4 myths about the Air Force people can't stop believing - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

The Air Force has enough people from other branches making fun of it. Airmen don’t need to be the subject of ridicule for things they don’t deserve. The facts people can use to poke fun at the Air Force are so plentiful, why go through all that extra effort to make stuff up? Just because it seems like something the Air Force would do doesn’t make it real.

The chocolate fountain inside a DFAC in Iraq? Yes, that existed. I can say I saw it with my own eyes. To be fair, there was one in the Army chow hall on Camp Victory, too, but I’ll let the Air Force take the heat for it. Dining facilities with made-to-order omelets and a salad bar? The Air Force has that, too. And yes, it was not too long ago the Air Force did its annual PT test on a stationary bike.

The reasons to poke fun are plentiful.


Related: The complete hater’s guide to the Air Force

There’s no need perpetuate myths about airmen. Forget, for a moment, that Air Force “barracks” are nicer than most Holiday Inns (no, airmen do not get swimming pools… not at their living quarters, anyway) and help us debunk these continuously repeated myths that are both untrue or unjustly attributed to the Air Force.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

How’s that taste, shipmate?

1. The Stress Card Myth.

This has been debunked on We Are The Mighty before, but it’s important enough to reiterate here. For anyone joining the military, no, you will not be issued a Basic Training “Stress Card” that allows you to take a “break” from training if your nerves get a little frayed. The Air Force is still very much a military branch and, while the Air Force might have the “easiest” time in Basic Military Training, you will still get yelled at, still do PT ad nauseam, and it will all be very stressful.

That’s the point.

If anything, BMT is only getting more difficult as time goes on. Where it was once a six-and-a-half week course, it’s now eight weeks. Now that airmen spend more time in joint-service operations — and thus become “battlefield airmen” — it’s important that they be able to handle themselves under stress, which can often mean under fire.

Besides, it was the Navy who had the closest thing to a Stress Card.

Related: The truth behind basic training “Stress Cards”

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

Tech. Sgt. Zachary Rhyner medically retired in 2015 due to wounds sustained in combat that prevented mobility below the knee. Rhyner is an Air Force Cross recipient and Special Tactics combat controller attached to the 24th Special Operations Command. Rhyner served 11 years, earning three Purple Hearts in six deployments.

(U.S. Air Force)

2. The Air Force has no enlisted warfighters.

The Air Force’s enlisted troops are mostly happy with rendering a sharp salute to our officers as they taxi out on their way to the wild blue yonder, the battlefield the Air Force controls with unrelenting hostility toward would-be interlopers both on the ground and in the air.

But there are many Air Force specialties that have nothing to do with simply letting others go into combat while waiting on the flight line. The Air Force’s battlefield airmen aren’t limited to conventional forces, like Security Forces Phoenix Ravens, the airmen who protect aircraft on the ground in a hostile environment. USAF Combat Controllers, TACPs, Weather Technicians, and Combat Rescue Officers will all deploy anywhere in the world with the best special operators from any branch. And when the sh*t hits the fan, you will be happy to know that Air Force Pararescue Jumpers are on their way to bail you out.

Fun Fact: When Air Force PJs go into action, their alarm is the Leeroy Jenkins battle cry.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

The closest any of these guys will get to the stick is flying a drone.

(U.S. Air Force)

3. We all fly planes.

This one is mainly for civilians. Anyone who’s met the average junior enlisted airman will be happy to know that flying a plane, especially for the United States Air Force, is not something you can just sign up to do. As a matter of fact, it’s incredibly difficult to get behind the stick of any Air Force aircraft anywhere.

That includes training aircraft.

The closest enlisted airmen will get to being in the cockpit’s hotseat aboard a USAF aircraft is either in a simulator or stealing one off the flightline. And before you scoff at the last part, it happens a lot more than anyone might expect.

Now read: That time a Marine mechanic took a joyride in a stolen A4M Skyhawk

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

(Laughs in Coast Guard)

4. The Air Force is the “smartest branch.”

I hate to debunk this one because it saves me so much stress and hassle whenever a bunch of veterans are at the bar comparing the size of their brains based on branch of service. Eventually, someone pats the airman on the back and says, “Hey! At least you’re the smartest branch!”

This myth transcends every branch and era. Inevitably, some Facebook commenter, veteran or civilian, will remark on how the Air Force is the smartest without actually reading this article and the myth will perpetuate itself. While the Air Force handles a lot of high-tech equipment and research laboratories, the people who handle that aren’t taking the ASVAB. And if they were, they would probably ace it for any branch they were going into.

Sure, the Air Force works on satellites, the Navy works on nuclear reactors, the Army operates geospatial imaging systems, and the Marines have to at least know enough to pick up Air Force women at the bar. The actual branch that is the most difficult to get into is – wait for it – the Coast Guard.

The military divides enlisted candidates into three tiers, with the top tier being those with a high school diploma and tier two being recruits with a GED. The Air Force recruits 99 percent tier one candidates, but the Coast Guard won’t even look at anything other than tier one unless they’ve been in the military before. If you prefer to judge by using minimum ASVAB score, the lowest the Air Force will go is 36, while the Coast Guard’s minimum is a solid 40.

