People well beyond their teens seek military service. There are age limits in the military for a reason, but even for the SEAL training program, the window to attend Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL Training (BUD/S) is from 17-28 years. I’ve been asked this question frequently; from people in the age bracket as well as many beyond the age limit who would need age waivers in order to join the Navy and enter the SEAL Training program.
Does age really matter?
In my opinion, age does matter but not necessarily in the way many people think. Typically, the reason why people do not finish SEAL training is they were underprepared — that has nothing to do with age. If you look at reasons why people quit or fail the course there is a laundry list of reasons: too cold, too uncomfortable (wet and sandy), too much running, too much swimming / pool confidence, too much PT / load bearing events (boats / logs / rucks), too much negative feedback, too much everything. BUD/S will expose a weakness quickly and if you are not prepared for that, it can be overwhelming. If someone says they did not make it because they were “too old” then the entire recruiting system is wrong and the Navy should change the age limits. People in their late twenties and early thirties (and even older) have made it to and through BUD/S before. The age limits are fine.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd class Megan Anuci)
In my opinion, the 17-18 year old candidates have a harder time than the older candidates. (see Perfect Storm for Failure) Maturity goes a long way with this type of training and a few years of preparation will help tremendously in your ability to handle the daily work load and physical standards of each phase. Even some candidates on the younger side of the age bracket are still growing and susceptible to many running overuse injuries at a higher rate than others.
What should the older candidate do before and during BUD/S?
Recovery — It is a small difference, but the 18 year old body will naturally recover faster than a body a decade or older, so recovery has to be the number one goal every day for the older BUD/S student. But to be honest, recovery is critical for ALL BUD/S students. Actively pursuing recovery from a tough day / week of training needs to be accomplished by all students in order to be successful no matter what the age. This means good food, hydration, healthy snacks, rest on weekends, good sleep nightly (when available), stretching, foam rolling, compression garments, massage tools and wound / joint care will all help the active student attending any selection program.In my opinion, the 17-18 year old candidates have a harder time than the older candidates. (see Perfect Storm for Failure) Maturity goes a long way with this type of training and a few years of preparation will help tremendously in your ability to handle the daily work load and physical standards of each phase. Even some candidates on the younger side of the age bracket are still growing and susceptible to many running overuse injuries at a higher rate than others.
Performance — No matter what your age is, there is a fitness standard, tactical skills standard, and a military standard you have to meet. Well, “exceeding the standard should be the standard” and mindset of any BUD/S student in preparing and attending SEAL Training – young or old. There is no age performance drop at BUD/S, just one standard for all students to meet.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle-Lymas)
Injuries — Another thing to consider is that injuries happen at BUD/S to all students – all ages. Knowing how to play with pain is part of the game for all successful students. But being able to discern aches / pains from real injuries requires some maturity. Seeking medical advice before it gets so bad that you fail events is something you need to understand and be open to.
Misconception — I think many people who are not in their teens feel they “missed the boat” on joining the military. The human body is far more capable at getting into better physical conditioning (all areas) 10-15 years passed 20 years old or less. There is not a doubt in my mind that someone in their late 20’s and early 30’s can attend BUD/S and crush it – as many people have and still do today. It just requires thorough preparation, focused mindset on goal accomplishment, and getting it done. Remembering how many hurdles you had to jump through just to get the opportunity to serve in the military, qualify for Special Ops training, and years of preparation should be a constant in your head. There will be days that make you question your abilities, but you have to keep pushing yourself forward IF you really want it.
A quick word about age waivers (over 28 years old)
Age waivers are available on a case by case basis. An applicant has to stand out in many areas in order to even get the process of age waivers to move up the chain of command from the recruiter’s office. Here is a short list of ways to stand out among the crowd.
1. Physical Test Scores: PST scores have to be above average in order to be taken seriously: 8 Minute 500yd. swim, 100 pushups, 100 situps, 20 pullups, 9-minute 1.5 mile run. Scores in this area and a recruiter will likely take you seriously and take the time to move the waiver up the chain of command.
2. Work History: What have you been doing for the last decade? What skillset / trade do you bring to the table? Are you a leader / entrepreneur? Have extensive travel history? Speak foreign languages?
3. Collegiate History: It may have been a while since college or you may have advanced degrees that will help you stand out amongst other enlisted candidates. Most SEAL enlisted have college degrees, many played sports, and some have advanced degrees.
