Some acronyms are okay. SitRep is a quicker way saying Situation Report. PBKAC is a polite way for S6 to say that there isn’t an issue, there’s a Problem Between Keyboard And Chair. And FNG is so universally known and accepted by everyone except the F*cking New Guys themselves.
Some are actually cool. Usually they’re mnemonics that make something seem more impressive. Downed Aircraft Recovery Teams are cool and saying, “I have to go on a DART mission” sounds cooler somehow. Telling people “I can’t tell you that. It would violate OpSec” is a million times more thrilling than saying, “I sat by the radios in the COC for nine hours at a time.”
Some are dumb because hearing them out loud just sounds dumb or the people saying them always have a dumb look on their face when they say them.
This isn’t an all encompassing list. Let us know in the comment section your more hated acronyms, and in the meantime, enjoy:
1. COC: Combat Operations Center
There’s a good reason troops say each letter in this one. Still brings a little joy to my heart when I read a sign saying “Only E6 and above in the COC.”
2. FARP: Forward Arming and Refueling Point
On paper, this sounds like an intense place. A small aviation unit holding their own to ensure that helicopter pilots can keep kicking ass in the battlefield is awesome. Too bad whenever you say the name out loud it sounds like, well, you know.
3. CAC: Common Access Card
Two reasons this made the list:
First off, it sounds like you’re from Boston whenever you have to “flash your CAC at the gate guard.”
The other is because of the amount of people who say “CAC Card.” It’s as redundant as ATM machine and PIN number.
4. BOHICA: Bend over, Here it comes again!
Context is everything. If you say it under your breath to your bro when you find out you have duty on a holiday or you have to layout another connex (shipping container). It’s fine. Saying to your subordinates, it’s creepy, but fine. Randomly throwing it into conversation, like it does nine times out of ten, just makes no sense.
5. IYAAYAS: If You Ain’t Ammo, You Ain’t Shit
How do you know if someone was Air Force weapons load crew? Don’t worry. They’ll tell you.
To be fair; it’s still a pretty cool MOS and the fourth coolest in the Air Force — behind JTACs, Pararescue, and, you know, the pilots everyone associates the Air Force with…
This just makes no sense. It sounds like someone came up with 5 P’s, said “I think I can add another. Let’s add prior!” Then someone else said “Hey battle. Want to know what would look better on your NCOER? 7 P’s,” and then struggled, gave up, and added “piss” into it.
7. Roger, WILCO: Received, will comply
What works while talking over a radio makes you look like a tool in a face-to-face conversation. “Roger, Sir/Ma’am/Sergeant” is good enough. No need to be high speed.
8. Any variation of “Hey, do you know what [Whatever branch of service] stands for?”
‘U’ Sure Are F*cked, Uncle Sam Ain’t Released Me Yet, Never Again Volunteer Yourself, and ‘U’ Signed the Mother f*cking Contract.
It’s the same joke, told by someone who just heard it, telling it to someone who heard it a million times before. It was probably funny the first time but not any more.
From realistic portrayals of combat to comedic satire of thermonuclear warfare, some military-themed movies are a cut above the rest.
Since WATM is headquartered in Hollywood, California and run by military veterans, it makes sense that we would put together a ranking of the best military movies of all time. Whether they include great stories, very quotable lines, intense combat (or all of the above), these 16 movies are what we’d pick as the best military movies.
16. Jarhead (2005)
Plot: Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford’s best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and about his experiences fighting in Kuwait.
Reason to watch: While the main character is a less-than-stellar Marine who often gets in trouble, this film shines in realistically depicting infantry life. The camaraderie, the dumb games, and the sheer boredom grunts experience when they are in a combat zone but not seeing combat is what makes this worth watching.
15. Catch-22 (1970)
Plot: B-25 navigator stationed in North Africa during World War II wrestles with the tragedy, irony, and hypocrisy that surrounds him as the minimum mission requirement continues to rise.
Reason to watch: Early SNL alum Buck Henry adapted Joseph Heller’s classic WW2 novel for an American public that was at odds over the Vietnam War, evidence that it took nearly a decade and a half for the themes to resonate. In spite of the fact that parts of the story are over-the-top, the movie (and even more so the book) are prescriptive. Anyone who’s ever spent any time around the Air Force will recognize the personalities: Careerist buffoons, obtuse general officers, opportunistic (albeit very entrepreneurial) junior officers as well as the folks who are just trying to get the job done without going crazy are all here.
