Reporter James Foley was no stranger to battle zone coverage. This first-hand look at a Taliban ambush against U.S. soldiers shows how he was willing to put himself in harm’s way to capture the story.
Infantrymen from the 101st Brigade were under constant attack and lost seven troops to IEDs, suicide attacks, and firefights.
Much of the U.S.’s military attention was focused on Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold in the southwest part of the country (Afghanistan), according the PBS video below. But, in Kunar Province in the northeast, the firefights were just as fierce.
The video picks up with Private Justin Greer, age 19, getting shot in the head while manning the turret-mounted grenade launcher.
James Foley was a freelance reporter for GlobalPost, Agence France-Presse and other news organizations. He was murdered by the terrorist group ISIS in August 2014.
“The measure of a man is how you react on a bad day.”
Powerful words that three-time World’s Strongest Man and Sports Hall-of-Famer Bill Kazmaier used to describe one of the newest Strongman competitors – Stevie Richardson – at the World’s Strongman competition in Ohio.
Richardson fulfilled a lifelong dream by serving his country in the Army but his service was cut short when an IED detonated in Afghanistan and took his legs. Soon after Richardson returned home and started his long road to recovery, he met a fellow vet, Royal Marines Commando and competitive Strongman, Kenny Simm, and was introduced to the world of Strongman competition.
IED – Improve Every Day – Official Trailer. BBC Scotland, Gravitas Ventures, TurnerGang Productions
The story of these two combat veterans and their journey to find purpose, camaraderie and pride after coming home from war is the basis for the new documentary IED: Improve Every Day. The film shows how a veteran’s bond is undying and that no injury, physical or psychological, can stand up to the strength forged by the military brotherhood.
Competing for Arnold in the World Strongman Championship is certainly a milestone event in the lives of these veterans but it also marks a new chapter for them on the road to recovery. Their journey of self-strengthening will be life-long but valuable lessons can be gleaned from the story told in Improve Every Day; that our strength can quite-often be measured by the comrades we keep around us and no matter how bad our days get, there is always a new, inspiring challenge waiting for us in the future.
Watch this multi-award nominated BBC documentary on Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google play and many other platforms. Search IED: Improve Every Day.
North Korea has reportedly miniaturized a nuclear warhead, giving their intercontinental ballistic missiles the ability to deliver a nuclear payload for the first time. The rogue regime has also been moving anti-ship cruise missiles to at least one patrol boat.
The moves come amidst heightened tensions in the region and despite a unanimous UN Security Council vote imposing further sanctions.
According to a FoxNews.com report, the development of the warhead and further threats from the regime of Kim Jong Un prompted President Trump to state that the North Korean leader “best not make anymore threats to the United States.” The President went on to state that threats would “be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which the world has never seen before.”
North Korea is believed to have as many as 60 nuclear weapons, and has conducted a string of tests despite sanctions being imposed. One recent test involved an ICBM that could hit targets in half the United States. The regime also has a history of holding Americans hostage.
The war of words between Trump and Kim comes as another report by FoxNews.com indicated that two “Stormpetal” missiles were being loaded on to a “Wonsan-class patrol boat.”
Oddly, the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World does not list any “Wonsan-class” vessel in North Korean service, nor does GlobalSecurity.org. The only Wonsan-class vessel listed in service is a South Korean minelayer.
North Korea is credited by GlobalSecurity.org with a surface-effect ship about the size of most missile boats called the Nongo class, as well as a variant of the Osa-class missile boats called the Soju class.
The Nongo-class can hold from as many as eight anti-ship missiles. Osas generally held four SS-N-2 anti-ship missiles, according to Combat Fleets of the World.
The Stormpetal is also not a known missile system to either source. GlobalSecurity.org, does note that many indigenous North Korean missile designs are ballistic missiles or artillery rockets. The North Koreans have also designed an indigenous version of the SS-N-2 Styx known as the KN-01, and a version of the SA-10 Grumble known as the KN-06.
In April 1990, the FBI was called to Teddy Roosevelt’s house. No one would dare steal from TR while he was alive, but since he had been dead for 70-plus years and his house was long ago turned into a museum, the thief was able to rob the place and make off with an important piece of Americana: Teddy Roosevelt’s piece. They stole the pistol he used at the Battle of San Juan Hill.
