Humor

5 bizarre times troops answered the call of nature on duty

When you gotta go, you gotta go. It doesn’t matter what you might be doing or who might be shooting at you for doing it. This, of course, includes the military personnel who get put in a lot of situations that would test anyone’s nerves. And bladders.


And sometimes stomachs.

There are the times when having to go came in handy. There were times when it was absolutely necessary. There were times when there was no other way. They answered the call of duty while answering the call of nature.

1. Cooling down a Vicker’s machine gun.

During WWI, British-made Vicker’s machine guns needed a waterjacket to keep the weapon cool as it fired hundreds of rounds of flaming death at oncoming enemy troops who fail to understand the meaning of “No Man’s Land.”

Someone didn’t get that memo. Or didn’t think it applied to her.

As long as you kept the barrel cool by replacing the water jackets when they heated, the guns would shoot for hours and hours, totally reliably. But if troops didn’t have a cool water handy to replenish the water, they would instead pee into the gun’s waterjacket. One gunner said it “made the war a bit more personal.”

2. Hosing down an aircraft fire.

Being in a bomber over Europe was incredibly dangerous in World War II. It doesn’t matter what job you’re doing in the crew. American bomber crews had a 40% chance of making their sortie quota. The 8th Air Force alone lost 26,000 men. If you want to know how crazy that is, the Marine Corps total killed for all of WWII is around 19,000.

One of the guys who made it back to England was Airman Maynard “Snuffy” Smith, a gunner over St. Nazaire, France – a place called “Flak City.” It was here Snuffy’s plane was torn to shreds by fighters. The fuel tanks started pouring gas into the plane, which of course caught fire. As Snuffy fired his guns at oncoming Nazi fighters, he forcefully pissed the fires out, tended to his crewmates’ wounds, and chucked the flammable items out the window.

Not pictured: Fire, Bullet holes, blood, pee, etc.

Six more men made it back to England with Snuffy, who was awarded the Medal of Honor. The plane broke in half upon landing, though.

3. Forcing NASA to answer the pressing questions.

In 1961, NASA was still testing the things they would have to be prepared for during space missions – namely, answering President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon within ten years. Anyone who’s ever been on a long road trip can probably guess what one of the first issues they encountered was.

I don’t think they thought of jugs.

Except Mercury Redstone 3 wasn’t a long road trip. At 15 minutes, it wasn’t even a long space trip. So what do you do with an astronaut who has to pee at an inopportune time? Simple. Pee in the suit.

Even though it meant short-circuiting the equipment designed to measure his vital signs, Alan Shepard did as instructed by NASA and went in the suit. For better or for worse. His colleagues couldn’t believe Houston told him to do it. (If you’re wondering, Buzz Aldrin was the first to pee on the moon).

4. General Relief.

It would take a psychologist of some specialty to detail what is about peeing on your enemy’s territory and fortifications that makes world leaders and generals want to do it. In fact, it’s the first thing they think of. When Winston Churchill visited Hitler’s Siegfried Line in 1945, he wore a “grin of intense satisfaction.”

Churchill wasn’t the only one having a Victory Whiz in Western Europe. General George S. Patton peed in the River Seine as he crossed it, and because he famously announced that he would pee in the Rhine, he made sure someone was there to take a photo.

5. The wind pisses back.

In 1950, American troops under Gen. Douglas MacArthur led a complete rout of North Korean forces. After almost pushing the Americans and South Koreans into the sea at Pusan, the entire Communist force fell apart after the Inchon Landing. They were driven all the way to the Chinese border at the Yalu River.

North Korean Army Driving North (artist’s rendition).

President Truman ordered that only South Korean troops be allowed in the Yalu zone, to keep from provoking China. As every military history buff knows, that’s not what happened. MacArthur pushed Gen. Edward Almond’s X Corps to the Yalu as fast as possible. When he got there, he took the ritual pee in the river.

