Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

Salmon farmers in Canada got a rare sight this week when they came across a bald eagle struggling to free itself from the grips of an octopus.

The incident happened Dec. 9, 2019, as John Ilett and his coworkers were wrapping up work on the north side of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Ilett told CBC that they “heard a lot of screeching” and “splashing sounds” before they came upon the bird and cephalopod in the water, locked in combat.


“They were grappling and struggling in the water,” Illett said. “The thing dwarfed the eagle and completely wrapped it up.”

Illett told CNN that he didn’t see how the two animals ended up in that position, but bets that the bald eagle tried to swoop down and grab the octopus before realizing just how big it was.

Saving an eagle from an octopus

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He said that he and the crew were unsure whether to wade into the matter at first, but eventually felt so bad for the bird that they intervened.

“We weren’t sure if we should interfere because it is mother nature, survival of the fittest,” Ilett said. “But it was heart wrenching — to see this octopus was trying to drown this eagle.”

While someone shot video, another crew member grabbed a pole and helped pry the octopus’ tentacles off the bird so that it could eventually fly to a log nearby.

The octopus dove down in the water after losing its prey, while the bird flew off after about 10 minutes, Illet’s company, Mowi Canada West, said in a description of the video posted online Dec. 11, 2019.

While the bald eagle was once under threat of extinction, it was taken off the US government’s list of threatened species in 2007, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why the Queens Guard wear those giant black hats

The black-hatted redcoats who guard royal residences in London and beyond, including Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, are the Queen’s Guard. While you might think it’s fun to get in their way and try to make them laugh, the reality is these guys will straight up break you if it comes down to it. This all starts with the overly large hat on their head.

The hat – a bearskin – is a symbol of what it takes to be the best.


Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(Ministry of Defence)

While the Guard date all the way back to 1656, their trademark bearskin shakos date back to the Napoleonic Wars, the end of the Napoleonic Wars. As its name suggests, this is the series of conflicts fought between Imperial France, led by Napoleon and his various allies against the United Kingdom and the Coalitions it formed to counter the rise of the little emperor. The Guards were part of the First Regiment of Foot that finally ended the Napoleonic Wars at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. That’s also when their uniforms picked up the now-iconic bearskin hats.

Specifically, the British picked the hats up from the dead bodies of fallen Frenchmen.

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(Waterloo Association)

Some of Napoleon’s most elite troops and diehard supporters were the French Imperial Guard. These were troops that had been with Napoleon from the very beginning and were with him to retake power when l’empereur returned from exile on Elba. That’s how they ended up at Waterloo in the first place. They were the (arguably) the world’s best soldiers, and definitely some of the most fearsome in the world. The grenade-throwing grenadiers wore large bearskin shakos to make themselves appear taller and more fearsome. They received better pay, rations, quarters, and equipment, and all guardsmen ranked one grade higher than all non-Imperial Guard soldiers.

At Waterloo, the decisive engagement that determined if Napoleon would once again be master of Europe, the emperor committed his Imperial Guard against the First Regiment of Foot. The outcome of that battle would change history, as for Napoleon, it was a huge gamble that, if successful, could totally break the British and win the battle for the French. That’s why he committed his best.

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(Waterloo Association)

As the First Regiment of Foot stood up to a punishing French artillery barrage and then a charge from the vaunted Imperial Guard, the British tore into the Frenchmen with repeated musket volleys, dropping hundreds of them before Napoleon’s best broke and ran. With the fall of some of Napoleon’s finest Imperial Guards, the outcome of the battle was all but assured.

With their stunning defeat of France’s best in frontline fighting with relatively few casualties, the British 1st Foot adopted the tall bearskins, a trophy to celebrate their stunning victory over the emperor, reminding the world of what it means to be elite. The bearskins have been on their uniform ever since.

popular

Autopsy of a German tank killed in World War I combat

Germany only produced one kind of tank in World War I, and only one example of it still survives. Recently, Australian historians worked with Queensland Police and Ballistic Bomb Unit and the Defense Science & Technology Group to analyze what, exactly, soldiers of the British Empire did to the tank to halt its advance and bring it down.


Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

A German A7V tank replica in a German museum.

(Huhu, public domain)

“Mephisto,” as the tank is known, is an A7V, Germany’s first tank design to make it into production. The vehicle had armor thick enough to make it nearly bulletproof, not a trait common among first-generation tanks. And it was well-armed, boasting six machine guns and one cannon each on the front and back.

This made the tank nearly invulnerable in combat, but also gave the A7V some very serious drawbacks. First of all, it was extremely expensive and resource-heavy to produce. The designer showed his first prototype to Germany’s high officers and they agreed to buy two hundred, of which only 20 would be finished and sent to the front in time. Why so few? They didn’t have enough steel.

And the ones Germany did produce were great on level ground or on terrain that was bumpy front-to-back, but they were horrible when the terrain was rocky side-to-side. That’s because it had a lot of weight, a high center of balance, and thin tracks. If one side hit a big enough bump, the whole thing tipped over.

Tank Chats #49 A7V | The Tank Museum

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Until the A7V hit a bump, though, it was imposing. Mephisto fought at Villers-Bretonneux where German attacks in early April had been repulsed, so Germany launched one of its few armored assaults with the A7Vs. British tanks rolled out to counter the threat, leading to the first tank-on-tank clash in history.

But Mephisto wasn’t brought down by a British tank. It charged against British and Australian infantrymen who had to fight the tank with small arms that couldn’t possibly pierce the hull. And so, they got creative. Australian experts found evidence of armor piercing rounds targeted against the machine guns and their water coolers.

And the Allies did find a fairly suitable anti-tank weapon to bring against Mephisto, a 37mm French gun, about the same as a 1.5-caliber round. That wasn’t enough, though, as rounds ricocheted right off.

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

A German tank, not the Mephisto, left turned over at the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux. The tank was lost to history, but the similarly fated Mephisto would be sent to Australia as a war trophy.

(French postcard, public domain)

So, no tanks got the Mephisto, and 1.5-inch rounds were bouncing off, so what ended the Mephisto’s rampage? That tendency to flop over. It hit a bump, rolled on its side, and the crew was forced to explode a charge and escape. That charge blew through the roof and also set off internal munitions, sending one through the floor of the tank and against the ground where it went off.

That, in turn, sent more shrapnel against the underside and through the crew compartment. The Mephisto was dead, and it would be captured by British troops soon.

It was taken back to Australia and placed in war museums. But the Germans had learned their lessons.

When they prepared for World War II, they put tanks in the field that were light and mobile enough to make it through the Ardennes Forest. They sent mass numbers of tanks and other equipment that overwhelmed Allied defenses, nearly all of them agile enough to make it across No Man’s Land without tripping on their own shoelaces like Mephisto and the A7Vs were prone to do.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Marines demand new lightweight 50-cal ammunition

The Marine Corps is hoping industry can make lightweight .50 caliber ammunition that provides machine-gunners with a 30 percent weight savings over existing linked belts of .50 caliber ammo.