To this day, no one knows who took it, and only the FBI knows who turned it in, but now it’s back where it belongs. Its history is America’s history, and the history of Teddy Roosevelt’s sidearm matches the legacy of the man who wielded it. It started with a sinking ship.
In 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor, a port owned by Spain at the time. Since anti-Spanish sentiment and pro-Cuban Independence was at a fever pitch among Americans at the time, the incident was blamed on a Spanish mine. Even an official Navy inquiry supported the mine theory. With more than 250 American sailors dead, the United States had to respond, and they did so by declaring war on Spain.
Teddy Roosevelt was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time. Incensed by the Spanish provocation, it wasn’t enough for TR to just dispatch American warships to distant Spanish colonies. The man felt he had to go kill some Spaniards personally – and he did. He helped raise the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry and deployed to Spain with an insane, ragtag group of cowboys, journalists, and athletes, the likes of which the world will never see again.
Roosevelt earned a Medal of Honor for leading what was supposed to be an overmatched support column on a daring charge up the hill that totally routed the defending Spanish, and he did it wielding a Colt Model 1892 Army and Navy double-action, six-shot revolver, one special to Roosevelt for many reasons.
The weapon is valued at over $250,000 and has an inscription above the grips: “From the sunken battle ship Maine” and “July 1st, 1898. San Juan. Carried and used by Col. Theodore Roosevelt.”
The April 1990 theft was actually the second time the pistol had been taken from Sagamore Hill. The first time was in 1936 when it was removed from the case, but the thief panicked and threw the weapon into the woods nearby. Roosevelt’s sidearm and 1st Volunteers uniform are considered the most priceless artifacts on display at the museum.
China’s deployment of the Liaoning, an Admiral Kuznetsov-class carrier, has not seen anything equivalent to the Kuznetsov follies, but it is a note that China’s navy is becoming more capable by the year.
The carrier recently conducted flight deck tests of Chinese PLAN fighters and is cruising through parts of the disputed South China Sea, worrying allies in Japan and Taiwan.
Here are some photos that the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force took of Beijing’s latest show of force.
According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, the Luyang-class destroyers carry the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, which is comparable to the SA-N-6 Grumble used on the Kirov-class battlecruisers and the Slava-class cruisers. The Jiangkai II-class frigates carry the HHQ-16 missile, a knockoff of the SA-N-7 – the naval version of the SA-11 Gadfly.
The Liaoning can carry roughly two dozen J-15 Flankers — knock-offs of the Su-33. The carrier also will have a variety of choppers as well, most for anti-submarine warfare or for search-and-rescue missions.
While many eyes are on Paris Fashion Week, where many of the A-list stars are picking out their awards season wardrobe, the Paris Air Show is also a big deal. In fact, in 2011, over 350,000 people were at the event! By contrast, Paris’s Fashion Week has all of 5,000 attendees.
The Paris Air Show is where many planes make their big debut onto the world stage. In 1989, the Soviets not only introduced the Buran spaceplane at the Paris Air Show, but the Su-27 Flanker shocked the world with a demonstration of the Pugachev Cobra.
Paris has also seen tragedy, including a MiG-29 crash in 1989, as well as the 1973 crash of the Tu-144 “Concordeski.” B-58 Hustler strategic bombers also crashed there in 1961 and 1965.
The Paris Air Show is held every other year in an odd year. For this year, the F-35 made its flight demonstration debut. According to a European Command release, the American delegation to the 2017 Paris Air Show also included two F-16 Fighting Falcons, a CH-47 Chinook, a P-8 Poseidon, a V-22 Osprey, an AH-64 Apache, a C-130J Hercules, and a KC-135 Stratotanker.
The star, of course, was the F-35, which was the only fifth-generation fighter at Paris.
The plane made its first aerial demonstration there. You can see it in the video below, from takeoff to landing. It’s about six minutes and 40 seconds, but well worth is to see the F-35 make its mark over Paris.
The 1943 Battle of Tarawa was the first of the Central Pacific Campaign. There, 18,000 Marines fought a bloody, 76-hour battle to seize the heavily fortified Tarawa Atoll from 4,500 Japanese defenders, wading through hundreds of yards of surf and scrambling for cover on the nearly flat islands.