Unfortunately, his race to the river dispersed his forces and allowed the sneak attack by the Chinese (who weren’t thrilled with the pee in their river) to succeed.

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Here are the US targets North Korea most likely wants to nuke

North Korea launched its longest-range, most capable missile ever on July 28, and experts say that all of the US, besides Florida, now lies within range of a nuclear attack from Kim Jong Un.


Fortunately, unlike an attack from a nuclear peer state like Russia, North Korea’s less-advanced missiles would only be expected to hit a few key targets in the US. And even that limited attack would still take North Korea years to prepare, since it still needs to perfect its missiles engines with more tests, in addition to guidance systems. It also needs to build and deploy enough of them to survive US missile defenses.

But a North Korean propaganda photo from 2013 showing Kim Jong Un reviewing documents before a missile launch (pictured below) may have inadvertently leaked the planned targets for a nuclear attack on the US. On the wall besides Kim and his men, there’s a map with lines pointing towards some militarily significant locations.

Photo from Rodong Sinmun.

In Hawaii, one of the closest targets to North Korea, the US military bases Pacific Command, which is in charge of all US military units in the region.

San Diego is PACOM’s home port, where many of the US Navy ships that would respond to a North Korean attack base when not deployed.

Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana holds the US Air Force’s Global Strike Command, the entity that would be responsible for firing back with the US’s Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Washington D.C., of course, is the home of the US’s commander-in-chief, who must approve of nuclear orders.

An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBM launches during an operational test Feb. 20, 2016, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. USAF photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford)

All in all, the targets selected by North Korea demonstrate a knowledge of the US’s nuclear command and control, but as they come from a propaganda image, they should be taken with a grain of salt.

North Korea has developed nuclear weapons as a means of regime security, according to more than a dozen experts interviewed by Business Insider. If Kim ever shot a nuclear-armed missile the US’s way, before the missiles even landed, US satellites in space would spot the attack and the president would order a return fire likely before the first shots even landed.

As unique as Kim is among world leaders, he must know a swift disposal awaits him if he ever engages in a nuclear confrontation.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to make the most of your next PCS

Every few years you pick up your life leaving your friends and all that has become familiar to follow the love of your life to a new duty station. PCS…

No matter how many times you move, that same excitement and crazy anxiety to start all over again appears. It is so easy to lose yourself in chaos.

The chaos of getting things settled, finding a job, or just trying to find that normal day to day for your kids!


Starting over is never easy.

Everything is so foreign no matter how much research you do. It is easy to fall into the shadow of the military world around you or just that mom-life, forgetting just who you are. Being able to establish yourself from scratch takes a lot out of you especially when you do it over and over again.

It is easy to say the last place you were was the best. But really each new place is what you make of it.

Finding yourself, or in other words, allowing yourself to bloom is key to thriving in a new place.

But the question is where do you even start? Who are you or who do you want to be?

Being a military spouse or a parent makes up just one tiny piece of that. A new duty station gives you the opportunity for improvements and new goals.

You always wanted to open up your own business, well now is your opportunity.

Take the leap and start taking college courses. Get your degree!

Find your voice again by advocating for your new community.

Volunteer to help out at the local food pantry.

(Photo by Rémi Walle)

Just because you are putting down temporary roots does not mean you have to give up on you and what you want! There are many different programs offered at every duty station to help you thrive. From classes on networking, and job assistance to educational resources and volunteer programs. These things put into place to help you benefit yourself.

Mask your fears and try something new.

Do not hide out counting down the days until you move again.

Join the gym, or go to a playgroup with your kids.

Meet new people, you never know when you will find those lifelong friends. You should feel confident in yourself and all that you do or want to do.

Nothing should hold you back from you being exactly who you aspire to be. You only have one life so make each place you live the best.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

This is how researchers are trying to stop sand from killing aircraft engines

If you’ve ever seen some of the DOD videos – or photos, for that matter – from Iraq or Afghanistan, they’re often accompanied by huge clouds of dust as helicopters come in for a landing.


