Technology has given the world’s militaries 62-ton tanks and silent motorcycles, but some modern armies still send troops into battle on the backs of camels and horses.
Here are 7 militaries that still view four-legged creatures as part of the first line of defense:
1. India’s 61st Cavalry and Border Security Force
India was ranked 4th on our list of top militaries in the world. Surprisingly for such a powerful force, it has two units that ride animals into battle, mostly in desert areas where heavy vehicles would be bogged down.
India’s 61st Cavalry Regiment is thought to be the last fully-operational, horse-mounted army regiment in the world. It is deployed primarily in an internal security role. When the 61st does ride out to the borders, it’s usually to support the Indian Border Security Force. The BSF is also mounted, primarily on camels.
2. Chilean Army Horse Units
Chile lists four horse units on its published list of Army units from 2014, though it’s not clear which of them still actually ride into combat. But, the army does still send scouts into the rough Andes mountains on horseback. Many of the mountain passes are nearly impassable for vehicles and the horses can travel on small paths through the rocks.
Interestingly, Chile’s annual military parade began including horse artillery again in 2000, after 30 years of not parading it. (Bouncing back from budget cuts, perhaps?)
Germany maintains one pack animal company in support of its Reconnaissance Battalion 230. Though the company primarily focuses on using mules and horses as pack animals, its soldiers can also ride when they need to cover ground quickly in the mountains.
4. The United Nations
The United Nations puts together peacekeeping forces to patrol some of the most austere environments in the world and sometimes has to form forces of mounted cavalry.
In the above photo, Dutch soldiers assigned as peacekeepers ride camels while enforcing a 2002 ceasefire between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The large deserts of Iraq and Syria could make mounted troops necessary if the UN decides to send personnel to the conflicts there.
5. The U.S. Marine Corps and special forces
Following the use by special forces soldiers of horses during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the U.S. has shown interest in expanding its mounted training. The only current mounted training area for U.S. forces is the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in California.
The school recently hosted training for special forces operators where the soldiers learned how to tell the age and temperament of horses and other pack animals. They also got time in the saddle and experience packing the animals with crew-served weapons and other equipment.
China uses mounted soldiers to police areas of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, according to blogs that follow Chinese military developments. About 140 horses are tended to in Mongolia’s historic grasslands. The full unit is only present with the horses for the spring and summer though. Once the cold weather settles in, the staff that supports the herd drops to six people.
The Jordanian Public Security Force has a Desert Camel Corps that patrols the country’s desert borders. The actual camel riders are limited to one 40-man platoon. The riders spend most of their time assisting travelers and stopping smugglers. The desert riders could be called on to watch for incursions by ISIS, since Jordan shares borders with both Iraq and Syria.
April is Month of the Military Child, so here are 16 celebrities who grew up in military families. Which one of these military brats surprises you the most?
1. Amy Adams was born in Italy while her Army father was stationed at Caserma Ederle. He moved the family around for eight years before settling in Colorado.
2. Julianne Moore was also raised in an Army home (and was born on Fort Bragg).
3. LeVar Burton was born into an Army family at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. He would grow up to be the chief engineer of the USS Enterprise under Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
4. Luke Skywalker (actor Mark Hamill) was from a Navy family and even graduated from high school on Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan. Strangely, Luke fights best on the Dune Sea. There must be a SeaBee in the family somewhere.
5. Robert Duvall was born into a Navy family. His father started at the Naval Academy at 16, made Captain at 39, and retired a rear admiral. His family is descended from the family of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Duvall served in the Army during the Korean War, but “barely qualified on the M-1 rifle in basic.” Still plays a badass Air Cav Commander, though.
6. Author and Church of Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard was born into a Navy family. Much of Hubbard’s travel throughout the Pacific is due to his father’s Navy career. He later served as a Naval officer himself, although his record has major discrepancies.
7. Author of the novel Push Ramona Lofton (best known by her pen name Sapphire) was raised in an Army household.
8. The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels (born Michael Shawn Hickenbottom) was raised in Arizona, England, and San Antonio, following his father’s Air Force career. He was a linebacker on Randolph Air Force Base’s high school football team.
9. Annie Leibovitz took her first photos when living with her father, an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, while he was stationed in the Philippines. She moved frequently with him.
10. Comedian Patton Oswalt was born to Larry Oswalt, a career Marine Corps officer – and was named for General George S. Patton.
11. Stephen Stills’ military childhood in places like Florida, Louisiana, Costa Rica, Panama, and El Salvador was an influence on his musical style. Crosby, Nash, and Young had equally interesting childhoods, though outside of the military.