4. Who you know: Sometimes a letter of recommendation from current Navy SEALs or higher ranking officials can go a long way to helping people decide if you are worth the chance of giving the age waiver.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
As the B-1, call sign Hawk 91, approaches the airport, air traffic control asks how many people and how much fuel is onboard. The response is four airmen and enough fuel for roughly four hours of flight time.
The B-1 is then assigned a runway.
“Approach, Hawk Nine-One, airfield in sight, cancel IFR [instrument flight rules], we are going to be making a long, straight-in approach,” one of the crew says. IFR is a set of Federal Aviation Administration rules requiring civil aircraft to use instrument approach procedures for civil airports. Approach procedures are different for military pilots and aircraft.
The tower tells the crew to maintain visual flight rules (VFR) instead. Once the B-1 lands, the crew tells the control tower it will be “emergency ground egressing.”
In July 2018, then-Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Robin Rand awarded Distinguished Flying Cross medals to the crew, including Maj. Christopher Duhon, Air Force Strategic-Operations Division chief of future operations at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and an instructor pilot with the 28th Bomb Squadron; Capt. Matthew Sutton, 28th BS weapons system officer instructor; 1st Lt. Joseph Welch, student pilot with the 28th; and 1st Lt. Thomas Ahearn, a weapons system officer assigned to the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.
“Thank you for showing us how to be extraordinary. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. I have never been prouder to wear this uniform than I am today because of you four,” Rand said during a July 13, 2018 ceremony honoring the airmen.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, left, takes a group photo with the B-1B Lancer aircrew during a Distinguished Flying Cross medals presentation, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, July 13, 2018. Rand formally recognized the heroism and exceptional professionalism of the B-1B aircrew members involved in the May 1, 2018, in-flight emergency and resulting emergency landing in Midland, Texas.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)
Officials said in a release that it was the first-ever successful landing of a B-1B experiencing this type of ejection seat mishap.
Weeks preceding the ceremony, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation that the Dyess B-1 had to make an emergency landing over an ejection seat malfunction.
The B-1 crew “were out training,” she said during a June 18, 2018 speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.
When the crew tried to eject, “the cover comes off, and nothing else happens,” she said, referring to the weapons systems officer’s ejection hatch. “The seat doesn’t fire. Within two seconds of knowing that that had happened, the aircraft commander says, ‘Cease ejection, we’ll try to land.’ “
The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. May 1, 2018. Local media reported at the time the non-nuclear B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land.
Images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show a burnt-out engine from the incident. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.
While the B-1s returned to normal flying operations, both Foreign Policy and The Drive reported that the ejection seat issue may be more widespread than previously disclosed.
“While specific numbers will not be released, not all B-1Bs were affected by these egress system component deficiencies,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Military.com in a statement on July 19, 2018, following the news reports.
“The Air Force has 62 B-1Bs in the fleet. All B-1Bs are cleared for normal flight operations. We always apply risk management measures for flights based on the aircraft, the flight profiles, and crew experience,” Stefanek said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Different weapons serve different purposes in combat, but every fighter in history has looked for an edge – one advantage that could mean the difference between life and death for the combatant. In an era where everyone is cutting each other with increasingly sharp blades of different sizes, wouldn’t it be great if that ax also shot bullets?
If you happened to be the one holding the ax, then yes: that would be great. Unless your opponent was holding a shield – especially if that shield also shot bullets.
If that example sounds far-fetched, that’s because it is — but just because it’s unlikely doesn’t mean it never happened.
Yes, the ax that shoots bullets was only partly a joke. Polish cavalry used a short ax as a weapon for more than 200 years. The tradition spilled over into Hungary as well, presumably because axes that could also shoot bullets were great at killing Turks.
Even better than the handheld pistol ax was the multi-barreled and/or halberd long gun versions used by Germans around the same time.
Knives and swords.
The Germans are back with this hunting knife-pistol combo. From the 16th through the 18th centuries, shooting and stabbing was a popular combination, not just among German civilians, but also among troops belonging to various warlords in a then-ununified Germany.
Pistol knives experienced a rebirth in popularity in Victorian England, probably as a means to not get murdered at night on the streets of London.
Speaking of not getting murdered on the streets of old-timey Europe, French street gangs were keen on using the Apache pistol to do just that: kill to avoid being killed. These were combination brass knuckles, switchblades, and pistols that were really good at being none of those things. The knives were flimsy, the pistol had no trigger guard, and the brass knuckles weren’t big or heavy enough to be a difference maker.
A walking stick.
