility. Instead, he had plenty of troops to capture Atlanta, was able to split his forces after, marching east to the sea with the bulk of his men while the rest cut west across the South —all because two Confederate generals in Louisiana couldn’t work together.

As for them, Taylor was eventually recognized by the Confederate Congress for what successes he had achieved receiving promotion while Smith remained in the Trans-Mississippi, angry, until the end of the war.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Have you seen the A-10’s two-seater cousin?

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the Warthog, is as popular on the battlefield as it is on the internet. Hog enthusiasts love the plane for its massive 30mm rotary cannon and the iconic “BRRRRRT” sound that it makes. During the early days of its development, the Air Force played around with the concept of an all-weather and night-capable version of the Warthog.

Designated as the YA-10B N/AW, the Night/All-Weather version of the Warthog was modified from an existing A-10A and featured a number of upgrades. Among these were an advanced inertial navigation system, terrain-following radar, a low light TV camera, forward-looking infrared, and laser targeting pods. However, the YA-10B’s most obvious evolution was the addition of a second seat. Having a back-seater would allow the workload of managing so many systems to be split.

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Two is better than one (U.S. Air Force)

The N/AW not only offered more capability to the Air Force, but also made the aircraft more appealing from an export standpoint. Some countries were interested in purchasing the N/AW for use in littoral brown water and coastal anti-piracy operations. Testing of the modified platform occurred from 1979 to 1980 with exceptional results. The aircraft excelled in adverse weather conditions and could carry out night attacks with deadly precision. However, the cost of adapting the A-10 to the N/AW variant was too high for the Air Force sign off on.

Initially, Air Force brass wanted to add the modular LANTIRN night targeting navigational system to the A-10A. While this killed off the two-seater A-10, the concept did not come to fruition. Instead, the F-16 Block 40 received the system and the Air Force called it a day. However, thanks to its precision engagement package and pilot-mounted NVGs, the modern A-10C now boasts night attack capabilities.

Unfortunately, despite its success on the battlefield, the A-10 is under constant threat of extinction. Modernization efforts like the night capabilities of the C-variant have extended the life of the aircraft, but Air Force brass continue to push multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Lightning II to replace it. Perhaps the two-seater A-10 would have further highlighted the necessity of a dedicated ground-attack platform. The world may never know. Today, the only two-seater A-10 is on display at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The reason why Saudi Arabia is buying so many Blackhawks

Saudi Arabia has been buying a lot of weapons in recent years. So much so that a recent purchase of 17 Sikorsky UH-60M Blackhawks went by almost unnoticed. What’s most interesting about this sale, though, is not just the fact that the Saudis have acquired some very versatile helicopters, but rather who the Blackhawks were bought for.


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A Soldier is lowered from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during the Gowen Thunder open house and air show at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho, Oct. 14, 2017. Saudi Arabia recently purchased 17 UH-60M Blackhawks for the Saudi Arabian National Guard and the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Force. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

According to a Lockheed Martin brochure, the UH-60M has a crew of four and can hold 11 troops. It has a cruising speed of 151 knots and can haul 9,000 pounds of cargo on an external hook. Versions of the UH-60 have handled everything from packing weapons to medevac missions to firefighting.

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A UH-60 Blackhawk flies overhead during an exercise at Tactical Base Gamberi. (Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Randall Pike)

The Saudi military has six armed services: The Royal Saudi Land Forces, the Royal Saudi Navi, the Royal Saudi Air Force, the Royal Saudi Air Defense, the Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force, and the Saudi Arabia National Guard. Two of these services will split the 17 Blackhawks: The Saudi Arabia National Guard is buying eight, while the other nine will go to the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces.

The Saudi Arabia National Guard is nothing like the U.S. National Guard. In the United States, the National Guard does everything from disaster relief to fighting in combat alongside active forces. It serves both the state and federal governments. The Saudi Arabia National Guard, conversely, is meant to protect the Saudi Royal Family from coups. It is very likely that the eight Blackhawks they’re acquiring will be used as troop transports.

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A pair of U.S. Army MH-60M Blackhawks fly in formation with a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion. There is a chance that the nine Blackhawks being purchased by the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces could be equipped with some of the same technologies in the MH-60s used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Allison Lotz)

The Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces, on the other hand, are elite troops with the Royal Saudi Land Forces, Saudi Arabia’s regular army. The Royal Saudi Land Forces website states that personnel who join the Airborne Special Security Forces are “qualified to carry out the most intricate and sensitive missions and complete them with highest speed, swift movement, and maximum accuracy.” The nine Blackhawks going to this elite unit are likely to be used for troop transport missions, but they could very well have modifications similar to those used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, better known as the Nightstalkers.