14. Tigerland (2000)
Plot: A group of recruits go through Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Polk, Louisiana’s infamous Tigerland, last stop before Vietnam for tens of thousands of young men in 1971.
Reason to watch: Colin Farrell gives a wonderful performance as Pvt. Roland Bozz, a misfit draftee soldier who spends most of his Army career getting into trouble. Set during the Vietnam war in 1971, the film is unique in that it never takes the viewer to Vietnam. Instead, the plot follows along with the training of young soldiers before they go overseas, and offers realistic portrayals of soldiers from Bozz, to the idealistic Pvt. Paxton (played by Matthew Davis), to the brutal instructor of Staff Sgt. Thomas (played by James McDonald).
13. Taking Chance (2009)
Plot: Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming.
Reason to watch: While most military movies focus on battle scenes, “Taking Chance” focuses on the part often overlooked: What happens when troops lose their lives in combat. As people in the military know, the belongings are packed and shipped, the body is taken to Dover, and an escort brings them to their final resting place. Actor Kevin Bacon does a superb job of depicting the real-life story of one such escort duty, for Pfc. Chance Phelps.
12. A Few Good Men (1992)
Plot: Neo military lawyer Kaffee defends Marines accused of murder; they contend they were acting under orders.
Reason to watch: It’s a great courtroom drama which explores the question of what is a legal order. When two junior Marines are told to carry out a hazing ritual by their commander, should they have followed it? That’s what a court-martial is to decide, which ultimately ends in an epic shouting match between Navy Lt. Kaffee and Col. Jessup (played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson).
11. Patton (1970)
Plot: The World War II phase of the career of the controversial American general, George S. Patton.
Reason to watch: George C. Scott gives a masterful portrayal of the controversial Army general during World War II. The opening speech alone is worth watching, with Patton giving a rousing speech to troops that opens with the line, “Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”
10. To Hell and Back (1955)
Plot: The true WWII story of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in U.S. history. Based on the autobiography of Audie Murphy who stars as himself in the film.
Reason to watch: Instead of settling for actors trying to recreate battlefield heroics, why not watch the real-life soldier do it? That’s what you’ll see in “To Hell and Back,” the film that follows the life of Audie Murphy, the most-decorated soldier of World War II. Murphy stars as himself in this film, which kicked off a 21-year acting career after his Army service.
9. Das Boot (1981)
Plot: The claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth, and sheer terror.
Reason to watch: Nominated for six Oscars, Wolfgang Petersen’s masterpiece film gives a rare look at the fight from the other side during World War II. Tasked with fighting the “Battle of the Atlantic,” the life of a German U-Boat crew is shown in depth here, with an especially brilliant portrayal of the ship’s captain by Jurgen Prochnow.
8. Platoon (1986)
Plot: A young recruit in Vietnam faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.
Reason to watch: Told from the perspective of Chris Taylor (played by Charlie Sheen), “Platoon” gives an inside look at what it was like for a grunt on the ground in Vietnam. Besides showing infantry life and all its hardships, the film also boasts incredible performances from Willem Dafoe as Sgt. Elias, and Tom Berenger as Staff Sgt. Barnes. It’s also worth noting that this film had an extra level of realism to it, with its director (Oliver Stone) and military technical advisor (Dale Dye) both having served in Vietnam.
7. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Plot: A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I.
Reason to watch: Based on the classic book by Erich Maria Remarque, this masterpiece explores the extreme stress, discomfort, and horrors of war that soldiers faced fighting in the trenches of World War I. The film is on many “best film” lists, especially considering its realistic portrayal of warfare. In perhaps the most chilling scene of the movie, the main character of Paul stabs a French soldier, only to find himself trapped in the same hole with him as he dies.
“Why do they never tell us that you are just poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying, and the same agony,” he says. “Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?”
6. Flags of our Fathers (2006)
Plot: The life stories of the six men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima, a turning point in WWII.
Reason to watch: While most people have seen the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima, many don’t know the flag raising happened just days into the battle, when it was not yet clear when the Japanese would be defeated. Three of the six flag raisers would be killed later in the battle, while the remaining three would be brought back to the U.S. to help raise war bonds. This film, directed by Clint Eastwood, tells that story. (You should also check out Eastwood’s telling of the Japanese side, in “Letters from Iwo Jima”).
5. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Plot: An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically try to stop.
Reason to watch: While Director Stanley Kubrick offers a hilarious and brutal satire of Cold War tensions, he also provides plenty of insight into political and military leaders and their thinking at the time. This one was years ahead of its time, and it also has some great B-52 crew coordination scenes.
“Mandrake, have you ever seen a Commie drink water?”
4. Black Hawk Down (2001)
Plot: 123 elite U.S. soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.
Reason to watch: Based on the book by journalist Mark Bowden (which is an absolute must-read), “Black Hawk Down” details the failed attempt to capture a Somali warlord — an operation that should have lasted 15 minutes — that unfortunately does not go according to plan. After two helicopters are shot down, soldiers are shown reacting and adapting to the changing events, often in heroic fashion. From depicting soldiers preparing for a mission, how they respond to irregular warfare, and the actions of Medal of Honor recipients Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart, this film is a must-see.
3. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Plot: A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the U.S.-Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.
Reason to watch: “Full Metal Jacket” is really two films in one, with act one depicting a realistic look at Vietnam-era boot camp, and act two showing life for Marines in the battle of Hue City. The performance Marines love — and can perfectly quote — comes from R. Lee Ermey, who plays Drill Instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, a seemingly never ending source of great zingers.
2. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Plot: Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.
Reason to watch: Just the first ten minutes with the film’s incredible depiction of the Normandy landings on D-Day in 1944 make this a must-watch. After this sequence, however, there is plenty to stick around for: Tom Hanks wonderful portrayal of Capt. Miller, the banter of soldiers as they search the French countryside, and the heroic “last stand” at a bridge the troops need to keep the Germans away from.
1. We Were Soldiers (2002)
Plot: The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War and the soldiers on both sides that fought it.
Reason to watch: Mel Gibson brilliantly portrays then-Lt. Col. Hal Moore as he leads his unit in the first major battle of the Vietnam war. But there are so many great performances in this film (based on the book “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young”) which opens by saying that “every damn Hollywood movie got it wrong.” From the portrayal of the gruff combat veteran Sgt. Maj. Plumley and pilot and Medal of Honor recipient Bruce Crandall, to the hardship endured at home by the Army wives, this film gets it right.
Quality of life has come a long way since soldiers fought to avoid trench foot in World War I. But that doesn’t mean the 21st Century military isn’t without significant issues. Here are a few of them:
1. ‘Why can’t we get the proper proteins!?’
This writer sacrifices his breakfast meats for a measly extra egg, but the DFAC is too stingy to give it to him. And he’s not the only one having issues. Other redditors jumped in as well.
2. ‘Brown underwear and green socks are lame, free immunizations suck.’
This post is too long to share here, but a reddit user wanted to let the world know what he hated about the Army as he got out and included, among 80 other items, the free underwear and socks the Army issued him. Granted, they’re ugly, but no one wears the brown underwear after basic and the green socks are only worn in garrison. Other targets of Ballsteintheimpailer‘s wrath include cadences, anyone who outranks him, and free medical.
3. ‘Barracks soldiers should be able to drink like married soldiers.’
Shockingly, this supposedly worked. The battalion commander elevated it to the base commander. The base commander talked to the soldier, increased the alcohol limits in the barracks, and allowed troops to decorate their own rooms.
4. ‘Buying magazines and paying into charity are for suckers.’
His complaint comes a little late since the Air Force was the only service that still required the words, “So help me God,” and they dropped the requirement ten days after this man mailed his letter to the president, the service secretaries, and the Department of Defense inspector general. (The two events were probably not connected.)
6. ‘Military bases suck, mostly because of mosquitoes.’
When these service members got together to complain about bases, the mosquitoes came up a surprising number of times. Fort Polk got the worst complaints despite the fact that they have a Waffle House. Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico; Twentynine Palms, California; and Fort Knox, Kentucky were all drug through the mud as well.
While nuclear weapons usually get the big, scary headlines when it comes to weapons of mass destruction, the whole triad is a serious threat. Chemical and biological weapons are easier for rogue states to produce and deploy and any WMD can cause severe damage to American warfighters.
Beyond the immediate threat as the weapons rain down, weapons of mass destruction leave agents that can persist for anywhere from minutes to years, leaving vehicles, buildings, and even the ground lethal for soldiers.
