The military is responsible for a huge amount of consumer goods and technology that people are using every day. Here are seven examples:
1. Duct tape
The grey tape that can “fix” just about any problem was originally designed for the U.S. military during World War II. While also manufacturing camouflage material, gas masks, and other products for the military, Johnson Johnson was asked to make a waterproof tape for ammunition cases, according to Kilmer House.
Originally called “duck tape,” it “saved valuable time in manufacturing and packaging war materials. A wide variety of tapes to serve a multitude of particular purposes were made for the aviation industry alone,” read the company’s 1945 annual report.
Soldiers quickly figured out duct tape could be used for more than sealing ammo boxes, and they used it to make temporary repairs to jeeps, planes, tents, boots, their uniforms, and everything in between. Troops still use the tape today, as do the rest of us.
2. Microwave ovens
You can thank the defense contractor Raytheon for giving you the ability to heat up that leftover pizza in under a minute. While working at the company on radar technology in 1945, Percy Spencer accidentally discovered an active radar set had melted the candy bar in his pocket. He and his colleagues were intrigued, and decided to conduct some more tests.
The first one they heated intentionally was popcorn kernels, which became the world’s first microwaved popcorn. Spencer then decided to try to heat an egg. He got a kettle and cut a hole in the side, then put the whole egg in the kettle and positioned the magnetron to direct the microwaves into the hole. The result was that the egg exploding in the face of one of his co-workers, who was looking in the kettle as the egg exploded.
Raytheon still holds the patent, with Percy credited as the inventor. The first commercially-produced microwave was a 6-foot-tall, 7000lb monstrosity that cost $5000. But around 1967, a smaller unit at a more affordable $495 finally hit the market, according to Today I Found Out.
3. Global positioning systems (GPS)
Google Maps may be one the best ways to navigate anywhere, but it owes the Pentagon credit for doing much of the legwork. Amid Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union after it launched Sputnik in 1957, U.S. researchers figured out that radio signals emitted by the satellite increased as it approached and decreased when it moved away, according to TechHive.
TechHive has more:
This gave the scientists a grand idea. Satellites could be tracked from the ground by measuring the frequency of the radio signals they emitted, and conversely, the locations of receivers on the ground could be tracked by their distance from the satellites. That, in a nutshell, is the conceptual foundation of modern GPS. That GPS receiver in your phone or on the dash of your car learns its location, rate of speed, and elevation by measuring the time it takes to receive radio signals from four or more satellites floating overhead.
This discovery became the basis for the military’s system of five satellites, called Transit, launched in 1960. It stayed exclusively a defense technology until 1983, when the Reagan administration opened GPS up for civilian application, according to Mio.
4. Disposable-blade safety razors
Razors for shaving have been around for centuries, but the safety razor with disposable blades still enjoys widespread popularity due to the U.S. military’s adoption during World War I.
Before the 20th century, men usually had barbers trim their beards and mustaches. If they did shave at home it was with a straight razor, which needed to be sharpened often. In 1901, King C. Gillette changed that, with the invention of the safety razor — which took a disposable version of the straight edge razor and clamped it onto a handle. The military soon took notice.
Production of the Gillette ® safety razor and blade began as the Gillette Safety Razor Company started operations in South Boston. Sales grew steadily. During World War I, the U.S. Government issued Gillette safety razors to the entire armed forces. By the end of the war, some 3.5 million razors and 32 million blades were put into military hands, thereby converting an entire nation to the Gillette safety razor.
While the original computer was not even as powerful as today’s basic calculators, it was originally designed to compute artillery firing tables for the U.S. Army. Called ENIAC, or Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, the new device replaced humans who were physically operating desk calculators, according to Army historian William Moye.
The massive machine took up an entire room at the Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratory when it was unveiled after World War II on Feb. 14, 1946. One of its first projects was to test the feasibility of the hydrogen bomb.
6. The internet
The world’s largest repository of cat videos came from a military research project that used packet-switching to allow computers to talk to each other. The first version of the internet deployed in 1969, called the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), was made up of just four computers, with one each located at Stanford University, University of Utah, UCLA, and UC-Santa Barbara.
Designed as a computer version of the nuclear bomb shelter, ARPAnet protected the flow of information between military installations by creating a network of geographically separated computers that could exchange information via a newly developed protocol (rule for how computers interact) called NCP (Network Control Protocol).
The first internet service provider emerged in 1974, but the internet would not see widespread use until the invention of hypertext-markup language (HTML) and the world wide web were unveiled in the early 1990s.
7. Freeze drying
The ability to keep food preserved for years came from a military effort to keep medical supplies useful after they were transported overseas during World War II. In freeze-drying, food is quickly frozen, then dried slowly to remove the frozen moisture.
The Ready-Store has more:
The freeze-drying process really took off during WWII as a way to transport serums and other medical supplies. Doctors found that medicines that required refrigeration were spoiling by the time they were transported to other parts of the world. The freeze-dried process was invented and allowed for materials to retain their chemical properties and drastically increasing the shelf-life.
Freeze-drying has been used for food and pharmaceuticals. But perhaps most importantly, astronauts use it to have a nice snack in space.
Shortly after Orville and Wilbur stopped making bicycles and started hanging out around Kitty Hawk, Hollywood took to making movies about those who venture into the wild blue yonder.