Marines take cover on the beaches of Tarawa while planning their next move forward. Conquering Tarawa would take 76 hours and cost thousands of lives.
Importantly for Marine Corps historians, that means that one of World War II’s most bloody and important battlefields will disappear under the waves — with Marine remains and artifacts still on it.
The 1943 battle for the island began with a massive naval artillery bombardment that failed to dislodge most of the pillboxes, obstacles, and defenders on the island. When troops landed on November 20, underwater obstacles in the form of coral reefs, sandbars, and other barriers caused landing craft to get stuck out at sea.
The assault on Tarawa was a nightmare. Shallow waters led to gently sloping beaches and hundreds of yards of obstacles — all factors that favored the Japanese defenders.
Undeterred, the Marines fought through barbed wire and Japanese attackers. On the second day, they were able to land tanks and artillery and punch out from the beach, starting their campaign across the tiny island.
At the end of the three-day battle, the Marines had suffered almost 3,000 casualties, including many men marked missing in action who were either washed out to sea or lost in the sand dunes and vegetation. Of the 4,500 Japanese defenders, there were only 17 survivors left. Most fought to the death as there was no way to escape the island.
After the war, the Kiribati Islands reverted to British control and then became a sovereign country in 1979. The U.S. signed a treaty of friendship later that year and then established full diplomatic relations in 1980. Since then, the relationship has been friendly if not exactly close.
The State Department says that they actively cooperate with Kiribati to repatriate the remains of Marines when discovered on Tarawa or on any other island within the nation.
Marine Corps 1st Lt. Alexander Bonneyman, Jr., thought to be fourth from the right, and his men attack a Japanese position on Tarawa. Bonneyman posthumously received the Medal of Honor and his remains were recovered from Tarawa in 2015.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Obie Newcomb)
The remains of 139 service members were discovered and repatriated in 2015. One of those repatriated was 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, Jr., who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions on the island.
Luckily, these were well-documented battles. Historians have recovered many documents and interviewed survivors of each, and With the Marines at Tarawa was an Academy Award-winning documentary produced during the invasion. So, future generations will still see evidence of the Marine Corps’ sacrifice.
But any historians who need additional evidence from the islands better get to work soon. Time is ticking.
President Donald Trump on Dec. 12 signed a massive defense bill that authorizes everything from troop pay raises to military end strength in fiscal 2018.
The Fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, authorizes about $700 billion for the Defense Department, including $634 billion for the base budget and $66 billion for the war budget. The figures are targets, and Congress still faces a year-end deadline to pass an accompanying spending bill to keep the government running.
Even so, the authorization bill approved by Congress includes numerous policy-related provisions, many of which are in line with what the president requested, though it authorized additional funding for higher pay raises, more weapons, and more troops.
“History teaches us that when you weaken your defenses, you invite aggression,” Trump said before signing the bill. “The best way to prevent conflict of any kind is to be prepared. Only when the good are strong will peace prevail.”
The president added, “Today, with the signing of this defense bill, we accelerate the process of fully restoring America’s military might. This legislation will enhance our readiness and modernize our forces and help provide our service members with the tools they need to fight and win.”
Trump acknowledged Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, a Republican from Texas and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, for their work in preparing the bipartisan bill. He also called on Congress to eliminate spending caps known as sequestration and approve a “clean” appropriations bill.
So what’s in the defense authorization bill for you? Here’s a rundown of the top changes:
2.4% troop pay raise
Troops will see a 2.4 percent pay raise in 2018. That’s the largest year-over-year increase service members have received since 2010.
20,000 more troops
The military will grow by some 20,000 troops. The Army will increase by 7,500 soldiers, the Navy by 4,000 sailors, the Marine Corps by 1,000 Marines, and the Air Force by about 4,100 airmen. Reserve forces will grow by about 3,400 reservists.
Previously, many retirees and military dependents paid nothing for many prescriptions. That’s about to change, as co-pays will increase under the Tricare pharmacy program. The increases won’t apply to disabled retirees, their dependents, and dependents of service members who died on active duty.
Cuts “Widow’s Tax”
The bill reduces the so-called “Widow’s Tax” by making permanent the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance, or SSIA, which pays $310 a month to military widows and widowers whose Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) payments were offset as a result of receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).