Of course, the U.S. can’t just avoid their equipment or the battlefield for years. Instead, they send specialized troops in to spearhead decontamination efforts.
1. After a chemical attack, the U.S. is left with few good options. Decontaminating takes time and resources, but leaving the chemicals in place could result in dead troops.
2. Typically, specially trained crews will rush with their gear into a staging area and prep for decontamination.
3. Once all gear and personnel are certified ready-to-go, the troops get to work.
4. Teams have to wade into the target area, assessing what areas have been affected by the weapon, whether chemical, biological, or nuclear.
5. Of course, these teams face the chances of follow-on attacks and have to be ready to defend themselves.
6. These teams will report to their headquarters what areas have been affected and specialists will assess how long it will take for the threat to dissipate on its own (if ever).
7. Any equipment in the affected area, whether present at the time of the attack or that entered during combat operations or decontamination efforts, has to be thoroughly decontaminated.
8. Chemical, biological, and nuclear threats are all broken down and removed using different techniques, but soap and water help in nearly all cases.
9. Depending on the type and extent of contamination, the cleaning process may be completed by special teams or by the vehicle’s normal crews.
10. Many biological and chemical agents spread throughout all the nooks and crannies of the vehicles, making them a nightmare to clean.
11. And any mistakes could be lethal. If the wrong biological agent is left behind, it could get into someone’s system and doom them, possibly triggering an epidemic.
12. Some positions, like aircrews, require especially challenging decontamination efforts. Their personal gear includes everything from g-suits to breathing gear.
13. And each crewmember and pilot has to be kept separate until they can be decontaminated, leading to hilarious photos like this one.
14. One of the more common powders used is the specialized resin in M291 Chemical Decontamination Kits. It absorbs many agents and facilitates their destruction.
15. One of the most important things about personnel decontamination is preventing recontamination, so troops are washed in a set process, typically top to bottom.
16. And protective gear has to be switched out at set intervals, so this process has to be repeated multiple times per day.
All in all, WMDs are terrifying at worst and a hassle at best. Let’s hear your MOPP gear stories.
When it comes time to write up the technical pamphlets for the next generation of military gear, the manufacturers … probably won’t call us.
Here are seven perfectly accurate descriptions of military hardware that no self-respecting manufacturer would ever publish:
1. The Apache is the world’s most advanced digital camera
The AH-64 just has so many features that Canon and Nikon would never dream of putting on a camera: multiple rotor blades, a hydraulics systems, missiles, rockets, and a cannon. It’s almost hard to spot the camera sensors in the ball at the front.
2. The M1A2 Abrams tank provides very effective body armor for troops
Because the armor is on motorized tracks, you can barely even feel the 60 tons of protection. It even has seats, a feature most body armor lacks.
3. The A-10 is a great way to get a look at the battlefield
It gets you high enough to see over the terrain while keeping you low enough to see all your enemies. If only there was something we could do about them from up here?
4. Navy aircraft carriers are cruise ships with (slightly) less sex and much more (hidden) booze
You can move a LOT of people with one of these ships. Over 6,000 with the old Nimitz-class. The newer Ford ships hold less people, normally about 4,000, but have sweet magnets that could hold literally anything to a fridge. In a pinch, there’s even a way to move people from shore directly to the ship without it docking. But be warned that the cruise directors are pretty uptight and the upper decks are noisy.
5. TOW missiles are a much faster delivery method than carrier pigeons
While carrier pigeons top out at around 90 mph in a sprint, TOW missiles fly at an astounding 715 mph. There’s almost nothing that can get your message across a battlefield faster, and the control cables let the recipient know just where the message came from.
Just a quick note, when sending messages to friends you should be sure to remove the original payload.
6. Rifles can punch holes through hella paper at once
Don’t use boring three-hole punches that can only handle a few sheets when these rifles can create either 5.56mm or 7.62mm openings in dozens of sheets of paper at once.
7. CS gas is a quick and effective decongestant
Neti pots are weird and pouring liquids through your sinus cavities can lead to brain parasites. 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile has neither drawback and is extremely effective at helping you breathe free clearing your sinuses.