A representative for Sikorsky pointed WATM to the company’s website on the UH-60 when asked for comment. Either way, the Saudis have acquired a number of highly versatile helicopters that have served a number of countries very successfully over the years. Exactly what the Saudis intend to do with these choppers remains to be seen.

Articles

This sailor died saving 20 of his Navy brothers on the USS Fitzgerald

One of the seven sailors who died aboard the USS Fitzgerald saved more than a dozen of his fellow shipmates before he ultimately lost his own life, The Daily Beast reported.


The USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel about 56 miles off the coast of Japan on Saturday.

Seven sailors were later found dead in flooded compartments on the ship.

When the Fitzgerald collided with the merchant ship, 37-year-old Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., “leapt into action,” according to The Daily Beast.

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WASHINGTON (June 19, 2017) File photo of Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio. Rehm was one of seven Sailors killed when the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) was involved in a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal. The incident is under investigation. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The Fitzgerald was struck below the waterline, and Rehm Jr.’s family was told by the Navy that he went under and saved at least 20 sailors, according to WBNS-10TV in Columbus, Ohio.

But when he went back down to get the other six sailors, the ship began to take on too much water, and the hatch was closed, WBNS-10TV said.

“That was Gary to a T,” Rehm Jr.’s friend Christopher Garguilo, told NBC4i in Columbus, Ohio. “He never thought about himself.”

“He called [the sailors on the ship] his kids,” his uncle, Stanley Rehm Jr., told The Daily Beast. “He said, ‘If my kids die, I’m going to die.'”

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YOKOSUKA, Japan (June 17, 2017) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart/Released)

Rehm Jr. was known to invite “his kids” over to his house in Virginia when their ship was docked in the US, his uncle said. “He was always ready to help anybody who needed it. He was just that kind of guy.”

“Gary was one of those guys that always had a smile on his face,” Daniel Kahle, who had served with Rehm Jr. on the USS Ponce, told The Chronicle-Telegram. “(Gary was) such a great guy and (it’s) such a great loss. He needs to be remembered for the person we all knew him to be.”

Rehm Jr.’s uncle told The Daily Beast that he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather by joining the Navy straight out of high school.

Rehm Jr. was considering retiring soon but also hoped to make captain one day, his uncle told The Daily Beast.

The USS Fitzgerald, damaged in a collision at the US naval base in Yokosuka, Japan, June 18, 2017. Thomson Reuters

The Fitzgerald is named after another sailor, Navy Lt. William Fitzgerald, who, like his father, also joined the Navy right out of high school.

In August 1967, he was advising South Vietnamese forces at a compound near the Tra Khuc River delta when they came under heavy Vietcong fire.

Fitzgerald ordered the South Vietnamese forces and civilians to escape into the river on small boats, but he was killed while covering their escape with small-arms fire.

Rehm Jr. was raised in Elyria, Ohio, and is survived by his wife, Erin.

MIGHTY CULTURE

2021 Military Pay Charts

What is your monthly base pay? Military.com’s Military pay charts give you all the information you need.

2021 Pay Charts

Military pay saw a 3.0% increase for 2021 compared to 2020 levels.  View the 2021 pay charts

The tables below reflect the current monthly base pay for all military members, while our military pay calculator can compute your personalized base pay plus allowances and special pays.

For your personalized pay and allowance computation check out our Military Pay Calculator.

Factors That Affect Military Pay

  • The annual pay raise
  • Longevity raises virtually every 2 years (based on the number of years in service)
  • Promotions
  • Number of Drill Periods (Guard and Reserve Only)
  • Basic Allowance for Housing Increases: BAH (based on location).
  • Basic Allowance for Subsistence Increases: BAS 
  • Special Pay(s) (based on occupations: Language Skills, Combat, Flight, Hazardous Duty).

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Army cold-weather ops course is nuts

More than two dozen Army Rangers with battalions from the 75th Ranger Regiment bolstered their skills in cold-weather operations during training Feb. 21 to March 6, 2019 at Fort McCoy.