The Coast Guard is also the smallest branch of the military, but has no trouble recruiting new Coasties. This means they’d rather send you down the street to the Army than let a substandard Coast Guardsman slip through the cracks. Meanwhile, in the Air Force, they say, “there’s a waiver for everything.”

popular

If the modern American military conducted the 1944 D-Day landings

The most important difference between 1944 and today would be in the realm of guided munitions.  I once heard that a single F-15 packs as much firepower as an entire squadron of WWII era bombers, when you take into account explosive weight and the percentage of ordnance you can get on target (Keep in mind, the F-15 is a Fighter/Bomber, not a dedicated bomber.  If we start talking about the B-52, things get even crazier).  Additionally, Naval Gun Fire support has come a long way since the 1940’s.  US destroyers and cruisers now only come equipped with one or two 5″ main guns.  In the 1940’s, 5″ guns were almost considered an afterthought.  With improved fuses and nearly automatic rates of fire that can be achieved with today’s weapons, you wouldn’t need the hours and hours of shelling they used during WW2 landings.


As far as the landings go, with today’s amphibious landing tactics and equipment, you wouldn’t NEED to land at Omaha beach at all.

 

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Alicia Tasz

This is an LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushioned).  It is just one of the many ways the US Navy and US Marine Corps get troops from ship to shore.  The main difference between an LCAC and the landing craft of yore is the fact that the LCAC can access almost any beach in the world, and can travel across dry land.  Furthermore, it can achieve incredible rates of speed compared to the Amtracks of WW2 (I think around 70 knots when not weighed down much).  Today the US would be able to basically avoid any defensive strongpoints and just stick their landing forces where ever they figured was the least defended.

Helicopters, in widespread use since the Vietnam War, allow entire infantry companies and battalions to be shuffled about at incredible speed compared to the 1940s.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
Photo: US Army Cpl. Mark Doran

The M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank would probably be as close to invulnerable as anything ever employed in warfare.  The only reasonable option for destroying one with 1944 equipment would be swarming it with infantry and trying to get a grenade inside.  This technique was costly during WW2.  Against an Abrams, with a wingman that can just shower his buddy with HE rounds that do nothing substantial to the armor…

As far as the individual soldier is concerned, the primary difference is the body armor.  Ceramic plates and flak jackets have greatly increased the survivability of the infantryman.  Back in WW2, your armor was a millimeter of cloth.  Today it contains plates that would actually be capable of stopping pretty much any small arms round the Wehrmacht utilized (7.62 AP is the limit, I believe).  A quick look at the WW2 Killed/Wounded ratio [1:1.65] versus the Operation Iraqi Freedom Killed/Wounded ratio [1:7.3] shows that even if nothing but the current body armor was added to the equation, it is likely that the US would have reduced the number of soldiers killed on D-Day from 2,500 to probably around 700.  On the flip side, the infantry of WW2 would be much faster and more agile, as they weren’t towing around 50+ lbs of gear.  So you have a classic heavy infantry vs light infantry situation here.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
Photo: US Army

The Mk19 Automatic Grenade launcher.  Designed for use against troops in the open, troops in trench-lines, light armored vehicles, urban strongpoints, and light fortifications, this 76.2 lb beast is technically man-portable (by someone’s standard) and is widely employed on mounted assets.  Capable of firing 325-375 40mm grenades per minute, there is arguably no more intimidating weapon in the US arsenal that is commonly used in firefights.  I have personally been within 25 meters or so of the beaten zone of someone unleashing a long burst of grenades, and it was, shall we say, disconcerting.  This is probably the one weapon capable of allowing an individual to singlehandedly end a firefight.

Today many infantry companies will have communication assets down to the fire team level.  This allows for much faster response times to dealing with threats or re-organizing after a firefight or simply getting troops to move around where you want them (radios at the platoon level were very rare during World War 2, and what was in play was of limited range and had no encryption capabilities.  When I was in a motorized heavy weapons platoon, we had a dozen PRC-119’s, satcom radios, Blue Force Trackers, etc; we probably had comm capabilities that entire divisions during WW2 would have drooled over.  And we had 40 dudes).

While the small arms themselves haven’t really come a long way, the accoutrements certainly have.  Every infantryman today is probably equipped with, at minimum, a 4x scope, NVG’s, and a laser for use with night vision.  One out of every 4 infantrymen will have a grenade launcher.  Another one will have a light machine gun.  This allows for the ability to achieve combined arms effects using just a single fire team.  And the night-fighting capability, with nothing else, would be a game changer.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

 

The one thing we would be at a disadvantage in would be combat experience.  The Germans had been fighting for FIVE years by the time the US actually got into France.  Of course, this was an issue during the actual D-Day landings, and didn’t hamper things too much, probably because the allies were facing off against the JV squad, so to speak.  At the same time, our military back then was well trained for large scale battles, as opposed to how the US military is organized today.  Whether or not the current infantryman would fare well is anyone’s guess.

Free Fun Fact:

One thing that hasn’t changed is the M2 .50 Caliber Heavy Machine Gun.  Supposedly something like 95% of the M2s in use currently were originally built during World War 2.  The ammunition, however, has received quite the upgrade (SLAP, API, Raufuss, all fun stuff)

Another Fun Fact:

The United States uses a military doctrine termed “Rapid Domination” (Shock and Awe for the soundbite term).  The Gulf War and the initial invasion of Iraq during OIF are two examples of this doctrine in use.  The basic concept involves gaining air superiority, using tactical and strategic bombers to disrupt and destroy enemy command and control, employing a wide range of offensive maneuvers (amphibious landings, paratrooper drops, armored thrusts, infantry assaults on defensive positions) simultaneously in order to paralyze any decision making ability of the opponent.  This military doctrine is heavily based on the so-called Blitzkrieg doctrine of Nazi Germany.

Read more from Paul Frick here.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy approves its first metal 3D-printed part for ship use

Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) approved the first metal part created by additive manufacturing (AM) for shipboard installation, the command announced Oct. 11, 2018.

A prototype drain strainer orifice (DSO) assembly will be installed on USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in fiscal year 2019 for a one-year test and evaluation trial. The DSO assembly is a steam system component that permits drainage/removal of water from a steam line while in use.