Marine Corps Systems Command recently released a request for information to see if commercial companies have the capability to produce lightweight .50 caliber ammo that “will provide a weight savings when compared to the current M33 .50 cartridge in the DODIC A555 linked configuration,” according to the document released on FedBizOpps.gov.


“A belt of 100 Lightweight .50 Caliber cartridges with 101 links shall have a threshold overall weight of 24.6 lbs. or 15 percent weight savings compared to the legacy A555 configuration,” the document states. “A belt of 100 lightweight cartridges with 101 links shall have an objective overall weight savings of more than 20.3 lbs. or 30 percent compared to the legacy A555 configuration.”

Lightweight ammunition is not a new concept. Commercial companies continue to work new methods to lighten one of the heaviest necessities of warfare.

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus
Ammunition for the M2 .50 caliber machine gun is prepared as Marines with Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, prepare for their first day of firing crew-served weapons at the East Fuji artillery range Sept. 12.

The Chesapeake Cartridge Corporation showed off its new line of nickel ammunition at SHOT Show 2018 in Las Vegas.

The shell casings, made of aluminum-plated nickel alloy, are lighter and stronger that traditional brass casings, Ed Collins, Chesapeake’s director for business development, told Military.com in January 2018.

The company is working toward creating ammunition that’s 50 percent lighter than conventional brass ammo. Currently, the company makes military calibers such as 9mm, 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO, but it plans to make it in additional calibers in the future.

Companies such as PCP Ammunition make polymer-cased ammunition, which offers up to a 30 percent weight savings compared to brass-cased ammo.

Textron Systems makes case-telescoped weapons and ammunition. The ammo concept relies on plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell.

Over the past decade, the U.S. Army has invested heavily in Textron’s concept, formerly known as Light Weight Small Arms Technology.

Textron doesn’t currently make .50-caliber, case-telescoped ammunition, but its 5.56mm CT ammo weighs about 37 percent less than standard belted 5.56mm.

Companies have until June 1, 2018, to respond to the RFI, the document states.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

This highly anticipated PlayStation 4 game is confusing critics

Kojima Production’s “Death Stranding” has all the makings of a video game blockbuster. It’s an experience three years in the making, the product of a visionary director launching a new franchise from an independent studio.

But after three years of mounting anticipation, it’s still not totally clear what players can expect from “Death Stranding.” Sony gave critics an early chance to dive in and see what “Death Stranding” is about, and the reviews have brought back rather mixed opinions.

There’s no question “Death Stranding” is a clear departure from Director Hideo Kojima’s last game, “Metal Gear Solid V.” While “Metal Gear Solid” is a military-focused franchise starring a super soldier, “Death Stranding” puts you in control of a lone deliveryman in a desolate, post-apocalyptic that’s wide open for exploration.


Norman Reedus of “The Walking Dead” plays the game’s protagonist, and a handful of recognizable actors offer photo-realistic performances for the game’s cinematic cut scenes. The story wasn’t particularly celebrated among reviewers, though some said the cutscenes were well-acted.

Reviewers ultimately found that the experience would vary depending on the player, since “Death Stranding” takes dozens of hours to complete. Critics noted that the game’s first 10 hours can be particularly challenging or outright boring depending on your play-style, but the game changes rather dramatically after the long introduction.

Last year’s best-selling game, “Red Dead Redemption 2,” had a similar reception — the game’s campaign took 40 or more hours to complete and left reviewers with a mixed impression of the game’s massive open world. “Red Dead Redemption 2” was still well received by fans for its immersive gameplay and thoughtful storytelling.

Here’s what critics are saying about “Death Stranding” so far:

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)

The visuals of “Death Stranding” are impressive by any standard.

“So much work has been poured into every inch of every model and it’s almost unbelievable to see this much detail – even in an era where most games already feature highly detailed characters. Put simply, the bar has been raised.” — John Linneman, Digital Foundry

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)

‘Death Stranding’ is more about survival and exploration than action and combat.

“There’s no automatic parkour or physics-defying cliff climbing here. Every step I take needs to be intentional, or I might end up taking a serious tumble. When I overload my pack I have to use the left and right triggers to balance my weight, or else I risk falling over, damaging my goods.

It’s equally engaging and frustrating as I topple over after twisting my ankle, forcing myself to restack all my belongings. Death Stranding is a walking simulator in the truest sense.” — Russ Frushtick

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(“Death Stranding” Kojima Productions)

Exploring doesn’t mean you’ll always be alone though.

“Violence is a last resort, and ‘Death Stranding’ is best experienced in a careful and stealthy fashion, but when the time comes for the silence to break and explosions to ring out, it’s powerful.” — Heather Alexandra, Kotaku

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)

“Death Stranding” is a long game that requires a personal investment from its players.

“It’s not a game that makes itself easy to enjoy. There are few concessions for uninterested players. It’s ponderously slow, particularly in the early chapters, which largely consist of delivering packages over staggering distances. Early conversations are filled with phrases and words that will be incomprehensible to the uninitiated — and, honestly, much of it remains a mystery after the credits roll.” — Andrew Webster, The Verge

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)

‘Death Stranding’ left many critics excited for the game’s release so they could compare their experiences with other players’.

“I came away from the game exhilarated, confused and wanting to find others who have played it not only to put together the missing pieces but to commiserate about the experience. In a clever meta twist, Kojima has created a game that begs for a larger discourse, a connection for all those who have played it to share.” — Kahlief Adams, The Hollywood Reporter

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Legendary songwriter, Army veteran John Prine dies from COVID-19

The world lost another great today, as legendary songwriter John Prine succumbed to complications from COVID-19, his family confirmed to Rolling Stone. Prine, 73, lost his battle with the novel coronavirus at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Prine was known for his innumerable talents but none better than his ability to tell the story of humanity through his words. Prine’s acclaim as one of America’s best songwriters has prompted a flood of tributes from celebrities and fans alike as they mourn an indescribable loss.

We’re heartbroken here. And all our love — each of us, the entire Belcourt community, our town — to Fiona and John’s family. We’ve loss a beautiful one.pic.twitter.com/SShyVQ2cC3

twitter.com

From gracing the Opry House stage for those memorable New Year’s Eve shows to other special Opry appearances including one alongside the StreelDrivers and Bill Murray, John Prine has touched our hearts with his music. We are thinking of his family and friends tonight. pic.twitter.com/FV3nIfT1kc

twitter.com

Oh John Prine, thank you for making me laugh and breaking my heart and sharing your boundless humanity. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is one of the most gorgeous songs ever written. Bonnie Raitt John Prine – Angel From Montgomery https://youtu.be/1T5NuI6Ai-o  via @YouTube

twitter.com

Prine was born in Maywood, Illinois. He was one of four sons of a homemaker and a union worker, who raised the boys to love music. Prine grew up on the likes of Hank Williams and other performers of the Grand Ole Opry, but it was really his father’s reaction to Williams’ music that touched Prine. “I used to just sit and watch how he would be so moved by the songs,” Prine said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “In fact, I might have been more affected by the way the songs touched him than by the songs themselves – they seemed to have such power.”

