Here's what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

When an Air Force major called J.J. completed a solo flight in the U-2 in late August 2016 — 60 years after the high-flying aircraft was introduced — he became the 1,000th pilot to do so.

J.J., whose name was withheld by the US Air Force for security reasons, earned his solo patch a few days after pilots No. 998 and No. 999. Those three pilots are in distinguished company, two fellow pilots said.

“We have a pretty small, elite team of folks. We’re between about 60 and 70 active-duty pilots at any given time,” Maj. Matt “Top” Nauman said during an Air Force event at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City.


“We’re about 1,050 [pilots] right now. So to put that in context, there are more people with Super Bowl rings than there are people with U-2 patches,” Nauman added. “It’s a pretty small group of people that we’ve hired over the last 60 to 65 years.”

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

Pilots at Beale Air Force Base go through pre-flight checks on a U-2 during the 2018 Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Air Show, Sept. 29, 2018

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze)

The U-2 pilot cadre has remained small in part because the Air Force has long sought applicants with extensive experience and flight time — six years and 1,200 rated hours — to fly a challenging, single-seat plane up to 13 miles above the Earth, all while snapping reconnaissance images. Pilots from all backgrounds, from fighter to trainer, can apply, as can transfers from the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.

The Air Force also recently introduced a program allowing student pilots to go directly to the U-2 training pipeline, though that program will only send a few fliers to the Dragon Lady.

The mission itself also keeps the ranks trim. “Part of the reason that we cut so many of the applicants is it’s a really difficult plane to fly,” said Nauman, who joined the U-2 program in 2012.

The first phase is an interview at Beale Air Force Base, California where the U-2s are based, meant to assess “self-confidence, professionalism and airmanship” on the ground and during flights in a TU-2, the U-2 training aircraft.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron airmen prepare a U-2 pilot for a mission at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, March 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)

On a 2012 fact sheet about the application process, the Air Force said pilots “selected for an interview generally possess a strong flight evaluation history, strong performance evaluations, and exceed the minimum flight experience requirements.”

“When you do an interview, you actually go out to Beale for two weeks,” Nauman said. “You’ll sit down and talk with the different commanders, the directors of operations, [go] over your flight records, your performance reviews, and just kind of your overall goals. ‘So why do you want to fly the U-2? What is it that brought you here?'”

An applicant who makes it through the interviews in Week 1 moves on to Week 2, “where you actually get to fly the aircraft,” Nauman said.

“For some folks, they may have never seen a U-2 in person, and the first time they actually touch the jet is Day 1 of their interview,” Nauman added. “They’ve read about it. They’ve seen it. They’ve talked to some people they knew, but by Week 2 they actually put in you a two-seater with an instructor and you have to demonstrate the ability to land the aircraft.”

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

A U-2 pilot waits for maintainers and crew chiefs to finish final checks before the scheduled flight time at Beale Air Force Base, California, Oct. 26, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Parsons)

While the U-2 excels at high-altitude reconnaissance missions — its ceiling is above 70,000 feet — taking off and landing are more challenging in the ungainly aircraft, which has a 105-foot wingspan and only two landing gear, under the nose and the tail.

Landing requires a kind of controlled crash in which the pilot descends and slows until the plane stalls, dropping onto the runway — all done with the guidance of fellow pilots racing alongside in cars.

“It’s extremely difficult to land,” Nauman said. “You could YouTube videos of bad U-2 landings all day and see interview sorties that look a little bit sketchy. Understand we have a very wide runway and very experienced acceptance flight instructors, so it is safe despite what you might see.”

Applicants do three acceptance flight sorties, during which they perform flight maneuvers, approaches and landings, and other scenarios, including driving the chase car that assists landing U-2s. After that, a decision is made about whether the applicant will be offered an assignment.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

A U-2 lands at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

If you do the flying portion of the interview but aren’t picked, “we will not interview you again,” the Air Force says. “Basically, you get one shot.”

U-2 flight training includes time in the T-38 trainer and time to get other qualifications pilots may need, before moving on to flying the actual U-2, on which trainees must complete two courses: basic and mission. Those take about three months each.

The whole training program can take nine months to a year. The 1st Reconnaissance Wing, which Maj. J.J. joined in August 2016, has eight classes of three new pilots each year.