Here are the best Air Force characters they’ve created over the years. Remember: half of these guys are real people. That’s what makes being in the military so great – the chance to do something someone might make a movie about one day.
1. Captain Virgil “The Cooler King” Hilts — “The Great Escape”
The Great Escape is one of the best heist-style films of all time. It’s also one of the best military films of all time, based on the true story of a group of Allied POWs put together in a Nazi “escape-proof” camp because of their ability to escape from POW camps.
Captain Hilts of the Army Air Corps constantly frustrates guards with escape attempts, landing him in solitary confinement, or the “cooler.” Hilts is easily #1 on this list, not only because he’s depicted on screen by Steve “The King of Cool” McQueen, but also because the real guy this character is based on David M. Jones.
Jones was an Air Corps pilot who started World War II as a Doolittle Raider (the character can also be seen in “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo”), and flew sorties over North Africa before being captured and held by the Germans for nearly three years. Jones survived the war and went on to a 37-year career in the Air Force.
2 . Lt. Col. James Rhodes aka War Machine — “Iron Man”
James Rupert “Rhodey” Rhodes is not based on a real character, though having the War Machine around IRL would make life a lot easier for much of the Air Force (and the lawless areas of Pakistan too… probably).
Rhodes is the stable, dependable version of Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (In the Marvel Comic, Rhodey is a Marine). Colonel Rhodes is also Stark’s best friend and the DoD liaison to Stark Industries, which means he gets to pal around on private jets and hang with the Avengers while taking down terrorists and robot drones (that aren’t American).
3. Lt. Colonel Iceal Hambleton — “BAT 21”
BAT 21 is a the dramatized story of the rescue of Lt Col. Hambleton (whose call sign was BAT 21 Bravo), the largest, longest and most complex search and rescue operation of the Vietnam War. He was the navigator on a USAF EB-66 aircraft and an expert in signals intelligence whose aircraft was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Hambleton was the only survivor, but his parachute took him well behind the North Vietnamese lines.
With the amount of classified information in Hambleton’s head, capture by the communists would have been extremely detrimental to U.S. security. Hambleton (played by Gene Hackman, who is awesome in every movie) makes radio contact with Birddog and makes his way South to be picked up.
To communicate his intended path, Hambleton, in true Air Force fashion, uses a code comprised of various golf courses he knows. The actual rescue of Hambleton took 11 days, six American troops’ lives, a lot more ARVN lives, and another plane being shot down.
In real life Hambleton was rescued by Navy SEAL Thomas R. Norris (who was awarded the Medal of Honor for the rescue) and a South Vietnamese Navy Petty Officer.
4. Capt. John Yossarian — “Catch-22”
Alan Arkin headlines the legendary cast of Catch-22 as Yossarian, a US Army Air Forces B-25 Bombardier, stationed in the Mediterranean during WWII. He’s committed to flying the dangerous missions as quickly as possible so he can go home, but his squadron commander keeps raising the required number of missions.
Yossarian can’t even claim a mental breakdown to go home because famously, Airmen “would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he’d have to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t, he was sane and had to.”
5. Airman Second Class Adrian Cronauer — “Good Morning, Vietnam”
Another real Airman, A2C Cronauer is an Armed Forces Radio Service DJ stationed in Vietnam whose DJ style is less than appreciated by his superiors but beloved by the men in the field.
When Cronauer is suspended for his style and his determination to read the news, the command is flooded with letters demanding his reinstatement. Few things in life are more satisfying than someone thumbing their nose at a stodgy old command.
Cronauer’s real-life show was called “Dawn Buster” and its opening was immortalized forever by Robin Williams’ GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING VIETNAM.
6. Hannibal Lee — “The Tuskegee Airmen”
Some points have to be added when the whole world is against you, even your own government. Lee was loosely based on Robert W. Williams, an actual Tuskegee Airman who helped co-author the screenplay.
In the film (and IRL), the famous group of African American pilots struggling to join the US war effort as capable fighter pilots finally get their chance when Hannibal Lee (Fishburne) and his wingman get the chance to protect B-17s over Italy and sink a destroyer for good measure.
7. Robert “Dutch” Holland — “Strategic Air Command”
Jimmy Stewart plays Holland, a St. Louis Cardinals baseball player who is on inactive reserve in the Air Force who gets recalled to active duty for 21 months, which would be unbelievable for anyone else but Jimmy Stewart. Stewart, whose family military tradition dated back to the Civil War, enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a private, was an officer pilot within a year, and so enjoyed bombing Germans in his spare time he would eventually retire from the Air Force Reserve after 27 years. Holland’s life is on constant hold as he is on alert status to deter the Soviets from starting WWIII. He forces a landing of a damaged aircraft in Greenland after his crew bailed out then flies new jets to Japan with a broken arm from that landing, an injury which ends both his military career and his baseball career, and he seems mildly okay with it.
Holland’s life is on constant hold as he is on alert status to deter the Soviets from starting WWIII. He forces a landing of a damaged aircraft in Greenland after his crew bailed out then flies new jets to Japan with a broken arm from that landing, an injury which ends both his military career and his baseball career, and he seems mildly okay with it.
8. Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper — “Dr. Strangelove”
A commie-obsessed Air Force General, he starts World War III after describing a Communist plot to pollute the bodily fluids of Americans. He launches an all-out attack on the USSR and refuses to give the codes that will belay the launch orders.
While the Kubrick’s masterpiece obviously isn’t based on a real war, the crazed General is based on Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who once threatened to bomb the Soviet Union back into the Stone Age.
9. Colonel Jack O’Neil — “Stargate”
Who better to lead a team through an alien-created wormhole navigated by hieroglyphs uncovered in Giza than a career Air Force Special Operations officer? No one, obviously, as Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell, with a severe flat top) takes a day off of contemplating suicide to lead one last mission to destroy the Stargate and ends up saving humanity by beaming a nuclear weapon onto an alien ship.
It’s not (just) science fiction. It’s what we do every day.
10. American Astronaut George Taylor — “Planet of the Apes (1968)”
George Taylor’s background doesn’t specifically mention his Air Force affiliation, but does mention he was a West Point grad in 1941 and flew missions in World War II and Korea, and his then becoming an astronaut is clearly indicative of a U.S. Army Air Corps to Air Force transition.
So the Air Force gets Charlton Heston (also Marky Mark Wahlberg‘s Capt. Leo Davidson from the 2001 remake, clearly identified his tribe as United States Air Force). Taylor earns a spot on this list because of Charlton Heston’s iconic performance.
Edit 5/28 2:07 pm:
Twitterati and US Air Force Pararescue Jumper @PJMatt reminded me about the 1983 epic The Right Stuff and Sam Shepard’s badass take on the legendary USAF test pilot Chuck Yeager.
@PaulSzoldra@blakestilwell So The Right Stuff never happened? You could put Chuck Yeager, correctly, at 1 (Sam Neil) and 2 (drunk in bar)
The author hangs his head in shame as both a film student and Air Force veteran. Few scenes in cinema rival the scene where Yeager is walking away from a smoldering heap, badly burned, holding his parachute because anyone who’s ever met Yeager in real life knows that’s the kind of badass sh*t he did every day of his career.
From the formation of the Air Force in 1947 to today, the flying branch’s sexiest assets have always been its fighters. These soaring agents of death intentionally fly into fights in one of the planet’s most unforgiving environments.
Here are 8 of the machines that defined Air Force fighter history:
1. P-51 Mustang
The P-51, renamed in 1948 to the F-51 when the Air Force changed its plane designation system, was one of the fighters that the U.S. Air Force inherited when it morphed from the Army Air Force. The beloved Mustang variant served with distinction in the Korean War, but mostly as a close-air support asset, not as a fighter.
One of the main reasons that later F-4 variants couldn’t redeem themselves in American service is that the F-15 Eagle overshadowed the F-4 from day one. The Eagles boast powerful engines that gave it nearly unprecedented speed as well as “look down, shoot down” radar, powerful missiles, and a 20mm Gatling gun. The F-15 is still in service with the U.S. and feared by adversaries around the world.
7. F-16 Fighting Falcon
With a long combat radius, all-weather, and day and night capabilities, the F-16 is prepared to fly, fight, and win everywhere. While the F-16 is a capable strike aircraft, its greatest value may reside in its capabilities as one of the world’s premier dogfighters.
8. F-22 Raptor
The reason that the F-16 isn’t the world’s premier dogfighter is that the F-22 exists. The Raptor can sneak up on its prey and watch it for minutes without the enemy ever knowing it was there. Or, it can shoot down opposing fighters from outside of its adversaries detection and engagement ranges.
Currently, the plane is serving as a sensor platform in Iraq and Syria where it detects enemy air defenses and guides friendlies around them, but it could eradicate other fighters in the sky on a moment’s notice.
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:
KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (July 14, 2015) LT Christopher Malherek, assigned to the “Golden Eagles” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 9, prepares to land a P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft during a routine training flight for the squadron’s advanced readiness program.
MIAMI, Fla. (July 14, 2015) Steel Worker 1st Class Jesse Hamblin, assigned to Underwater Construction Team 2 (UCT-2), makes a vertical fillet weld on a half inch steel plate.
Lance Cpl. Chance Seckenger with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, rides in a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft during launch and recovery drills from the well deck of the USS Green Bay, at sea, July 9, 2015.
FOG BAY, Australia – Australian Army soldiers, assigned to 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, and U.S. Marines, assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, work together during an amphibious assault exercise during Talisman Sabre 2015 at Fog Bay, Australia, July 11, 2015.
Cutter Cypress sits front and center during a practice session for the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels.
Two adults and two children were found alive following an extensive search by Coast Guard crews off the coast of South Carolina. The four did not return as scheduled from a fishing trip, and were found this morning clinging to an ice cooler. More on this case: http://goo.gl/GCRulc
C-17 Globemaster IIIs assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing await training missions at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, waits as Airmen from the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron complete a final check of the aircraft’s weapons before taking off on a combat sortie from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 14, 2015.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 80th Fighter Squadron, Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, takes off at Jungwon Air Base ROK, during Buddy Wing 15-6.
Army engineers, assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division (Iron Brigade), employ a M58 Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC) during a breaching exercise, at Udairi Range Complex, Kuwait.