12. Bruce Willis’ dad was a soldier who married a German woman while stationed there. Two years later, he moved the Willis family back to New Jersey.
13. James Woods’ father was an Army intelligence officer.
14. Tiger Woods was born to Lieutenant Colonel Earl Woods, an Army officer and Vietnam veteran.
15. Former MLB player Johnny Damon was born at Fort Riley, Kansas to Army Staff Sergeant Jimmy Damon.
16. Legendary Doors frontman Jim Morrison‘s dad was a Navy admiral, the youngest to attain flag rank at the time.
The territory controlled by the ISIS is vast and spreads across wide areas of Iraq and Syria. To date ISIS has proved resilient in the face of American airstrikes, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Iranian-backed Shia militias, battle-hardened Syrian rebels, Asad regime forces, and even other jihadist groups.
In 2014, ISIS surprised the world with a string of military victories in Iraq, even threatening the central government in Baghdad before American and Kurdish intervention. The swath of territory under their control has not shrunk by much since then.
So how can a paramilitary organization with no recognized trading partners maintain an economy, infrastructure, and sustained military campaigns on multiple fronts? By any means necessary, it appears. Some bloggers suggest Turkey is funding them, or the U.S. government, or even payday lenders. The reality is much more simple and ISIS remains one of the most well-funded paramilitary terrorist organizations ever, with an estimated net worth of $2 billion.
Here are ISIS’ 10 main sources of funding:
1. Oil Smuggling
ISIS captured oil wells all over Iraq and in Northern Syria in 2014. With refined gasoline running near $7.50 per gallon across the border in Turkey, any relief from those kinds of prices is a welcome relief, even if that cheap oil comes from a group like ISIS. The terror group controls 80,000 of Iraq’s total 3 million daily barrels of oil, but the area of oil fields under their control is the size of the UK. In Syria, ISIS controls sixty percent of total production capacity and is selling oil at a rock-bottom $25 per barrel. As of October 2015, the market price of oil was $43. Cross-border smuggling of cheap crude oil earns ISIS and estimated $1.5-3.6 million each day, maybe as high as $800 million each year.
2. Donations from Angel Investors
ISIS is a fundamentalist Sunni Islamist group. Their ideology is close to the Wahhabi brand of Islam espoused by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It shouldn’t come as a surprise there are wealthy oil magnates in the Gulf’s Sunni monarchies, like Qatar, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates who share ISIS’ core beliefs and are willing to send money to help them. Experts believe angel investors in Qatar are sending the largest portion of individual investments. Their interests may lie more in the overthrow of the regime of Bashar al-Asad, whose government supported Shia muslims in Syria. This income source comes to the tune of $40 million over the past two years.
3. Organized Crime
Calling ISIS “thugs” isn’t just a way of demeaning those who fight, work for, or otherwise support the group. As the only form of law enforcement in the areas under its control, ISIS has a “massive” organized crime operation. It demands large sums of money from those in its territory. Anyone who wants to start a business, withdraw from their bank account, or just be alive are taxed on almost every aspect of daily life. These taxes also extend to dams, granaries, and even oil fields. These taxes can be as high as ten percent per transaction. They’ve even been known to take necklaces and earrings off of women.
4. Looting Banks and Museums
When ISIS captured Mosul in 2014, it famously looted the central bank, cashing in on a large amount of money. It also loots smaller banks as it swarms through new territory under its control. In Mosul alone, ISIS took over 12 branches. All told, experts believe $1.5 billion was captured by the terror group in the past two years. Bank robbery plays a part, but the terror organization will also loot museums and sell valuable artifacts through towns on the Turkish border with Syria. 1/3 of Iraqi archeological sites are under ISIS control and the looting of these sites for artifacts to sell on the black market is the group’s second largest income source.
5. Hostages and Kidnapping
Capturing Westerners and other foreigners is a major source of income for ISIS. Knowing full well the group will fulfill its word to brutally murder those it captures, hostages for profit earns ISIS an estimated $12 million per month, and at least $20 million in 2014. American journalists Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff were held by ISIS for ransom, but because ransoming the men would have been illegal, their families didn’t pay and the two were beheaded. France is known to have paid $14 million for four captured journalists. For locals, the price is $500 to $200,000.
