Some warships bring the hurt to the enemy and look good while doing it. Take Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, for example: They pack a huge punch inside a powerful, refined exterior. Or look to the Iowa-class battleship, whose long career and heavy firepower speaks for itself — but it also looks majestic. Other ships, however, look as though they fell off the ugly tree and hit every damn branch on the way down. But which are the ugliest battleships?
The following five battleships make the winners of the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest look like models. They might be powerful, they might have outstanding combat records, but their designers certainly aren’t winning any any plaudits for their aesthetic choices.
Russia’s Ekaterina II-class battleships
Russia built four of these vessels in the 1880s. Two served as guard ships in World War I. Not only were they eyesores, but they were also poorly designed. One of the vessels, the Chesma, was so overweight that her armor belt listed underwater, making it practically useless in a fight. The last of these ships survived until 1930, when it was scrapped by the French.
Russia’s Gangut-class battleships
This ship was also intimately familiar with the ugly stick. It also wasn’t the most graceful vessel to take the sea. The turrets were split evenly across the ship, meaning half of its firepower was rendered completely useless when the ship was turned broadside to the enemy. They saw action in World War I and World War II, but were quickly scrapped thereafter
The Brazilians responsible for this ship’s designed sold her, incomplete, to the Ottoman Turks. Then, when World War I started, the British took it over. She didn’t look graceful, but she did pack 14 12-inch guns. She saw action at Jutland, but after World War I, she was scrapped under the terms laid out by the Washington Naval Treaty.
Japan’s Fuso-class battleships
This ship’s superstructure is essentially a small skyscraper on top of an armored hull. The ship did pack a dozen 14-inch guns, but it was slow, capping off at a top speed of 23 knots. An upgrade in the 1930s made it a little faster, but the Fuso-class ships were still ugly.
Their only notable combat experience was in the Surigao Strait – where both went down against American battleships, some of which had been at Pearl Harbor.
Britain’s Nelson-class battleships
These two ships were designed with the entire main battery forward of the superstructure, creating a look that’s closer to a supertanker with big guns than a battleship. It also means it’s completely safe to talk about these ships behind their back — they’ve no guns at the rear. HMS Nelson saw action in the Mediterranean theater, Operation Overlord, and in the Pacific, while HMS Rodney is known for being the only battleship to torpedo another. Both went to the scrapyard by 1950.
Let’s face it, while these ships found varying levels of success in combat, none would’ve won any beauty pageants.
Hollywood is known for riddling military movies with technical errors, but from “Full Metal Jacket” to “Stripes,” the movie industry gets it right with plenty of quotable military movies.
Here are WATM’s picks for 32 of the best ever:
1. “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like … victory. Someday this war’s gonna end.” — Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore, “Apocalypse Now” (1979)
2. “When I go home people will ask me, ‘Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?’ You know what I’ll say? I won’t say a goddamn word. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you, and that’s it. That’s all it is.” — Norman “Hoot” Hooten, “Black Hawk Down” (2001)
3. “You have to think about one shot. One shot is what it’s all about.” — Michael, “The Deer Hunter” (1978)
4. “Keep the sand out of your weapons, keep those actions clear. I’ll see you on the beach.” — Capt. John Miller, “Saving Private Ryan” (1998)
5. “Are you smoking this sh-t so’s to escape from reality? Me, I don’t need this sh-t, I am reality. There’s the way it ought to be, and there’s the way it is.” — Staff Sgt. Barnes, “Platoon” (1986)
6. “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.” — Gen. George Patton, “Patton” (1970)
7. “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” — Maximus, “Gladiator” (2000)
8. “The Almighty tells me he can get me out of this mess, but he’s pretty sure you’re f–ked.” — Stephen, “Braveheart” (1997)
9. “Aim small, miss small.” — Capt. Benjamin Martin, “The Patriot” (2000)
10. “Out here, due process is a bullet!” — Col. Mike Kirby, “The Green Berets” (1968)
11. “Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war? … He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.” — Gen. Jack D. Ripper, “Dr. Strangelove” (1964)
12. “I feel the need . . . the need for speed.” — Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, “Top Gun” (1986)
13. “Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps… And I want my scalps!” — Lt. Aldo Raine, “Inglourious Basterds” (2009)