Topical humor has always been a big part of Saturday Night Live history and there have been plenty of military stories in the news to inspire its writers over the last four decades. As the show celebrated its 40th anniversary with a three-hour special that aired on Sunday, February 15th, we’ve combed through the SNL archives and selected the 10 best military-themed sketches.
1. Bruce Willis wants to bring some John McClane-style Die Hard heroics to a Black Ops mission in Afghanistan.
2. General David Petraeus (Will Forte) testifies to Congress about the progress of the surge in Iraq.
3. It’s time to build a coalition to fight Iraq’s nuclear capabilities, but General Colin Powell (Kenan Thompson) seems to have turned into Fred Sanford since his retirement.
4. A TV pitchman (Harry Shearer) explains why you need to spend $50,000 on a Pentagon-approved MacDouglass Drummond wrench.
5. An Air Force fighter pilot (NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon) wins elementary school Career Day over carpet salesman Seth Meyers.
6. Weekend Update’s Seth Meyers examines the Winners Losers in the General David Petraeus/Paula Broadwell/Jill Kelley/General John Allen scandal.
7. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Darrell Hammond) updates the media on progress after the United States invades Afghanistan.
8. Tired of the Congressional debate about whether to invade Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney (Darrell Hammond) goes all Doctor Strangelove and rides a missile to Baghdad.
9. Test Pilot Mustang Calhoun (Dennis Quaid) is just plain crazy.
10. Two dumb Marines (Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey) bring spies to the US Embassy in Moscow.
These just skim the surface. There are dozens of military-themed sketches from SNL. Tell us your favorites in the comments below.
So check out five reasons why military personnel hate on civilians (we still love you guys, though):
5. They don’t get our humor
We have dark freakin’ humor, and we can’t hide it — nor do we want to. We go through some rough experiences and manage to joke about them as a coping mechanism.
What we think is funny, most civilians consider f*cked up absurd, but we’re not going to change, so get used to it!
This guy gets it. (Image via GIPHY)
4. Most civilians lolly gaggle and fiddle f*ck around
The military teaches us to get sh*t done — oftentimes under great stress or over long hours. Sure, everyone has to sleep at the end of the day, but breaks aren’t guaranteed, there’s no overtime, and we don’t get reimbursed for weekend duty. We can spend all day at work and not see an extra dime.
3. We do more before 0500 than they will do all day
Our command can tell us to be ready for work whenever they want us to without advanced notice. Typically we PT hardcore first thing in the morning or draw weapons before hiking miles out to the field — then eat a cold breakfast.
Why are we awake if there’s no sun? (Image via GIPHY)
2. Most civies don’t know the meaning of a “hard days work.”
Many military jobs require the service member to be in constant danger, and we rarely hear them complain about it — since they did volunteer, afterall. Nowadays, we hear people say how stressful their office job is even though they have breezy air conditioning and hot chow when they want it.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Marines with 14th Marine Regiment carry the casket of Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt, who was laid to rest at the Chattanooga National Cemetery, July 24, 2015. Wyatt is one of five service members who died when a gunman attacked the Naval Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center on July 16, 2015.
Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit load gear onto an MV-22B Osprey before departing from the amphibious assault ship USS Essex. The Marines are flying to Kenya in support of President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya.
A Marine with the “Greyhawks” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), wipes down an MV-22B Osprey after takeoff and landing drills at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The Marines are in Kenya to support President Barack Obama’s visit.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (July 26, 2015) – Glenn Palermo, from Athens, Tenn., kneels to view a section of the memorial in front of the Armed Forces Recruitment Center. The memorial honors the four Marines and one Sailor who died in the Navy Operational Support Center Chattanooga July 16.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (July 28, 2015) Vice Adm. Robin Braun, commander of Navy Reserve Force, speaks during the funeral service for Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Randall Smith. Petty Officer Smith died from his injuries two days after a shooting at Navy Operational Support Center, Chattanooga July 16.
ROSEAU, Dominica (July 27, 2015) Deck mechanic Donald Rodriguez, a Military Sealift Command civil service mariner, watches as the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrives in Roseau, Dominica during Continuing Promise 2015.