6. Illegal Drugs Sex Trafficking
An Iraqi in Qatar told Newsweeknearly 4,000 women and girls from the Yazidi minority in Iraqi were forced into marriage or sold for sex. There are many more women from other minorities. Girls as young as 14 are forced to either convert to Islam and be wives or be sold into slavery. Reports of cocaine and methamphetamine use are rampant, but more reliable reports indicate ISIS grows marijuana on the outskirts of major cities for sale in Turkey. ISIS is also known to smuggle cigarettes and alcohol, all of which is strictly forbidden under their brand of Islam.
Bitcoin is not a regulated currency, and Israeli intelligence agencies acknowledged they know ISIS is using the currency for fundraising efforts in the United States.
8. Fake Foreign Aid
Unregistered charities worldwide provide ISIS with a method of laundering money from various sources and donors, turning the money into “humanitarian aid.” Fighters will coordinate dropoffs of the aid payments through international data messaging services like Kik and WhatsApp. $11 million of fake aid came to ISIS through Qatar since the start of Syrian Civil War in 2011.
9. Internet Cafes
In Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS territory, there were less than 20 internet cafes in the city before the rise of ISIS. Since then, the number has grown to more than 500. According to Syrian activist groupRaqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently the city is now dependent on expensive satellite internet connections controlled by the militants.
10. Fines for Breaking Sharia Law (al-Hisbah)
The terror organization charges steep fines for breaking strict Islamic laws, for everything from smoking tobacco to arriving late to the mosque for prayers. As brutal as the group’s methods are, people living under ISIS rule can now pay fines to avoid torture or execution. Even actual crimes like theft and fraud can be mitigated with payments in Syrian currency.
ISIS burns through cash, spending on military hardware, equipment, infrastructure, safe houses, mass transportation, food, and its own high-quality media center, al-Hayat (the life) and a magazine called Dabiq, not to mention tens of thousands of fighters operating in the field. No matter how much the group spends, it makes an estimated $6 million from these sources every day. There may be no limit to how much the group can expend in its effort to further its ideology.
When troops deploy overseas to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they usually get a pay increase thanks to combat and hazardous pay bonuses. And given that they are working longer days and away from most of the comforts of home, they usually save a bunch of money in that time.
Usually returning with a large balance in their bank account, they are what some would call “post-deployment rich.”
But that wealth usually doesn’t last forever. Some troops save their money for the future, while others making big purchases soon after they are home. These are the six things they are usually buying.
1. A new car or motorcycle
The barracks parking lot is guaranteed to be filled with new cars and bikes shortly after a unit returns from deployment. The vehicular staple of the returning Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman usually spans the gamut of Ford Mustang to Jeep Wrangler.
That’s it. The barracks parking lot is just filled with Mustangs and Wranglers. That and a ton of crotch rockets.
2. Post-deployment booze
I’m not going to lie. When I came back after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, I drank a lot. Think—drinking at a minimum a six-pack of beer every night for months—a lot. Was it healthy? No. A good idea? No. Helpful during morning PT? Oh, good lord no.
But hey, I hadn’t drank in a long time and I had to make up for lost time. At least that made sense in my then-21-year-old brain. My story is not unique, however. While the military tries to crack down on binge-drinking, for many troops, it’s still a big part of the lifestyle.
3. Epic parties in Vegas (or some other awesome place)
When you are post-deployment rich, it’s no problem picking up the tab at the bar. “Oh yeah! I got this,” the young private says. “Drinks are on me!” Come back to this same young private about two months later and he probably won’t be saying this one again.
That’s definitely true of throwing big parties. While they initially start out in the barracks and involve kegs, beer pong, and midget-tossing (no? that’s not allowed Sergeant Major?), the parties eventually head off base to a better location. Sometimes this means the strip club, but let it be known: Las Vegas is always the best option.
Just don’t buy the next item while you are drinking.
4. Engagement rings
Spending seven to 12 months (or more) overseas can get some service members thinking about elevating their relationships to the next level of marriage. For some, that means saving up their deployment cash to buy an expensive engagement ring for their honey. Hopefully it all works out, because if it doesn’t, the post-deployment splurge may be spent on…
5. Divorce lawyers are, unfortunately, another common deployment side effect
Most service members have heard a horror story or two about a fellow soldier returning home with no greeting at the airport, a completely empty refrigerator (even sans ice cubes), and an empty bank account. The sad homecoming for some troops means one thing: Divorce.
There’s a good reason why tattoo parlors are strategically located near military bases. Troops love ink (including this writer). Whether it’s a simple U.S. Army or USMC on your arm to show pride in your service, or a listing of fallen friends, tattoos are a big part of the military culture.
Just make sure you get it spell-checked.
What did you buy right after deployment? Let us know in the comments.