But here’s what you don’t see; the damage the sand and dust does on the engines of those helicopters.

A Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter comes into land at Camp Bastion, Helmand, Afghanistan following a mission. Note the huge cloud of dust. (UK MoD photo via Wikimedia Commons)

That matters – because the engines of helicopters and jets have one naturally-occurring enemy: FOD, which stands for “foreign object debris.” According to an FAA fact sheet, FOD was responsible for the June 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde that killed 113 people.

What the fact sheet doesn’t mention is that sand and dust are also foreign objects to an engine. What they do isn’t as spectacular as what happened in Paris almost 17 years ago, but it can be just as lethal.

Worse, while regular FOD walks can handle the larger objects, you can never quite get all the sand and dust away from an air base in Afghanistan or Iraq. So, there is a need to figure out how to keep the sand and dust from damaging engine components.

A UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter lands as U.S. Army paratroopers secure the area in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, July 23, 2012. The soldiers are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team and the helicopter crew is assigned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. The soldiers evacuated a wounded insurgent. (US Army photo)

The Department of Defense recently released a video about efforts to address this. For instance, one of the researchers in this video one component in the T-700 engine is supposed to last 6,000 hours, but sand and dust reduce that to 400 hours – 1/15 of the planned operating life.

The price tag for the component in question? $30,000. That is a minor inconvenience. When a helo goes down, things get even uglier.

So check out the new ways researchers are attacking the problem of sand-damaged engines.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NYPD vet and one of the last Tuskegee Airmen dies at 95

Few have served their country and community at the level of Floyd Carter, Sr. His service began in 1944 when he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as a 2nd Lt. Bombardier. He was among the first African-Americans to complete pilot training. At the time, the 1,000 black pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen were just a drop in the bucket of those fighting World War II.


His service didn’t end there. It ended on Mar. 8, 2018, when he died at age 95, the New York Daily News reports.

Retired Lt. Col. Floyd Carter Sr., who commanded the 732nd Military Airlift Squadron, revisited his old squadron in June 2011 to talk about his 30-year military career and the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Monica Dalberg)

After the war and after the creation of the United States Air Force in 1947, Carter joined the Air Force Reserve. He was a part of the massive flow of moral and material support for West Berlin that would come to be called the Berlin Airlift.

He continued his service through the Korean War and into the Vietnam War, where he moved troops and supplies into the country during the infamous 1968 Tet Offensive.

If you’re doing the math, that’s already 24 years of service.

As an Air Force Reservist, he needed a civilian job. In that, he continued to serve, joining the New York Police Department in 1953. Within three years, he was promoted to detective and spent 27 years serving the people of New York in some of the most trying, crime-ridden times in the city’s history.

A tweet from Carter’s NYPD precinct.

He retired from the Air Force in 1974 and the NYPD in 1980.

Carter was presented with a Congressional Gold Medal from then-President George W. Bush in 2007. He and other Tuskegee Airmen were also invited to President Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration ceremony as well as the premiere of George Lucas’ 2012 film about the Tuskegee Airmen, Red Tails.

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Tuskegee Airman reunites with Red Tail

Expressions of excitement and astonishment were painted on the faces of onlookers, as a relic from World War II flew down the flightline at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Oct. 4.


U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. George E. Hardy, one of the 18 remaining Tuskegee Airmen, was aboard the aircraft.

Also read: The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’

The Tuskegee Airmen, who were referred to as “Red Tails” due to their brightly painted aircraft tails, were an all-black fighter group during WWII and consisted of more than 900 pilots. Hardy, among 354 others, were sent overseas to conduct bomber escort missions.

Peter Teichman, left, Hangar 11 Collection pilot, and retired Tuskegee Airman U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. George E. Hardy, stand on top of Hardy’s former P-51D Mustang at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield

“The greatest thing about this is that there’s a Red Tail flying in England,” Hardy said. “It means so much to us that there’s a Red Tail still around.”