INDIAN OCEAN (July 27, 2015) An MV-22B Osprey from the Greyhawks of Marine Medium-lift Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (Reinforced) lands on the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2)
A CV-22B Osprey assigned to the 7th Special Operations Squadron performs an aerial display of its capabilities during the Royal International Air Tattoo at Royal Air Force Fairford, England
Staff Sgt. Joseph Pico trains at the firing range on Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, N.Y.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, flies during a Red Flag 15-3 sortie at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
Soldiers, assigned to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment-Blackhorse, National Training Center, fire a BGM-71 Tow Missile simulation round, during Decisive Action Training Rotation 15-08.5, Fort Irwin, Calif. July 26, 2015.
A Soldier, assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, navigates a single-rope water crossing obstacle during the McChrystal-Briles Competition held on Fort Drum, N.Y., July 24, 2015.
A New York Army National Guard Soldier prepares to load a M119 105 mm howitzer during annual training at Fort Drum in preparation for an upcoming Joint Readiness Training Center rotation.
Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg is making sure they’re ready for anything by doing a little tactical training!
Oh, the beautiful places the men and women of the Coast Guard get to go!
Tanks are a staple of ground warfare. Militaries around the world deploy a wide range of tanks, but typically they conform to some basic principals. In nearly all of them, a large turret sits on top of an armored vehicle that moves on treads.
But this wasn’t always the case. In the early 20th century, engineers around the world were scrambling to figure out how exactly to pass uneven terrain and mobilize troops. This period of innovation resulted in today’s technologically marvelous tanks, but before that, they had some truly outrageous ideas.
The Tsar Tank
Tank development was in its earliest stages when Tsar Nicholas II ruled Russia in the first decades of the 20th century. The Tsar differed from modern tanks in that it didn’t have treads, instead using two massive 27-foot-tall front wheels and a small third wheel, 5 feet in diameter, that trailed behind for steering. Reportedly, when Nicholas II saw a model of the tank roll over a stack of books he was sold on the project and gave it his blessing.
Russian engineers Nikolai Lebedenko, Nikolai Zhukovsky, Boris Stechkin, and Alexander Mikulin developed the Tsar from 1914 to 1915. The vehicle resembled a hanging bat when viewed from above, so it gained the nickname “Netopyr,” which translates to “pipistrellus,” the genus name for “bats.”
The giant bicycle-style wheels in front of the tank did prove effective for traversing a variety of terrains. But they severely limited the firing range of the 12 water-cooled machine guns situated in between the massive wheels. Thanks to two 250-horsepower Sunbeam engines powering either wheel, the Tsar could reach a respectable speed of up to 10.5 mph.
But mobility eventually doomed the Tsar.
When testing began in a forest outside Moscow, the rear wheel became mired in soft soil. Despite the Russian military’s best efforts to free the 60-ton behemoth, it remained in that spot until 1923, when it was sold for scrap.
The Boirault Machine
The French also had their own ideas about what a mobile weapons platform should look like.
In 1914, a few months before Britain began work on the “Little Willy” tank that would set the precedent for modern tanks, French engineer Louis Boirault presented the French War Ministry with plans for the Boirault Machine.
Boirault’s tank design was 26 feet high and has been described as a rhomboid-shaped skeleton tank without armor, with a single overhead track.” The machine weighed a whopping 30 tons and was powered by a single 80-horsepower motor, which enabled the craft to move at a leisurely rate of less than 1 mph.
The Boirault did have success in crossing trenches and trampling barbed wire. But more conventional tanks were taking shape around Europe by 1915, and the French War Ministry abandoned the project.
The Screw Tank
GIF: Wikimedia Commons/Бага
Before tracked wheels came into prominence as the most efficient way to traverse difficult terrain, there was some exploration into corkscrew-driven machines that could twist and crush their way through ice, snow, and mud. As early as 1899 patents were filed for agricultural machines that used auger-like wheels for work in the fields.
In the 1920s, the Armstead Snow-Motor kit made waves across the Northern US and Canada as a screw-driven tractor that could haul up to 20 tons through unwelcoming northern conditions.
Then, in World War II, the unorthodox inventor Geoffrey Pyke worked with the US military to developed a screw-driven tank to pass over ice and snow in Northern Europe.
The tank made it to a prototype stage but was never fully realized, and it died on the drawing board.
Recently, the idea of a screw tank has resurfaced, with the Russians seemingly perfecting the design as illustrated in the video below:
Elite special forces are some of the best-trained and most formidable units a country can boast.
They go where other soldiers fear to tread, scoping out potential threats, taking out strategic targets, and conducting daring rescue missions.
These really are the best of the best.