The solo flight that made J.J. the 1,000 solo pilot was his seventh in the aircraft but his first without an instructor. That first solo was to be followed by a few more two-person outings, after which he would never again have to fly the U-2 with someone else.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

US Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher greets his ground support crew before a U-2 mission somewhere in Southwest Asia, Nov. 24, 2010.

Trainees adjusting to the technical challenges of the U-2 also have to adapt to the physical strain of operating it.

Cruising at 70,000 feet puts the plane above the Armstrong Line — the point at which the boiling point for liquids, like blood, is equal to the normal human body temperature — and requires pilots to wear a space suit that weighs about 70 pounds. Pilots also have to breathe pure oxygen before flying to rid their system of nitrogen.

The suit can be a physical and psychological stumbling block. Interviewees must sit in it for at least 45 minutes to prove their mettle before moving on.

“So you get suited up. You go out to the aircraft. It’s pretty warm on the ground, so it could be an endurance test at times,” Maj. Travis “Lefty” Patterson, a U-2 pilot, said at the event.

“If you’re delayed in take off, your core temperature is heating up pretty rapidly as you’re sitting in, effectively, a plastic bag with a fishbowl” on your head, Patterson added.

The cabin is also pressurized, Patterson said. Previous generations of U-2 pilots flew at what felt like about 29,000 feet — roughly the height of Mt. Everest. (That altitude, along with the challenges of longer and more complex missions in the 2000s, took a toll on pilots’ health.)

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

A U-2 pilot prepares for takeoff at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Dec. 12, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

In the last decade however, the Air Force has brought the U-2’s cockpit altitude down.

“We’re only sitting at about 15,000 feet — a little higher than you would on a normal airliner,” Patterson added. “We still wear that suit in the event that there’s a malfunction or we have to eject or something like that.”

The pilot is strapped into that suit and flying at that altitude for up to 10 hours or 12 hours. But with their focus on the task at hand, a pilot can forget they’re even wearing the suit, Patterson said.

Upon return, however, pilots still getting used to the Dragon Lady may feel the strain acutely.

“I think after my interview sortie, I came back and [said], ‘Wow, I feel like I just did three days of straight Crossfit,’ just because I didn’t know all the tricks of the trade,” Patterson added.

“A good U-2 pilot will land, and you won’t be able to tell from the outside, but inside it’s almost like you’re flailing around. You’re moving the yoke around. Your feet are moving the rudders. It’s kind of like a full-body workout sometimes.”

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

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Here’s the military medical training that PETA hates

Medics and corpsman can be trained in a variety of ways. They can operate on troops in cut suits, a fake abdomen and torso filled with simulated organs. They can practice on medical dummies. They can even work in hospitals on real civilian patients. But one of the most realistic training programs for medics is the most controversial, operating on live animals intentionally injured for training.


PETA has been fighting against this training practice for years. The program is referred to by a few names with “live tissue training” being one of the most popular. In live tissue trauma training, or LTTT, animals are given surgical levels of anesthesia before an instructor inflicts trauma on them — everything from broken bones to puncture wounds. In the most intense classes, the animals may be shot or burned.

The medic or corpsman then has to save the animal’s life. As they do so, the instructor can continue injuring the “patient,” forcing the student to continuously decide what to treat first and how to save the animal. LTTT can go on for hours while the animal sleeps.

Then, when the training is complete, the animal is euthanized without ever re-gaining consciousness.

Live tissue training has been restricted for many training programs and legislation has been re-introduced to halt LTTT within the next five years. PETA and others who protest the training method point to the cruelty of killing and injuring animals for the purposes of training.

But, with the staunch support of prominent Army doctors like then-Surgeon General of the Army Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock, the use of animals in trauma training has continued.

The program has plenty of advocates in Special operations. Jim Hanson, a former Special Forces soldier, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Times in 2010 supporting the practice by saying it is the only training that provides “the visceral reaction each medic must face when a life is in danger.”

Glen Doherty, a former Navy SEAL who was killed in the Benghazi, Libya attack in 2012, once wrote an opinion piece supporting animal training that said, “You can simulate performing a surgical crycothyrotomy on a mannequin a dozen times, but until you’ve cut through living tissue on a creature whose life is depending on your timely and successful procedure to survive, you’ve never really done it.”