14. “Are you quitting on me? Well, are you? Then quit, you slimy f–king walrus-looking piece of sh-t! Get the f–k off of my obstacle! Get the f–k down off of my obstacle! NOW! MOVE IT! Or I’m going to rip your balls off, so you cannot contaminate the rest of the world! I will motivate you, Private Pyle, IF IT SHORT-D–KS EVERY CANNIBAL ON THE CONGO!” — Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, “Full Metal Jacket” (1987)
15. “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.” —Wardaddy, “Fury” (2014)
16. “I ain’t got time to bleed.” — Blain, “Predator” (1987)
17. “I could have killed ’em all, I could kill you. In town you’re the law, out here it’s me. Don’t push it. Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe. Let it go. Let it go.” —Rambo, “First Blood” (1982)
18. “Spartans! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty… For tonight, we dine in hell!” — King Leonidas, “300” (2006)
19. “All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed? Another glorious day in the Corps! A day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal’s a banquet! Every paycheck a fortune! Every formation a parade! I LOVE the Corps!” — Sgt. Apone, “Aliens” (1986)
20. “You still think it’s beautiful to die for your country. The first bombardment taught us better. When it comes to dying for country, it’s better not to die at all.” — Paul Baumer, “All Quite on the Western Front” (1930)
21. “Sir, Custer was a p-ssy. You ain’t.” — Sgt. Maj. Plumley, “We Were Soldiers” (2002)
22. “Sir, I got lost on the way to college, sir.” — Anthony Swofford, “Jarhead” (2005)
23. “Remember Sully when I promised to kill you last? I lied.” — John Matrix, “Commando” (1985)
25. “Only two kinds of people are gonna stay on this beach: those that are already dead and those that are gonna die. Now get off your butts. You guys are the Fighting 29th.” — Brig. Gen. Norman Cota, “The Longest Day” (1962)
26. “F–kin’ badass, I was there. F–kin’ took him out at 400 yards, head popped up three feet in the air. Crazy shot, man.”
27. “Yes they had weapons! You think there’s a script for fighting a war without pissing somebody off? Follow the rules and nobody gets hurt? Yes, innocent people probably died. Innocent people always die but I did not exceed my orders.” — Col. Terry Childers, “Rules of Engagement” (2000)
28. “We’re Airborne. We don’t start fights, we *finish* ’em!” —Galvan, “Hamburger Hill” (1987)
29. “Lighten up, Francis.” — Sgt. Hulka, “Stripes” (1981)
30. “My name is Gunnery Sergeant Highway. I’ve drunk more beer, banged more quiff, pissed more blood, and stomped more ass than all of you numb-nuts put together.” — Gunny Highway, “Heartbreak Ridge” (1986)
31. “All I ever wanted was an honest week’s pay for an honest day’s work.” — Master Sgt. Ernie Bilko, “Sgt. Bilko”
32. “You see Danny, I can deal with the bullets, and the bombs, and the blood. I don’t want money, and I don’t want medals. What I do want is for you to stand there in that f–goty white uniform and with your Harvard mouth extend me some f–king courtesy. You gotta ask me nicely.” — Col. Nathan Jessep, “A Few Good Men” (1992)
The military is one of those work environments where it’s generally best to blend in. Sure, you want to stand out during promotion boards or advancement exams, but the rest of the time it’s best for troops to keep their heads down.
Unfortunately, some people are cursed with traits that make that impossible. Here are 7 things that are guaranteed to draw extra attention.
Too-tall or too-short, both will make someone stand out. In formation, everyone is right next to each other and outliers are super obvious. At ceremonies, many units are reorganized according to height so the unit has a more uniform appearance.
2. Being a know-it-all
This person wants to stand out, but they shouldn’t. Answering a direct question is no big deal, and offering an informed opinion every once in a while is great. But people who answer every question in a class don’t get the “team” idea behind the military. And the rest of the team hates them for it.
3. Coming from another country
The U.S. military is predictably full of Americans, but some foreign people do join.
A few English or South African troops may be able to skate by under the radar, but most foreigners get found out immediately. As if it wasn’t hard enough to adjust to military culture, this recruit has to adjust to American culture at the same time. Every time they mess something up, some squad-jokester-wannabe will make a comment about how it’s because they didn’t grow up in America.
4. Being from Texas
It’s like being foreign. Everyone has their favorite Texas jokes, Texas nicknames, and Texas memes. Once someone is outed as being a Texan, they will get saddled with all the Lone Star military stereotypes.
5. Having an accent
Yeah, soldiers who talk funny are going to get noticed. It’s funniest when they have to speak in front of the unit. They’re up there talking about how their squad helped them get promoted or earn an award and the formation just stands there smiling like they understand any of the words being said.