Sometimes the smallest thing can mean the difference between nations emerging triumphant or collapsing in defeat. Here are 7 moments from military history where the outcomes hinged on a minor detail:
1. A colonel didn’t read a note, and his men were slaughtered by Washington
Col. Johann Rall was the commander of Hessian soldiers in Trenton, New Jersey, on Christmas Day in 1776. Rall was partying with his officers when someone handed him a note that he shoved in his pocket without reading it. A few hours later, he and his men were effectively wiped out by Patriots fighting under Gen. George Washington.
2. A weather report and a birthday party changed World War II
Nazi and Allied planners had forecasted potential dates for a summer invasion based on tides, phases of the moon, and weather trends. The best window for the Allies was June 4 to June 6, 1944. June 4 started with clear skies but Allied meteorologists believed it would turn nasty, which was true.
Allied Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower postponed the invasion, and Nazi commanders left their coastal defenses for war games. German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel even left for home to celebrate his wife’s birthday. But the Allies had more Atlantic weather stations and found a lull in the bad weather that the Nazis didn’t know about. The invasion was launched into rough seas and winds Jun. 6, but the weather cleared early in the day.
3. World War I began because of bad driving directions
Conspirators attempted to kill the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 by attacking his car during a parade. One assassin threw a grenade but it bounced off the Archduke’s vehicle before the royal was rushed to safety.
Reports vary about whether the royal couple attempted to leave the city after the attack or continue the parade, but they definitely were driving back along the route when they were spotted by another assassin, Gavrilo Princip. The car stopped directly in front of Princip as the occupants argued about the proper directions.
Princip took two shots, killing both the Archduke and his wife, which set off the powder keg that was 1914 Europe and began World War I.
4. Germany lost the Battle of the Marne (and maybe World War I) because of a rumor
Early in World War I, Imperial Germany was marching quickly towards Paris after forcing British and French forces into a series of retreats. At the Battle of the Marne in Sep. 1914, the British and French barely stopped the Germans through a series of desperate actions like using taxis to ferry troops to the frontlines.
Germany might have won if it had the two divisions it had sent to the Belgian coast. The Germans had believed rumors that Russian soldiers were forming in Britain for an amphibious assault. This false rumor was later traced by historians to either a shipment of 100,000 Russian eggs that was noted in a train report as “100,000 Russians now on way from Aberdeen to London” or a group of soldiers from Ross Shire being misheard by local train officials.
Either way, the rumor began circulating that large numbers of Russian soldiers were entering the fight on the Eastern Front and Germany redeployed troops to deal with them. Those troops then weren’t available for fighting near Paris, and France was able to hold on, prolonging the war and allowing an Allied victory.
5. A slight time miscalculation ended the Bay of Pigs invasion
On Apr. 17, 1961, 1,400 Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and attempted to overthrow the Castro regime. If successful, this invasion would have led to the downfall of Communist Cuba and allowed America more influence over its southern neighbor. It also would’ve cut off Soviet access to the island, preventing the Cuban Missile Crisis and giving American a stronger hand in the Cold War.
6. Nagasaki was destroyed because of a single cloud at the original target
There are two cities that are synonymous with the destruction from atomic bombs: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, America’s target list actually included Kokura. On Aug. 6, Hiroshima was the primary target and Kokura was the backup. Since Hiroshima was clear, the bomb was dropped there.
On Aug. 9, Kokura was the primary target and Hiroshima was the backup. The B-29 crew (bomber nicknamed Bock’s Car) flew over Kokura multiple times but had orders to only drop the bomb if they could physically see the targeted weapons factory beforehand. A single cloud kept blocking their view, and so they moved on to Nagasaki, sparing the city of Kokura.
7. Constantinople fell because of an unlocked gate
Constantinople in 1453 was facing serious problems. The skilled conqueror Mehmed II was hammering at the walls with his cannons while the defenders fought among themselves about whether the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church of Byzantium was the true Christian faith.
Soldiers and commanders are usually stuck with whatever equipment the procurement officers and civilian leaders are willing to buy for them, sometimes forcing troops to go into combat with outdated and inferior equipment.
But sometimes, those “outdated” weapons are actually just perfect for the fight. Here are five times that a supposedly obsolete weapon system saved the lives of its users:
1. Bayonets in Afghanistan and Iraq
Bayonets, most often associated with fighting in the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, actually played a key role in battles during the modern Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
But the A-10, a low and slow platform, made its operational debut in 1976, three years after the Yom Kippur War supposedly closed the books on them. Despite that, the A-10 has fought and survived in a number of contested environments, most notably Iraq where it has twice been a key part of American forces breaking the back of armored and anti-aircraft ground forces.