In this video, medics operate on a goat while training on surgical procedures. Surgical live tissue training has been discontinued, and monkeys were no longer used for chemical casualty management training starting in 2012. In 2017, it was announced that LTTT would be drastically scaled back in favor of more humane methods.

 

NOW: Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s most elite operators

MIGHTY CULTURE

The luckiest duty stations worldwide

Luck has quite a diverse meaning within the military community. It’s sarcastically used to laugh at impossible situations, it can take years to ponder why it was on your side that day or is just used to define coveted situations or duty stations a few of us fall into. With Saint Patrick’s Day fast approaching, we’re looking at some of the luckiest duty stations worldwide through the many different definitions of the word.


Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

Lucky to be a part of such a prestigious assignment

U.S. Army Garrison Benelux-Brussels-Schinnen is one post where you’ll feel you have a finger on the pulse of the world. That’s because NATO headquarters, located less than ten minutes away, is there. Special status cards, ID’s and privileges may apply to service members and their families depending upon the assignment. With Brussels being the administrative center for the European Union, it can be an exhilarating and fast-paced atmosphere.

The city boasts 14th-century architecture, and the opportunity to rub elbows with top business and government figures of today. As such a unique experience both culturally, and as an assignment within the military, lucky is exactly the feeling you’ll have if stationed here.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

Lucky to experience such a remote location

U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll‘s location requires several zooms in if you’re searching on Google Maps. Home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, turquoise waters, and coral reefs for miles. With its ultra remote location, the cultural history of The Marshall Islands is something you’ll remember experiencing forever.

Ancient skills like “wave piloting” have been studied by anthropologists for some time now and are stories or skills families can see firsthand. Remote island life happiness hinges on acclimation. It’s important to remember you won’t be marooned forever and begin to embrace as much sailing, snorkeling or scuba diving as humanly possible between shifts.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

Lucky to stand on such historic ground

Hawaii tops many duty station lists for its beautiful location, but an assignment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is much more than a vacation. It’s the chance to stand at the center of one of history’s most iconic moments in time.

With the Pearl Harbor National Memorial essentially in your back yard, it’s time to take that deep dive into the pages of history. Those assigned here should feel lucky to inherit the legacy of this location and do their best to carry on the stories of those forever immortalized in her waters.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

Lucky to live in a vacation destination

The Naval Air Station Pensacola is located along the pristine shorelines of the Florida panhandle, a year-round tourist destination. What caught our eye was the opportunity to not just live in a beach town but living oceanfront is made possible via affordable condo living. Who needs a gym membership when your daily swim can be in the Gulf of Mexico?

Another appealing feature of an assignment here is the potential to dive into the military landlord market. Rental opportunities are expanded to include vacation renters in addition to the military crowd.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

Lucky to have a “home base” to experience Asia from

Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni is located on the main island of Japan, near the Yamaguchi Prefecture. If you’d have trouble pinpointing that on a map, you’re not alone. Cities like Hiroshima, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Seoul are all major metros within the geographic area. Flying from the United States to Asia is not cheap, making travel either costly, lengthy (to get it all done in one trip) or both. Being stationed halfway across the world has a major travel perk. What used to be a 12-hour plane ride is now two. Becoming conversationally fluent in the many Asian languages is also much easier while you’re completely immersed within it. We’re confident you’ll feel lucky to have such a unique and culturally rich experience in your life.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This awesome anti-tank missile is getting mounted on drones

You ever imagine the guts it takes to be an infantryman trying to kill a tank? Sure, we develop a new missile to make the job easier every few decades, but that still leaves a dude in 35 pounds of body armor going up against a 41-ton tank. And the infantryman often has to get within 2.5 miles of a tank that can kill him from 5.5 miles away. Luckily, Raytheon has a new plan for that.


Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

(Raytheon)

Unsurprisingly, that plan includes buying lots of Raytheon’s Javelin missiles. But if you can forgive us some enthusiasm, we’re willing to give them a pass if it means America is getting remote-controlled tank killers.

Basically, Raytheon put its missile into a Kongsberg remote launcher and mounted that on the Titan unmanned ground vehicle. The advantage would be clear. Infantrymen who need to kill a tank would no longer need to expose themselves to enemy fire.