This is pretty much just Henry VIII’s thing. The big guy carried a walking stick that was also pulling triple duty as both a pistol and a mace. The pistol part was triple-barreled, and Henry used it while walking around his kingdom at night, trying to not get murdered on the streets of London.
I’m starting to sense a theme here…
If the firepower of his walking stick proved to be insufficient for anyone coming at him, Henry had his bodyguards equipped with shields… shields that fired black-powder pistols. Considering their size and iron composition, a weapon so hefty would surely have been difficult to aim.
When you’re the closest neighbor to a country like North Korea, you tend not to put up with a lot of provocative behavior from unfriendly countries. It should be no surprise that there’s a huge difference between how the United States and South Korea respond to violations of their airspace. The U.S. will send the most advanced fighters to intercept the perpetrator and escort them back to international airspace.
South Korea comes in guns blazing.
In late July 2019, Russian military aircraft, two Tu-95 bombers and one A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft, flew into South Korea’s air defense identification zone off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. But the Russians didn’t stop there. The A-50 flew closer to South Korea, entering its airspace. In response, the South launched interceptor planes who scrambled into the area firing flares and live ammo at the intruder.
The Russian got the message and quickly evacuated the area – and maybe his pants. But he didn’t stay gone for very long. Just a few minutes later the Russian returned to South Korean airspace.
The Russian Tu-95 “Bear” Bomber
Scrambled South Korean fighters again rolled out the red carpet for the visiting Russian A-50, this time with twice as many flares and many, many more rounds fired in the Russian’s direction. The Russians, of course, deny all of this.
“If the Russian pilots had identified such a threat to themselves, they would have immediately given an appropriate response,” Lt. Gen. Sergei Kobylash told Russian state news media.
Although it’s unclear what the “appropriate response” from the Russian fighters might be, the Russians did say their aircraft were flying over international waters and not violating any treaty obligations. Kobylash said the South Korean air defenses scrambled and merely escorted the Russians, but they did it over neutral airspace. He described the South Korean Air Force’s actions as “aerial hooliganism.”
Russia’s A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft.
No matter what the South Koreans did or did not do in the face of the Russian aircraft, South Korea lives in what has become a rough neighborhood in recent years, with provocations from North Korea increasing in number and in the severity of potential threats, along with a more aggressive China and Russian air and naval forces, South Korea takes its defense very seriously.
South Korea’s presidential national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, told Russia as much, saying another incident will warrant a much stronger response from the Republic. This was the first foreign military violation of its airspace since the 1950-1953 Korean War.
The Air Force physical training uniform issued in the mid-2000s was never really beloved by anyone in the Air Force. The shorts were sized four times too small, the plastic-like fabric made a racket while running, and the moisture-wicking shirts seem glued on after absorbing even the slightest sweat. They were only a marginal improvement over their all-cotton, all-gray predecessors.
Well, it’s looking like all of that could be gone in the near future. A new PT uniform may be on the way.
New half-zips, compression technology, and optional designs are just a few of the new features that reflect recent innovations in popular sportswear. As for the shorts, the new ones will have two length options: standard and runner.
The alleged new Air Force PT uniform options.
(Air Force LCMC)
The above is supposedly a slide from an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center presentation, dated Nov. 20, 2018. This is in line with comments made by Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright, who, just a few months ago, said the service had a new PT uniform in the works.
As you can see in the diagrams above, the new design is much more versatile and modern. Each iteration of the uniform has several options in terms of size and color. The addition of compression pants and shirts is a big step up from the simpler track pants or shorts options of the previous uniforms.
The header slide from the new PT uniform presentation.
(Air Force LCMC)
The slides first made an appearance on the Air Force-themed Facebook humor page Air Force amn/nco/snco and have since found their way to a report in Air Force Times. Airmen regularly privately submit such information to the Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page, which says the slides are legit. The same Facebook page broke the story of the Air Force move to its new Operational Camouflage Pattern combat battle uniforms.
The new uniforms will maintain the same gray-blue color schemes but could come with better material features, like improved moisture-wicking material and shorts that don’t feel like swim trunks.
Chief Wright previously estimated the Air Force would release the new PT uniforms in mid-to-late 2019.
The Viktor Leonov has patrolled international waters flanking Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, every year since 2014, but since its arrival this week, it has sailed with no warning lights and ignored other ships, the US Coast Guard said in a marine safety information bulletin, according to CNN.
“The United States Coast Guard has received reports indicating that the RFN Viktor Leonov (AGI-175) has been operating in an unsafe manner off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia,” the notice said.