In Afghanistan alone, A-10 pilots saved a Special Forces team from five ground assaults against them; conducted forward air control and numerous attack missions to ensure the success of an 8-hour, no notice mission to capture a senior enemy officer; and prevented an accidental fratricide event before annihilating Taliban forces at Jugroom Fort.
5. The Night Witches and their plywood biplanes
The women of Soviet Russia’s 588th Night Bomber Regiment, the Night Witches, flew in plywood and canvas biplanes through the best defenses that Nazi Germany had to offer, conducting multiple bombing missions per night to break up attacks against Soviet ground forces.
Their planes, the Polikarpov U-2 biplane, were underpowered and outgunned compared to the Luftwaffe’s modern air force. But the Night Witches used the biplanes to fly over German defenses nearly silently and drop bombs — they could only carry two at a time per plane — on Nazi positions.
China and Russia are both building up their sub fleets, and potential conflict areas in the Black Sea, South China Sea, and under the Arctic Circle mean it’s possible submarine warfare could make a comeback. If the NATO and Russian or Chinese fleets clash, these are 6 weapons that will decide who comes out on top:
The U.S. and allied navies have one of the best light torpedoes in the world in the Mk. 54. It has a 96-pound warhead guided by a torpedo that can ignore enemy countermeasures and home in on an enemy sub at 40 knots. It can be launched from ships, helicopters, and planes and reaches deep enough to kill all known subs.
3. Improved Shkval underwater missile
The Shkval is a Russian weapon that moves under the surface like a torpedo, but is generally referred to as a missile or rocket because it creates a pocket of air to move through in the water.
This reduces friction and allows it to fly through the water at speeds of over 230 mph. A 463-pound warhead then detonates after a set time, destroying nearby enemy submarines or incoming torpedoes. There’s speculation in the West that it would also destroy the submarine that fired it.
Currently, U.S. Navy anti-submarine rockets carry the Mk 54 torpedo described above. Some ships used to carry rockets with the Mk 45 nuclear torpedo described below.
5. Anti-submarine mortar
Anti-submarine mortars and grenades are the shotgun of anti-submarine warfare. A few dozen rounds are fired at once and sink through the water, detonating against the submarine hull with a contact fuse.
They’re lethal in short-range fights that could occur in a fjord or sea channel, but their limited range means an enemy submarine would have the advantage in a long-range fight where the sub’s missiles and torpedoes could be launched.
6. Mk. 45 and T-5 nuclear torpedoes
During the Cold War, both the U.S. and Russia developed nuclear torpedoes. While they aren’t in service today they’re still some of the most effective weapons for killing an enemy submarine. They could also kill the firing sub, so they’re not great weapons, just effective.
The Russian T-5 in the video above carried a 3.5 kt nuclear warhead. The U.S. Mark 45 had an 11 kt nuclear warhead. Both torpedoes were steered into position and detonated via a command wire between the torpedo and launching submarine.
There are certain phrases military service members hear on the regular, and by regular, we mean they are over-used like crazy.
While every workplace has its own cliche buzzwords — we’re talking about you there, “corporate synergy” — the military has plenty to choose from. The WATM team put its collective heads together and came up with this list of the cliche phrases we’ve heard way too many times in the military.
1. “All this and a paycheck too!”
Usually uttered by a staff NCO at the moment of a 20-mile hike where you wish you could just pass out on the side of the road.
2. “If you’re on time, you’re late.”
Military members are well aware of the unwritten rule of arriving 15 minutes prior to the time they are supposed to be somewhere. Of course, if there’s a senior officer involved, that might even mean 15 minutes prior to 15 minutes prior.
3. “We get more done before 6 a.m. than most people do all day.”
The time can always be changed, but the phrase remains the same. Military members across the world are usually waking up way earlier than most, and as the saying goes, it probably means they have done personal hygiene, conducted an insane workout, ate breakfast, and started training before average Joe hit the snooze button on the alarm clock.
4. “Don’t call me sir. I work for a living.”
Among the enlisted ranks, it’s a common cliche that officers don’t do any real work. “There’s a reason why they have office in their name” is a popular saying. So when an enlisted service-member is incorrectly addressed as “sir,” this is one of the most popular responses.
5. “If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training.”
No matter what the weather, the U.S. military is guaranteed to be training or conducting some sort of exercise. But this cliche phrase is guaranteed to come out when a torrential downpour hits your unit.
6. “This ain’t my first rodeo there, cowboy.”