Instead, they can send out the Titan, line up on the tank, and fire the missile. And since it’s a Javelin, they don’t even need line of sight on the enemy to kill the tank. Javelins, as the name implies, can fire up into the sky and then dive back down onto their target.

And the Javelin is “fire-and-forget.” So once the missile is launched, the firer can start re-positioning the drone. And if the tank or another enemy combatant manages to get a shot at the drone before it gets hidden away again, that’s still way better than the current situation where that counter fire would hit a U.S. Marine or soldier.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The word ‘deadline’ has a horrible origin in Civil War prisons

Have you got a project due that you should be working on? A paper, a PowerPoint presentation, a briefing to the commander? If so, you are probably on a deadline. But missing a deadline in our modern world is typically just a problem of professional conduct, or maybe they’ll be some sort of financial penalty. But for Civil War prisoners, it was a matter of life and death.


Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

Anderson prisoner of war tents run right up to the deadline demarked by the low fencing. Prisoners who crossed this line could be shot by prison guards.

(Library of Congress)

That’s because the original deadlines existed in Civil War prisons, most famously at Camp Sumter, the prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia. Most Civil War prisons weren’t like Alcatraz Island, where prison cells and buildings were used to keep prisoners confined. Instead, officers would build rough wooden fences 10-20 feet high to contain the prisoners.

But, of course, a healthy man can typically climb a 10-foot fence. And, working as teams, troops could fairly easily clamber over 20-foot fences as well. So prison commanders built positions for sentries to watch the prisoner population, and the sentries typically had orders to kill any man attempting to escape.

Well, to ensure that the sentry would have time to shoot a man or raise the alarm before the prisoner got away, the camps put in something called a “deadline.” This was a line, usually literally made on the ground with fencing or some type of marking, that prisoners would be killed for crossing.

In the case of Andersonville, the line was marked with low fencing and sat up to 19 feet from the tall wooden walls of the prison. If a prisoner even reached over this wall, guards were allowed to shoot him. And the guards were well positioned to do so. The prison incorporated “pigeon roosts” every 90 feet along the wall. These were guard posts that sat above the wall and gave the guards great lines of sight to fire onto the deadline.

If the prisoners ever attempted to rush the line en masse, the guards could drop back to a series of small artillery positions around the fort and blow the Union prisoners apart. These artillery positions also served to protect the prison from outside attack.

The bulk of the nation found out about this deadline in the trial of Confederate officer Henry Wirz, the commander of Fort Sumter. Because of overcrowding and a massive shortage of supplies at Andersonville and Fort Sumter, Union prisoner deaths there numbered approximately 13,000, and an angry Union public wanted justice.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

A reconstruction of the wall at Fort Sumter at Andersonville, Georgia. The low fencing near the wall was the dead line.

(Bubba73 CC BY-SA 3.0)

During the prosecution of Wirz, the deadline around the camp was described and reported across the nation, and it helped to seal Wirz fate even though the practice occurred in other places. Wirz was sentenced to death and executed on October 31, 1865.

It was in the 1920s that the word morphed into its current usage, becoming “deadline” and describing a looming time or date by which something must be completed.

So, yeah, deadlines in the Civil War meant a lot more than they do today. The term has been watered down to mean something completely different.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 10 worst Air Forces in the world

When it comes to things like air superiority, if you don’t have to think about it, you’re probably winning. The ground pounders in the Armed Forces of the United States have it pretty good in that regard. They can be reasonably sure that if they’re going into a combat situation, death will likely not be coming from above.


The Army and Marine Corps know they can count on airmen to have the best food and the worst PT tests, but as long as those airmen can lift bombs and bullets onto aircraft and get the stuff to the fight, everyone is blessed from on high. Everyone allied with the United States, that is.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane
#blessed.

But what happens to ground troops who can’t depend on US airpower to ensure “death from above” isn’t the last thing they hear? There are countries whose armed forces have to deal with things like that. Some countries go to war and send in ground forces without really thinking about an air force. If air power isn’t a priority, going to war in the 21st century is a terrible idea.

We’re not here to make fun of countries who don’t have an air force, especially if they aren’t going around rattling sabers all the time. You never hear about Costa Rica wanting to invade Belize for their strategic scuba gear caches. No, Costa Rica is too busy getting rich from Americans on yoga trips to worry about things like war. Meanwhile, Iran is constantly talking smack to Israel while rolling around in F-14 Tomcats that Israel can see from the the runways where their F-35s take off.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane
Iran: 30+ years of Top Gun references. You know they love it.