Huntington Ingalls Industries — Newport News Shipbuilding (HII-NNS) builds Navy aircraft carriers and proposed installing the prototype on an aircraft carrier for test and evaluation.


“This install marks a significant advancement in the Navy’s ability to make parts on demand and combine NAVSEA’s strategic goal of on-time delivery of ships and submarines while maintaining a culture of affordability,” said Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, NAVSEA chief engineer and deputy commander for ship design, integration, and naval engineering. “By targeting CVN-75 [USS Harry S. Truman], this allows us to get test results faster, so — if successful — we can identify additional uses of additive manufacturing for the fleet.”

The test articles passed functional and environmental testing, which included material, welding, shock, vibration, hydrostatic, and operational steam, and will continue to be evaluated while installed within a low temperature and low pressure saturated steam system. After the test and evaluation period, the prototype assembly will be removed for analysis and inspection.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman transits the Gulf of Oman.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor M. DiMartino)

While the Navy has been using additive manufacturing technology for several years, the use of it for metal parts for naval systems is a newer concept and this prototype assembly design, production, and first article testing used traditional mechanical testing to identify requirements and acceptance criteria. Final requirements are still under review.

“Specifications will establish a path for NAVSEA and industry to follow when designing, manufacturing and installing AM components shipboard and will streamline the approval process,” said Dr. Justin Rettaliata, technical warrant holder for additive manufacturing. “NAVSEA has several efforts underway to develop specifications and standards for more commonly used additive manufacturing processes.”

Naval Sea Systems Command is the largest of the Navy’s five systems commands. NAVSEA engineers, builds, buys and maintains the Navy’s ships, submarines and combat systems to meet the fleet’s current and future operational requirements.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force wing completes first Combat Archer at Eglin AFB

F-22 Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron and F-35 Lightning IIs from the 58th Fighter Squadron successfully flew more than 140 sorties and fired 13 missiles to culminate the first post-Hurricane Michael Combat Archer air-to-air exercise at Eglin Air Force Base Dec. 14, 2018.

“This is the final step of our combat readiness — we assess our operations and maintenance personnel as well as the aircraft itself,” said Lt. Col. Marcus McGinn, 27th Fighter Squadron commander. “We need to make sure we have the ability to load missiles, the aircraft are configured correctly, the aircraft perform as they should when you press the pickle button, the missile performs as advertised and the pilots know what to expect. All of these aspects must be tested and proven prior to actually needing the process to work in combat.”


The 27th FS brought 200 personnel from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, to participate in the exercise, which was flown out of Eglin AFB due to the rebuilding efforts at Tyndall AFB.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

Senior Airman Angel Lemon, 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, marshals an F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, during exercise Combat Archer Dec. 4, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)

“The amount of coordination that goes into a single missile shoot cannot be quantified. The ability for the 83rd Fighter Weapon Squadron to accomplish this coordination across two different locations, with the infrastructure limitations that Tyndall (AFB) currently has, was unbelievable,” said McGinn.

This was the second Combat Archer the 27th Fighter Squadron has participated in this year. Of the 30 F-22 pilots, six were first-time shooters.

“While this was the first time I fired a live missile, I wasn’t nervous,” said 1st Lt. Jake Wong, 27th Fighter Squadron F-22 pilot. “There is the seriousness that I have a live missile on my jet today, which is not something we do every day. The training is really good and the flight profile is controlled so we know what to expect to ensure we fire the missile safely.”

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron awaits permission to taxi as an F-22 Raptor assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron takes off in the background, Dec. 4, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)

While the aircraft took off from Eglin AFB, the sub-scale drones assigned to the 82 ATRS, took off from Tyndall AFB.

“No other Air Force in the world comes close to the same scale of weapons testing as the U.S. Air Force,” said Lt. Col Ryan Serrill, 82nd ATRS commander. “We recognize the importance of this data to continually improve our warfighters’ ability which is why it was important to resume the Combat Archer mission so soon after the hurricane.”

The 83rd FWS conducted telemetry data collection and missile analysis, 81st Range Control Squadron conducted command and control and the 53rd Test Support Squadron provided electronic attack pods out of Tyndall AFB.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Washington tried to burn New York to the ground

America’s favorite Revolutionary War hero and first president had a little wish to, uh, checks notes, burn the city of New York to the ground and watch the flames dance in the tear-filled eyes of his enemies. Wait, can that be right?


4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

Yup. Gen. George Washington himself wanted to burn one of America’s most populous and wealthy cities to the mud. But it wasn’t because he wanted the future city that would be named after him to have no rival in the Big Apple, it was actually a decent military strategy at the time (but would be a war crime now).

The proposed destruction was set for 1776 when Washington felt he could not hold the city. The Patriots had predicted that the British military, relying as it did on roads and ships, would sail down the Hudson and split the colonies. Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island were all east of the river and would be isolated.

And, controlling New York Harbor would give the British a perfect staging ground for joint army-navy operations against New Jersey and the rebel capital in Philadelphia.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

Washington moved the bulk of his forces from Boston to New York just in time for the Battle of Brooklyn in August of 1776. But, the Patriot forces still weren’t strong enough to beat back the British when the British were able to bring their full numbers and logistics advantage to bear.

The Battle of Long Island started Aug. 27, 1776, and was a catastrophe for America, and it nearly ended the war. Washington’s forces were outflanked multiple times, and it took a series of careful withdrawals for Washington to keep his men together and organized. He ended the main maneuvers with his back to the East River and the British arrayed in front of him in strength.