Prine graduated from high school in 1964 and started his career with the U.S. Postal Service as a mailman. Instead of focusing on the monotony of his day job, Prine used the time to write songs. But his career delivering mail was cut short when he was drafted in 1966 into the Army. The war in Vietnam was escalating, but Prine was sent to Germany where he served as a mechanical engineer. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Prine said his military career consisted largely of “drinking beer and pretending to fix trucks.”

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

After two years, Prine returned to the postal service and started writing songs until he became a regular on the Chicago music circuit.

While Prine’s discography is impressive, it was his song “Sam Stone” about a veteran struggling with addiction that resonated with millions of soldiers across the world. Maybe Prine really did just drink beer and fix trucks, but his haunting portrayal of Sam Stone will never be forgotten.

John Prine – Sam Stone

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John Prine – Sam Stone

Lyrics:

Sam Stone came home,
To the wife and family
After serving in the conflict overseas.
And the time that he served,
Had shattered all his nerves,
And left a little shrapnel in his knees.
But the morhpine eased the pain,
And the grass grew round his brain,
And gave him all the confidence he lacked,
With a purple heart and a monkey on his back.There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,
Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose.
Little pitchers have big ears,
Don’t stop to count the years,
Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.Sam Stone’s welcome home
Didn’t last too long.
He went to work when he’d spent his last dime
And soon he took to stealing
When he got that empty feeling
For a hundred dollar habit without overtime.
And the gold roared through his veins
Like a thousand railroad trains,
And eased his mind in the hours that he chose,
While the kids ran around wearin’ other peoples’ clothes…There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,
Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose.
Little pitchers have big ears,
Don’t stop to count the years,
Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.Sam Stone was alone
When he popped his last balloon,
Climbing walls while sitting in a chair.
Well, he played his last request,
While the room smelled just like death,
With an overdose hovering in the air.
But life had lost it’s fun,
There was nothing to be done,
But trade his house that he bought on the GI bill,
For a flag-draped casket on a local hero’s hill.There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,
Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose.
Little pitchers have big ears,
Don’t stop to count the years,
Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

Prine’s ability to tell a story through his words was truly second to none. In his memoir, “Cash,” Johnny Cash wrote, “I don’t listen to music much at the farm, unless I’m going into songwriting mode and looking for inspiration. Then I’ll put on something by the writers I’ve admired and used for years–Rodney Crowell, John Prine, Guy Clark, and the late Steve Goodman are my Big Four.” Rolling Stone referred to Prine as “the Mark Twain of American songwriting.”

Your death leaves a hole in our hearts, John Prine. Rest in peace, Sir.

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus
MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump cancels meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

The White House canceled President Donald Trump’s highly anticipated meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in a letter addressed to Kim released on May 24, 2018.


Trump said that he had been looking forward to the summit but that “tremendous anger and open hostility” in the North Korean government’s recent statements ultimately inspired the president to cancel the meeting.

Trump wrote that he felt “wonderful dialogue” was building up between him and Kim, adding, “ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters.” The president said he still hoped to meet the North Korean leader at some point in the future.

“If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write,” Trump said. “The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.”

‘This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history’

This letter is emblematic of the massive shift in tone between Trump and Kim, who just months ago were engaged in a heated war of words. Over the course of 2017, the two leaders frequently traded threats and insults from across the globe, sometimes even taking jabs at each other’s appearance or mental stability.

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus
The letter President Donald Trump wrote to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un regarding the cancellation of a summit scheduled for June 12.

With that said, the cancellation of the summit could be viewed as a significant failure for Trump from a foreign-policy standpoint. The Trump administration had hoped to use the meeting to pressure North Korea to agree to give up its nuclear weapons.

North Korea initially seemed amenable to this but became more hostile in recent weeks, raising doubts anything substantive would come from meeting with Kim.

The North Korean government recently threatened to cancel the summit over joint military exercises between the US and South Korea, also expressing concern over statements made by the White House national security adviser, John Bolton, regarding how the US might approach the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

What’s more, the North Korean vice minister of foreign affairs on May 24, 2018, referred to comments made by Vice President Mike Pence as “stupid.”

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus
Mike Pence
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“As a person involved in US affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing from the mouth of the US vice president,” Choe Son Hui said in a statement reported by North Korean state news.

“Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States,” Choi added.

This came not long after Pence suggested the situation with North Korea may “end like Libya,” whose leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed by rebels in 2011.

The Trump administration had also pledged to help North Korea bolster its economy in exchange for denuclearization, but such promises apparently weren’t enough to alter Pyongyang’s tone and save the talks.

It’s not clear what will happen moving forward or how North Korea will respond.

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

The rogue state conducted a slew of missile tests in 2017 but agreed to cease such activities and dismantle its primary nuclear test site as part of recent diplomatic efforts with the US and South Korea. It also recently released three US citizens it had detained.

North Korea is believed to have as many as 60 nuclear weapons, and it could conceivably resume missile and nuclear testing if the diplomatic process falls apart after the cancellation of the summit.

In his letter to Kim, the president warned of the US military’s “massive” nuclear capabilities.

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” Trump wrote.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the ‘deadliest recruit’ ever to pass through Parris Island

On Thursday, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island issued a press release identifying Marine Recruit Austin Farrell as the deadliest recruit ever to pass through the Corps’ infamously difficult rifle qualification course. Farrell grew up building and shooting rifles with his father, and when it came time to qualify on his M16A4 service rifle, the young recruit managed a near-perfect score of 248 out of a maximum possible 250 points on Table One.

“I grew up with a rifle in my hand; from the time I was six I was shooting and building firearms with my dad, he was the one that introduced me to shooting, and when I got to Parris Island, what he taught me was the reason I shot like I did,” said Farrell.

The Marine Corps is renown for its approach to training each and every Marine to serve as a rifleman prior to going on to attend follow-on schools for one’s intended occupational specialty. As a result, Table One of the Marine Corps’ Rifle Qualification Course is widely recognized as the most difficult basic rifle course anywhere in the America’s Armed Forces.

All Marines, regardless of ultimate occupation, must master engaging targets from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions at ranges extending as far as 500 yards. In recent years, the Corps has shifted to utilizing RCOs, or Rifle Combat Optics, which aid in accuracy, but still require a firm grasp of marksmanship fundamentals in order to pass.

While no other military branch expects all of its members to be deadly at such long distances, for Farrell, 500 yards wasn’t all that far at all. While new to the Corps, this young shooter is no stranger to long-distance shooting.

“I would go out to a family friend’s range five days a week and practice shooting from distances of up to a mile, it’s a great pastime and teaches you lessons that stay with you past the range.”
Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

Recruit Austin Ferrell with Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion fires his M16A4 Service Rifle during the Table One course of fire on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island S.C. July 30, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)

As all recruits come to learn, being a good shooter isn’t just about nailing the physical aspects of stabilizing yourself, acquiring good sight picture, and practicing trigger control along with your breathing. Being a good shooter is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one. As Farrell points out, being accurate at a distance is about getting your head in the right the place. Of course, getting relaxed and staying relaxed is one thing… doing it during Recruit Training is another.