But just because something is a little old doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its uses. If it works and the country can maintain its effectiveness, then why get rid of it? If a country has antiquated equipment but is still rocking it after all these years, we won’t take points off. Some things are just timeless.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane
You magnificent, old bastard.

The reason a country’s air force makes the list is because they’re patched together with bubble gum and wishes and expected to fight a war with awful training, no funding, and little regard from the government for the lives of the people expected to keep their terrible air forces flying.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet gives a shrug as it parks on the flight line at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Chase Cannon)

10. Canada

It’s still hard to see such a stalwart U.S. ally make the list, but here we are. In our last rundown of the world’s airborne worst, Canada was the least worst of those listed. Last time, we specifically mentioned how terrible the state of Canada’s Ch-124 Sea King fleet was. Just to get them airborne required something like 100 hours apiece.

Replacing them was just as laborious; it took more than 20 years of political wrangling to get to a point where they could first fly its replacement, the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone. But the helicopter fun doesn’t stop there. The bulk of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s helicopter fleet is flying the Bell CH-146 Griffon, a bird known to cause constant, debilitating neck pain in most of the pilots who fly it.

Canada never learned from its own cautionary tale – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed the F/A-18 Super Hornet for Canada’s next-gen Strike Fighter to replace the aging CF-18s ordered by his father in the 1970s while the rest of its Western Allies are upgrading to the F-35.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

Can you see this stealth fighter? So can everyone else’s radar.

9. China

Yeah, I know most of you are calling bullsh*t immediately, but hear me out. For all its talk, China isn’t currently capable of global reach, and isn’t expected to be until 2030. It has a relatively small number of early-warning aircraft and aerial tankers. Most of its aerial fleet are licenses or rip-offs of other, better fighting systems. And the vaunted Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighter was rushed into production with a less-than-adequate engine, which negates any stealth capabilities it has and weakens its performance as a fifth-gen fighter.

That’s a pretty embarrassing misstep for an air force that wants to strike fear in the hearts of the world’s second-largest air force: the U.S. Navy.

More than that, when was the last time China did anything with its air force other than attempt to intimidate weaker neighbors in the South China Sea? Historically, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has a tendency to get in way over its head. It wasn’t a real factor in the Chinese wars with India and Vietnam (though you’d think an air force in the 20th century would be), but where it was a factor – the Korean War, the Taiwan Strait Crises, and the U.S.-Vietnam War – a lack of any air combat doctrine and investment in air power led to heavy losses and big lessons for the PLAAF.

It wasn’t until after the Gulf War of 1991 that Chinese leaders decided to really give air power another shot, both in terms of technology and investment. China still has a long way to go.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

Greece, full of historical artifacts – like its air force.

8. Greece

There are a lot of training accidents in the Hellenic Air Force. After a Greek Mirage 2000 crashed into the Aegean Sea April 2018, a look back at the incidents reported to Greek officials found 125 people died in 81 crashes between 1990 and 2018. Two of those were Greek fighter pilots trying to intercept Turkish jets.

Since the Greek government debt crisis, the Greek military has to be incredibly cautious with the money it spends. Every time a Greek fighter has to scramble to intercept a Turkish fighter in their airspace, it bleeds Greece of Euros better spent elsewhere. That might be why Turkey does it more than a thousand times every year – and there’s nothing the Greeks can do about it except go up and meet them with antiquated equipment due to the steep budget cuts demanded by Greece’s creditors.

Turkey will soon be flying F-35s like most NATO allies, while Greece (also a NATO ally, but Turkey doesn’t care) will be “intercepting” them with F-16s at best, and maybe an F-4 Phantom at worst.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani not sitting in a museum piece, but an actual Iranian Air Force F5F fighter, first build in the 60s and still used in Iran.

(FARS News Agency)

7. Iran

The F-14s flown by Iran these days were first introduced under President Richard Nixon. Don’t get me wrong, Iran’s air force should be given props (see what I did there?) for keeping the aging fleet airborne. Iran’s F-14s were purchased by the Shah or Iran and, when he was overthrown, the U.S. wasn’t exactly keen on providing spare parts to the Islamic Republic. They were able to kick ass against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi air force in the Iran-Iraq War, but that was then and this is now.