License rebates for spouses
Military spouses who get a new professional license or certification after a permanent change of station move will be able to apply for a $500 rebate from the Defense Department.
Eases PCS moves
The bill authorizes a program to allow some families of troops who are changing duty stations to move before or after the service member for job, school or other reasons. The initiative also allows the service member to utilize government housing, if available.
Reservist health care
The legislation mandates for all mobilized Reserve Component members to receive pre-mobilization and transitional health care.
Criminalizes revenge porn
The bill allows for court-martial punishment for troops who engage in so-called “revenge porn,” or the unauthorized sharing or distribution of “an intimate visual image of a private area of another person.”
Creates training database
The legislation authorizes the creation of a new database to record all training completed by military members. This information will be made available to employers and states to help veterans get certifications or licenses, or claim their military experience when applying for a civilian job.
Retirees as recruiters
The bill calls for the creation of a pilot program to use retired senior enlisted Army National Guard members as recruiters.
1911s for commercial sale
The bill would allow recently confirmed Army Secretary Mark Esper to transfer 8,000 or more of the Army’s iconic .45-caliber M1911/M1911A1 pistols, spare parts and related accessories to the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety as part of a two-year pilot program.
Tom Hanks stars in “Greyhound.” Photo courtesy of Apple TV+ press.
A new movie uses an all-star cast to bring the Battle of the Atlantic to life this Friday.
“Greyhound,” a WWII film, stars Hollywood favorite Tom Hanks, who also helped write the screenplay. It was initially set for release in theaters, but the coronavirus pandemic forced delays until it found an ultimate home exclusively on Apple TV+.
A large portion of the movie was shot on the USS Kidd (DD-661), now serving as a museum in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The film, which hails from the book, “The Good Shepard” (1955) by C.S. Forester, tells the story of a newly-appointed ship captain (Hanks) and his crew’s vantage point through the Battle of the Atlantic. The 1942 event involved U.S. destroyers being attacked by a series of U-boats on their way to deliver supplies to Allied Forces in Europe.
“The Battle kind of fades into the background. You don’t really think about the logistics and dangers in it,” said Tim NesSmith, USS Kidd Museum superintendent and educational outreach coordinator. “It ran the length of the entire war. It was a long, drawn out, dangerous battle – against not only the enemy, but the elements of cold and ice. I hope [the movie] will bring more attention to the people who lived it.”
Considered to be the most accurate remaining destroyer from the war, the museum is a time machine, transporting visitors back 80 years and sharing the personal stories of the experience of sailors of the time.
One of four Fletcher-class destroyers that now exist as museums, the Kidd is the only ship to maintain its original WWII layout. It’s also listed by the Historic Naval Ships Association as one of the most authentically restored vessels in the world.
“Most have been modernized or structurally updated with the times,” said NesSmith.
The USS Kidd’s target restoration date is August 1945, which calls for scheduled restorations, cleanings and refurbished pieces. This schedule allowed the ship to remain as historically accurate as possible for the film NesSmith said.
After three months of prep work, the movie was filmed throughout April of 2018 on the Kidd. Other parts of the film were shot at the nearby Celtic Media Center. During the filming, NesSmith served as the site coordinator, outlining protocol by actors and crewmember and ensuring that the Kidd was not damaged.
Tom Hanks and crew in front of the USS Kidd. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+ press.
Film director, Aaron Schneider began scouting the Kidd for their shoot 2016.
“He researched it very well,” said NesSemith. “I think it really starts at the top and works its way down. I’ve worked on smaller sets before and this was on a whole different level. There’s a lot of planning – a lot more planning than I anticipated there would be. They did a great job.
“Everyone was really concerned about what they could and couldn’t do on the ship because they didn’t want to destroy its historical accuracy.”
Some pieces of the ship were recreated, while duplicate parts were documented and rented to the crew during filming. Museum workers also worked to obtain parts from the USS Orleck (DD-886), a fearing-class destroyer, now a museum ship, that’s based in Orange, Texas.
USS Kidd at sunset. Photo courtesy of the USS Kidd Veterans Museum.
On Greyhound’s release, NesSmith said WWII is important to remember. For him, its importance lies in average folks coming together in large numbers in order to create “the greatest fighting force that had ever been seen at that time.”