Washington was trapped with the bulk of his troops; easy pickings for the Redcoats. But a storm rolled in and made August 28-29 bad for fighting, and the British commander elected to wait. Washington managed to put together a small flotilla and escape on the water overnight. Washington himself floated out on the last boat, covered only by the mist as the sun slowly burned it off.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

The fog finally cleared and the British found themselves facing an empty battlefield. The Continental Army had escaped.

But New York was now open to the British, and they took it. Washington had asked for permission to burn it to prevent Britain from using it as “warm and comfortable barracks” in the winter of 1776-77, but it was too late. The Redcoats marched in.

Luckily for Washington, New York burned anyway. On the night of Sept. 19, a fire began in Harlem that would consume about a quarter of the city before it was successfully extinguished. It wasn’t as extensive as Washington may have wished, but it was more than enough to piss off the Brits.

The British suspected that Patriot agents were behind the fire. It wasn’t yet illegal to burn a civilian city to prevent its occupation by enemy forces, but it was still frowned upon. And the Redcoats wanted their justice.

British forces captured 100 suspects and hanged one, Nathaniel Hale, as a spy. It would turn out that Hale really was a spy for Washington, so they weren’t too far off the mark.

It can’t be known for sure that the city was burned by Washington’s agents or because of his wishes, but it did serve his purposes.

But, it didn’t stop the British advance. Washington’s men suffered a series of smaller defeats and lost two key forts in New York. But this series of failures is what led Washington to set out on Christmas 1776 to attack the Hessians at the battle of Trenton, salvaging Patriot morale right before thousands of enlistments expired.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How USNS Comfort went from a symbol of hope with the president’s blessing, to heading back from NYC having treated fewer than 180 patients

Earlier this week President Donald Trump announced he would be sending the Navy hospital ship Comfort home from New York City, cutting short a highly-touted but anticlimactic mission.

USNS Comfort arrived in New York City — the epicenter of the US coronavirus outbreak — on March 30 to aid the city’s hospitals by taking all of their non-coronavirus patients.


But it turned out that the city didn’t have many non-coronavirus patients to take, with only 20 patients were admitted to the 1,000-bed hospital ship in its first day. Meanwhile, New York City hospitals were still struggling to make space for a surge of patients.

The Comfort eventually reconfigured itself into a 500-bed ship to take coronavirus patients, but never came to reaching capacity — by April 21, it had treated just 179 people.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the city no longer needed the ship, and the Comfort is now ready to sail home to Virginia for a new mission.

Scroll down for a timeline of the ship’s short-lived mission.

March 17: New York City was quickly becoming a hot zone in the US coronavirus outbreak. The US Navy dispatched one of its hospital ships, USNS Comfort, to aid the city’s overwhelmed medical centers.

During a March 17 press conference, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he had ordered the Navy to “lean forward” in deploying the Comfort to New York “before the end of this month.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo welcomed the help as hospitals braced for a tidal wave of coronavirus patients.

“This will be an extraordinary step,” Cuomo said the following day. “It’s literally a floating hospital, which will add capacity.”

The Comfort is a converted super tanker that the Navy uses to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Its prior postings had taken it to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and to New York City in 2001 to treat people injured in the September 11 attacks.

The ship includes 12 fully-equipped operating rooms and capacity for 1,000 beds. It is usually manned by 71 civilians and up to 1,200 Navy medical and communications personnel.

March 29: President Trump saw off the Comfort as it left its port in Virginia to sail up to New York City. He remarked that it was a “70,000-ton message of hope and solidarity to the incredible people of New York.”

Source: Military.com

March 30: The Comfort arrived in New York City the next day, a white beacon of hope for a city that had at the time seen more than 36,000 cases and 790 deaths. That number has since grown to more than 138,000 cases and 9,944 deaths.

Source: NYC Health

Throngs of New Yorkers broke stay-at-home orders to watch the massive former tanker come into port.

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Sailors work in the ICU unit aboard USNS Comfort in New York City on April 20, 2020.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman

April 2: The ship is up and running. The New York Times reported that it had accepted just 20 patients on its first day and that it wasn’t taking any coronavirus patients.

Michael Dowling, the head of New York’s largest hospital system, called the Comfort a “joke.” He told The Times: “It’s pretty ridiculous. If you’re not going to help us with the people we need help with, what’s the purpose?”

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Cmdr. Lori Cici, left, and Lt. Akneca Bumfield stand by for an inbound ambulance carrying a patient arriving for medical care aboard aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort on April 9.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman

Source: The New York Times, Business Insider

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The crew of the comfort practice how to bring patients on board the ship after docking in New York City on March 31, 2020.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman

April 6: Following the outrage, Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked Trump for permission to let the ship take coronavirus patients.

Source: New York Post

Trump agreed and the Navy reconfigured the ship into a 500-bed hospital to space out patients and lower the risk of spreading the highly-infectious virus.

Source: CBS News

That same day, before the ship started taking coronavirus patients, a crew member tested positive for the disease. This is despite the fact that the crew was ordered to quarantine for two weeks before their departure.

That number grew to four in the following weeks. All of the sick crew members have since recovered and are back to work, a Navy spokesman later told The Virginian-Pilot.

Source: Business Insider

April 21: Even after moving to take coronavirus patients, the Comfort didn’t come close to reaching capacity — even as the city’s hospitals remained overwhelmed. As of Tuesday, the ship had treated a total of 179 patients.

During a meeting with the president, Cuomo said that New York no longer needed the Comfort and said it could be sent to a more hard-hit area.

Trump said he had taken Cuomo up on his offer and would recall the Comfort to its home port in Virginia, where it will prepare for its next posting. The new mission remains unclear.

Trump admitted during a White House briefing that part of the reason the ship was never put to much use in New York City was because its arrival coincided with the opening of a temporary hospital in the Javits convention center.