Those things are held together with duct tape and wishes by now, with only seven operational Iranian Air Force F-14s. The Islamic Republic now has to use homegrown technology to replace certain avionics systems and weapons on its aging aircraft, even going to far as to claim an old American F-5F was an Iranian-built fourth-gen fighter in 2018 because it had a lot of Iranian-built components.

In fact, Iran is just using F-5s as a blueprint to Frankenstein “new” fighters from its old garbage – most of which is leftover from the Shah or was captured from the Iraqis. Even the IRIAF’s ejection seats can’t save its pilots.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

This Ukrainian Su-25 isn’t landing… at least, not on purpose.

(The Aviationist)

6. Ukraine

Ukraine has a definite Russia problem. Not content to simply let his divorce with Ukraine happen, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is out to give Ukraine headaches wherever possible and Ukraine can do little about it. Russia-backed separatists operate with near-impunity in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region and, when the Ukrainian Air Force is able to act, they often either kill civilians or get shot down on the way.

Its aircraft go down without enemy help, as seen in the 2018 Su-27 crash in Western Ukraine that killed Lt. Col. Seth ‘Jethro’ Nehring of the California Air National Guard. The Flanker went down as the pilot was familiarizing the American with its capabilities. In fact, other Su-27s have crashed, including one at an air show that killed 83 people. The National Interest said these crashes are either a result of poor maintenance, poor training, and/or daredevil flying. The truth is probably a combination of the three.

To top it all off, Ukraine’s air force is so old it was mostly handed down from the Soviet Union after the fall of Communism in the east. The old airframes are no match for the advanced surface-to-air missile being fired at them from the separatists. When Russia captured 45 planes from Ukraine’s Su-29 fleet in annexing Crimea, they probably did Ukraine a huge favor.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

PAF: Caveat emptor.

5. Pakistan

On any global list of sh*t-talkers, Pakistan has historically rated very high, especially toward its longtime arch-nemesis, India (although new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seems more conciliatory). The Pakistanis see India as an existential threat, and are not likely to stop anytime soon.

So, after fighting four pitched wars against India and losing all of them, prioritizing air power would seem to be the way forward if Pakistan was still going to rattle the saber every so often. RAND Corporation studies still declare that the Indian Air Force would have air supremacy in any war against Pakistan. Only very recently has Pakistan decided it would be best to upgrade their fighter aircraft. So, in a joint venture with China, they created a bargain-basement version of the F-16, the JF-17 Thunder, which now makes up the bulk of the PAF.

To give you an idea of how (in)effective the Thunder is, China doesn’t fly it. Neither does anyone else. Immediately dubbed the “Junk Fighter-17 Blunder,” the aircraft is dangerous to fly at lower speeds, it can’t fly as fast as older Pakistani airframes (and certainly not as fast as India’s fighters), and it can’t use similar avionics and munitions as its other fighters, which was one of the missions in creating the fighter in the first place. If all they wanted to do was replace their old fleet, then mission accomplished. If they wanted to beat India in an air war, well, it doesn’t look good, but it remains to be tested.

Aside from the JF-17, the PAF lags behind India in terms of both numbers of combat aircraft and the actual serviceable aircraft fielded at any given moment. It also lags behind its rival in terms of training and ability. Even when facing superior Pakistani firepower, skilled Indian pilots still manage to best the Pakistanis.

It’s a good thing the two countries face a nuclear detente.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

4. Mexico

Mexico has been fighting a war against the cartels for over a decade now, and all it got them was an increase in violence that made them the “Syria of North America.” In all that time, not only did the Mexican government decide not to invest in its air forces, it actively allowed all of its fighter aircraft to retire. Mexico has zero fighters.

While fighter aircraft aren’t necessary as a deterrent for aggressive neighbors, the cartels the country is actively fighting regularly uses aircraft to violate Mexican airspace and move illegal substances that fund the ongoing fight against the Mexican government and rival cartels. The aircraft the FAM does fly cannot fly high or fast enough to intercept aircraft used by drug smugglers and their leadership.