“This unsafe operation includes not energizing running lights while in reduced visibility conditions, not responding to hails by commercial vessels attempting to coordinate safe passage and other erratic movements.”
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Mark Barney)
The notice warned local vessels to steer clear, advising they “maintain a sharp lookout and use extreme caution when navigating in proximity to this vessel.”
The US Navy destroyer USS Mahan is patrolling in the same area, an unnamed defense official told CNN.
It is entirely normal for Russian surveillance ships to patrol international waters near US Naval outposts like Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, Naval Station Mayport, Florida, and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, but the erratic behavior of the Viktor Leonov is not.
“We are aware of Russia’s naval activities, including the deployment of intelligence collection ships in the region,” a US Northern Command spokesperson told The Washington Times.
USS Mahan steams in company with USS George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean during Exercise Mediterranean Shark.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Rex Nelson)
As of this writing, the deal between the United States and the Taliban for ending the war in Afghanistan is dead. Along with it is National Security Advisor John Bolton, one of the reluctant architects of the deal who (sources say) was never behind the deal to begin with. President Trump was supposed to secretly meet with senior Taliban officials at Camp David to hammer out the final terms of an agreement, but that was also squashed, the final nail in the coffin for such an agreement.
But the United States may still reduce the number of troops fighting its longest war.
As the Trump White House and the Taliban exchange blame for the collapse of peace talks, there are an estimated 13,000 to 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan. This is why Taliban leaders won’t engage with the Afghan government. They believe President Ashraf Ghani’s government is a Western puppet with no legitimacy. The Trump Administration wanted to force the Taliban to recognize Ghani’s legitimacy through a peace agreement with the U.S. but there were a number of outstanding events that would lead to the agreement’s downfall.
First, the United States wanted the Taliban to stop its attacks on U.S. troops in the country to build trust before the deal was made. Senior defense officials say the Taliban actually increased their attacks over the past few weeks, killing a U.S. service member, along with a Romanian service member and ten civilians in a car bomb attack in Kabul. That attack may have been the last straw for President Trump.
The deal is still a major sticking point for Trump, who vowed to bring home American troops from Afghanistan during his 2016 campaign. The peace agreement that was recently killed kept troop strength at 8,600, enough to combat terrorist attacks in the country and didn’t demand a cease-fire from the Taliban. It only asked the terror group to commit to reducing violence in Kabul and Parwan provinces – areas where the United States has a large military presence.
Negotiated by Afghan-American diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, the deal would have required the U.S. to withdraw 5,000 troops within 135 days of signing. The Taliban would be required to reduce violence in those two areas while preventing the country from being a base for international terrorism, while renouncing its alignment with the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
After the Kabul bombing on Sep. 5, Khalilzad was recalled to Washington and is no longer talking to the Taliban.
For its part, the Taliban say the deal broke down because the group’s leadership wouldn’t sign any agreement that didn’t list the final end date for American troops leaving Afghanistan, which was supposedly November 2020 or January 2021. Secondly, the United States wanted the Ghani government to postpone Afghan Presidential elections set for Sep. 28, 2019. If Ghani won, anti-Ghani factions would undermine the Afghan President’s legitimacy further with the Taliban by protesting the election victory.
The most important reason the agreement failed, however, is trust. No one at the table and no one with an interest in the agreement actually trusted the Taliban to keep their word. In fact, intercepted communications from the Taliban show the terror organization’s negotiators believe they “fooled” the United States. Still, many in the United States believe the best way out of Afghanistan is through a political agreement.
Only no one yet knows what that agreement will look like.
While France, at times, has been the butt of many jokes when it comes to military prowess, we must not forget one historical fact: The French Navy arguably won the battle that secured American independence by defeating the Royal Navy’s effort to relieve General Cornwallis at Yorktown. The Battle of the Virginia Capes, at the time, was a rare setback for the Royal Navy – it was like the Harlem Globetrotters losing a game.
It’s a reminder that the French Navy is no joke, even if it has left a lot of the heavy lifting in the World Wars to the Royal Navy. In fact, France has one of the more modern air-defense destroyer classes in the world. They didn’t design this vessel on their own, however.
In 1992, the French Navy, the Royal Navy, and the Italian Navy began development of what they called the Common New Generation Frigate. The goal was to come up with a common design that would help cut costs for the three countries. The British planned to buy 12 vessels, France four, and the Italians four. However, increasing expenses and disagreements lead to the British dropping and instead building six Type 45 destroyers.