6. Possessing no rhythm
In the civilian world, bad rhythm just makes it harder to meet people at clubs and square dances. But rhythm is key to military life. Units march in rhythm, troops exercise in rhythm, and new tasks are taught “by the numbers” where students practice things like landing in a parachute in a set rhythm.
A service member with no rhythm sticks out and gets ridiculed. In basic training, it’s even worse since it draws the eyes of the dreaded training cadre.
7. Carrying a funny or famous last name
As a civilian, someone’s last name isn’t all that visible. It’s in email signatures, and that’s about it. But in the military, a person’s last name is their primary name. It’s on their shirts, it’s beneath any pictures of them, and it’s on most of their hats. Some people don’t know their buddy’s first name until they friend each other on Facebook.
So, when someone’s last name is “Nye,” everyone knows. And that person can’t walk into a room without someone singing the Bill Nye theme song.
It’s common for troops to experience a misfire when discharging their weapons for various reasons. After they clear the chamber, they either let the unspent round fall to the ground or, sometimes, they get tossed into a burn pit.
That’s a bad idea. Bullet projection is based on igniting the gunpowder inside the shell as a propellant. No one wants to get shot by a burn pit.
Just because the primer was struck and nothing happened doesn’t mean the round is dead — it’s still alive. Sort of like a zombie.
4. Human remains
This is just nasty. Who wants to smell a bad guy’s leg roasting over an open flame in the burn pit? On second thought, please don’t answer that.
Various types of batteries will explode if exposed to intense heat. No troop wants to get hit with shrapnel during a firefight, let alone get blasted by battery fragments while inside the wire.
These nine icons and military veterans left us in 2014:
RUSSELL JOHNSON – U.S. Army Air Corps
Russell Johnson was an actor best known for playing “The Professor” on the classic TV series “Gilligan’s Island.” He joined the Army Air Corps in World War II, and earned the Purple Heart when his B-24 Liberator was shot down in the Philippines during a bombing run in March, 1945. After the war, he used the G.I. Bill to enroll in acting school. Johnson was 89 years old when he died on January 16.
HIROO ONODA – Japanese Imperial Army
Hiroo Onoda was a soldier in the Japanese Imperial Army who fought in World War II and didn’t surrender in 1945. He spent 30 years holding out in the Philippines. He eventually returned to Japan to much popularity and released a ghostwritten autobiography called No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War. Onoda was 91 years old when he died on January 16.
PETE SEEGER – U.S. Army
Pete Seeger was a folk singer and colleague of the legendary Woody Guthrie. Over the course of his music life, Seeger penned such classic hits a “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “Turn, Turn, Turn.” He was drafted in 1942 and spent his tour of duty singing folk songs for soldiers on the front, often playing songs that included anti-war sentiments. He was discharged as a corporal and went back to folk music. His career was infamously short-circuited when he was blacklisted by McCarthyism for his Communists views. Seeger was 94 years old when he died on January 27.
SID CAESAR – U.S. Coast Guard
Sid Caesar was a legendary comedian who made his name on stage, in films, and in the early days of television. During World War II he served in the Coast Guard as a musician where he was part of the service’s “Tars and Bars” show. When the show’s producer heard him joking with some of the other musicians he was switched from saxophone to comedian, a move that set the course for the rest of his life. Caesar was 91 years old when he died on February 12.
MICKEY ROONEY – U.S. Army
Mickey Rooney was a beloved childhood actor who made his name at a young age in films and Broadway shows in which he co-starred with Judy Garland. He joined the war effort in 1943 as a member of the U.S Army and spent his 21 month in uniform entertaining the troops and working on the American Armed Forces Network. He is perhaps best known to military audiences for playing a SAR pilot in the film “The Bridges at Toko Ri.” Rooney was 93 years old when he died on April 6.
EFREM ZIMBALIST, JR. – U.S. Army
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. was a TV star best known for his roles in the series “77 Sunset Strip” and “The FBI.” He later did voice-overs for the “Batman” and “Spider Man” animated series. He served for five years during World War II and was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained to his leg while fighting the German Army during the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. Zimbalist was 95 years old when he died on May 2.
LOUIS ZAMPERINI – U.S. Army Air Corps
Louis Zamperini’s remarkable life is the subject of two biographies and the film “Unbroken,” directed by Angelina Jolie. In May of 1943, Zamperini was the bombardier on a B-24 Liberator that crashed south of Hawaii due to mechanical difficulties. He was one of three of the 11 crew members to survive the crash and spent 47 days adrift. He was captured by the Japanese and held as a POW until the end of the war under brutal conditions. Zamperini was 95 years old when he died on July 2.