“They created freedom for those who lost it, and it’s an important story that needs to be told.”
B-1B bomber aircrews anticipate returning to the Middle East in coming months and have been training for the evolving battle spaces in Iraq and Syria, as well as Afghanistan, according to officials at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas.
“We’re working real hard inside of our training network,” said Col. Karl Fischbach, commander of the 7th Operations Group. “The ranges that we have were set up really well to simulate the environment, and we’re going to attend the next Red Flag [in January] and Green Flag [exercises] in the [upcoming] year, and really focus on what we need to get ready for the CentCom operation.”
Military.com sat down with a variety of leaders from Air Force Global Strike Command’s 7th Bomb Wing — responsible for producing combat ready aircrews in the Air Force‘s only B-1B formal training unit — during a trip to the base, and took a ride Dec. 19 in the B-1B over training ranges in New Mexico.
“We’ve always had a pivotal role in what our Air Force is doing — Dyess Air Force Base has always been right there,” Col. Brandon Parker, 7th Bomb Wing commander, said during a roundtable interview.
The non-nuclear-capable aircraft, known as the “Bone,” left the Central Command area of responsibility in early 2016, and was replaced by B-52 Stratofortress bombers at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, that April.
Officials at the time said the B-1B’s return stateside was crucial to upgrade the fleet with the latest Integrated Battle Station, known as the IBS upgrade, which so far has been incorporated into more than half of the 62 total aircraft.
Specifically, the 9th Bomb Squadron here hasn’t been back to CentCom since February 2015, according to Lt. Col. Erick Lord, the squadron’s commander.
Rotations for the long-range, large payload bomber between the Pacific and Middle East could be fluid: Bomber units from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, (currently assigned to Pacific Command) may rotate into the Middle East, while crews from Dyess take over their mission in the Pacific, or vice versa.
It would also mark a significant shift in having a single platform in two theaters, spreading the Lancer fleet during a time when the Air Force finds itself busier than ever.
“Every one squadron, they live to go do what we’re going to do even if it means being away from home — they want to deploy. It’s what we do, especially if you’re in a fighter or bomber [unit],” Lord said. “We’re the smallest Air Force we’ve ever been, and the demand for airpower continues to increase, and the two don’t match.”
Even as the air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria steadily winds down, it still requires “surgical strikes,” or precision-guided bombs on target as the battlespace continues to shrink, said Maj. Charles “Astro” Kilchrist, chief of training for the 9th.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has increased airstrikes in Afghanistan.
Empowered with more independence and authority under the Trump administration, the U.S. military this year has turned to a number of technologies for the war in Afghanistan, from the largest conventional bomb to the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.
It’s also given ground commanders more authority to execute missions beyond self-defense against Taliban fighters.
For B-1 crews, being involved in both Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel means they prepare for everything and anything, even the unexpected call of a bomb run.
“It’s always really difficult to get into the fog and friction of war,” Fischbach said. “But our instructors built some pretty varsity scenarios to get our experience level and prep ready to go.”
Lord added, “We’ll train to the most stringent [rules of engagement] and then we’ll develop training scenarios that walk people down the rabbit hole, that force them to make mistakes” so they can be identified before they’re made.
“Because busting ROE will get you sent home,” he said.
Kilchrist, also a B-1B pilot, said that aside from the experiences acquired at Red Flag — an integrated, multi-force training game within a simulated combat environment — and Green Flag — a coalition exercise consisting of close-air support and air-to-surface training — programs to get prepped and ready for combat have been upgraded and modified.
“We’re tailoring our training to accomplish those things … and we’re integrating more than ever with F-16 units out of Fort Worth … to do mission commander upgrades, with [Joint Terminal Attack Controllers] from all around the country,” he said.
“We’re really bringing all these things into the fold to increase our aperture for training and give us the best possible simulation of what combat in different theaters are going to be like,” Kilchrist said.
That includes the Pacific, he noted, where B-1s took over for the B-52s in 2016, marking the first time the B-1B has been housed at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, since 2006.
“What my job is to show the new guys, ‘Hey, we can go to Afghanistan tomorrow, or we can go to PaCoM tomorrow, but you’ve got to be ready for both,’ ” he said.