Let’s not ask the sergeant any stupid questions. He knows what he’s doing, because he’s done this a million times before. Cowboy.
7. “Best job in the world!”
Calling your particular field in the military “the best job in the world” usually happens during the times when you would never think it’s the best time in the world. These times include freezing cold on patrol in Afghanistan, running out of water while training in Thailand, and/or not showering for a month-and-a-half.
8. “Complacency kills.”
You’ll find this phrase spray-painted to every other Hesco barrier on the forward operating base, on a sign outside the chow hall, and on the lips of every sergeant major in a half-mile radius. Troops need to stay alert while they are out in combat, and this one gets drilled into the dirt.
9. “Keep your head on a swivel.”
This one is similar to “complacency kills” but is often said to troops about to go into dangerous situations. Before heading out on patrol, a squad leader might tell his troops to “keep their head on swivel,” meaning: keep alert and look everywhere for potential threats.
10. “Got any saved rounds?” or “Any alibis?”
At the end of a briefing, you’ll usually hear either of these phrases. “Any questions?” just doesn’t pack the same punch as using terminology straight off the rifle range.
11. “Another glorious day in the Corps!”
It could be the Corps, the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force, but it’s always a glorious day there, according to whoever utters this phrase. This is meant to motivate but it’s usually met with eye-rolls.
12. “This is just for your SA.”
This is another way of saying FYI, but with a military spin. SA, or situational awareness, is all about being aware of what’s happening around you, so this is often said by a subordinate to a leader so they know what’s going on.
13. “We’re putting on another dog and pony show.”
We’ve never actually been to a real dog and pony show, but we have put on plenty of them in the military. A military “dog and pony show” is usually some sort of ceremony or traditional event for troops to show off their weaponry and other stuff. For example, Marines may put one on by standing around and answering questions about their machine-guns, rocket launchers, and other gear for civilians who are visiting the base for an event.
14. “Roger that.”
This is a phrase that should be uttered only over the radio (it’s actually just “roger, over” and “roger, out,” respectively), but troops often say this instead of saying “I understand.”
15. “Bravo Zulu.”
Bravo Zulu is a naval signal that can be conveyed via flag or over the radio, and it means “well done.” But plenty of troops will use this as a way of saying good job or congratulations.
16. “Like a monkey f–king a football.”
A favorite of NCOs and staff NCOs, this comes out when junior troops have screwed something up pretty bad. As you can probably guess, a football is not a good object for a monkey’s sexual relations.
17. “Let’s pop smoke.”
Smoke grenades are used for signaling and/or screening movements. When under fire, troops may want to pop smoke so the enemy can’t really see where they are headed. On the flip side, troops at a lame bar may want to “pop smoke” and go somewhere else.
18. “Let’s break it down, Barney style.”
Barney the dinosaur loves you, and some military members like to invoke his name to explain things. When a task is complicated, a leader may explain it “Barney style,” or so simply that a child could understand it.
19. “Look at this soup sandwich.”
This refers to someone who has usually screwed up the wear of their uniform in some way.
20. “Ok, gents, we need to be heads down on this.”
A favorite of WATM’s own ex-naval aviator Ward, this is actually a twofer. First, the use of “gents” (oh Lord please make it stop), and then referring to working hard as heads down. Apparently we’ll be more productive as long as our heads are not up or to the side.
21. “You are lost in the sauce.”
This will often be said of someone who has no idea what the hell is going on. In order to rectify, a leader will probably break things down “Barney Style.”
Vladimir Putin has recently been talking a lot of smack in demonstrating Russia’s new weapons. Of course, the fact that the Navy is deploying lasers kinda renders two of these highly hyped weapons inert, but let’s not burst Putin’s bubble… On second thought, that guy’s a jerk, so let’s poke some holes in his sails by reviewing past Russian weapons that were massively overhyped.
1. MiG-25 Foxbat
The performance specs on this plane were impressive. According to MilitaryFactory.com, it had a top speed of 2,170 miles per hour and could reach altitudes in excess of 80,000 feet. It packed four AA-6 Acrid air-to-air missiles and could also carry the AA-7 Apex and AA-8 Aphid. Its purpose was to counter the planned B-70 Valkyrie, but the Valkyrie never got past the prototype stage. As a consequence, the Foxbat ended up a plane without a mission.
America got a close look at a MiG-25 when one was flown to Japan, and they breathed easily as they learned just how primitive some of the onboard technology was. The MiG-25 never did that well in combat. It may have scored a kill in Desert Storm and did kill a Predator in 2002, but two were killed by Air Force F-15s during Desert Storm and a third was shot down shortly afterward by an F-16.