JAMES GARNER – U.S. Army
James Garner was a TV and film actor best known for his roles in the movies “The Great Escape,” “Space Cowboys,” and “The Notebook” and in the TV series “Maverick” and “The Rockford Files.” He served during the Korean War and was wounded twice – once by an enemy mortar explosion and once by friendly fire from an American jet. He received a Purple Heart for each injury, although he wasn’t awarded the second one until 1983. Garner was 86 years old when he died on July 19.
ROBERT GALLAGHER – U.S. Army
Sgt. Maj. Robert Gallagher was a decorated war hero whose action as a platoon sergeant with Task Force Ranger in Somalia served as the basis for the film “Black Hawk Down.” He also served in Panama during Operation Just Cause and during the second invasion of Iraq. Over the course of his military career, Sgt. Maj. Gallagher received two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, and a Silver Star. He later called that fateful day in Somalia “the best and worst day of my life.” He was 52 years old when he died on October 14.
“Secretary of Defense James Mattis” is going to be hard to type after he spent so many years as “Marine Corps Gen. and Angel of Death James ‘Chaos’ Mattis,” but we’re going to have to type it because he is now, officially, in place as the Secretary of Defense.
His public affairs staff recently saw fit to share images from Mattis’s first day with the rest of a grateful nation. Here are seven of the best:
1. Mattis emerges from his vehicle for his first full day and is met by his old peer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford.
2. Mattis and Dunford enter the Pentagon. Reports of them growling “urrr” to let everyone know that the Devil Dogs had arrived have not been confirmed.
3. Mattis was met by senior leaders of the military branches on his way to his office. At least two are rumored to have sworn fealty.
4. A bunch of senior staff lined the halls and were all, “Dude, it’s real. Mattis is back, and he’s in charge this time.”
5. They followed him towards his office, possibly worried that he would disappear in a poof of smoke if they looked away.
6. Mattis spoke with his undersecretary and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Paul Selva, neither of whom were bitten during the encounter.
7. The Pentagon’s “Top 4” then met to discuss how totally sweet it will be to have Mattis in charge.
While all of our veterans should be beloved and respected, many have stuck in the public consciousness. Some became famous veterans because of their incredible accomplishments in war, and others because of their accomplishments in entertainment or business after their service. While some of the names on this list of famous US veterans are decorated heroes, and others were malcontents who couldn’t stay out of military prison (looking at you, George Carlin), all are veterans that are now loved and respected by the public.
Veterans like bomber pilot and movie star Jimmy Stewart, are obviously iconic. Others, like former Marine Corps driver turned icon Bea Arthur, might be people you had no idea served in the military. Their accomplishments in uniform run the gamut, from the heroism of Audie Murphy to personally having a bounty put on them by Hitler (Clark Gable) to undistinguished stints that ended quickly. A few fought in World War II and became highly anti-authoritarian. There are even some baseball players who gave up years of their careers to put themselves in harms way in combat in both World Wars.
Vote up the American veterans you respect and revere the most, and vote down the ones who don’t deserve the admiration they get from the public. From US Army veterans to World War 2 veterans, any famous and beloved veteran of the US armed forcesdeserves a spot on this list!
Vote up the famous veterans that you love and respect the most.
From a troop’s first day in the military to their last, they’ll pick up various leadership traits that will (hopefully) propel them into a positive, productive future. Although most of us won’t ever know what it’s like to lead a whole platoon or battalion, we’re often thrown into temporary leadership roles as we take boots under our wings, showing them how sh*t gets done while fostering a level of respect.
Leadership can be taught during training, but it’s not truly understood until you’re in the field. The following skills are the cornerstones of leadership.
We’ve all experienced first-hand how infuriating it is when someone constantly feels the need to put in their two cents — just because they can. Many young leaders, eager to meaningfully contribute, will feel compelled to change something to their liking, even if it won’t help better complete the mission at hand.
It’s an important to know when you should back away.
Show one, do one, teach one
It’s up to the military’s leaders to impart their knowledge onto junior troops. As essential part of the military is training troops to win battles. When a troop doesn’t know how to pass a certain test, it’s up to their leader to teach them.
The winning strategy here is, “show one, do one, teach one.” The leader will first show a troop how to do something, that troop will then do it for themselves, and then, finally, that troop will go teach another how to complete the task.
They say that teaching is the best way to learn — this method benefits both a leader and his troops.