Source: Business Insider

April 24: The Comfort is still in port in New York City, even though Trump said it will be leaving as soon as possible.

Source: Business Insider, Maritime Traffic

Meanwhile, the situation in New York appears to be improving. Last Saturday Cuomo said New York may be “past the plateau” with hospitalizations on the decline. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he’s seeing “real progress.”

Source: New York Times, New York Daily News

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what equipment the Navy uses to clear mines

Naval mine countermeasures have not gotten a lot of attention in the press, which is strange considering that the job is crucial. Of the last four US Navy ships damaged by hostile action, three were by mines — the other was an Oct. 2000 terrorist attack on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67).


In 1988, the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) suffered severe damage from an Iranian mine, which put the vessel out of action for over a year. During Operation Desert Storm, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and the Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LPH 10) were both damaged by mines.

So, what keeps today’s Navy safe from deadly mines?

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

USS Scout (MCM 8), an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship, in Los Angeles for Fleet Week.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Harkins)

11 Avenger-class mine countermeasures ships

The Navy built 14 of these vessels, starting with USS Avenger (MCM 1), which was commissioned in 1987. Prior to that, the bulk of the Navy’s minesweeper force consisted primarily of World War II-era vessels. The other 13 Avenger-class vessels entered service within the following seven years. Eleven of these ships are still in service. USS Avenger and USS Defender (MCM 2) have been decommissioned, and one vessel, USS Guardian (MCM 5), ran aground and was a total loss.

These vessels have a top speed of 14 knots and a crew of 84 officers and enlisted. Their primary systems for mine warfare are remote operated vehicles that can descend hundreds of feet below the ocean to neutralize mines.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

A MH-53 Sea Dragon lowers its mine-hunting sonar.

(US Navy photo by MCSN William Carlisle)

30 MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters

The Navy operates 30 of these heavy-lift helicopters that were acquired in the 1980s. While they bear a superficial resemblance to the CH-53E Super Stallion, there are some big differences. Most notable is the fact that they have larger sponsons to hold more fuel. They can also carry additional fuel tanks in the cargo compartment.

The MH-53E has a maximum range of 885 miles and a top speed of 172 miles per hour. These helicopters tow a mine-sweeping sled and can operate from any aircraft carrier or amphibious assault ship. These helicopters are slated to retire in 2025.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

A MH-60S Seahawk helicopter hovers while a technician drops down to handle a mine.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Devin Wray)

256 MH-60S Seahawk multirole helicopters

This helicopter will assume the airborne mine-countermeasures role among the many other missions it carries out when the Sea Dragons retire. This versatile helicopter is responsible for vertical replenishment, combat search-and-rescue missions, anti-surface warfare, medical evacuation, and supporting special operations forces. They can operate from any carrier, amphibious vessel, or surface combatant.

This helicopter has a top speed of 180 knots and a maximum range of 245 nautical miles. While the 256 MH-60S helicopters purchased by the Navy offer a lot of versatility, the range and endurance are a significant step down from the Sea Dragon.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

USS Coronado (LCS 4), an Independence-class littoral combat ship, is intended to help replace the Avenger mine countermeasures ships.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kaleb R. Staples)

12 Littoral Combat Ships

So far, the Navy has commissioned 12 littoral combat ships. These ships were primarily intended to replace the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, but also being given double duty in also replacing the Avenger-class mine countermeasures vessels. Their mine-clearing capability is based on a mission package that is centered around the use of MH-60S helicopters and remote-operated vehicles.

The littoral combat ship has been controversial due to numerous breakdowns and a smattering of other issues, and the production run is being cut short in favor of new guided-missile frigates.

Articles

This is what makes SWCC crews so lethal

Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman, the “Boat Guys” in all those Navy SEALs photos, are a small and elite bunch of warriors who don’t get nearly enough credit for their contribution to American security.


Here’s what makes the “SEALs Taxi Service” so lethal.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen from Special Boat Team 22 conduct live-fire immediate action drills at the riverine training range at Ft. Knox. (Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger)

First, yes, they have SEALs on the boats. When your payload is Navy SEALs, that’s a pretty big plus in the lethality department.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
U.S. Navy SEALs splash into the water from a combat rubber raiding craft attached to an 11-meter rigid hull infalatble boat, during a capabilities exercise, at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Gary L. Johnson III.)

But SWCCs don’t just drop off and pick up SEALs. They also conduct their own missions.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Combatant-craft crews can be sent against enemy shipping and other water traffic to shut down commerce or supply operations.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger)

The SWCC crews keep an eye out for enemy movements or other activity in their domain. If they identify a threat, they can prosecute it themselves or report it up to the deepwater guys for help.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger)

The SWCCs do all of this from some of the world’s most advanced and dangerous small crafts.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matt Daniels)

Their boats are typically well-armed, and SWCCs train extensively on small craft tactics and strategies.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
(GIF: YouTube/America’s Navy)

The Navy prefers to deploy SWCC craft in groups so boats can provide fire support to one another.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird/Released)

But even a single boat brings a lot of firepower.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Black)

Navy SWCCs can launch and recover their vehicles in the well decks of larger ships.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
(Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Darren M. Moore)

And some of the boats can even be airdropped into the water for operations. All SWCC operators are static-line parachute qualified so they can jump with their boats.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Of course, jumping after a boat means the operators will land in the water. So they conduct open water swims, sometimes into near-freezing water, to prepare.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
Special Warfare Combatant-craft crewmen finish an open ocean swim, with water and air temperatures hovering below 40 degrees. (Photo: U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Tim Miller)

The Navy gets sailors ready for this grueling job by demanding constant and rigorous physical training.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
A Crewman Qualification Training candidate puts on his flippers before swimming in Coronado Bay during a Monster Mash training exercise. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Navy SWCC and SEAL candidates awaiting training are assigned to the Fleet Transition Program to ensure they remain physically capable of becoming elite maritime warriors.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt)

The SWCC training pipeline consists four phases, the two-month Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School, Naval Special Warfare Orientation, Basic Crewman Training, and Crewman Qualification Training.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
Crewman Qualification Training (CQT) candidates hustle to shore during a Monster Mash training exercise. (Photo: U.S Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Scorza).