2. T-72 main battle tank
People had their suspicions after the Israelis handled Syrian T-72s with no problem in 1982. During Desert Storm, though, is when this tank was officially declared all hype. In one incident, as recounted in Tom Clancy’s Armored Cav, a T-72 fired a main-gun round at an M1A1 Abrams from roughly 400 yards. The round bounced off and left a groove in the armor. The offending T-72 didn’t survive return fire from the Abrams.
The Soviets — and Russians — have built a lot of T-72s, and the tank is still widely used. It’s cheap, it’s kinda simple, and it only needs three crewmen. The late Tom Clancy put it best in a 1996 USENET post after taking one for a test drive, saying, “to call this beast a dog is an insult to Pluto.”
3. MiG-29 Fulcrum
The Soviet Union was desperate to counter the F-14, F-15, F-16, and F/A-18 in the late 1970s and through the 1980s. That was why they developed the Su-27 and MiG-29. But when the time came for the Fulcrum to step up… well, let’s just say a lot of MiG-29 parts have been “distributed,” mostly over Iraq, Kuwait, and Serbia.
The MiG-29 did see some limited success in the mid-to-late 1990s, but it was still overhyped. A Cuban MiG-29 blew a pair of unarmed, propeller-driven planes flown by Brothers to the Rescue out of the sky, while Eritrean MiG-29s shot down three MiG-21s and a MiG-23 in exchange for anywhere from five to seven Fulcrums. On second though, ‘success’ might not be the right word.
4. Alfa-class nuclear submarine
This sub was fast, able to go over 40 knots, and it was small, weighing about 3,200 tons. It had six 21-inch torpedo tubes, allowing it to pack a punch with 18 torpedoes. There was one problem, though: It was noisy. Very noisy. In submarine warfare, where the primary sensors are sonar, that’s a fatal flaw.
The Alfa-class subs never saw combat, but they did star in some of Tom Clancy’s earliest books. Two sank in The Hunt for Red October, one in a reactor accident the other after being rammed. A third Alfa sank two American subs before a British sub put it on the bottom.
The Alfa-class sub was the hot rod of submarines — and it was as noisy as a hot rod. (DOD photo)
Think about these four platforms before you panic over Putin’s latest pronouncements.
1. Winston Churchill’s plan for a militarized iceberg
Everyone knows that Winston Churchill is a certifiable badass — his military strategy in WWII led to the Allied victory over the Nazi Regime, and has secured him a spot amongst history’s greatest leaders.
What few people know, however, is that Churchill’s most glorious military scheme never saw the light of day — and for good reason. It was insane. What exactly was the Bulldog’s grand plan, you ask? To create the largest aircraft carrier the world had ever seen, and to make it out of ice.
Yes, you read that right. Churchill’s dream was to create a 2,000 foot long iceberg that would literally blow the Axis powers out of the water. The watercraft, dubbed Project Habakkuk, was going to be massive in every way: the construction plans called for walls that were 40 feet thick, and a keel depth of 200 feet — displacing approximately 2,00,000 tons of water. Habukkuk was no ice cube.
Eventually the Brits realized that frozen water may not be the hardiest building material, and opted to replace it with pykrete, a blend of ice and wood pulp that could deflect bullets.
Despite the fact that this “plan” sounds like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, Habakkuk almost happened. It wasn’t until a 60 foot long, 1,000 ton model was constructed in Canada that people realized how freaking expensive this thing would be — the 1940s were a strange time. A full-sized Habakkuk would cost $70 million dollars, and could only get up to about six knots. And at the end of the day, Germany could still potentially melt the thing, though it would probably take the rest of the war to make a dent in this glacier.
2. Napalm-packing suicide bomber bats
Fire bombs were a huge threat during the height of WWII, and an excellent weapon to wield against unwitting enemies. The horrific damage done to London and Coventry during the London Blitz is a prime example of the power this weapon of war had when used on England and other Allied nations.
Determined to one-up the Axis forces, President Franklin Roosevelt approved plans for an even better bomb — one that was smaller, faster, and … furrier. That’s right. The plan was to strap tiny explosives to tiny, live bats.
Why people thought this would be a good idea is anyone’s guess. The guy who proposed the scheme wasn’t even military — he was a dentist, and a friend of FDR’s wife, Eleanor. But America didn’t care about that. It was time to blow the crap out of Japan, and they were going to do it with the one weapon Japan didn’t have — flying rodents.