All too often, we see orders get passed down by people who wouldn’t dare complete the task themselves. These so-called leaders tell you, “good luck,” and then show up in the end to take all the credit.
Don’t do this. Instead, lead from the front. Help with the dangerous missions you helped plan.
Know your team’s strength and weakness
When you walk onto the battlefield, either literally or metaphorically, it’s important to know what each individual in the team is best at in the event something pops off. We’ve encountered leaders who don’t know elbows from as*holes when it comes to their squad.
We’d all like to be appreciated for our hard work, but victories are rarely due to a single act. Recognize that the military is a team environment. Each member plays an important role in achieving victory. Taking all the credit for a group’s hard work only makes you look dumb.
The EA-18 crew that did an American Vandal-inspired move in the sky is likely to face some heat from brass who have no sense of humor. I mean, it wasn’t like they did anything unsafe (which the FAA admits), but they’re likely to get in trouble for their move.
They won’t be the first, though.
Here are some times pilots got in trouble for their fancy flying.
5. World War II: Richard Bong in San Francisco
Richard Bong was America’s top ace in World War II, scoring 40 kills while flying the P-38 Lightning. However, if they’d applied today’s standards back then, he’d have been in trouble. According to the April, 1985 issue of Flying Magazine, he was reprimanded for doing a loop around the center section of the Golden Gate bridge and waving to secretaries during low passes over San Francisco.
4. 1996: RAF pilot Nicholas Paine
Nicholas Paine got permission from his parents to buzz their house in a Bae Hawk, which was in an authorized low-level flight zone. However, neighbors didn’t care for the sound of freedom. He was court-martialed, and after being convicted in March 1996, he was fined 500 pounds and severely reprimanded. The Independent reported that the verdict was overturned the next year.
3. 2002: Two unidentified F-16 jocks over Manhattan
In February 2002, residents of Manhattan were awakened by the sound of two jets making a low pass over the city at 4:30 A.M. The F-16s from the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard had been deployed to Atlantic City, where they were flying combat patrols as part of Operation Noble Eagle. The next month, the New York Post reported the pilots had been sent back to Texas.
2. 2011: A T-38 pilot over Iowa City, Iowa
Flybys during sporting events around the end of the national anthem have become quite common. But one in Iowa City was notable for a flight of four Air Force T-38 clearing the stadium’s press box by 16 feet. All six pilots on board were reprimanded, and the flight lead lost his wings.
1. 2016: Four A-10 pilots over Charlotte
When four A-10s from the 74th Fighter Squadron 23rd Wing made a low pass over the Charlotte Panthers’ stadium on their way back from a routine navigation exercise in 2016, there was a fuss. While the incident was being investigated, the pilots were off flight duty, meaning the only thing they could fly were desks.
So, yeah, flight antics get folks in trouble. Hopefully, it won’t be too rough for the EA-18 crew from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, but the odds are not in their favor.
Results are what make a weapons system great, not just technology.
In the case of fighter aircraft, it’s all about the kills, and with that as the main selection criteria, here’s WATM’s list of the 18 greatest fighters of all time:
1. Fokker Triplane
The iconic aircraft behind the World War I success of Manfred von Richthofen’s Flying Circus was actually designed after a Sopwith Triplane crashed behind German lines in 1917. The Fokker Triplane was relatively slow and hard to see out of, but it possessed an impressive turn rate that “The Red Baron” leveraged towards his war total of 80 confirmed kills.
2. Sopwith Camel
The Sopwith Camel had a more powerful engine and more firepower than the German fighters it went up against, and although the big engine made it hard to handle, in the hands of an experienced pilot the fighter was very lethal. The Sopwith Camel accounted for 1,294 air-to-air kills, the most of any model during World War I.
3. Mitsubishi Zero
At the outset of World War II in the Pacific, the Zero owned the skies, including those over Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Zero was primarily carrier-based, highly maneuverable, and could fly long range. Because of this the Japanese enjoyed a 12-to-1 kill ratio over the allies during the first few years of the war.
Often incorrectly called the “Me 109,” the Bf-109 remains the most produced fighter aircraft in history and was one of the Luftwaffe’s air-to-air workhorses. The Bf 109 was flown by the three top-scoring German fighter aces of World War II, who claimed 928 victories among them. Through constant design improvements and development by German engineers, the Bf 109 remained lethal in the face of allied technical advances throughout the war.