The Mexican Air Force has gone full Afghanistan with its fleet, focusing on drones, light attack aircraft, and troop transports. This is particularly bothersome to its northern neighbors, especially the United States, who considers the defense of the hemisphere a multilateral issue. Without Mexican air power, the U.S. may have a soft underbelly. Moreover, the Mexican Air Force is not a separate entity from the Army and the Air Force commander is tucked away in some headquarters building somewhere, giving air power guidance to no one.

As far as external threats go, an Army War College study says that the Mexican Armed Forces, including the Air Force, are incapable of defending Mexico from an external threat.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

The Royal Saudi Air Force: Missing more targets before 9am than most air forces do all day.

3. Saudi Arabia

Despite being at war in Afghanistan for over 17 years, the one thing the United States can be sure of is the superiority of its Air Force. In a prolonged conflict, a good Air Force positions its resources so that it has positive control over that battlespace. When Saudi Arabia fights a prolonged war, not so much. Welcome to 2019, where the Saudi-lead coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen is about ready to begin another year of abject failure.

Not only has the Saudi coalition turned Yemen into an ongoing humanitarian crisis, no amount of foreign training is making the situation any better. Moreover, it’s just making the United States look bad. The U.S. Congress may soon vote over whether or not American participation in the conflict can continue after the Saudis used an American-made bomb to hit a school bus of civilian children in Yemen, killing 40.

That’s not even the first incident of indiscriminate killing of civilians. In October, 2016, Saudi warplanes hit a civilian funeral in an attack that killed 155 Yemenis. The problem with the Royal Saudi Air Force isn’t that their planes are antiquated, the problem is their choice of “military” targets.

Get your sh*t together, Saudi Arabia.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

North Korean MiG, complete with glorious people’s revolutionary crocheted ejection seat cover.

(KCNA)

2. North Korea

Of course North Korea is going to be near the top of the list. The only reason the DPRK is not at the very top is because it’s not actively trying to fight a war right now. Usually Kim Jong-Un is talking some kind of smack about invading the South or nuking America, but, in 2018, he mostly just got praise for not doing all that stuff.

But Kim still holds on to power with use of the North Korean military. While the Korean People’s Army isn’t exactly considered a formidable fighting force, the tactic of holding hundreds of artillery guns to South Korea’s head works for him. Of all the things Kim Jong-Un has done to the South, using his Air Force is not one of them.

The reason for this is probably because his air force is still relatively similar to the ones used by his grandfather Kim Il-Sung and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army against UN forces in the last full-scale war fought on the Korean Peninsula – the 1950-1953 Korean War. As a result, the North Korean air force is widely acknowledged as the least threatening arm of the North Korean military.

I imagine that the purpose of the North Korean Air Force is to take the brunt of any initial counterattack from U.S. and allied air forces in the event of a war. Sure, it’s a large air force, but it won’t last long in a war.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

Syrian MiGs doing what they do best.

1. Syria

It’s a really good thing the Syrians are being backed up in the air by Russians because, if they didn’t, the Syrian Civil War would last a lot longer than it already has. Almost every other power present in the region violates Syrian sovereignty on a near-daily basis. Israel, Turkey, and even Denmark have entered Syrian airspace, with Israel and Turkey both scoring air-to-air kills against Syrian Sukhoi fighters old enough to have fought against the U.S. in Vietnam.

It’s also not great to be an airman in the Syrian Air Force. Besides getting shot down by everyone (including a U.S. F/A-18 Super Hornet), Syrian fighter pilots face advanced surface-to-air missiles their airframes are not prepared to evade, they accidentally veer into neighboring countries (even getting shot down in Israeli airspace), and were the first target of President Trump’s retaliatory strike for the Syrian military’s use of chemical weapons.

Within 16 months of the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, a Syrian Air Force pilot flew his MiG-21 to Jordan, where he defected. The only surprise is that there aren’t more SAF defectors – as of 2015, Syrian pilots have spent as many as 100 days behind the sticks of their aircraft. At one point, security in Syria’s air force was so bad, they had to move their fighters within Iran’s borders so they wouldn’t be targets for other, better air forces.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This insanely talented sniper was known as ‘The White Death’

Considered the deadliest sniper of all time, Simo Hayha joined Finland’s Civil Guard at the age of 17 and quickly established himself as an excellent marksman. It was here that he honed his skills with the Mosin-Nagant, developing a talent that the Soviets would soon come to fear.