A soldier, assigned to 4th Squadron, 2D Cavalry Regiment, fires a Polish RPG-7D rocket-propelled grenade alongside a Polish paratrooper from the 6th Airborne Brigade during live-fire training, part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, at Nowa Deba Training Area, Poland.
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers, assigned to the 416th Theater Engineer Command, conduct night land navigation during a Sapper Leader Course prerequisite training exercise on Camp San Luis Obispo Military Installation, Calif., July 15, 2015.
Marine infantrymen thrive on hardship. Whether it’s training and deploying to austere environments, learning to do more with less, or figuring out how to catch Z’s anywhere, grunt life in the infantry is very different from the rest of the Marine Corps.
There are also some problems specific to the infantry community. We came up with five, but if you can think of some more, leave a comment.
1. Physical training often consists of “death runs” and they feel just like it sounds.
Physical training is a part of being a Marine, but it’s much more demanding as an infantryman. Life in the grunts usually means waking up early to go on a “death run,” which isn’t that far off the mark. While the Marine physical fitness test (PFT) has a timed three-mile run, grunts can expect to go way beyond that.
On “death runs” that I’ve personally been on — also known jokingly as “fun runs” — our platoon commander or platoon sergeant would take us on runs over the seven-mile mark at an insane pace. And for extra fun, sometimes we wore gas masks. Gotta love it.
2. Your platoon commander is guaranteed to get you completely lost at some point.
When he’s not running you into the dirt, your platoon commander is supposed to be planning missions and leading. But sometimes that means leading you into who-knows-where. It’s a running joke that second lieutenants are terrible at land navigation, but it’s not that far off. He’s guaranteed to get you lost at least once. Let’s just hope it only happens in training.
3. I hope you’re ready for the non-grunt company First Sergeant who wants to “get back to the basics.”
Infantry Marines hold the 0300 military occupational specialty, as do their officers with 0302. But since company first sergeants perform mostly administrative duty (compared to Master Sergeants who remain in their field), they aren’t required to hold the infantry MOS. Although plenty of them do come up from the infantry ranks, some come from completely unrelated fields.
Grunt first sergeants are usually focused on the mission of the infantry (locating, closing with, and destroying the enemy), but first sergeants outside of the MOS sometimes focus on “getting back to the basics” — aka cleaning the barracks, holding uniform inspections, and marching properly. These are all good things for junior Marines to be exposed to in their careers. Just don’t expect them to like it.
4. Excuse me sir, do you have a moment to talk about prickly heat?
Training in the field can lead to some weird physical problems for grunts. In humid places, Marines can expect something called “prickly heat” — a very annoying rash that develops after sweating profusely. When you’re out in the field for days or weeks and not able to take a shower, that tends to happen quite a bit.
Then of course, there’s that terrible smell you develop. But luckily, you’re around a bunch of other people who smell terrible so you don’t even notice. Great success!
5. Range 400.
This legendary training range is a rite of passage for infantry Marines. With machine guns firing over their heads and mortars dropping down in support, grunts rush forward to attack a fortified “enemy” position in 29 Palms, California. It sounds awesome, and it is. It’s also an ass kicker.
“It’s the only range in the Marine Corps where overhead fire is authorized,” Capt. Andy S. Watson explained in a Marine Corps news release. “We are also granted a waiver to close within 250 meters of 81mm mortar fire. Normally, it is only 400 meters. Therefore, Range 400 gives Marines a realistic training experience of closing close into fires. They can’t get that anywhere else in the Marine Corps.”
With most troops learning hand-to-hand combat in the military, it’s not surprising that some would end up getting really good at it.
UFC legend Randy Couture is a former 101st Airborne Division soldier, while Brian Stann was a decorated Marine Corps platoon commander before entering the Octagon. As it turns out, veterans have a history of fighting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Former Marine Sgt. Liz Carmouche has a 10-5-0 record in mixed martial arts and famously fought Ronda Rousey for the Women’s Bantamweight title in 2013. Rousey admitted before the fight that fighting Carmouche would be different.
“She’s a Marine, I’m not going to be able to intimidate this girl,” Rousey said in an MMAFighting.com interview. “The prefight intimidation stuff won’t work.”
The Ranger and Sapper-qualified infantryman currently serves as a combatives instructor in Fort Hood, Texas, but has said he’s interested in a special operations assignment soon.
4. Tim Kennedy
Like Colton Smith, Tim Kennedy began his UFC career while on active duty. The Ranger-tabbed Green Beret was a sniper before he transitioned from active duty to the Texas National Guard to focus on his MMA career. He currently serves as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant, and holds an 18-5-0 record in mixed martial arts.
America has fought in a lot of wars so it can be hard to keep track of all of them. As a quick reference guide, here is every American war, each captured in a single tidy sentence.
American Revolution: The Colonials hated King George and his taxes on tea and so fought to be ruled by President George instead.
Whiskey Rebellion: Americans hated President George and his taxes on whiskey, but Washington won a bloodless victory and kept his tax.
Quasi-War: America didn’t want to pay debts owed to France, so France started stealing ships, America recreated its Navy, and everybody fought until they realized the war was costing everyone more money than anyone was making in profit.
Barbary Wars: Americans fought two wars to navigate the waters north of Africa freely, losing the first and winning the second.