A bomber was never lost to enemy fire during their escort missions. However, the group lost 66 Tuskegee Airmen during the war.

Flying the restored P-51D Mustang, nicknamed “Tall in the Saddle”, was Peter Teichman, Hangar 11 Collection pilot. Teichman tracked down Hardy through history groups after acquiring the retiree’s original P-51.

“Colonel George Hardy is a real war hero, the real deal,” Teichman said. “I never thought I would get to meet the colonel or to take him flying. He’s a very remarkable man, and men like him need to be remembered.”

A World War II era P-51D Mustang sits next to a 493rd Fighter Squadron F-15C Eagle at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield

Hardy completed 21 sorties in his P-51 during WWII. He was only 19, and he didn’t even have a driver’s license.

“So many great pilots, and I was flying with them,” Hardy said. “You couldn’t beat that – I was on top of the world. We demonstrated that we could fly like anyone else. ”

Hardy, 71 years later, reunited with his plane, completed one last flight to RAF Lakenheath to share his story with the Liberty Airmen who awaited his arrival.

“This is a huge honor for us here at the 48th Fighter Wing,” said Col. Evan Pettus, 48th Fighter Wing commander. “The Tuskegee Airmen have a very rich history and an incredibly important place in the culture and heritage of the United States and the United States Air Force. To see him here on RAF Lakenheath in his aircraft is very, very special for us.”

Following the heroics of the famed Red Tails during WWII, the U.S. Air Force was established and became the first service to integrate racially. Many attribute this milestone in U.S. history to the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen and those who served with them.

Articles

Inspector General claims US Army can’t account for trillions of dollars


In a report released earlier this summer, the Department of Defense Inspector General has determined that the Army’s finances are a world-class mess. Reportedly, the service made $2.8 trillion in adjustments to make their books balance just in one quarter of 2015 in spite of the fact that the entire defense budget for that fiscal year was $585 billion.

According to Reuters, the Army’s books are so jumbled that they may be impossible to audit – and the Army is facing a September 30, 2017 deadline to be ready for one. The harsh IG report concluded the Army “materially misstated” its financial statements for 2015.

Making the task of squaring the Army’s books harder is the fact that over 16,000 documents have vanished from the Army’s computer system. The Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS), the Pentagon’s primary agency responsible for accounting services, routinely changed numbers without justification at the end of the year, something employees of that agency referred to as the “grand plug.”

“Where is the money going? Nobody knows,” DOD critic and retired analyst Franklin Spinney told Reuters.

The Army has taken issue with the IG report, claiming that the total discrepancies total just under $62.5 billion. An Army spokesman said, “Though there is a high number of adjustments, we believe the financial statement information is more accurate than implied in this report,” that and that the Army “remains committed to asserting audit readiness” and that steps are being taken to root out the problems.

Articles

Benefits restored to 4,200 veterans who are less dead than the VA thought

Over the last five years, some 4,200 living veterans were declared dead and had their benefits cut off by the Department of Veterans Affairs. After digging through records, Danny Pummill, the acting undersecretary for benefits at the VA, said the mistake was a function of the way record sharing is done between the Social Security Administration and the VA. When the SSA declared someone dead, the VA would immediately kill their benefits.


Florida Congressman David Jolly had a bone to pick with the VA. Responding to his constituents’ complaints about premature death notices, he headed a Congressional inquiry in 2015. When veterans tried to correct the errors in their mortal status, they found themselves in purgatory between the two agencies. In a written statement, Rep. Jolly remarked on the grave consequences of these kinds of mistakes.

Rep. David Jolly

“We simply cannot have men and women who have sacrificed for this country see their rightful benefits wrongfully terminated because the VA mistakenly declares them dead,” Jolly wrote. “It has caused needless hardships for thousands of people who had their benefits terminated and their world turned upside down.”