And the Navy isn’t afraid to recruit potential candidates while they’re still young. Scout teams go into the community to seek out talented individuals who might be interested in a special operations career.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
Chief Petty Officer Joseph Schmidt, assigned to the Navy SEAL and SWCC Scout Team, speaks to San Diego Junior Lifeguard members before a physical training evolution. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Pyoung K. Yi)

The Navy has over 700 sailors trained and assigned as SWCCs at a time. This tiny force conducts dangerous and essential missions all over the world.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Richard Miller)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Britain’s highly successful balloon attack against the Nazis

In perhaps one of the oddest British strategies against Nazi Germany, British troops launched almost 100,000 hydrogen-filled latex balloons into Nazi-controlled territory to set fires and short out power wires as part of Operation Outward.


4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

Women’s Auxiliary Air Force members recover a kite balloon.

(Royal Air Force)

Operation Outward was the result of an accident. Barrage and observation balloons in World War I got more coverage than in World War II, but the floating sacks of hydrogen were widely used in both conflicts. You can actually spot them in some of the more famous D-Day photos from later in the day or over the days and weeks that followed.

(The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion was the only Black combat unit that came ashore on D-Day, though plenty of Black logistic and engineer units were there on June 6.)

But in September 1940, a few British barrage balloons broke free during a storm and drifted across Scandinavia, pissing the Scandinavians all the way off. The steel tethers these balloons dragged behind them had a pesky habit of shorting out power lines and otherwise damaging infrastructure.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

A U.S. Army Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, known as JLENS.

(U.S. Arny)

Ya know, about like what happened when that JLENS aerostat (blimp, basically) broke free in October 2015.

But when it happened in the Scandinavian countries in 1940, the Brits were all, “Wait, what’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander, so let’s apologize to Scandinavia but then do the same thing, on purpose, to Hitler’s Third Reich. Screw those guys.”

The British relied on a couple infrastructure advantages for this plan. Britain’s electrical grid was more developed, and therefore more susceptible to disruption, but it also featured faster circuit breakers. This meant that Britain’s grid, if hit with balloons trailing wires, would suffer relatively little damage. Germany’s, with slower breakers, had a real risk of losing entire sections of the grid or even power plants to balloon disruptions.

So, even if it led to a balloon trading war, Britain could expect to hold the upper hand. And so weather balloons were filled with hydrogen, fitted with either spools of wire or incendiary devices, and floated over the channel into Germany.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

An “incendiary sock” like those used to burn German towns.

(UK National Archives)

The wires were relatively thin. Experimentation showed the designers that they didn’t need the thick steel of normal tethers to short lines, cause electrical arcs, and damage German power distribution. The electrical arcs were the real killer, draining power from the grid, overworking the components of the power generation, and weakening the transmission lines so they would later break in high winds.

The incendiary devices were filled with wood shavings and paraffin wax.

Both types were made to fly over the channel at a little over 20,000 feet, then descend to 1,000 feet and do their work. They needed winds of about 10 mph or more to be as effective as possible.

And they worked, well. The idea wasn’t to cripple Germany in a single blow, but to cost them more in economic damage and defensive requirements than it cost Britain to deploy them. And, thanks to the low-cost materials Britain used, Britain only had to pay around the U.S.equivalent of .50 per balloon. Shooting a balloon down could cost much more than that in ammo, and that was if it was shot down by air defenders. If fighters had to launch, the fuel and maintenance would be astronomical.

And balloons that weren’t shot down could easily do hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage. In 1942, a balloon launch overloaded a power plant at Böhlen so badly that the plant was completely destroyed. And while the power was off in this and other events, German units were made less ready for combat, and German wartime production was slowed.

Assessments found during and after the war painted a picture of constant disruption on the German side. In occupied France, there were 4,946 power interruptions during the program, most of them caused by the balloons. In 11 months from early 1942 to early 1943, Germany had 520 major disruptions of high-voltage lines.

And at a cost of .50 a balloon plus the wages of balloon launchers, mostly members of the Women’s Royal Navy Service, the more than 99,000 balloons launched were a hell of a deal.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of November 2nd

Halloween on a Wednesday is the worst. Sure, it sucks for the kids who can’t stay out late trick-or-treating, but it’s terrible being stuck in the barracks knowing that you’ve got a PT test in the morning. You can’t drink, you can’t party, you can’t do whatever spooky thing you wanted to do.

Thankfully, the holidays are almost here and there’re plenty of long weekends to make up for it.

Here’re some memes for you to enjoy as you deliberate on how you’re going to blow the rest of your deployment savings during the next 4-day.


4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

(Meme via PNN)

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

(Meme via Sapper Zulu)

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

(Meme via Shammers United)

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

(Meme by Ranger Up)

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

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4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

(Meme by WATM)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

We’ve talked about British officer John “Mad Jack” Churchill before. He waded ashore on D-Day with his trademark Scottish claybeg sword, he killed at least one Nazi with his longbow, and he was an all-around BAMF having served in World War II, Israel, and Australia.

Today, we want to talk about that time he took approximately 42 German soldiers captive in World War II.