Parker, speaking broadly to the Bone’s mission set, added, “At the end of the day, we got to be able to range targets, and do it in a way that’s very lethal. Variety of weapons, different sort of battlespaces … we’re making sure we’re ready.”
Fighter aces — those pilots responsible for taking down at least five other aircraft — are almost as old as aviation itself. Since World War I, young men have been willing to risk death to earn glory and become “knights of the air” or the “cavalry of the clouds.” There have been thousands of pilots who achieved ace status, many whom have racked up far more than five downings. None, however, have ever managed the singular feat of becoming a fighter ace on both sides in the same war.
That is, none except one…
Pierre Le Gloan was from Brittany, born in the Breton town of Kergrist-Moelou on June 1, 1913. He joined the French Armee de l’Air in 1931 as soon as he was old enough to enlist. Before his death in 1943, he achieved ace status in both the French Air Force and under the collaborationist Vichy regime after the fall of France in 1940. With 18 kills to his name and as France’s fourth-highest-scoring ace of World War II, he remains the only pilot in history to become an ace on both sides of the same conflict.
When war came, he was flying a Morane-Saulnier MS.406. On Nov. 23, 1939 he claimed his first kill, a Dornier DO.17 reconnaissance aircraft. Another DO.17 fell to his guns on March 2, 1940.
Pierre Le Gloan with his famous D.520.
All pilots in Le Gloan’s squadron were then re-equipped with the newer and better Dewoitine D.520. Le Gloan lost no time in taking full advantage of the use of a better fighter. During the Battle of France in the summer of 1940 he had a hot streak. In June he shot down four German and Italian bombers: two Heinkel 111 planes and two Fiat BR.20 bombers.
It didn’t end there. The highlight of Le Gloan’s career was to come on June 15. His squadron met a squadron of Italian CR.42 fighters. Attacking with enthusiasm, he shot down no less than three of them. Encountering another CR.42 and a BR.20 on his way back to base, Le Gloan attacked and shot down both of them.
Taking down five aircraft in one day has seldom been achieved by even the highest-scoring fighter aces, and Le Gloan was justly rewarded. His five-kill streak brought him up to 11 kills, well above the five required for ace status. He was also promoted to 2nd Lieutenant to acknowledge his remarkable feat.
On June 20, his squadron was transferred to Algeria, then a French colony. With the fall of France and the installation of Marshal Petain’s Vichy puppet government, the French forces in North Africa were under Vichy command. To Le Gloan, it made no difference. He’d flown, fought, and killed for France. Now, he would do the same for Vichy.
His second fighting streak came in June and July of 1941. Fighting for Vichy and taking on Britain’s Royal Air Force, Le Gloan shot down five of the RAF’s Hurricane fighters, a Gloster Gladiator, and another aircraft that remains unidentified. He’d taken down 11 for France and had added another seven for Vichy. At the war’s end, only Jean Demozay (21 kills), Marcel Albert (23 and two probables), and Pierre Clostermann (33 kills) ranked higher among French aces. Le Gloan’s career would not, however, last much longer.
Neither would his life.
The Allies launched Operation Torch in November 1942. With Allied forces liberating North Africa and Field-Marhsal Montgomery’s famous ‘Desert Rats’ pushing westward after the victory at El Alamein, the Vichy regime’s days were numbered. So were Pierre Le Gloan’s.
Soon, all former Vichy forces were siding with the Allies, including Le Gloan’s fighter squadron. Reequipped in May 1943 with the American P-39 Airacobra, a new fighter might have given the newly promoted Capitaine Le Gloan another winning streak. Might have, if not for a design feature on the Airacobra that wasn’t on the Morane-Saulnier or the Dewoitine: an external fuel tank mounted under the belly meant to be jettisoned when empty or if about to enter a dogfight.
Le Gloan had never flown a fighter with a drop tank. Over the sea on a routine patrol on September 11, 1943 he began to experience mechanical problems. As the Airacobra was not the finest fighter ever built — this wasn’t unusual for pilots who had to fly them. Comparing the Airacobra to the legendary Supermarine Spitfire or P-51 Mustang was like comparing a rent-a-wreck with a Ferrari. With smoke streaming from his aircraft, Le Gloan decided to return to base and land, forgetting to jettison the drop tank. It was a fatal mistake.