“Practice before I got here was definitely a big part of it, but getting into a relaxed state of mind is what helped me shoot… after I shot a 248 everyone was congratulating me, but when I got back to the squad bay my drill instructors gave me a hard time for dropping those two points,” Farell laughed.
Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)

The young recruit is expected to graduate from Recruit Training on September 4, 2020 and while it’s safe to say most parents are proud to see their sons and daughters earn the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, Farrell’s father George is already celebrating his son’s success.

“I’m so proud of him, no matter what I’m proud of him but this is above what I expected,” said George. “I always told him to strive to be number one, and the fact that he was able to accomplish that is just a testament to his hard work.”

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Inside Project Galahad: How the 75th Ranger Regiment used ‘creative destruction’ to prepare for the modern battlefield

The next war will be dynamic and disruptive. To prepare for it, some US military leaders have embraced a mindset of “creative destruction” in order to challenge orthodoxy, adopt revolutionary changes, and even question how success should be defined on the battlefield of the future.

Along that line of thinking, for the past three years the US Army’s vaunted 75th Ranger Regiment has run an experimental military design cell called “Project Galahad.” This select team has subsequently gone against the grain of so-called conventional doctrine and investigated novel solutions to tomorrow’s warfighting problems.

“We need to be nimble and can’t hesitate to wipe the board when we need to,” Army Lt. Col. Adam Armstrong, a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment who served as a Project Galahad team member, told Coffee or Die Magazine.

According to a forthcoming article in the Special Operations Journal, Project Galahad was an “act of creative destruction” intended to “create cognitive space for experimentation.”

Armstrong described Project Galahad as a “mixed team of carefully selected officers and [non-commissioned officers] from diverse educational and experiential backgrounds chartered to think big with nearly complete autonomy, beholden only to the [regimental commander].”

“Done a lot of jobs — that’s easily in my top three,” Armstrong added.

With support from the Joint Special Operations University, since 2018 Project Galahad has become a permanent fixture within the 75th Ranger Regiment’s command system. The project’s goals include “fostering innovation” and “disrupting legacy systems to provide novel opportunities.”

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A Ranger from 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment on patrol in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2011. Photo by Sgt. Brian Kohl/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

‘Revolutionary Change’

Project Galahad implemented a decision-making process called “military design thinking.” A specialized field with roots in chaos and complexity theories, design thinking fosters divergent and experimental ways of problem solving.

Design thinking spurs its practitioners to “challenge their fundamental beliefs” in order to “reframe” a situation. According to the methodology, if you see problems in a different light, you’re more likely to produce innovative solutions.

An early version of design thinking called “Systemic Operational Design theory” — a product of the Israeli Defense Force’s Operational Theory Research Institute  — was put into action by select US military teams on the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq during the mid-2000s. Since then, the methodology has become more mainstream within the US military as it prepares for a new era of great power competition.

“History seems to show folks rarely know when they are in need of a revolutionary change until circumstances force it upon them,” Armstrong said.

America’s military personnel have the natural attributes of autonomy, creativity, and the appetite for taking risks that are necessary to combat modern adversaries. US society is unique in the value it places on novel and unconventional thinkers. We praise the rule breakers. Whereas in many other countries — particularly those of America’s primary adversaries, Russia and China — that sort of proclivity for independent thought is not inculcated in citizens throughout their lives. So, some say that a design cell like Project Galahad is an effective way for US military units to take advantage of their premier battlefield advantage — the independent character of American troops.

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus
Afghan and coalition security forces target a Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan safe haven, detaining six insurgents during security operations in Burkah district, Baghlan province, Afghanistan, March 14, 2011. Photo by Sgt. Brian Kohl/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

Answering directly to the regimental commander, Project Galahad does not implement policy. Rather, this unique team is charged with bucking orthodoxy and coming up with new ways of doing business. Unlike some other innovation-geared groups and think tanks within the US military, Project Galahad is meant to keep its pulse on the day-to-day realities of regimental life, as well as the requisites of real-world combat.

Prior to the beginning of Project Galahad in 2018, the military design process had already been used for solving real-world combat problems within the 75th Ranger Regiment. Once enacted, Armstrong said Project Galahad was subsequently geared toward “ill-defined, often nascent, and ambiguous problem sets.”

To foster creativity, the Project Galahad team members created a workspace more analogous to a Silicon Valley startup than an elite special operations unit. They covered the walls with whiteboards and Post-it notes and established dedicated collaborative spaces. They even repainted the interior in “less depressing paint than the bland tan colors found in so many government buildings,” Armstrong said. The overarching goal was to spur abstract thought. And, in that vein, the team frequently turned their cellphones and computers off and engaged in what they called “deep thought sessions.”

“By using abstract thought we found we could conceptualize things that maybe we hadn’t thought of, see things we wouldn’t have otherwise seen,” Armstrong said.

The team’s composition, too, was key to its success in generating innovative ideas. There was a major who studied music in university and who was, in Armstrong’s words, a “completely disruptive thinker.” There was a master sergeant who’d spent his career within the regiment and had an MBA “from a very high-end program.” There was a midcareer officer with a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear background, a retired Army master sergeant, and a young officer with only one year in the regiment.

“Each Ranger brought a unique perspective — officer, enlisted, lots of time and life experience, or less,” Armstrong said, adding: “We also kept each other honest. Everyone had a voice, people could question things, we could argue. I was well out of my comfort zone, but that became comfortable after a few months.”

Still, it was difficult for Project Galahad team members to “reframe.” For his part, Armstrong said that after spending 10 years in the 75th Ranger Regiment, he had a lot of “institutionalization” to kick.

“My undergraduate degree is in physics, with almost 10 years in the regiment and an infantry officer — that’s about as ‘regimented’ as they come,” Armstrong said, adding: “We found that the key for Galahad’s team members was their assimilation through structured professional development. Team members went through courses on critical thought, basic and advanced design, and even cognitive optimization.”

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Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment conduct FRIES training (fast rope infiltration and extraction) at Fort Benning, Georgia, May 5, 2015. Photo by Pfc. Eric Overfelt, 75th Ranger Regiment documentation specialist/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

Rangers Lead the Way

The Army’s premier special operations direct action raid force, the 75th Ranger Regiment is headquartered at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Rangers specialize in joint special operations raids and joint forcible entry operations.

“The Rangers are the most elite large-scale fighting force the Army has to offer,” the Army says on its website. “Their mission, depending on the operation, can range from airfield seizure to special reconnaissance to direct action raids on select targets and individuals, and they have a rich operational history.”

Ranger units have always been outliers within Army doctrine. The concept of “standing orders” was adopted by US Rangers during the French and Indian War — from 1754 to 1763 — to facilitate the execution of small-unit raids.

Following the Vietnam War, a new, permanent peacetime Ranger battalion was established to be a “change agent” within the Army. It has gone through a series of expansions since then, from a single battalion to a regiment, and more recently adding a special troops battalion and military intelligence battalion. Thus, the experimental Project Galahad program is well suited to the 75th Ranger Regiment’s institutional culture, which remains receptive to novel and unconventional solutions to combat problems.