The VA admitted its mistake to the congressman and then revived the affected veterans’ benefits as of May 2016. The VA also overhauled its death notice procedures. Now, a veteran will be notified of his or her death by mail to the last known address. The veteran will have 30 days to prove he or she is not dead. If the VA doesn’t hear from the veteran or their surviving family members, the benefits will be terminated.

 

Articles

The best A-10 memes on the Internet

A while back, Team Mighty posted a story about song lyrics airmen shouldn’t text to each other to avoid punishment from the Air Force. For that list, we created this meme:


Airmen did not love seeing Miley riding their beloved A-10 Thunderbolt II. To repay our debt for defiling the most beloved of Close Air Support airframes, we collected the best memes and internet humor with the A-10 and/or the GAU-8 Avenger. Netizens love the A-10 as much as ground combat troops, so A-10 humor isn’t hard to find.

There are motivational posters.

There are newer jokes.

 

And old favorites.

And even Star Wars A-10 Jokes.

There are digs at ISIS.

And digs at the Air Force for trying to get rid of the A-10.

We love the GAU-8 Avenger, the massive 30mm hydraulic-driven gun, around which the plane is built.

Most importantly, we love the BRRRRRRRRRRRT

And the A-10 is a great way to show your appreciation on Facebook.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

US border mission will extend until at least New Years

Thousands of troops will be spending the holidays at the US-Mexico border supporting border patrol agents as they deal with the arrival of large migrant caravans.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has approved a Department of Homeland Security request that will extend the mission for active-duty troops at the border into 2019, according to multiple news outlets. The “border support” mission, previously known as Operation Faithful Patriot, has officially been extended past the original Dec. 15, 2018 end date to Jan. 31, 2019.


There are currently 5,600 active-duty troops serving at the US-Mexico border. These service members are in addition to the 2,100 National Guard personnel that deployed to the border in 2018. Troops at the border spent Thanksgiving there, and now it seems they will also be spending Christmas and New Year’s at the southern border.

U.S. Marines with the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, place concertina wire along the California-Mexico border at Andrade Point of Entry in Winterhaven, California, Nov.30, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Valetski)

It is unclear how many troops will be affected by the extension. Earlier reports suggested that only around 4,000 troops would remain at the border.

US military personnel at the US-Mexico border started the deployment erecting barriers and running razor wire, but following a clash near the San Ysidro point of entry, during which border agents used tear gas and other means to disperse migrants that rushed the border, some troops have begun conducting riot control training in coordination with Customs and Border Protection.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force

Several US military aircraft flew close to North Korea this weekend in a dramatic show of force to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.


US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers were escorted by F-15C Eagle fighter jets on Saturday in international airspace over waters east of North Korea.

The Pentagon said the flyover demonstrated the range of military options available to President Donald Trump.

A war between the two nations is looking increasingly likely as tensions between Trump and Kim Jong Un continue to escalate.

The US Air Force has done a number of flyovers in recent months but this is the most controversial one yet. Earlier this month, the US, South Korea, and Japan conducted joint military exercises over and near the Korean Peninsula.

A B-1B Lancer takes off from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 27, 2011, on a mission in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Marc I. Lane)

“This is the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any US fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century, underscoring the seriousness with which we take the DPRK’s reckless behaviour,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White.

“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat,” White said. “North Korea’s weapons program is a grave threat to the Asia-Pacific region and the entire international community. We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.”

North Korea’s foreign minister responded forcefully on Saturday to Trump’s fiery comments before the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week.

Ri Yong Ho, North Korea’s foreign minister, said that Trump’s insults made “our rocket’s visit to the entire US mainland inevitable all the more,” according to The Associated Press.

He retaliated against Trump’s personal attack on the North Korean leader by calling the president “a mentally deranged person full of megalomania” who is holding “the nuclear button.”