Although it’s extremely difficult to rank these forces relative to one another, there are some units that rise above the rest in their track record and the fear they instill in their adversaries. These soldiers have been through rigorous training exercises designed to weed out those who can’t hit their exacting standards.
In a world where the importance of the sheer size of a country’s military forces is no longer a guide to their effectiveness, these soldiers are the ones states look to in order to get the job done.
8. The Special Services Group, SSG, in Pakistan is better known in the country as the “Black Storks” because of the commandos’ unique headgear. Training reportedly includes a 36-mile march in 12 hours and a five-mile run in 50 minutes in full gear.
In October 2009, SSG commandos stormed an office building and rescued 39 people taken hostage by suspected Taliban militants after an attack on the army’s headquarters.
7. Spain’s Unidad de Operaciones Especiales, or the Naval Special Warfare Force as it has become since 2009, has long been one of Europe’s best-respected special forces. Originally established as the volunteer Amphibious Climbing Company unit in 1952, it has since followed the SAS’s example to become an elite fighting force.
Earning the UOE green beret, however, is a big ask with the failure rate of candidates averaging between 70% and 80%. It’s not uncommon for 100% of would-be new recruits to be rejected.
6. Russia’s Alpha Group is one of the best-known special forces units in the world. This elite antiterrorism unit was created by the KGB in 1974 and remains under its modern-day counterpart, the FSB.
Russian special forces, and the Alpha Group in particular, came under criticism during the 2002 Moscow hostage crisis in which 129 hostages died from the effects of the gas used to knock out militants who had seized a theatre.
5. Of all the counterterrorism forces in the world, few can compete with France’s National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN). The group is 200 strong and trained specifically to respond to hostage situations. They claim to have freed over 600 people since they were formed in 1973. It is against French law to publish pictures of their faces.
One of the most extraordinary episodes in the GIGN’s history was the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979. Because of the prohibition on non-Muslims entering the holy city, a team of three GIGN commandos briefly converted to Islam before helping the Saudi armed forces to plan the recapture of the mosque.
4. Israel’s Sayeret Matkal is another of the world’s most elite units. Its primary purpose is intelligence gathering, and it often operates deep behind enemy lines. During the selection camp (Gibbush), would-be recruits endure hardcore training exercises while being constantly monitored by doctors and psychologists. Only the strongest get in.
In 2003, Israeli taxi driver Eliyahu Gurel was kidnapped after transporting four Palestinians to Jerusalem in his cab. But the Sayeret Matkal unit located and rescued him from a 10-meter-deep pit in an abandoned factory in a suburb of Ramallah.
3. The British Special Air Service (or SAS as they are more commonly known) are the infantry counterparts to the SBS. Their insignia bears the famous phrase “Who dares wins.” Asked about the importance of the SAS’s role in the fighting that followed the Iraq war, US Gen. Stanley McChrystal responded: “Essential. Could not have done it without them.”
2. The UK equivalent of the Navy SEALS is the Special Boat Service. The selection process involves a grueling endurance test, jungle training in the rainforests of Belize, and combat survival training, which involves intense interrogation of candidates. And you get only two attempts to pass.
1. Last up, the US Navy SEALs. To join their ranks, you have to be able to do a minimum of 42 push-ups in two minutes, 50 sit-ups in two minutes, and run 1.5 miles in 11 minutes. And that’s before training starts.
BONUS: The US Marines are hardcore in their own right. Below, a US Marine drinks the blood of a cobra during a jungle survival exercise with the Thai Navy as part of the “Cobra Gold 2014” joint military exercise.
Dude, your enemy sucks. I don’t know who they are (is it ISIS? Are you fighting ISIS right now?), but they’re really dangerous and I’m pretty sure they just said something untoward about your mother. It’s time to take out most of the leadership in one fell swoop by hitting their headquarters.
But how do you blow up an entire castle/fortress/tent (again, I don’t know who your enemies are. Nazi Germans? They liked castles…)? Here are seven plans that will always work, but you may want to pack some ear plugs. Spoiler alert: there will be explosions:
1. Cruise missile to the face
You still have at least three days of killing the enemies’ goons before you can get inside the building to send them to their makers, but all the leadership may flee before you arrive. What should you do?