France and Italy ended up building a grand total of four ships, two for each country. The French vessels were named Horizon-class frigates and the Italian vessels were labeled Orizzonte class frigates.
The Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World notes that the French Horizon-class vessels are armed with eight MM.40 Exocet anti-ship missiles, a 48-cell Sylver A50 vertical-launch system, two 76mm guns, and two 20mm guns. They can also carry a NH-90 helicopter for anti-submarine warfare or to mount additional Excoet anti-ship missiles.
Learn more about this destroyer in the video below.
The Chrysler TV-8 was an ugly duckling that would’ve waddled its way across Cold War battlefields slaying everything in its path until it was killed or ran out of ammo. It was equipped with a nuclear-powered engine that could propel it from Paris to Moscow and back with enough fuel to stop in Odessa, Ukraine, along the way.
So, first, to address the fact that the TV-8 is the ugly elephant in the room. Yes, we know that even Bethesda would look at this design in a Fallout 76 pitch session and be like, “No, not ready for primetime. That’s ridiculous.” But Chrysler wasn’t trying to create and field the world’s most threatening tank in appearance. The company wanted to create one of the most threatening tanks in practice.
That means that every pound of fuel a nuclear tank carried would provide 108,000 times as much energy as a pound of diesel fuel. A similar design, the R32, was expected to have a 4,000-mile range.
So, yeah, the prototype TV-8 had an extreme range just thanks to the fuel it carried. That greatly limited its logistics needs. Sure, it needed ammo delivered along with water and food for the crew, but that’s it. No fuel trucks. No need for Patton to argue with Bradley about who got first dibs on petrol and diesel.
Chrysler wanted its prototype to survive nuclear bombs, so they packed everything in the teardrop-shaped, bulbous turret. The entire crew, the 90mm gun and its ammunition, and even the engine were up in the massive turret. The engine delivered electrical power to motors in the lightweight chassis underneath, that then propelled the 28-inch-wide tracks.
All of this equipment weighed only a total of 25 tons. For comparison, the M4 Sherman, a medium tank, weighed up to 42 tons, depending on the variant.
But the prototype had some serious drawbacks. First, it was actually powered by gasoline. It would get a nuclear vapor-cycle power plant if the design moved forward. But, more importantly, it was top heavy and provided little tactical improvement over conventional tanks. After all, most tanks aren’t lost in combat because of range problems. They’re killed by other tanks.
Of course, there’s also another serious and obvious drawback to nuclear-powered tanks: The loss of one in combat could easily irradiate the battlefield that the U.S. hoped to hold after the battle. Nuclear ships sunk at sea are surprisingly well contained by the water. Nuclear reactors destroyed on the surface of the earth would have no such protection, threatening recovery and maintenance crews.
So, any battle where a TV-8 was lost would create a large hazard zone for the victorious troops, but the TV-8 didn’t feature many improvements that would make it less likely to be killed in battle. It did feature a closed-circuit television to protect the crew from a nuclear flash, but that did nothing for anti-tank rounds, missiles, and RPGs.
Let’s face it, while Russia and the United States are potential adversaries, they’re not very likely to fight it out on the high seas. This is mostly because the Russian Navy is a bit of a basket case. But there is a more likely opponent on the high seas for the United States Navy: Communist China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy.
Communist China has been pursuing a rapid naval modernization over the last 15 years. As a result, we’ve seen a number of modern guided-missile destroyers emerge as the backbone of the People’s Liberation Army Navy. While Communist China calls the three major iterations the Type 52B/C/D, NATO calls them the Luyang I/II/III.
So, how would one of the most modern Chinese Communist destroyers fare in a one-on-one fight with a Zumwalt-class destroyer?
The Luyang III is a formidable opponent. It has two 32-cell vertical-launch systems for the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile (a Chinese copy of the Russian SA-10/SA-N-6 Grumble surface-to-air missile), YJ-18 anti-ship missiles, a 130mm gun, a 30mm close-in weapon system, torpedo tubes, and a launcher with 24 HHQ-10 missiles. It displaces 8,000 tons and has a top speed in excess of 30 knots. The YJ-18s will be the Luyang III’s primary weapon against a Zumwalt. These missiles have a range of 290 nautical miles and can hit a speed of Mach 3 on their final approach.
The Zumwalt, though, carries its own heavy firepower – two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems and 20 four-cell Mk 57 vertical launch systems capable of carrying Tomahawk cruise missiles or RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. Its stealth technology also makes it hard to see.