5. Focke-Wulf Fw-190
The Fw-190 was generally considered superior to the Bf-109 because of it’s bigger engine (a BMW inline 12) and greater firepower. Some of the Luftwaffe ‘ s most successful fighter aces flew the Fw 190, including Otto Kittel with 267 victories, Walter Nowotny with 258, and Erich Rudorffer with 222.
6. P-51 Mustang
The P-51 Mustang was a solution to the clear need for an effective bomber escort starting in 1943. General James Doolittle told the fighters in early 1944 to stop flying in formation with the bombers and instead attack the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found. The Mustang groups were sent in well before the bombers in a “fighter sweep” as a form of air supremacy action, intercepting German fighters while they were forming up. As a result, the Luftwaffe lost 17 percent of its fighter pilots in just over a week, and the Allies were able to establish air superiority. (Wikipedia)
7. P-38 Lightning
In spite of the fact that the twin-boom design limited roll rate performance, the P-38 tallied impressive kill numbers in the Pacific and the China-Burma-India areas when piloted by America’s top aces like Richard Bong (40 victories) and Thomas McGuire (38 victories).
8. P-47 Thunderbolt
In Europe during the critical first three months of 1944 when the German aircraft industry and Berlin were heavily attacked, the P-47 shot down more German fighters than the P-51 (570 out of 873), and shot down approximately 900 of the 1,983 claimed during the first six months of 1944. In Europe, Thunderbolts flew more sorties (423,435) than P-51s, P-38s and P-40s combined. Indeed, it was the P-47 which broke the back of the Luftwaffe on the Western Front in the critical period of January–May 1944. (Wikipedia)
The Spitfire achieved legendary status during the Battle of Britain by racking up the highest victory-to-loss ratio among British aircraft. Spitfires were flown by British aces Johnnie Johnson (34 kills), Douglas Bader (20 kills), and Bob Tuck (27 kills). The Spitfire was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft and was the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war. (Wikipedia)
10. F4F Wildcat
The first of the Grumman “Cat” series, the carrier-based F4F was slower, shorter ranged, and less maneuverable than the Japanese Zero. However it’s ruggedness and the development of group tactics like the “Thatch Weave” allowed the Wildcat to ultimately prevail, tallying a nearly 7-to-1 kill ratio over the course of the war.
11. F6F Hellcat
The F6F was designed to improve on the Wildcat’s ability to counter the Mitsubishi A6M Zero and help secure air superiority over the Pacific Theater. Hellcats were credited with 5,223 kills, more than any other Allied naval aircraft.
12. F-4U Corsair
Know to the Japanese as “whistling death,” Corsairs claimed 2,140 air combat victories and an overall kill ratio of over 11-to-1. Legendary F4U pilots include Marines Joe Foss, Marion Carl, and Pappy Boyington.
With the Chinese entry into the Korean War, the MiG-15 began to appear in the skies over Korea. Quickly proving superior to straight-wing American jets such as the F-80 and F-84 Thunderjet, the MiG-15 temporarily gave the Chinese the advantage in the air and ultimately forced United Nations forces to halt daylight bombing until the F-86 arrived to level the air combat playing field.
14. F-86 Sabre
The F-86 was the U.S. answer to the MiG-15 that had dominated the skies over Korea in the early part of that conflict. Engagements in MiG Alley between the two aircraft were numerous, and that period is considered by many as the glory days of air-to-air warfare between jet aircraft. F-86s ended the war with a 10-to-1 kill ratio over the MiG-15s they faced.
15. F-4 Phantom
The F-4 was the fighter and attack workhorse for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps for several decades and Phantom crews were the last to attain “ace” status in the 20th Century. The most noteworthy event happened on May 10, 1972, when Lieutenant Randy “Duke” Cunningham and Lieutenant (junior grade) William P. Driscoll shot down three MiG-17s to become the first American flying aces of the war.
One of the most widely used fighter aircraft in history, MiG-21s tallied impressive kill numbers during the Vietnam War, the Iran-Iraq War, and the India-Pakistan and Egypt-Israeli conflicts.
17. F-14 Tomcat
The Tomcat didn’t make this list because of it’s long service as the U.S. Navy’s front-line carrier-based fighter (in spite of the fact that “Top Gun” remains the greatest military movie of all time), but because the Iranian Air Force had more than 160 kills with it during the Iran-Iraq War.
18. F-15 Eagle
Eagles made dogfighting history during Operation Desert Storm, primarily because of their superior weapons suite, including state-of-the-art (at the time) identification capability. F-15s had 34 confirmed kills of Iraqi aircraft during the 1991 Gulf War.
‘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.)