War of 1812: Mad about the British restricting American trade and capturing U.S. sailors, America declared war, lost much of her merchant fleet, watched the White House burn down, and then got what they wanted in the peace treaty anyway.
Mexican-American War: President Polk wanted to double the size of the country, so he picked a fight with Mexico and captured land from Texas to the Pacific.
Utah War: The Army made a show of force, the Mormons massacred a bunch of people, and everyone agreed to replace the Mormon Utah governor with a non-Mormon and forget the whole thing.
Indian Wars: The Native Americans owned land the settlers wanted so brief skirmishes led to full wars where Federal troops used biological warfare and everything ended badly for the Native Americans.
Civil War: The South wanted to keep their slaves and the North wanted to send them to Africa, so everyone fought a war and the South lost.
Spanish-American War: A battleship blew up in Havana and a pissed off America invaded Spanish territory in Cuba and won itself a small overseas empire.
Philippine-American War: The Philippines were violently opposed to becoming an American territory, so America killed the Filipinos until they changed their mind.
Border War: A Mexican revolution kept spilling over into America, so Gen. Pershing chased Pancho Villa and the U.S. garrisoned troops along the border.
Banana Wars: American fruit producers supported insurrections throughout Central and South America and U.S. troops backed them up when necessary to protect business interests.
World War I: After European nations fought each other for three years, America showed up, killed the survivors, and declared itself the champion of the world.
World War II: The Allies used American manufacturing, British technology, and Russian numbers to defeat the fascists and America began the Nuclear Age by obliterating two cities with atomic bombs.
Korean War: A communist government backed by the Soviet Union and China fought a democratic government backed by the U.S. and others in clashes up and down the peninsula for over three years before settling on a border in roughly the same spot as when the war began.
Dominican Civil War: America participated in another country’s civil war off and on for nearly 50 years.
Vietnam War: An armed resistance to French rule turned into a proxy war of America vs. China and Russia that some Americans still don’t admit they lost despite Vietnam now being a single communist state.
Grenada: America jumped into another country’s civil war and declared itself the winner, maybe or maybe not saving the lives of some American medical students studying there.
Panama: Panama’s civil war threatened American forces and the Panama canal, so after a Marine lieutenant was killed America invaded, dismantled the ruling government, and captured the dictator in under three weeks.
Gulf War: An anti-American, oil-rich dictator invaded the land of a Pro-American, oil-rich monarch, so America led a massive air assault followed by a ground invasion that destroyed the world’s fourth largest army in 100 hours.
Somali Civil War: America joined a peacekeeping force to try to curb clan warfare but left amid mounting casualties.
Bosnian Civil War: America joined a peacekeeping force that successfully curbed ethnic fighting in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Kosovo War: America joins an ultimately successful peacekeeping effort aimed at reducing ethnic fighting in Kosovo and demilitarizing a terrorist group in the country.
War on Terror: After suffering the worst single terror attack in history, America declared war on terrorism and has been fighting ever since, most prominently in Iraq and Afghanistan but also in smaller conflicts throughout Africa, the Middle East, and southern Asia.
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.
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.
‘Top Gun’ is a classic and arguably one of the most visually stunning aviation movies ever made. Few movies in cinematic history have been as prolific in contributing to the pop culture lexicon, as well. (Who among us hasn’t said, “I feel the need for speed” in random social situations?) And if you ask military aviators who signed up for flight school after 1986 why they did it chances are they’ll list ‘Top Gun’ as one of the reasons.
Paramount had a huge challenge when they decided to make ‘Top Gun.’ Real-life air-to-air combat doesn’t lend itself to the silver screen in that it’s super technical, very chaotic, and generally takes place at ranges that would prevent two jets from being in the frame at the same time. So, of course, writers Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. and the late-great director Tony Scott had to take some liberties to make the dynamic world of fighter aviation into something that might entertain movie-goers.
But, even allowing for that, ‘Top Gun’ has a bunch of cringe-worthy technical errors that cause it to be as much cartoon as tribute. Here’s WATM’s list of the big ones (annotated by the exact time they occur). After reading them we guarantee you’ll never look at the movie the same way again.
(4:23) CATCC controller is sweating. Those spaces on the ship are usually freezing cold to protect the electronics.
(4:26) Bald-headed guy (played by actor James Tolkan) walks in wearing cover, something the crew doesn’t do on Navy ships unless they’re on watch on the bridge. What is this guy’s billet anyway? CAG? Carrier CO? Tomcat squadron skipper? (He’s an 0-5, so that would make him too junior for the first two, but he acts like he’s in charge of everything.)
(4:33) (Not an error but a technical note): MiGs-28s are actually F-5Fs painted black. (Top Gun still uses F-5s as aggressor aircraft.)
(4:45) GCI controller refers to crews by their callsigns: “Cougar and Merlin and Maverick and Goose.” A controller would refer to jets by aircraft side numbers.
(4:56) Maverick and Goose are sweating in the cockpit, which they’d only do if the pilot had the environment control system (ECS) jacked up uncomfortably high and the RIO didn’t bitch at him to turn it down.
(5:00) RIO’s radar presentation shows a 360-degree PPI presentation. Tomcat’s radar only sweeps 65 degrees either side of the nose. (Wouldn’t want a radar that pointed back at the crews. That would be a huge radiation hazard, to put it mildly.)