The soldiers were part of the 14-day Cold-Weather Operations Course Class 19-05, which was organized by Fort McCoy’s Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security and taught by five instructors with contractor Veterans Range Solutions.


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A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

The Rangers received classroom training on various subjects, such as preventing cold-weather injuries and the history of cold-weather military operations. In field training, they learned about downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ahkio sled use, and setting up cold-weather shelters, such as the Arctic 10-person cold-weather tent or an improvised shelter.

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Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

“Building a shelter among other soldiers and being able to stay warm throughout the night was one of the best things I learned in this course,” said Sgt. Paul Drake with the 3rd Battalion of the 75th at Fort Benning, Ga. “This training also helped me understand extreme cold weather and how to conserve energy and effectively operate while wearing the Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) uniform properly.”

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A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

The Army ECWCS features more than a dozen items that are issued to soldiers, said Fort McCoy Central Issue Facility Property Book Officer Thomas Lovgren. The system includes a lightweight undershirt and underwear, midweight shirt and underwear, fleece jacket, wind jacket, soft shell jacket and trousers, extreme cold/wet-weather jacket and trousers, and extreme cold-weather parka and trousers.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

“It’s a layered system that allows for protection in a variety of climate elements and temperatures,” said Lovgren, whose facility has provided ECWCS items for soldiers since the course started. “Each piece in the ECWCS fits and functions either alone or together as a system, which enables seamless integration with load-carrying equipment and body armor.”

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

In addition to many of the Rangers praising the course’s ECWCS training, many also praised the field training.

“Living out in the cold for seven days and sleeping in shelters makes me more competent to operate in less-than-optimal conditions,” said Sgt. Austin Strimenos with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. “Other good training included becoming confident with using the Arctic tents and the heaters and stoves and learning about cold-weather injuries and treatments.

“Also, the cross-country skiing and the trail area we used were awesome,” Strimeros said.

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Students in Fort McCoy Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05 practice skiing.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

During training, the students experienced significant snowfall and below-zero temperatures. Spc. Jose Francisco Garcia, also with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th, said the winter extremes, along with Fort McCoy’s rugged terrain, helped everyone build winter-operations skills.

“The best parts of this course is the uncomfortable setting that Fort McCoy confronts the soldiers with during this kind of weather,” Garcia said. “This makes us think critically and allows us to expand our thought process when planning for future cold-weather operations. It also helps us to understand movement planning, what rations we need, and more.”

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

Spc. Stephen Harbeck with the 1st Battalion of the 75th at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., which is near Fort Stewart, said enjoyed the training, including cold-water immersion training. Cold-water immersion training is where a large hole is cut in the ice at the post’s Big Sandy Lake by CWOC staff, then a safe and planned regimen is followed to allow each participant to jump into the icy water.

“The experience of a service member being introduced to water in an extreme-cold environment is a crucial task for waterborne operations and confidence building,” said CWOC instructor Joe Ernst.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

“The best things about this course are the training about fire starting, shelter building, and the cold-water immersion,” Harbeck said. “CWOC has helped me understand the advantages and disadvantages of snow and cold weather. Everything we learned has equipped me with the knowledge to operate in a cold-weather environment.”

By Army definition, units like the 75th are a large-scale special-operations force and are made up of some of the most elite soldiers in the Army. Rangers specialize in joint special operations raids and more, so gaining training to operate in a cold-weather environment adds to their skills.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

“Learning about and experiencing the effects of cold weather on troops and equipment as well as learning about troop movements in the snow are skills I can share with soldiers in my unit,” said Cpl. Justin Galbraith, also with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th. “It was cold, and it snowed a lot while we were here. So … it was perfect.”

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

Other field skills practiced in the training by the Rangers included terrain and weather analysis, risk management, developing winter fighting positions in the field, camouflage and concealment, and more.

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

“This course has given me insight on how to conduct foot movements, survive in the elements, and more,” said Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Bowman with the 3rd Battalion of the 75th. “It’s also helped me establish the (basis) for creating new tactics, techniques, and procedures for possible upcoming deployments and training situations.”

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

This course is the fifth of six CWOC classes being taught between December 2018 and March 2019.

“Fort McCoy is a good location for this training because of the weather and snowfall,” said Spc. Clay Cottle with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th. “We need to get more Rangers into this course.”

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

Note: Male CWOC students are provided a command-approved modified grooming waiver during training to help prevent cold-weather injuries because of multiple days of field training.

Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin.