Le Gloan, in the midst of severe mechanical difficulties, might have been safer bailing out than trying to land, even if he had remembered to jettison the extra tank. As it was, he attempted to land. It would have been a difficult landing at the best of times in a malfunctioning aircraft and, his mind on other things, Le Gloan forgot to drop the tank. As he touched the ground, the undercarriage collapsed.
The drop tank, still full, ruptured instantly. As the Airacobra screeched along the runway, the mixture of aviation fuel and sparks caused the plane to erupt into a fireball. Pierre Le Gloan, 18-kill ace, only pilot ever to become an ace on both sides in the same war, was burned alive.
Today, his name is largely forgotten except to history buffs, aviation enthusiasts, and the townsfolk of Kergrist-Moelou. Deciding to either forget or gloss over his having flown, fought, and killed in the service of Vichy, the residents of Le Gloan’s hometown named a street after him. Even so, as time passes, fewer people who use it remember either the man or his remarkable place in military history.
China continues to emerge as the most dynamic region for defense program development and introductions among the superpowers. In October 2018, photos of their aircraft carrier development and preparations for ongoing sea trials have surfaced; their advanced interceptor claiming to have low-observable capability has reemerged with a new camouflage scheme in an operational unit; they have flown a new long range flying boat amphibious aircraft and shown a new armed, long range remotely piloted aircraft. There are even frequent reports (some of those have been denied already) of a new low-observable strategic heavy bomber ahead of the U.S. unveiling of their new B-21 Raider long range stealth bomber.
All of this new development continues the conversation about China expanding military ambitions beyond their borders in regions such as Africa, the Middle East, and even South and Central America. These ambitions add to their ongoing power projection in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.
Perhaps the most significant development is the potential return to a strategic nuclear role for the PLAAF, China’s air force. China’s air delivered nuclear capability has reportedly advanced recently after it was abandoned in the 1980s when China only had air delivered nuclear gravity bombs.
In a Sept. 6, 2018 feature on TheDiplomat.com, analysts Ankit Panda and Prashanth Parameswaran reported that, “The PLAAF once again has a nuclear mission, although we don’t know what that is”. The analysts suggested that an air launched ballistic missile may be an emerging technology China is developing. The missile, thought to be a new version of the CJ-20K long range cruise missile, currently has the capability to strike targets at a range of 1,080 nautical miles (2,000 kilometers) with a conventional warhead after being launched from China’s legacy Xian H-6K heavy bomber.
For the first time ever in early May 2018, the PLAAF flew Xian H-6K heavy bombers to the disputed Woody Island in the Paracel archipelago. The Paracel archipelago, also called “Xisha” by the Chinese, is a disputed chain of low-lying islands in the South China Sea. Although China has maintained a military presence there since 1974 when they forcibly evicted Vietnam, the Taiwanese and Vietnamese both still lay claim to the islands. A Pentagon statement from U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said the May landing of Chinese heavy bombers in the island chain is evidence of “China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea.”
China’s Navy Deploys New H 6J Anti Ship Cruise Missile Carrying Bombers
The 2018 edition of China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong, will take place from Nov. 6-11, 2018. Photographers already at the show venue have shared a feast of interesting images in social media including photos of the Chengdu J-20A “Mighty Dragon” in a completely new operational camouflage scheme.
The Chengdu J-20As seen at the show are claimed “fifth generation” twin engine, single seat air superiority fighters with a distinctive canard, delta wing and twin tail configuration. They are reported to be operated by the172th Brigade based at the FTTB (Airbase) at Cangzhou according to expert analyst Andreas Rupprecht who maintains the Modern Chinese Warplanes page on Facebook and publishes a series of authoritative reference guides about Chinese military aircraft (and many others) through Harpia Publishing.
Several J-20A Mighty Dragons arrived ahead of the Zhuhai Airshow with brand new paint schemes.
(Hunter Chen Photos via Twitter and Facebook)
Rupprecht noted that two of the J-20A aircraft wore serial numbers 78231 and 78232. He also pointed out that the aircraft previously had an angular “splinter” style camouflage scheme but now have a new, rounded pattern camouflage livery.