(6:00) Tomcat’s wings are swept fully aft, which means — at that altitude — that the aircraft is going supersonic or the pilot commanded them into that position, which he wouldn’t do because the airplane doesn’t turn that well in that configuration.
(7:21) Standby gyro is un-caged as Maverick “goes for missile lock” by twisting a nob on the mid-compression by-pass selector — a system that has nothing to do with the Tomcat’s weapons suite.
(8:00) Cougar transmits: “This bogey’s all over me. He’s got missile lock. Do I have permission to fire?” Well, whatever the ROE, the question is moot until you do some pilot shit and actually maneuver your jet into a position to commit a weapon.
(9:01) As far as Maverick’s “4-G inverted dive” (as Charlie later labels it) goes, if the two airplanes were that close the Tomcat’s vertical stabs would be jammed into the MiG-28.
(9:03) The RIO wouldn’t be carrying a Polaroid camera. He’d have a regular “intel” camera, and if he didn’t get good photos of an airplane that nobody had ever been that close to before (as Goose says) then he would have failed in his part of the mission, big time.
(9:59) Merlin taps on a fuel gauge that doesn’t exist in the rear cockpit of the F-14, only in the front cockpit. (The RIO only has a fuel totalizer.)
(10:06) Cougar rips his oxygen mask off to breathe more oxygen, which would be in short supply at high altitude.
(10:12) Cougar has a photo of his wife and baby taped over the airspeed gauge to the left of the altimeter. Meanwhile the vertical speed indicator shows he’s descending at 6,000 feet per minute, which would be an aggressive dive. At the same time the altimeter, which shows he’s at 31, 500 feet, is set to standby with the barometric pressure dialed to 28.32 when it should be at 29.92.
(10:26) ICS comms (intra-cockpit chatter) can be heard in air ops.
(10:48) A ball call (the transmission indicating the pilot sees the Fresnel lens that gives him glide slope information for landing) would not include the pilot’s call sign.
(10:57) Goose has the same non-existent rear cockpit fuel gauge as Merlin.
(10:58) Maverick crosses the ramp with his hook down and then a second later he has the hook up. (It takes several seconds to cycle between fully up and fully down.) Then he pulls the throttles aft to go around, which would reduce engine power, as somebody screams “Cougar!” over the radio.
(11:06) Maverick instantly bolters — in full burner, no less — with the hook down again.
(12:25) Cougar never calls the ball when instructed but gets a “roger, ball” from the LSO.
(12:27) There’s no way Cougar wouldn’t have been waved off based on that wild approach. He gets at least five “power” calls and no “wave off” call. The Air Boss would have had Paddle’s ass after that.
(12:51) Cougar traps, leaves lights on (Case I or Case III approach? Unclear here), and immediately shuts the jet down instead of taxiing out of the landing area. Maverick is still airborne, low on gas, and needs to land but can’t now because Cougar has fouled the landing area and has to be towed out of the wires.
(13:00) Nice stateroom for a squadron CO. (He’s an 0-5, fer crissakes.) Again, what’s this guys’ billet?
(13:58) First glimpse of random patch assortments on flight suits as Maverick and Goose get chewed out by skipper in his really nice stateroom. (And everybody’s sweating.)
(14:19) Ship’s captain/CAG/squadron skipper says, “With a history of high-speed passes over five air-controlled towers.” Not sure what those are but they must be different than ground- or water-controlled towers.
(15:36) Ship’s captain/CAG/squadron skipper says, “You can tell me about the MiG some other time” and dismisses the crew to head for Top Gun, thereby committing professional suicide by not getting the only information that anyone above him in the chain of command would care about that particular day.
(16:06) “Um, tower, there’s some dork riding a motorcycle down one of the taxiways shaking his fist at us.”
(16:59) There is no Santa Claus. And there’s no such thing as the Top Gun Trophy.
(17:46) Slider is a lieutenant (junior grade). That’s too junior for a Top Gun slot.
(18:32) Navy leaders would be reprimanded for encouraging arrogance because the Navy spent money on posters that read “excellence without arrogance.”
(20:02) Goose quips, “Slider, thought you wanted to be a pilot, man; what happened?” So he’s a RIO slamming a fellow RIO for being a RIO? Not likely. And the “RIOs as second class citizens” vibe left the community with the F-4.
(25:52) A hangar isn’t the most conducive place for detailed flight briefs.
(26:29) Charlie briefs, “The F-5 doesn’t have the thrust-to-weight ratio that the MiG-28 has.” Must be because black paint is lighter than other colors.
(26:37) Charlie briefs, “The MiG-28 does have a problem with its inverted flight tanks.” Those must be different than upright flight tanks.
(26:54) Anybody who showed up to a flight brief wearing a cowboy hat would have his or her wings pulled on the spot.
(27:36) Maverick makes a big deal about how the information regarding his MiG encounter is classified and then proceeds to reveal it in front of the entire group with no idea of whether they have clearance or not. Again, they’re briefing in a hangar. Not exactly a SCIF.
(28:42) Jester says, “All right, gentlemen, we have a hop to take. The hard deck on this hop will be 10,000 feet. There will be no engagements below that.” Of course we haven’t briefed any of the other details of this event — including ACM rules of engagement — because Charlie has wasted our time hitting on Maverick, but whatever . . .