Since October 2001, the 75th Ranger Regiment has been continuously deployed in support of counterinsurgency fights that stemmed from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. War is always chaotic and dangerous and unpredictable. Yet, over the past two decades of unending combat, war has — in the American experience — existed, more or less, within a fairly consistent battlefield architecture. The nature of combat, the terrain within which it is fought, and even the general nature of the enemy haven’t significantly changed since 2001.

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US Army Rangers assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment climb the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, in Cricqueville-en-Bessin, France, June 4, 2019. Photo by Master Sgt. Andy M. Kin/US Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.

So, while the US military is battle-hardened after 20 years of counterinsurgency combat, all that experience doesn’t necessarily translate into a battlefield advantage against modern adversaries such as China and Russia. When Project Galahad was created, the Rangers faced “plenty of problem sets related to national security, which we knew had the potential to be very different from our experiences of the last 20 years,” Armstrong said.

The unrelenting pace of two decades of constant counterinsurgency combat has been an obstacle to the regiment’s ability to foster innovative, novel solutions to burgeoning threats. In short, the real-world demands of combat took precedence over the kind of “creative destruction” needed to adapt to new threats from burgeoning great-power competitors.

“The operational demand for continuity leaves little room for those who stray outside time-proven institutional practices. The uncertainty of war makes experimentation, even in conceptual forms, a difficult and controversial undertaking,” according to an excerpt from a forthcoming article in the Spring 2021 issue of the Special Operations Journal.

After its conception, Project Galahad helped the 75th Ranger Regiment to address future problems without diverting time and energy away from the management of ongoing combat operations.

“Project Galahad was able to take the problem set on, run it through some design iterations, and then bridge to plans while staying linked in with the regimental commander and our [higher headquarters],” Armstrong said. “Overall, I think that provided a much better product, while allowing quality to remain high on everything else that the regiment was working.”

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US Army Rangers, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, prepare for extraction from their objective during Task Force Training on Fort Hunter Liggett, California, Jan. 30, 2014. Rangers constantly train to maintain their tactical proficiency. Photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

Project Galahad’s purview also extends to the most basic institutional standards of the US military, including chain of command systems that date back to the 19th-century Prussian army.

In 2017, Col. Brandon Tegtmeier, then commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment, “recognized the risk posed by a legacy paradigm that applied yesterday’s practices to tomorrow’s challenges,” write the authors of the excerpted Special Operations Journal article, which was posted to Facebook.

The Prussian army’s general staff system became the gold standard for Western military chains of command after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to 1871. For his part, Tegtmeier “decided to take unconventional action toward his own organizational form and took steps to upend the legacy, Prussian-designed Regimental staff system,” the Special Operations Journal reports.

The article’s authors add: “[Tegtmeier] saw the emerging complex security environment of the 21st century as something that required a new way of operating at the Regimental level, starting with his staff’s structure and processes.”

‘Studio for War’

The 2018 US National Defense Strategy made it clear that the preeminent challenge to the US was no longer terrorism but near-peer competitors such as Russia and China. That document underscored the ongoing evolution of thinking within the Pentagon that has spurred changes spanning the gamut from the creation of the US Space Force to the development of new battlefield technologies like artificial intelligence and ultra-long-range artillery systems.

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A US Army Ranger of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, scans his sector in the prone position during a live fire exercise on Fort Hunter Liggett, California, Jan 23, 2014. Rangers incorporated live fire training into battle drill exercises. Photo by Pfc. Sean Carlos/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

In June 2017, Tegtmeier charged a small team with investigating how the legacy Prussian command system was hobbling his unit’s ability to face new threats. His team came back and confirmed that, yes, the 150-year-old chain of command was indeed a hindrance to innovation. The team also identified an “insular culture” that this old system created, which was also stifling innovation.

Tegtmeier’s investigative team proposed two options to shake things up. He could either implement a top-to-bottom upheaval of the current command system or put in place a “standing cross-functional team” to address specific challenges outside the normal chain of command.

According to the excerpted Special Operations Journal article: “The re-organize option that flipped the Prussian-style staff structure on its head would be recognized as the superior option, despite the vast undertaking required.” However, that option also “risked functional chaos,” the article states.

“The process of analyzing which direction to go was pretty involved — and [Tegtmeier] was leaning toward a complete restructure for most of it,” Armstrong said. “He wanted to eliminate the typical ‘silo’ effect you get in conventional staff structure.”

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US Army soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment stand in formation during an award ceremony hosted by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, Oct. 26, 2012. Photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

The Rangers are still at war, and sweeping changes to a 150-year-old command system might be too risky to carry out when lives are still at risk and American national security is still at stake. The regiment’s leadership also worried that the “re-organize option” could adversely affect the unit’s interoperability with the rest of the Army.

Moreover, by existing wholly outside the normal chain of command, the cross-functional team option would likely face less institutional resistance. According to the Special Operations Journal: “It would be a dynamic and highly experimental ‘studio for war’ within the Regiment, unlike any other staff function.”

Ultimately, the cross-functional team option was chosen for its practicality. Thus was begot “Project Galahad.” The project’s name is a nod to a legendary World War II unit, known as “Merrill’s Marauders,” which saw combat in Southeast Asia.

“‘Project Galahad’ was the answer to what I saw as a dire need in our formation — the ability to mass quickly on complex, ambiguous problems without a loss in capacity for the rest of our Regimental staff, already consumed with force generation, force modernization, day to day warfighting, and sustaining readiness for contingencies,” said Tegtmeier, the former 75th Ranger Regiment commander, according to the excerpted Special Operations Journal article.

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US Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire off a Carl Gustaf 84 mm recoilless rifle at a range on Camp Roberts, California, Jan. 26, 2014. Rangers use a multitude of weaponry during their annual tactical training. Photo by Pfc. Rashene Mincy/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

The Project Galahad team quickly identified “tensions” in the unit. One example: the occasional disparities between the qualifications that make a good Ranger versus what’s most beneficial for career advancement within the Army’s promotion system. That includes the need for Rangers to pursue higher education for the sake of their Army careers — all while maintaining the regiment’s unrelenting operational tempo.

One Project Galahad success story is in the so-called “war for talent” — or, in other words, the ongoing effort to improve recruiting and retention, and to “take care of our people,” Armstrong said. Due to Project Galahad’s recommendations, the 75th Ranger Regiment implemented the “Phalanx” program, which, according to Armstrong, has been instrumental in fostering a healthy unit culture that spurs the regiment’s Rangers to achieve peak performance.

‘Meat on the Bones’

Disruptive change is not always an easy ask within the hierarchical command structure of the US armed forces. Contrarian thinkers may be reluctant to buck the system for myriad reasons — such as the potentially negative consequences on one’s prospects for career advancement.

In short: the hierarchical command system that maintains order and discipline amid the fog of war may not be ideal for fostering creative brainstorming sessions within peaceful circumstances. Still, the so-called old ways remain useful when it comes time to turn innovative ideas into action on the battlefield.

“Design allows you to frame a problem and identify some potential solutions but it still requires a bridge and handoff to plans teams for some detail work, placing meat on the bones,” Armstrong said.