In conjunction with the timing of the Zhuhai Airshow, Rupprecht’s Harpia Publishing has just released their latest reference book, “Modern Chinese Warplanes: Chinese Air Force – Aircraft and Units”.
Other unique aircraft photographed arriving at Zhuhai for the 2018 China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition include a unique J-10B prototype aircraft number ‘1034’ modified to with a special thrust vectoring engine nozzle. The modification is likely a test version according the Andreas Rupprecht that has been retrofitted onto the existing WS-10 jet engine.
A unique new version of the J-10B with thrust vectoring arrived at Zhuhai Airshow early this week.
(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)
China’s naval aviation program also arcs forward into a rapidly developing and ambitious future with their aircraft carriers. On Oct. 28, 2018, the new, unnamed Type 002 aircraft carrier sailed away from its construction and maintenance facility at Dalian, China for its third sea trial. Andreas Rupprecht observed on his Modern Chinese Warplanes page on Facebook (Author’s note: this page is worth “Liking”) that the ship’s flight deck had been cleaned and possibly prepared for flight deck trials during this current shakedown cruise.
Of equal interest is a photo that surfaced on Google Earth that is only a few weeks old, taken on Sept. 22, 2018, showing the two Chinese aircraft carriers sitting side-by-side in their maintenance and construction yard in Dalian. Dalian is a modern, rapidly growing port city on the Liaodong Peninsula, at the southern tip of China’s Liaoning Province.
Two Chinese carriers in the Dalian Shipyard.
(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)
Video of the new AVIC AG600 Kunlong flying boat making its first ever waterborne take-off and landing were posted to YouTube on Oct. 20, 2018. The impressive four-engine turboprop aircraft is intended for the long range maritime patrol, reconnaissance, search and rescue mission. It is said to be capable of operating in sea state 3 conditions, or waves as high as 6.6-feet (2 meters). With its projected range of 2,796 miles (4,500 km), the AG600 flying boat can reach the contested islands in the outlying regions of China’s sea.
Aerial view: China’s AG600 amphibious aircraft makes maiden flight from water
In addition to global power projection in their own interests, an aim of China’s emerging new military aviation push is the export market. In early October 2018, the sale of 48 new Wing Loong II armed, remotely piloted aircraft to Pakistan was announced.
According to analyst Shaurya Karanbir Gurung of India’s Economic Times in a story published on Oct. 10, 2018, “The Wing Loong II is an improved version of the Wing Loong 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Falling in the category of Medium Altitude Long Endurance, it is manufactured by the Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Company. The UAV has been developed primarily for People’s Liberation Army Air Force and export. The concept of the Wing Loong II was unveiled at the Aviation Expo China in Beijing in September 2015.”
All About Wing Loong II: Pakistan’s New Drone From China | Urdu | Hindi |
And finally, and perhaps most interestingly, news about an entirely new, long range low observable Chinese heavy bomber has surfaced. According to some reports, the program is claimed to be significantly advanced in its development. The Hong-20 is tipped as China’s new long-range strategic stealth bomber. Official Chinese media has released concept images of the aircraft after teasing shapes earlier in the year in what appeared to be a direct parody of a video touting the upcoming U.S. bomber, the B-21 Raider.
A rendering of what China claims is the new Hong-20 low-observable long range bomber.
(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)
Defense World.net reported that, “The Hong-20 official unveiling could be slated for next month’s Zhuhai Air show though there is no confirmation of it as yet.” The report went on to reveal that Russian media outlet Rossiyskaya Gazeta claimed the Hong-20 bomber has been under development at the Shanghai Aircraft Design and Research Institute in China since 2008.
Conceptual artwork from earlier this year of new Hong-20 low-observable long range bomber.
(Andreas Rupprecht/Rupprecht_A on Twitter)
Many casual observers of China’s defense and aviation programs have been cynical of China’s ability to produce truly advanced high-end, reliable new military technologies that may compete with western technology. Because of lingering dogma about China’s mass manufacturing being comprised largely of knock-offs from western technology mimicked quickly at lower cost and lower quality by legions of near-slave laborers, this mistaken stereotype has lingered. Anyone who has visited China recently knows this country has vaulted into a new era of economic, technological and now, military development. Given that China is the country that invented gunpowder and revolutionized warfare, any country that underestimates China’s new capabilities does so at their own peril.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.