Weapons dropped from U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II practicing attack capabilities impact the Pilsung Range, Republic of Korea. The F-35Bs, assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, conducted a sequenced bilateral mission with South Korean F-15K and Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-2 fighters. This mission is in direct response to North Korea’s intermediate range ballistic missile launch and emphasizes the combined ironclad commitment to regional allies and partners. (Republic of Korea Air Force photo)

Trump said at the UN that if North Korea didn’t back down from its nuclear aggression, the US would “have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

“No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles,” Trump said.

The president then went back to his latest nickname for the North Korean leader, saying, “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won#39;t be around much longer!/pmdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) a href=”https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/911789314169823232″September 24, 2017/a/blockquote

script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″/script

North Korea has ramped up its nuclear aggression in recent weeks and fired a missile over Japan last week for the second time in two months.

Earlier this month, North Korea also conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, one the country said was a hydrogen bomb.

In August, following reports from the Defense Intelligence Agency that North Korea could make nuclear warheads small enough to fit on missiles and could have as many as 60 nuclear devices, Trump issued a sharp warning to the country.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happened after Iran-backed militias attacked an oil tanker

Oil prices were driven higher for the third consecutive day on July 26, 2018, after Saudi Arabia closed a strategic shipping lane in the Red Sea following an attack on two of its large oil-tankers by Iranian backed Houthi fighters.

Brent crude oil futures rose 0.6% to $74.35 per barrel on July 26, 2018, at 6 48 GMT, after a gain of 0.7%, and US oil reserves fell to a three and a half year low, Reuters reported .

US West Texas Crude futures were also up 5 cents to $69.35 to the barrel.


“The announcement this morning that the Saudis have closed some shipping lanes in the Gulf because of rebel Houthi attacks also gives the bulls something to launch off,” Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, told Reuters.

On July 26, 2018, Saudi Arabia said it was “temporarily halting” all oil shipments through the Bab al-Mandeb shipping lane after the two tankers were attacked, closing off a vital export channel for the world’s largest oil producer.

Khalid al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister said in a statement that the two oil tankers, each carrying two million barrels of oil, had been attacked and one sustained minimal damage.

Khalid al-Falih

“Saudi Arabia is temporarily halting all oil shipments through Bab al-Mandeb Strait immediately until the situation becomes clearer and the maritime transit through Bab al-Mandeb is safe,” said the minister.

Much of the Crude oil that leaves Saudi Arabia to the North West via the Suez Canal and the SUMED pipeline is first shipped through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, which passes close to Yemen.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, around 4.6 million barrels of crude and refined petroleum exports per day flowed through the Strait in 2016, headed towards Europe, Asia and the United States.

The Bab al-Mandeb Strait between Yemen and Djibouti is just 20km wide, making shipping vulnerable to attack from the Houthis in war-torn Yemen. The Iranian backed Houthis have been fighting a Saudi-Arabian led coalition in a bloody civil war in Yemen for around three years, with the Saudi’s exports presenting a strategic target.

The latest disruption is another impact of a conflict which has cost around 50,000 lives through famine and war, which the US and UK have fueled through arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition.

Get the latest Oil WTI price here.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US pilots’ close calls with Russian aircraft are likely to continue, experts say

The U.S. Navy last week watched a single-seat Russian Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E come within 25 feet of a P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft while at high speed and inverted, causing wake turbulence and putting the U.S. “pilots and crew at risk” over the Mediterranean Sea.

Days later, another Flanker mimicked the move over the same waters, zooming in front of a P-8 and exposing the sub hunter aircraft to its jet exhaust.


Top U.S. officials in Europe and the Defense Department said the incidents involved Russian pilots behaving in an unsafe, unprofessional manner. Experts argue that, while the intercepts expose a pattern of behavior from the Russian military, they also show that Russia is willing to capitalize on the publicity the aerial maneuvers bring, even during a global pandemic.