Fort McCoy lives its motto, “Total Force Training Center.” The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services each year since 1984.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This stunning Nazi attack came 2 months before Pearl Harbor

On Oct. 23, 1941, US Navy destroyer USS Reuben James left Newfoundland to escort a convoy bound for Britain. Two days later, the German U-boat U-552 left the French port of St. Nazaire to prowl the North Atlantic on its sixth patrol.

The US was not a belligerent in the war in Europe at the time, but Washington had set up neutrality zones in the Atlantic in which its ships would guard British and neutral merchant ships. US ships would also notify convoys of U-boats’ locations.


The James and the U-552 sailed a few weeks after a U-boat fired on the Navy destroyer USS Greer without hitting it. After that incident, President Franklin Roosevelt told the public that “if German or Italian vessels of war enter the waters, the protection of which is necessary for American defense, they do so at their own peril.”

In the early-morning hours of October 31, when the Reuben James and the U-552 crossed paths near Iceland, the de facto state of war between the US and Germany in the Atlantic intensified.

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German Capt. Lt. Erich Topp and other crew members aboard the U-552 in St. Nazaire, France, Octo. 6, 1942.

The James and four other US destroyers were escorting the more than 40 ships that made up HX-156, a convoy of merchant ships sailing from Halifax in Canada to Europe. At that time, US warships would escort convoys to Iceland, where British ships took over.

As day broke on October 31, the Reuben James was sailing at about 10 mph on the left rear side of the convoy. Just after 5:30 a.m., the U-552 fired on the James, its torpedoes ripping into the left side of the destroyer.

“One or more explosions” occurred near the forward fire room, “accompanied by a lurid orange flame and a high column of black smoke visible for several minutes at some miles,” according to the Navy’s Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

The ship’s forward section was blown off, and it sank rapidly. Only two sailors on that part of the ship survived the blast. Others who made it out were sailors “berthed, or on watch, [aft of] the forward fireroom.”

No official order came to abandon ship, but crew members launched three rafts and started to leap overboard as the sea swallowed the ship. The captain had issued life jackets to the crew and told them to have them on hand at all times, which meant many sailors were able to get to them as they fled the ship.

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A German U-boat.

While many men made it off, a number of those in the water around the ship were killed or later drowned after at least two depth charges on the ship detonated as it sank.

The escort commander sent two destroyers to investigate. With a smooth sea and little wind, they were able to spot the James’ sailors just before 6 a.m. and began rescuing them minutes later. The destroyers’ crews used cargo nets, Jacob’s Ladders, life rings, and lines to pull survivors, many covered in oil, out of the water.

Rescue operations were over by 8 a.m.; 44 of the crew were recovered, but 93 enlisted men and all the ship’s seven officers were killed.

US merchant ships had already been sunk in the Atlantic, and in mid-October, another US destroyer was hit by a torpedo but made it to Iceland. But the James became the first US warship sunk by the enemy in World War II.

“The news of the torpedoing of one of our destroyers off Iceland was the first thing that the President spoke of this morning, and that has cast a shadow over the whole day,” Eleanor Roosevelt wrote on November 1. “I cannot help but think of every one of the 120 men and their families, who are anxiously awaiting news.”

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US Coast Guard cutter Spencer crew members watch a depth charge blast a German submarine attempting to break into a large US convoy, April 17, 1943. The U-boat was critically damaged and sunk off the coast of Ireland.

Germany was unapologetic, saying US ships were escorting British ships in a war zone and had fired on German vessels before. The US didn’t declare war, but the sinking drew the US further into the conflict in Europe, which was already more than two years old.

On November 1, Roosevelt signed an executive order reassigning the US Coast Guard from the Treasury Department to the Navy. About two weeks later, under pressure from the president, Congress further amended the Neutrality Acts passed in the 1930s, revising them to allow US merchant ships to be armed and to sail into war zones.

On December 8, the US declared war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Three days later, Germany declared war on the US.

The James was stricken from the Navy’s official register on March 25, 1942. The U-552 continued the fight. It joined U-boats that preyed on US ships along the East Coast in 1942 but was later transferred to waters closer to Europe.

The U-552’s success waned, as did that of the rest of the U-boat force, as the Allies improved their convoy and anti-submarine tactics and invaded Europe, recapturing ports. In early May 1945 — days before the surviving Nazi leadership surrendered in Berlin — the U-552 was scuttled in waters off the North Sea.

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

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