Ultimately, as was the case when we pitted the Zumwalt against a Kirov-class battlecruiser, it will come down to which ship sees the other first. The big difference is that the YJ-18 doesn’t have the oomph of the SS-N-19 Shipwrecks aboard the Kirov. With a number of options for her 155mm guns, like Vulcano rounds or Copperhead laser-guided shells, the Zumwalt could do some serious damage to the Luyang III.
This photo shows a bow-on view of USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000). The two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems offer a variety of shells, including Vulcano and copperhead, that can make quick work of a Chinese destroyer. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics / Bath Iron Works)
When the fight is over, the Zumwalt will likely make its way to a friendly port to repair damages, but the Chinese ship could very well be on the bottom of the South China Sea.
The winner of this naval skirmish would likely be the American vessel.
Ever since the first details were released about a stealth helicopter being used and crashing during the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, the internet aviation community has been awash with great interest and speculation about the aircraft. Recently, an image of what looks to be a forerunner for the stealth Black Hawk used in the raid surfaced online.
The internet community was quick to perform a visual autopsy on the image and scrutinize it for telling details that might reveal hidden secrets about the enigmatic project. One highly respected and anonymous contributor shared as many explicit details, the type that can only come from firsthand knowledge, as they could without breaching an NDA.
According to this source, the aircraft pictured is a YEH-60A at Edwards Air Force Base in 1989 or 1990. The helicopter is allegedly sporting a “Direction Finding Enhancement Kit”, of which a half dozen were produced. The kit reportedly also featured additional components like tail modifications that do not appear in the picture. This is consistent with the fact that the tail rotor of the crashed Black Hawk from the OBL raid was heavily modified and resembled the tail rotor of the canceled RAH-66 Comanche stealth helicopter.
The tail rotor of the wreckage left behind from the raid (Public Domain)
The anonymous source goes on to detail that those involved in the program nicknamed the aircraft the “Black Blackhawk.” In keeping with its spectral name, the test team took a picture with the helicopter which the source had double exposed with them in and out of the photo. “We all looked like ghosts. This would be a real head-turner on the contest table,” the source said.
At the same time that the “Black Blackhawk” was being tested at Edwards, the Lockheed YF-22 was being tested out of a hangar not too far away. The helicopter can reportedly be seen in some photos of the YF-22 flight test operations. Allegedly, the Lockheed engineers were bewildered when they first saw the YEH-60A with its kit.
At one point, despite the secretive test site, the helicopter’s test pilots had to take off one hour before sunrise and arrive back at Edwards one hour after sunset so that the aircraft would not be observed. Even this was a loosened restriction since the aircraft allegedly had to fly exclusively at night when it first began testing.
While the modern MH-60L Direct Action Penetrators flown by the US Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment are not pictured with any sort of stealth kit, the wreckage of the OBL raid helicopter and the release of this image are proof that the technology is out there and has been for some time.
In 1942, not long after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Soviet pilot S. Kuzniecov was returning to base from a reconnaissance mission over Nazi-occupied Russia. As he flew over Kalinin (modern-day Tver), he was ambushed by German Messerschmidt fighters. He was shot down and forced to crash land his Iluyshin Il-2.
One of the German pilots landed at a nearby flat strip of land to collect souvenirs from his prey and to kill the Soviet pilot if he was still alive. But Kuzniecov wasn’t in the cockpit of the downed fighter anymore. He hid in the nearby woodline waiting for the enemy pilot.
As soon as the German approached Kuzniecov’s Il-2, Kuzniecov made a mad dash to the German’s waiting Messerschmidt. He took off and headed for home. But his troubles didn’t end there.
Soviet pilots didn’t take kindly to German Me-109 fighters approaching their airbases. The Russian managed to survive getting shot down by the Nazis and almost died trying to avoid getting shot down by his comrades.
He did survive and was later awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest honor the USSR could bestow on its fighting men and women. Kuzniecov was blinded by anti-aircraft fire over Poland in 1944. He managed to land his new Il-2 in a wheels-up crash landing, but what happened to him after he left the cockpit is unknown to this day.
When the Il-2 first appeared, it was called the “Flying Infantryman” by the Red Army, as beloved by ground troops as the A-10 is for Americans today. When given an inspection and a test flight, American Ace Eddie Rickenbacker called it the “best aircraft of its type in the world” and the “Beast from the East.”
It lived up to the hype as maybe the most important Soviet airframe of World War II.