4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

Churchill leads a simulated assault during training for the D-Day assaults.

(Imperial War Museum)

The insane capture took place in 1943 during the invasion of Italy. Churchill, then the commanding officer of Britain’s No. 2 Commando, had taken part in the capture of Sicily and then landed at Salerno with other British troops. He and his men fought for five straight days, grinding through mostly German defenders. They were even lauded for defending a rail and road hub from a determined counterattack at Vietri, Italy, until U.S. armored vehicles arrived to relieve them.

The commandos were granted a short rest and the time for showers and bathing, though they had to avoid enemy mortar fire while enjoying it. Even that rest was short-lived, though. They were serving in reserve for the U.S. 46th Infantry Division, and German forces managed to grab three hills overlooking the division area, imperiling the American forces.

So the British soldiers of No. 41 Commando and No. 2 Commando were sent in to secure two of the three hills in two attacks. Churchill, as the commander of No. 2, was in charge of that second attack.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

Col. John “Mad Jack” Churchill after World War II.

(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY 2.0)

The logistics of the assault were daunting. The men would have to attack uphill across terraces covered in vines and rocky terrain at night while trying to flush out and engage the enemy. Typically, commando attacks at night like this are conducted as silent, stealthy raids. But Churchill decided to bring nearly all of his men, broken into six columns so each column could support those to either side of it.

Churchill himself marched just ahead, spaced evenly between the third and fourth column. To ensure the columns didn’t drift apart or accidentally maneuver against one another in the darkness, he ordered them to yell “Commando!” every five minutes.

For the German defenders in the darkness, this created a sort of stunning nightmare. First, they heard No. 41 Commando take the nearby hill under heavy artillery bombardment as night was falling. Then, as pure dark set in, an unknown number of assailants began churning their way through the vines and across the terraces below, yelling to each other every few minutes. Whenever the Brits found Germans, they’d open up with Tommy guns, rifle fire, and grenades.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

Churchill examines a captured 75mm gun during World War II.

(Imperial War Museum)

It caused confusion in the German ranks, and the columns were able to take dozens of prisoners. Churchill, meanwhile, grabbed one of his corporals and went to hunt out those Germans still attempting to organize their defenses.

First, he and the corporal found an 81mm mortar crew and took them prisoner. Churchill led this attack with his trademark sword, a Scottish claybeg. Then, Churchill and the corporal began moving from position to position, grabbing all the German soldiers they could find. By the time the two men made it back to the rest of the commandos, they had taken over 40 Germans prisoner (Reports vary between 41 and 43, but the more authoritative books on the Salerno invasion typically agree on 42, so that’s the number we’re using.)

The rest of the commandos had grabbed plenty of prisoners, and the total for the night between No. 41 and No. 2 Commando was 135, more than the 46th had taken in the five previous days of fighting.

This was a big coup for the intelligence folks who suddenly had access to all these prisoners. More importantly, two of the hills over the 46th were now clear of potential attackers just hours after German forces had staged there to attack.

Churchill would fight through the rest of the war, earning new accolades despite being captured once in Italy and later in Yugoslavia. After World War II, he served in Palestine and then Australia before retiring from the military.

MIGHTY MOVIES

8 Awesome Things About the ‘Sniper’ Movies

This post was sponsored by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

‘Sniper: Assassin’s End’ is now available on Blu-ray & Digital!

One of the most popular war movie characters ever created is back: Master Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Beckett. Tom Berenger will reprise his role as Beckett in the upcoming movie Sniper: Assassin’s End — the eighth in the Sniper series. Now the series is a kind of “Fast & Furious” of war movies, bringing together a family of characters familiar to viewers and fun to watch.

The original Sniper was released in 1993, at a time when the United States had few enemies in the world. But what the original Sniper did was begin a series of films that were both true to the spirit of those who serve in the U.S. military while pointing out some of the biggest issues of our time.

Here are 8 things for anyone to love about the Sniper series:


4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

1. ‘Sniper’ uses the same cast when they bring characters back

What’s unique about every subsequent Sniper film is that the original players come back to reprise their roles when called. They may not be in every Sniper movie, but there isn’t some low-rent version of Tom Berenger trying to be Beckett. Speaking of which, now 70 years old, Tom Berenger still rocks a ghillie suit.

Later in the series, Chad Michael Collins joins the family as Beckett’s son Brandon and Dennis “Allstate” Haysbert reprises his role as “The Colonel.” In Sniper: Assassin’s End, actor Lochlyn Munro joins the cast – but for how long?

2. The series depicts real-world sniper stories

In the original Sniper, Thomas Beckett takes down an enemy sniper tracking his team with a well-placed shot through the enemy shooter’s own scope. While this has been depicted on-screen in later movies, Sniper was the first.

This kill was originally scored in real life by sniper and Marine Corps legend Carlos Hathcock. Hathcock may not have the most confirmed kills or the longest shots, but he’s legendary for feats like this. While hitting a sniper through his own scope may sound unbelievable, Hathcock’s story has been confirmed by two others on the scene.

3. “Sniper” has love for the spotter

Unlike so many low-thought, low-effort movies, the Sniper series doesn’t depict a “lone wolf,” gung-ho type who’s fighting the entire world on his lonesome. Beckett is rarely seen without a spotter, and even acts as a spotter for other snipers.

4. Beckett struggles with PTSD

One of the recurring motifs throughout the Sniper series, is one that wasn’t really addressed way back when or even in time for Sniper 2 in 2002: post-traumatic stress disorder. In the first Sniper movie, Beckett and Miller talk about the emotional distress of killing on the battlefield. In the sequel, Beckett is recruited because his PTSD keeps him from living a normal civilian life.