FDR consulted with zoologist Donald Griffin for his professional opinion before giving an official green light, apparently worried this “so crazy it just might work” idea might just be plain-old insane.
Griffin was a little skeptical too, but ultimately thought the whole bat thing was too cool to pass on. “This proposal seems bizarre and visionary at first glance,” he wrote in April 1942, according to The Atlantic, “but extensive experience with experimental biology convinces the writer that if executed competently it would have every chance of success.” Aces, Griffin.
The official strategy was to attach napalm explosives to each individual bat, store about 1,000 bats in large, bomb-safe crates, and release about 200 of those cases from a B-29 bomber as it flew over Japanese cities. That meant up to 200,000 bats could be unleashed at once — which would be terrifying even if they weren’t on a suicide mission.
After they were released into the air, these little angels of death would roost inside buildings on the ground. Then after a few hours their explosives would detonate, igniting the building and causing total chaos.
At least, that was the plan. In reality, the bats were a little too good at their job, and escaped to nest under an American Air Force base’s airplane hanger during an experiment. You can guess how that went. Surprisingly, the incineration of the building didn’t put a damper on the operation — people were just more convinced of the bats volatility, and excited to see them used in real combat.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, let’s be real), the U.S. never got to add “weaponized bats” to its military repertoire. It was decided that equipping small flying animals with napalm bombs could yield unpredictable results, and the investment wouldn’t be worth the possible military gains. Shocker.
3. The “Gay Bomb” that would cause enemies to “make love, not war”
Hindsight is always 20-20, but how anyone took this “military strategy” seriously is completely beyond us. In quite possibly the least politically-correct display of derring-do in American history, the U.S. prepared to take its enemies out in a way they would never expect — by turning them gay.
Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. The United States of America, one of the most powerful countries in the world, was convinced that getting the enemy to “switch teams” was the key to military prowess. Oh, and did we mention this happened in 1994?
The Wright Laboratory proposed a project that would require six years of research and a $7.5 million grant to create this bomb, along with other bizarre ideas — including as a bomb that would cause insects to swarm the enemy. So they really had the best and brightest American minds on this thing.
The goal was to drop extremely powerful chemical aphrodisiacs on enemy camps, rendering the men too “distracted” to um … leave their tents. Yes, this was a real idea that involved discharging female sex pheromones over enemy forces in order to make them sexually attracted to each other.
At the time the Pentagon and the Department of Defense held that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service,” consistent with Clinton’s infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
The gay bomb never got off the ground because researchers at the Wright lab discovered no such “chemical pheromones” existed, leaving the crazy idea with zero means to execute it. The Wright Lab did, however, win the IG Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts, a tongue-and-cheek gesture from the Annals of Improbable Research.
4. B.F. Skinner’s pigeon-guided missile system
WWII is a treasure trove of weird military experiments, and famed psychologist B.F. Skinner’s contribution to the American cause may be one of the most bizarre.
The plan? Place live pigeons inside missiles, and train them to direct it to the correct target, ensuring that no target was missed. The target would be displayed on a digital screen inside the missile, and the pigeon would be trained to peck the target until the bomb would correct its course and start heading in the right direction.
Despite pretty hefty financial investment in the idea, it was ultimately decided that the time it would take to train the pigeons, and the fact that missiles would have to be updated with tiny screens for them to peck at, wasn’t worth the trouble.
5. America tried to take out the Viet Cong with clouds
This is one experiment that actually did happen, though that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous than our other contenders. When people think of the American military’s methods of chemical warfare in Vietnam, Agent Orange is what immediately comes to mind — but this chemical wasn’t the only weapon the U.S. employed in its battle against the Viet Cong. The CIA developed a strategy called cloud seeding in 1963, which would release chemicals into the air that would manipulate weather patterns, causing unusual amounts of rainfall for the surrounding area.
And we’re not talking your run-of-the-mill thunderstorm, either. Vietnam gets a ridiculous amount of rain already (remember that clip from Forrest Gump?), so the U.S. needed weather that would literally wash away the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Or at least try to.
The mission, called Operation Popeye, involved dumping iodine and silver flares from cargo planes over Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Scientists predicted that these chemical agents would cause a surge in rainfall and even extend the monsoon period, screwing with the Viet Cong’s communication networks and basically making things more unpleasant for everyone involved.
The results weren’t fantastic, but the U.S. didn’t roll over. The operation continued for five years, undertaking over 2,000 missions and releasing nearly 50,000 cloud-seed chemicals throughout the trail. Lack of results aside, the dedication is still impressive.