“Conventional chains of command can be pretty ideal […] particularly in a time-constrained environment,” he added. “All that said — [for a] complex problem, when I have the time, I’m probably going to apply design whenever possible.”

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US Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment fire a 120 mm mortar during a tactical training exercise on Camp Roberts, California, Jan. 30, 2014. Rangers constantly train to maintain the highest level of tactical proficiency. Photo by Pfc. Nathaniel Newkirk/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

While the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Project Galahad has proven successful, other Department of Defense programs geared toward the generation of innovative solutions to tomorrow’s problems have not fared as well under current budgeting priorities.

In October, Coffee or Die Magazine reported on the Army’s decision to defund its University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies — colloquially known in military circles as the “Red Teaming University.” The news followed the Army’s recent decision to shut down its Asymmetric Warfare Group, as well as the Marine Corps’ recent decision to close an experimental training program that focused on complex urban terrain called Project Metropolis II.

Some military experts have criticized these moves as shortsighted and part of a broader prioritization of Pentagon resources toward acquiring new technologies, rather than researching how doctrine should evolve to combat modern threats.

Throughout history, US military-industrial dominance has permitted the luxury of warmup periods in its wars to arrive at a coherent strategic vision and develop workable tactics to achieve victory. Famously, US military forces honed their combat acumen on the North African front in World War II before embarking on the liberation of Europe.

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Allied North African campaign, An Army at Dawn, Rick Atkinson wrote: “Like the first battles in virtually every American war, this campaign revealed a nation and an army unready to fight and unsure of their martial skills, yet willful and inventive enough to prevail.”

However, against a near-peer adversary such as Russia or China, US military forces will have less time to hone their tactics and find their confidence in battle. The next war may be over before America’s armed forces learn how to fight it. Thus, one key goal of experimental programs like Project Galahad is to spur innovations to combat future threats before meeting them for the first time while in a war.

“That’s the classic innovation conundrum,” Armstrong said. “I think getting it right, 100%, the first time is pretty tough — but I think the employment of concepts like design are going to help us get closer to the mark, and hopefully save us from having to learn some hard lessons at high cost.”

He added, “I am a firm believer that design would work anywhere in the Army, something as simple as applying design thinking to routine problems could be hugely impactful.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

When the Coast Guard saved New York from a huge blast

In the early evening of April 24, 1943, Coast Guardsmen braved leaping flames and saved New York City from what could have been the largest man-made explosion in history to that point, a blast that would’ve wiped out sections of the harbor and, potentially, large swaths of the larger city and parts of New Jersey. Instead, just one ship was lost and zero lives.


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Painting of the El Estero fire by Austin Dwyer.

(Austin Dwyer via U.S. Coast Guard)

While all the other branches rib the Coast Guard for being a band of puddle pirates, it’s important when really looking at its history to remember that, first, they actually have conducted a ton of deepwater missions. And, more importantly for this discussion, the shallow waters of the world are home to vital and dangerous missions that the Coast Guard does well.

The Coast Guard often takes on a large role during conflicts to help to ensure that war materiel is safely moved from industrial powerhouses in the U.S. to theaters of war overseas. During World War II, this included loading many of the Liberty Ships and other vessels that plied the Atlantic and Pacific.

But logistic expediencies created real hazards. It made sense in terms of speed and efficiency to move all the munitions, vehicles, and other vital supplies to a handful of ports and load it on ships from there. But doing so meant that strings of railroad cars and ships filled with explosive materials would be stored right next to each other.

On Saturday, April 24, Coast Guardsmen working on explosive loading details finished loading 1,365 tons of ammo onto the Panamanian freighter El Estero. But before they could even get fully aweigh, smoke started to come up out of the ship’s passageways.

Investigations would later reveal that the boiler had likely been leaking fuel oil into bilge water in the compartment below it, and a boiler flashback ignited the pooled fuel and started a fire. But once the fire was going, it would be able to boil oil to give itself more fuel and heat up the ammo until it started to explode.

The engine room crew immediately started fighting the flames with handheld extinguishers, but it wasn’t enough, so officers went to the Coast Guard barracks for volunteers. Could someone, anyone, please climb onto the burning ship, descend into its belly, and fight flames in the hopes of it not blowing up?

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A graphic tried to tackle the level of damage if the ship had exploded. This high traffic area would have made an explosion of the El Estero especially catastrophic.

(New York Daily News illustration via U.S. Coast Guard)

But the Coast Guardsmen knew what was at stake. The loading docks were always filled with ammo and fuel and, on April 24, there were two other nearly full ships nearby, there were railroad cars loaded with ammunition waiting to unload, and there was a fuel farm that served the departing ships. A detonation on the El Estero would likely trigger a chain reaction.

And explosions like this had happened before. Before the U.S. joined World War I, American firms sold arms to each side under equal terms, but British buyers were able to secure more credit while German ones were unlikely to even be able to get their purchases to the fighting thanks to a British blockade. So, German saboteurs blew up the shipping facilities at Black Tom Island in New Jersey, killing at least five people, destroying over million in property, and partially excavating the island.

Another World War I explosion, this one on a ship with 5,000 tons of TNT in Halifax Harbor in Canada, had killed 1,500 people leveling a large section of Halifax, Canada, in 1917. The combined loads of the El Estero and nearby ships and trains, somewhere around 5,000 total tons of explosives, dwarfed the size of the Halifax explosion. And an El Estero explosion would’ve been on the doorstep of New York City and could’ve flattened everything for five miles around.

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Coast Guardsmen on a fireboat. Small vessels like these assisted in controlling the El Estero fire.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

And so 60 Coast Guardsmen, most of them in dress uniforms while awaiting their Easter Day liberty passes, rushed to the ship. New York firefighters arrived soon after with a firefighting ship, and they began passing hoses into the holds of the El Estero, but it was Coast Guardsmen who descended into the smoke and fire.

Survivors would describe a heat that overwhelmed them. The hot deck plates warmed and then burned their feet, paint peeled off the walls, and the heat continued to build. The Coast Guard officer in charge was Lt.j.g. Francis McCausland. It was his first day of work at the station.

But he was able to get tugboats to move the other ammo ships away and ordered Army soldiers to shift as many of the train cars out of range as they could move. By the time that additional fire trucks and Coast Guard fireboats arrived at 5:35, the fiercely burning El Estero was largely isolated, but still surrounded by the city, fuel stores, and warehouses of ammo.

The Coast Guard seemed to get the upper hand on the ship for a few minutes as the oily black smoke gave way to yellow and white streaks of flames, a signal that streams of water were hitting the major source of the fire. But the oily smoke returned, and the heat continued to rise.

About 40 volunteers were ordered off the ship, and a crew of 20 stayed onboard to try and keep the fire contained as long as possible while the ship was towed to a safe detonation point. Those 20 passed their personal effects to the men ordered off, some of whom wanted to stay and keep working. These included an engaged man who had to personally be ordered off the decks.

The further the ship was out of the harbor, the more lives would be saved in New York City and in the surrounding harbor from the pending explosion. Coast Guardsmen shoved anti-aircraft shells from the decks into the water and kept directing the water from the tugs onto the hot ammo as they traveled.