The Russian military “feels as if it’s necessary to let everybody know that they’re still on the world stage, that they’re still on the scene, and that they have pretty good military power,” said retired Gen. Frank Gorenc, the former commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Gorenc, an F-15 Eagle pilot, headed the command during Russia’s annexation of Crimea, when the U.S. sent sophisticated aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor to the theater in show-of-force missions to deter Russian aggression.

“It’s not only the pandemic, which obviously is keeping the western countries occupied, but also the oil [crash] too,” he said in an interview this week.

In recent weeks, Russia, one of the world’s leading oil exporters, was also hit by the unprecedented collapse in the market for crude oil.

“Declining powers have to do [something],” Gorenc said.

Opportunity to Go Viral

Unlike the Cold War, when pilots would return to their squadron and file a debrief of an aerial intercept, then simply move along to their next mission, being buzzed or barrel-rolled is gaining more visibility with the help of social media, said Doug Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank.

“You know, it goes kind of viral,” Barrie said. “So you wonder if there’s an element of that, of how it plays on social media and in wider Western media, whether or not if it’s valuable.”

Notably, the recent incidents involved Russia’s multi-role Su-35 fighter jet, which has received improvements over the last few years — a significant upgrade from other aircraft used in past intercepts, such as the Su-27 Flanker or the Su-24 Fencer, Barrie said.

“It’s perhaps unsurprising that these aircraft have been bumped into [the rotation] more often than we’ve previously seen them; the imagery of the Flanker is great,” he said.

“The Su-35 is a highly capable airplane that they produce,” Gorenc added. “They’re obviously … trying to sell it. And this is a good way to show it off.”

Predictable Response

Gorenc stressed that, while these incidents tend to flare up once in a while, pilots need to stick to the rules of engagement and try to be as predictable as possible.

The 1972 bilateral Russia-U.S. agreement “Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas,” followed by Incidents at Sea Agreement (INCSEA), are accords that establish basic “rules of the road” for both countries to safely navigate near one another.

Holding Russia accountable for its behavior in international airspace can be tricky, Barrie explained. “To some extent, these things are difficult to kind of legislate around because it really comes down to the units, the pilots [and their behavior],” he said.

More often than not, intercepts are conducted in a safe manner, but errors happen because of a loss of communication or a human or technical mistake, officials have said.

For example, then-Gen. Petr Pavel, the former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, told reporters in 2018 that most aerial scrambles are seen as “routine.”

“From time to time, we can see some measures as provocative, especially in the areas that we exercise … both to the ships and in the air,” he said. “But it’s up to the captain [or pilot] to judge if it’s dangerous or not.”

Last week, Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO supreme commander and head of U.S. European Command, described the first incident on April 15 as the result of “unprofessional” conduct by a Russian fighter pilot acting on his own, rather than a deliberate attempt by Moscow to provoke an incident.

“My conclusion at this point is that it was probably something more along the lines of unprofessional as opposed to deliberate,” Wolters said April 16.

“Given the unpredictability, you have to make sure that you maintain a safe distance and don’t assume anything. Don’t assume that they even see you, because they may not see you,” Gorenc said.

Not Backing Down

Like the U.S., it’s unlikely that Russia will back down from what it sees as military priorities despite the pandemic, Barrie said.

“We’re not completely dissimilar. … You can see the messaging coming out of these NATO nations, including the U.S., which says, ‘OK, we recognize a pandemic is an enormous problem … but [we’re still] taking care of the day-to-day national security needs,'” he said.

Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. military should be mindful that rivals like Russia will look to test any weaknesses among the U.S. and its allies during the coronavirus crisis.

“We are postured and maintain that ability to respond at a moment’s notice,” he said.

On Friday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper renewed the message. “Our adversaries are not standing down,” he said. “We will continue to make sure that the [Defense Department] is ready to protect the USA.”

Barrie added: “The Russian Su-35 incident, in part, is simply a reflection of that [response]. It is simply a reflection of Russia doing what it does.”

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