(29:53) Smoke effect is actually the Tomcat dumping fuel . . . a stupid idea when you’re about to enter a dogfight.
(30:01) First merge happens very low to the ground over the desert, not exactly a hard deck of 10,000 feet.
(30:51) Goose says “Watch the mountains!,” words never spoken during an air combat maneuvering event with a hard deck of 10,000 feet.
(31:31) Maverick “hits the brakes” by pushing the throttles forward, which would increase power, not decrease it.
(31:49) Jester’s evasive maneuver in the A-4 is an aileron roll – not exactly an effective move in terms of creating the sort of lateral displacement that might defeat an enemy’s weapons solution.
(32:08) Goose says, “We’re going ballistic, Mav. Go get him,” which makes no sense because a pilot has no control over a ballistic airplane.
(33:34) Maverick does a barrel roll after the tower fly-by in full afterburner, a violation of Federal Aviation Regulations to the extreme without an FAA waiver, which he certainly didn’t get at the spur of the moment. That would have cost him more than an ass chewing by Viper. He would have lost his wings.
(35:52) Maverick explains, “We weren’t below the hard deck for more than a few seconds. I had the shot. There was no danger. So I took it.” The hard deck simulates the ground, so basically Maverick is saying, “We didn’t hit the ground for more than a few seconds . . .”
(37:10) Any lieutenant whose fitness report reads “He’s a wildcard. Completely unpredictable. Flies by the seat of his pants” would be done flying, not to mention unqualified for a Top Gun slot.
(38:26) Goose says to Maverick, “They wouldn’t let you into the Academy ’cause you’re Duke Mitchell’s kid.” There are lots of reasons not to get admitted into a service academy — low SAT scores, for instance. Being the dependent of a veteran isn’t one of them; in fact, that status qualifies the candidate for a Presidential nomination.
(39:26) Maverick explains to Charlie during a TACTS debrief, “If I reversed on a hard cross I could immediately go to guns on him.” She replies, “But at that speed it’s too fast.” Um, what are you guys talking about, and what language are you even speaking?
(51:43) Charlie says, “That’s a big gamble with a $30 million plane.” Tomcat unit cost (cost per jet) circa ’86 was $42 million. Maybe she wasn’t including the cost of the two engines, which could have been a subtle dig on his energy management skills.
(55:31) Why is Hollywood eating an orange on the flight line?
(55:45) More dumping of gas going into a dogfight.
(56:30) Crews are surprised that Viper is one of the bandits. They would have briefed with him (in accordance with safely of flight rules).
(57:26) Logic of the engagement is ridiculous. Maverick lets Jester go and then flies in parade formation behind Hollywood who’s saddled in super-close behind the other bandit. Hollywood whines at Maverick not to leave him when he should just shoot the bandit right in front of him, and then Maverick leaves to go after Viper and ultimately winds up getting shot because Goose does a shitty job of keeping their six clear (at 59:23).
(57:49) More fuel dumping.
(58:42) HUD display looks nothing like the real thing.
(59:04) Maverick switches to guns but HUD symbology stays the same.
(1:06:16) Iceman transmits, “I need another 20 seconds then I’ve got him” while flying so close that if he took a gun shot he’d probably FOD his own engines with the debris from the airplane in front of him. What does he need 20 seconds for?
(1:06:56) Goose says “Shit, we got a flameout. Engine 1 is out.” The RIO has no engine instruments in the rear cockpit of the F-14.
(1:07:13) Iceman transmits, “Mav’s in trouble. He’s in a flat spin and headed out to sea.” When an airplane is in a flat spin it is not heading anywhere except straight down.
(1:07:22) Goose reports, “Altitude 8,000. 7,000. Six, we’re at six.” They should have ejected already. NATOPS boldface (immediate action steps committed to memory) procedures read like this: “If flat spin verified by flat attitude, increasing yaw rate, increasing eyeball−out G, and lack of pitch and roll rates: 8. Canopy – Jettison. 9. EJECT – RIO Command Eject.”
(1:07:23) Goose says “We’re at six [thousand feet]” while the altimeter shows 2,200 feet.
(1:07:48) See step 8 above. If Goose had followed procedures he wouldn’t have died.
(1:14:20) A Field Naval Aviator’s Evaluation Board (FNAEB — pronounced “fee-nab”) would not look like a judicial proceeding held in a courtroom.
(1:23:08) Viper tells Maverick about the day his dad died like this: “His F-4 was hit. He was wounded but he could have made it back. He stayed in it. Saved three planes before he bought it.” And Maverick doesn’t respond by saying, “That makes no sense, sir. How does a pilot save three planes after his jet is hit? Why are you bullshitting me?”
(1:23:20) Viper explains, “It’s not something the State Department tells dependents when the battle occurred over the wrong lines on some map,” which ignores the fact that the Pentagon would be pissed if some random State Department dude spoke to surviving family members at all.
(1:26:50) Aviators wouldn’t get orders at the Top Gun graduation. They’d get them via a frustrating process of arguing with their detailers on the phone over the period of a few months.
(1:27:24) Again: What. Is. This. Guy’s. Billet?