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The El Estero rests mostly below the waves.

(Public Domain)

Miraculously, their work was enough, and the ship was towed out as the nearby cities prepared for an explosion that never came. Fuel barrels on the decks popped and boomed open, but the burnt and exhausted Coast Guardsmen onboard were eventually able to build up enough water in the ship to sink it.

(The ship was designed so that it could only be scuttled from one spot that was directly underneath the burning boilers, so the Coast Guardsmen could only sink it by flooding it.)

Once the hull of the ship was under the waves, the threat of a full ammo explosion was largely dissipated. Firefighters kept water pouring onto the still burning superstructure for hours until, finally, the threat was gone. No one had died in a crisis that was later found to have threatened as many as one million residents with death, injury, or extreme property damage.

All the Coast Guardsmen involved were given special medals for their efforts, and the U.S. government overhauled ammo-handling procedures to move dangerous operations away from population centers. This would save lives in June 1944, when an ammo ship with 4,600 tons of ammunition exploded northeast of San Francisco, killing 300 sailors on the ship and nearby, but leaving the city untouched.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Flying aircraft carriers are totally possible (and sort of crazy)

As the United States shifts its posture away from ongoing counter-terror operations and back toward great power competition with nations like China, the U.S. is being forced to reassess it’s aircraft carrier force projection strategy. If U.S. carriers find themselves on the sideline for such a conflict, it may be worth revisiting the idea of a different kind of aircraft carrier: the flying kind.

China’s arsenal of hypersonic anti-ship missiles have created an area denial bubble that would prevent American carriers from sailing close enough to Chinese shores to launch sorties, effectively neutering America’s ability to conduct offensive operations against the Chinese mainland. Without the ability to leverage the U.S. Navy’s attack aircraft, combat operations in the Pacific would be extremely difficult. It is, however, possible (though potentially impractical) to develop and deploy flying aircraft carriers for such a conflict–the United States has even experimented with the concept a number of times in the past, and is continuing to pursue the idea today.


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Gremlins air vehicle during a flight test at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, November 2019 (DARPA)

DARPA’s Gremlins Program

The most recent iteration of a flying aircraft carrier comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and has seen testing successes as recently as January of this year.

In January, DARPA successfully launched a Dynetics’ X-61A Gremlin UAV from the bay of a Lockheed Martin C-130A cargo aircraft. The program is aiming to demonstrate the efficacy of low-cost combat-capable drones that can be both deployed and recovered from cargo planes. DARPA envisions using cargo planes like the C-130 to deploy these drones while still outside of enemy air defenses; allowing the drones to go on and engage targets before returning to the airspace around the “mother ship” to be recaptured and carried home for service or repairs.

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(DARPA)

The test showed that a drone could be deployed by the C-130, but the drone itself was ultimately destroyed when its parachute failed to open after the completion of an hour-and-a-half flight. A subsequent test that would include drone capture was slated for the spring of this year, but has likely been delayed to due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Between the success of this test and other drone wingman programs like Skyborg, the concept of a flying aircraft carrier has seen a resurgence in recent years, and may potentially finally become a common facet of America’s air power.

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The plan to turn a Boeing 747 into a flying aircraft carrier

The Boeing 747 has already secured its place in the pantheon of great aircraft, from its immense success as a passenger plane to its varied governmental uses like being a taxi for the Space Shuttle or as a cargo aircraft. The 747 has proven itself to be an extremely capable aircraft for a wide variety of applications, so it seemed logical when, in the 1970s, the U.S. Air Force began experimenting with the idea of converting one of these large aircraft into a flying aircraft carrier full of “parasite” fighters that could be deployed, and even recovered, in mid-air.

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Boeing AAC design sketch

Initial plans called for using the massive cargo aircraft Lockeed C-5 Galaxy, but as Boeing pointed out at the time, the 747 actually offered superior range and endurance when flying with a full payload. According to Boeing’s proposal, the 747 could be properly equipped to carry as much as 883,000 pounds.

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Sketch of a micro-fighter inside the 747 fuselage.

The idea behind the Boeing 747 AAC (Airborne Aircraft Carrier) was simple in theory, but incredibly complex in practice. Boeing would specially design and build fighter aircraft that were small enough to be housed within the 747, along with an apparatus that would allow the large plane to carry the fighters a long distance, drop them where they were needed to fight, and then recover them once again.

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This graphic from Boeing’s proposal shows different potential flying aircraft carrier platforms and their respective ranges. (Boeing)

Boeing’s 60-page proposal discusses the ways such a program could be executed, but lagging questions remained regarding the fuel range of a 747 carrying such a heavy payload and about how the fighters would fare in a combat environment. Previous flying aircraft carrier concepts showed that the immense turbulence from large aircraft (and their jet engines) made it extremely difficult to manage the fighters they would drop, especially as they attempted to return to the aircraft after a mission.

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Potential “micro-fighter” design (Boeing)

Further concerns revolved around how well these miniature “parasite” fighters would fare against the top-of-the-line Soviet fighters they would conceivable be squaring off with.

Ultimately, the proposal never made it off the page — but it did establish one important point for further discussion on this topic. According to the report, Boeing found the concept of a flying aircraft carrier to be “technically feasible” using early 1970’s technology. Technically feasible, it’s important to note, however, is not the same as financially feasible.

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(Concept illustration)

The insane Lockheed CL-1201: A massive, nuclear-powered flying aircraft carrier

The Skunkworks at Lockheed Martin have been responsible for some of the most incredible aircraft ever to take flight, from the high-flying U-2 Spy Plane to the fastest military jet ever, the SR-71. But even those incredible aircraft seem downright plain in comparison to Lockheed’s proposal to build an absolutely massive, nuclear powered, flying aircraft carrier–the CL-1201.

The proposal called for an aircraft that weighed 5,265 tons. In order to get that much weight aloft, the design included a 1,120 foot wingspan, with a fuselage that would measure 560 feet (or about two and a half times that of a 747). It would have been 153 feet high, making it stand as tall as a 14-story building. According to Lockheed, they could put this massive bird in the sky using just four huge turbofan engines which would be powered by regular jet fuel under 16,000 feet, where it would then switch to nuclear power courtesy of its on-board reactor. The flying aircraft carrier could then stay aloft without refueling for as long as 41 days, even while maintaining a high subsonic cruising speed of Mach 0.8 at around 30,000 feet.

The giant aircraft would carry a crew of 845 and would be able to deploy 22 multirole fighters from docking pylons installed on the wings. It also would maintain a small internal hangar bay for repairs and aircraft service while flying. Unsurprisingly, this design didn’t make it past the proposal stage, but the concept itself stands as a historical anomaly that continues to inspire renewed attention to this day.

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Convair GRB-36F in flight with Republic YRF-84F (S/N 49-2430). (U.S. Air Force photo)

The B-36 Peacemaker

This massive bomber weighed in at an astonishing 410,000 pounds when fully loaded with fuel and ordnance (thanks to its large fuel reserves and 86,000 weapon capacity). Development of the B-36 began in 1941, thanks to a call for an aircraft that was capable of taking off from the U.S., bombing Berlin with conventional or atomic ordnance, and returning without having to refuel. By the time the B-36 made it into the air, however, World War II had already been over for more than a year.