They even use the word “transition” in 2002.

Beckett (also a Vietnam veteran), even finds some catharsis from a visit to Ho Chi Minh City (called “Saigon” during Beckett’s time there), a real thing Vietnam vets do to find some inner peace.
4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

5. They fought real-world bad guys

In 1993, the snipers were on the front lines of the drug war, trying to keep the Panama Canal Zone (still American then) in good hands. Next, they took on ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, still fresh from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. From there, they took on Islamic terrorism, Congolese militias, ISIS, and organized crime syndicates.

6. There’s a lot of love for Marines

It features a Master Gunnery Sergeant. How many Master Gunnery Sergeants have you ever seen in war movies? Thomas Beckett was likely given that rank by the film’s creators because they wanted to establish just how extensive his knowledge is – and why he wouldn’t just revert to being a paper pusher later on.

Beckett also uses his Ka-Bar knife to good effect while hunting a sniper on his trail. If you’re an old-school Marine who misses the days of EGAs printed on woodland BDUs and tightly-bloused pants tucked into black-on-green jungle boots, strap in for some nostalgia.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

7. The violence is uncharacteristic of other war movies

The original Sniper movie was designed to end the cartoonish depiction of war violence in action movies — meaning violent movies were supposed to depict violence on screen. Movies like Rambo III showed death and destruction, but even Rambo’s decimation of the Red Army in Afghanistan showed a surprising lack of blood.

Sniper didn’t have that problem. By design.

Subsequent iterations of the Sniper series have been fairly true to that vision, pulling no punches and attempting to show just how brutal and up-close violence can be.

8. Thomas Beckett reminds us of a really good NCO

There’s something comforting about a non-commissioned officer who’s genuinely interested in your success and is there to not only be a great leader and teacher but really wants to help you. We really like that Beckett is there to point out where other characters mess up but it’s really cool when he also praises them for what they do well – and he does it throughout the series.

More than that, he always shows up like a badass to take care of business and do things the right way. Thomas Beckett is always out of bubblegum.

Sniper: Assassin’s End OFFICIAL TRAILER – Available on Blu-ray & Digital 6/16

www.youtube.com

This post was sponsored by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan pilots in U.S. Black Hawks are attacking Taliban fighters

Firing machine guns at Taliban fighters, reinforcing attacking ground troops, and scouting through mountainous terrain to find enemy locations are all things US-trained Afghan Air Force pilots are now doing with US Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The ongoing US effort to provide anti-Taliban Afghan fighters with Black Hawks has recently been accelerated to add more aircraft on a faster timeframe, as part of a broad strategic aim to better enable Afghan forces to attack.


The first refurbished A-model Black Hawks, among the oldest in the US inventory, arrived in Kandahar in September of last year, as an initial step toward the ultimate goal of providing 159 of the helicopters to the Afghans, industry officials say.

While less equipped than the US Army’s most modern M-model Black Hawks, the older, analog A-models are currently being recapitalized and prepared for hand over to the Afghans.

Many of the Afghan pilots, now being trained by a globally-focused, US-based aerospace firm called MAG, have been flying Russian-built Mi-17s. Now, MAG is helping some Afghan pilots transition to Black Hawks as well as training new pilots for the Afghan Air Force.

“We are working on a lot of mission types. We’re helping pilots learn to fly individually, conduct air assaults and fly in conjunction with several other aircraft,” Brian Tachias, Senior Vice President for MAG, Huntsville Business Unit, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

An Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter transports soldiers from Bagram Airfield over Ghazni, Afghanistan, on July 26, 2004.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Vernell Hall)

The current MAG deal falls under the US Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization. Tachias said, “a team of roughly 20 MAG trainers has already flown over 500 hours with Afghan trainees.” MAG trainers, on-the-ground in Kandahar, graduated a class of Afghan trainees this month. According to current plans, Black Hawks will have replaced all Mi-17s by 2022.

Tachias added that teaching Afghan pilots to fly with night vision goggles has been a key area of emphasis in the training to prepare them for combat scenarios where visibility is more challenging. By next year, MAG intends to use UH-60 simulators to support the training.

While not armed with heavy weapons or equipped with advanced sensors, the refurbished A-model Black Hawks are outfitted with new engines and crew-served weapons. The idea is to give Afghan forces combat maneuverability, air superiority and a crucial ability to reinforce offensive operations in mountainous terrain, at high altitudes.

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

An Afghan Air Force pilot receives a certificate during a UH-60 Black Hawk Aircraft Qualification Training graduation ceremony at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2017. The pilot is one of six to be the first AAF Black Hawk pilots. The first AAF Black Hawk pilots are experienced aviators coming from a Mi-17 background.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Veronica Pierce)

The MAG training effort is consistent with a broader Army strategy to arm, train, and equip Afghan forces such that they can continue to take over combat missions. In recent years, the US Army has placed a premium on operating in a supportive role wherein they train, assist and support Afghan fighters who themselves engage in combat, conduct patrols and do the majority of the fighting.

Standing up an Afghan Air Force has been a longstanding, stated Army goal for a variety of key reasons, one of which simply being that the existence of a capable Afghan air threat can not only advance war aims and enable the US to pull back some of its assets from engaging in direct combat.

While acknowledging the complexities and challenges on continued war in Afghanistan, US Centcom Commander Gen. Joseph Votel voiced this sensibility earlier this summer, stating that Afghan forces are increasingly launching offensive attacks against the Taliban.

“They are fighting and they are taking casualties, but they are also very offensive-minded, inflicting losses on the Taliban and [ISIS-Khorasan] daily, while expanding their capabilities and proficiency every day,” Votel said, according to an Army report from earlier this summer.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.