Time for a cruise missile. These bad boys fly at low levels below most radar coverage, turning and winding their way through mountain passes and other obstacles until they reach their target. Once they arrive, they’re going to “disrupt” the headquarters pretty hard.
2. Sustained artillery barrage
Of course, if you’ve already gotten your forces close to the enemy headquarters, it can be fun to put on the world’s most lethal fireworks show and all-percussion concert. Just give your artillerymen a few minutes warning, and they’ll be ready to orchestrate a masterpiece.
3. Bombing mission
If you already own the airspace (which, with the F-22, is likely), then you can get all the pyrotechnics of a cruise missile strike at a fraction of the cost per weapon. Just send a few fighters to keep your bombers and ground attack planes safe and let nature take its course.
Warheads on foreheads.
4. Close combat air/close air support
The Warthog in all her glory. Sorry, sorry–the Thunderbolt II. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
If you realize that the castle/fortress/tent is a headquarters only at the last minute, you may not have time to do the full integration and planning needed for a standard bombing mission. All of a sudden, that JTAC in your unit stops being the butt of all those Air Force jokes and starts being the answer to your prayers.
The JTAC will tell all those nearby air assets where the guys who need to die are, where the nearest friendlies are, and from what angle you will be filming them for the YouTube video. The pilots will take care of the rest.
5. Clear the HQ with infantry, then let the engineers go nuts
No air assets at all? Feel like you didn’t coordinate this attack very well but now isn’t the time for armchair generals. Let the infantry run wild and take the building by force. You won’t get the immediate satisfaction of an air strike, but the combat engineers come with the grunts and are pretty good at destroying literally anything. Expect your C4 stock to fall low very suddenly.
Of course, if your infantry is carrying enough missiles and mortars, you may not need the engineers.
6. Tanks at close range
Hey, if you brought a bunch of armored beasts with 120mm cannons on the front, you know what to do. High explosive rounds are the obvious choice for the mission, but this writer humbly suggests trying canister shot. It takes longer and there’s no tactical advantage, but watching the building get chewed up by a constant barrage of steel balls would be pretty entertaining.
7. Screw it–hit it with nukes
Is the building too thick for canister shot? And high explosive rounds? And bunker busters and artillery and engineers? Oh well. Time for the ultimate trump card. Just be sure to accurately measure the effects of any lithium included in the mix. That stuff can quickly ruin your day at the beach.
Santa has received DARPA research the past two Christmas seasons under the High-speed Optimized Handling of Holiday Operations initiative. The HO HO HO initiative has previously gifted Santa with the tools to protect his network from hacks, land more safely on slanted roofs, and more effectively scout homes for people who are awake before he places the presents.
This year, DARPA’s gift features five major programs.
1. New tools for seeing through snow, dust, and fog
The Multifunction RF program is working on creating new sensors for aircraft that can detect obstacles, terrain, and other aircraft during flight — even in severe dust and snowstorms. The military wants the technology to prevent crashes during dangerous operations.
But Santa can use it to more safely approach houses in severe snowstorms and dust storms. This will become increasingly important as Santa fights to maintain his tight timeline with more kids to serve every year.
2. A fancy new Santa suit will help prevent strain injuries
While Santa’s average load from the sleigh to the tree is unknown, his sack sometimes has to accommodate dozens of toys, books, and electronic devices. Hopefully, a new Santa suit featuring Warrior Web technology will help Santa more safely move up and down the chimneys.
3. The TRADES program will lead to new toy designs
The Transformative Design program is trying to give engineers new tools to model the properties of possible equipment designs and to figure out manufacturing processes to create those products.
For top elves, this means that they can start fabricating new toy designs that would have been impossible just a few years ago. The new technologies will be especially useful for 3D printing.
4. New computer chips will keep the North Pole’s computers cool
As Santa and his staff serve a growing population, DARPA has become worried that the computer servers processing all that information will overheat.
To help prevent this, they’ve offered the Man in Red access to their Intrachip/Interchip Enhanced Cooling research. Computer chips integrating this technology are cooled more efficiently and are less likely to fail during high-demand tasks such as when Santa makes his list and checks it twice.
5. Programs from the Cyber Grand Challenge will defend against hacks by the naughtiest of children
Now, DARPA has turned some of that research over to Santa to help him keep his computer systems secure. While there’s little evidence that any hackers have made it into the system so far, the Naughty/Nice list is too obvious a target to be unprotected.