The B-36 had a massive wingspan. At 230 feet, the wings of the Peacemaker dwarf even the B-52’s 185-foot wingspan. In its day, it was one of the largest aircraft ever to take to the sky. Despite it’s incredible capabilities, the B-36 never once flew an operational mission, but the massive size and range of the platform prompted the Air Force to consider its use as a flying aircraft carrier, using Republic YRF-84F Ficon “parasitic” fighters as the bomber’s payload.

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The YRF-84F flying underneath its B-36 carrier aircraft. FICON modifications included installing a hook in front of the cockpit and turning down the horizontal tail so it could partially fit into the B-36 bomb bay. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The idea was similar to that of the later proposal from Boeing, carrying the fighters internally to extend their operational range and then deploying them via a lowering boom, where they could serve as protection for the bomber, reconnaissance assets, or even execute offensive operations of their own before returning to the B-36 for recovery.

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View of the YRF-84F from inside the B-36 — the pilot could enter and exit the cockpit from within the bomber. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The U.S. Air Force ultimately did away with the concept thanks to the advent of mid-air refueling, which dramatically increased the operational range of all varieties of aircraft and made a flying aircraft carrier concept a less cost effective solution.

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USS Macon (ZRS-5) Flying over New York Harbor, circa Summer 1933. (U.S. Navy)

Using rigid airships as flying aircraft carriers

Although we very rarely see rigid inflatable airships in service to national militaries today, things were much different in the early 20th century. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s airships (dubbed “Zeppelins”) were proving themselves to be a useful military platform thanks to their fuel efficiency, range, and heavy payload capabilities. These massive airships were not only cost-effective, their gargantuan size also offered an added military benefit: their vast looming presence could be extremely intimidating to the enemy.

However, as you may have already guessed, it was that vast presence that also created the rigid airship’s massive weakness: it was susceptible to being shot down by even the simplest of enemy aircraft. England was the first nation to try to offset this weakness by building an apparatus that could carry and deploy three Sopwith Camel biplanes beneath the ship’s hull. They ultimately built four of these 23-class Vickers rigid airships, but all were decommissioned by the 1920s. The U. S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics took notice of the concept, however, and set about construction on its own inflatable airships, with both the USS Akron (ZRS-4) and USS Macon (ZRS-5) serving as flying aircraft carriers.

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The USS Akron in flight, November 1931 (U.S. Navy)

The airships were built with an apparatus that could not only deploy F9C-2 Curtiss Sparrowhawk biplanes, they could also recover them once again mid-flight. The airships and aircraft fell under the Navy’s banner, and the intent was to use the attached bi-planes for both reconnaissance (ship spotting) and defense, but not necessarily for offensive operations.

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USS Akron (ZRS-4) Launches a Consolidated N2Y-1 training plane (Bureau # A8604) during flight tests near Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, 4 May 1932. (U.S. Navy)

The biplanes were stored in hangars on the airship that measured approximately 75′ long x 60′ wide x 16′ high — or big enough to service 5 biplanes internally.

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Sparrowhawk scout/fighter aircraft on its exterior rigging (U.S. Navy)

After lackluster performance in a series of Naval exercises, the Akron would crash on April 4, 1933, killing all 76 people on board. Just weeks later, on April 21, its sister ship, the USS Macon, would take its first flight. Two years later, it too would crash, though only two of its 83 crew members would die.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY TRENDING

US troops are laying miles of razor wire on the border

By the end of the day on Oct. 5, 2018, there were more than 5,000 active-duty troops deployed to the US-Mexico border, where they are laying razor wire in preparation for the arrival of migrant caravans consisting of potentially thousands of people from across Latin America.

There are roughly 2,700 active-duty troops in Texas, 1,200 in Arizona and 1,100 in California, the Department of Defense revealed Oct. 5, 2018. These figures are in addition to the more than 2,000 National Guard troops that were deployed to the border in April 2018.


Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

As many as 8,000 troops, if not more depending on operational demands, could eventually be deployed to the border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

“Barbed wire looks like it’s going to be very effective, too, with soldiers standing in front of it,” Trump, who considers the approaching caravans an “invasion” said at a rally in Cleveland on Oct. 5, 2018.

Source: ABC News

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

“There is no plan for US military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry to the United States,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters Oct. 5, 2018, “There is no plan for the soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or to reinforce the Department of Homeland Security as they are conducting their mission. We are providing enabling capability.”

Source: CNN

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

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This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

If you pay attention, you might sometimes see long, cigar-shaped pods firmly attached to the undersides of classic fighter and attack aircraft, sometimes with unit markings on them.

Known as “drop tanks,” these simple devices extend the range of the aircraft they’re hooked up to by carrying extra usable fuel. Back during World War II, however, attack pilots found a secondary use for drop tanks as improvised bombs, used to bombard enemy ground positions.


Drop tanks became popular in the late 1930s as a means for fighters to carry more fuel for longer escort and patrol missions. Easily installed and removed, they were a quick solution for the burgeoning Luftwaffe’s fighter and dive bomber fleets, which would prove to be instrumental in the opening months of WWII.

By the onset of WWII, air forces with both the Axis and Allies were experimenting with the use of drop tanks in regular combat operations. In the European theater, British and German pilots stuck to using their drop tanks as range-extenders. American fighter pilots changed the game.

 

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus
A P-47 Thunderbolt with a drop tank.

(US Air Force)

Though it wasn’t common practice, P-47 Thunderbolt pilots were noted for their creativity in combat, switching their fuel feed selector to their internal tanks while making a low pass over an enemy position. With relative precision, they would jettison their drop tanks, still filled with a decent amount of fuel, before climbing away.

After releasing their tanks, pilots would swoop back around and line up again with their target. If they timed it right and aimed well, a long burst from their cannons would ignite the fuel left inside the tanks, blowing them up like firebombs.

This didn’t always work, however, especially as paper tanks became popular during the war as a method of conserving metal. So, by the end of the war, American crews in both the European and Pacific theaters had to refine their drop-tank technique.

Instead of pilots peppering the tanks with shells from their cannons, they’d simply fill up the tanks with a volatile mixture of fuel and other ingredients to form rudimentary napalm bombs, which would detonate upon impact.

 

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus
USAF F-51D Mustangs dropping tanks repurposed as napalm bombs during the Korean War

(US Air Force)

By the time the Korean War started, the newly-formed US Air Force had cemented the practice of filling drop tanks with napalm and using them as makeshift bombs for low-level close air support missions. According to Robert Neer in his book, Napalm: An American Biography, British statesman Winston Churchill notably decried the practice of using napalm during the Korean conflict, calling it cruel and noting the increased likelihood of collateral damage and casualties during napalm strikes.

In the Vietnam War, the use of napalm expanded greatly, though factories now began building bombs specifically designed to carry napalm internally. Today, the US military has virtually ceased using napalm as a weapon. Here’s what life is like for US Army Tankers, today.