(1:28:56) Pilots salute cat officers for launch with oxygen masks off.
(1:29:08) Maverick walks on the flight deck during flight ops without his helmet on.
(1:32:10) Tomcat does an aileron roll right off the cat, which it wouldn’t have the speed to do — not to mention that maneuver would be a gross violation of Case I departure procedures.
(1:33:08) Random lieutenant reports, “Both catapults are broken. We can’t launch any aircraft right now,” which ignores the fact that modern aircraft carriers have four catapults.
(1:34:47) Controller says, “Maverick’s re-engaging, sir.” There’s no way his radar displays would give him any indication of that.
(1:36:41) Ice says, “I’m going for the shot” while at close range behind a bandit, but he switches from ‘Guns’ to ‘Sparrow/Phoenix’ — the long range, forward-quarter weapons.
(1:36:54) Missile magically transforms from an AIM-7 Sparrow into a AIM-9 Sidewinder in flight.
(1:37:48) Maverick shoots a Sparrow in the rear quarter at short range, which wouldn’t work because the AIM-7 needs a lot of closure to guide.
(1:38:02) Again the missile magically transforms from a Sparrow into a Sidewinder in flight.
(1:38:54) Once again Maverick ‘hits the brakes’ by advancing the throttles, which would make the airplane speed up.
(1:39:47) Maverick leads a two-plane fly-by next to the carrier with a wingman that’s been riddled with bullets and most likely has sustained major damage to the hydraulic system that powers the flight controls.
(1:41:14) Iceman says, “You can be my wingman any time,” which ignores the fact that unless he’s the ops officer or schedule officer or squadron CO who signs the flight schedule then he just needs to shut up and fly with whomever he’s assigned to fly with.
(All photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures except as otherwise indicated.)
A bunch of teenagers found magic coins and became rangers — specifically, Power Rangers.
While everyone has to believe that Zordon had his reasons for selecting angsty teens rather than proven leaders, Army Rangers might have a little issue with magical coins being the only threshold for assuming their coveted title.
But what if real Army Rangers became Power Rangers? While the fights would be awesome, there would also be some other changes. Here are nine of them:
1. Step one would’ve been finding out where the alien spaceship that grants superpowers came from
Seriously, who finds a spaceship with super-powering coins on it and doesn’t start investigating where more coins are? After all, denying the enemy the coins limits the enemy’s combat power and distributing those coins to other Rangers would multiply friendly combat power.
So why not look for the coins? Would be pretty great to get a whole battalion of Power Rangers to spearhead all future American operations, right?
2. Every one of them would need a dip straw installed in their helmets so they could spit tobacco juice during fights
Army Rangers are known as well for stuffing their lips with coffee grounds and tobacco as they are for annihilating enemy forces with extreme prejudice. But take a look at the screengrab above. See anywhere to spit dip in that helmet? That’s going to need a redesign. May we humbly suggest DARPA? Natick might not be up to this.
3. Alpha 5 would’ve been relentlessly mocked for being a POG
The spaceship has a small robot with super strength and, instead of fighting in the field, it helps train and manage the Power Rangers. Sure, the Rangers may need him to get the job done, but that never stopped them from making fun of any other support troops, so why would they stop with the robot with Bill Hader’s voice?
4. Every Ranger would carry a crew-served weapon — either the M2 .50-cal or Mk-47 grenade launcher or the M107 .50-cal sniper rifle
Does anyone think a bunch of Rangers would get super strength and start carrying less firepower into combat? Hell no. Rangers with super strength would go shopping in the Weapons Company armory.
Those guys would carry modified M2s and Mk-47s. At least one guy would grab a Barrett .50-cal. sniper rifle and start using it like a carbine.
5. The drunken shenanigans would be legendary (assuming they can get drunk)
So, we’re not yet sure that the Power Rangers can get drunk since some superhero stories say that the healing factors make it impossible. But think a bunch of Rangers would give up drinking if they could?
Nope. And superpowered humans would get in fights with bouncers, police, and the special operators who would have to be pressed into law enforcement roles to keep them in line.
6. They would show off in the gym all the time
The Power Rangers woke up completely ripped. Of course, the Rangers probably went to bed at least a little ripped, so imagine how strong they would be in the morning.
Now imagine that they don’t work out the next morning shirtless, bench pressing entire people who are bench pressing lots of weight.
7. At least one of them would try to sleep with Rita
Yeah, Rita is the supreme evil lady. But she’s pretty attractive. And she’s probably available (there aren’t many handsome monsters in the trailer). At least one Ranger would proposition her. At least.
8. At least one Ranger would be missing from each of the first few fights because they would be combat jacking
Speaking of things that at least one Ranger would be doing in combat, the attempted “monster jacking” — combat jacking but in a fight with a monster — would disrupt each of the first five fights. At least the first five.
9. The rest of the Rangers would make fun of them for needing super powers
The entire rest of the Army’s Ranger Regiment would be super jealous that they weren’t the ones who got super powers, but they wouldn’t let it show. Instead, they would heckle the Rangers with power coins relentlessly.
“Oh, the little baby can’t throw a car without his special coin? Guess the rest of us will go ahead and protect the U.S. everywhere else in the world without any magical powers. Like real Rangers.”