Hayha regularly practiced his warfighting craft by accurately firing his bolt-action rifle 16 times per minute at a target 500-feet away — which is a challenging task.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

In 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland in what would become known as the “Winter War,” or the Russo-Finnish War.

Although the Finns were highly outnumbered, they had the home-field advantage and turned to guerrilla-style fighting to defend their territory from the encroaching Red Army.

In the beginning, Hayha found himself fighting against an enemy force of 4,000 with just 31 other men at his side.

Related video: 5 of the most badass snipers of all time – Featuring John Cena

On Dec. 31, 1939, Hayha scored 25 kill shots while dressed in all white to perfectly camouflage himself among the snow-covered terrain. The talented marksman would stalk his targets in freezing temperatures for several hours. Using the surrounding snow, Hayha packed himself deep within the frozen ground to decrease his chances of being noticed.

Hayha preferred using iron sights instead of optic scopes as other snipers had grown to favor. Although it was harder to get a fix on a target, using iron sights helped him avoid detection from light reflected off the scope.

As Hayha tallied up his kills, he was given a nickname that would write him into the history books — “The White Death.”

He tallied 505 kills, the highest count from any significant war. All of the kills were accomplished in fewer than 100 days — meaning he averaging over five per day. Hayha ended up getting wounded in the war; shot by an explosive bullet which nearly took off his lower left jaw.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

He survived the wound and continued to live a long life. Hayha passed away in a veteran’s nursing home in 2002 at the age of 96.

Check out Simple History’s video below to learn more about this talented sniper’s record-setting life.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 times your troops let you down outside of combat

Ask anyone who plays a team sport and they’ll tell you it’s impossible to win every game. Even professional athletes don’t perform as well as you’d hope each time they step foot on the field. It’s the same with enlisted troops. In a perfect world, every single troop would show up, try their best, and complete tasks with a ten-star rating. Unfortunately, such a world doesn’t exist.


Instead, the real world is filled with flawed human beings who, no matter how much training they receive, are bound to f*ck up from time to time.

It happens.

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We’re betting he can’t see very well.

When troops look like a ‘soup sandwich’ in uniform

Having a spec of dirt on your tie or a slightly lopsided ribbon rack is one thing, but forgetting how to wear a uniform altogether is another story.

When you get a call at 0300 informing you that one of your troops got a DUI

We’ve heard stories of some leadership informing local authorities to not call them until right before formation if one of their troops is in trouble. True story.

When they ask a dumb question during a Q&A with the battalion commander

Every unit has “that guy.” You know, the one who doesn’t have a working brain or, worse, a working filter? For some reason, they always ask the dumbest questions. We’ve got scientists working around the clock to figure out why.

When troops fall out of PT

On the flip side, this one makes everyone else look great — except leadership.

When the short-timer shows up wearing the wrong uniform

It happens. And while seeing a trooper show up wearing the wrong uniform is a little funny, it also shows everybody that there might be a communication breakdown somewhere.

When they fall out of a hike

A troop falling out is embarrassing for the entire unit, especially when its done in a public setting, like a company hike.

When they cut unnecessary corners

The military prides itself on producing solid work and getting the job done right. So, when a troop gets lazy and decides to cut corners, the final product probably won’t be worth sh*t. Don’t get us wrong, we all enjoy shortcuts, but there’s a time and a place for that.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

(Photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)

When they break something very expensive

​This should be pretty obvious because their seniors are going to have to explain why a troop even had the expensive equipment at their disposal in the first place.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is Russia’s flying ‘tank killer’

During the last years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was debuting two aircraft intended to hit ground targets on a tactical level. The Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot was one of these planes, the Soviet (and later, Russian) answer to the A-10. The other plane was the MiG-27 Flogger, which had some tank-killing power in its own right.

How could the MiG-27, a modification of the MiG-23 Flogger (which was designed to fight other fighters) be such an effective option against tanks? Well, one answer is in the gun — and as the A-10 has demonstrated, the right gun can do a hell of a lot of damage to armor on the ground.


The United States chose the GAU-8 as its tank-killer, pairing it with 1,174 30mm rounds to deliver that sweet, iconic BRRRT. Russia, on the other hand, opted for the GSh-6-30. According to RussianAmmo.org, this gun fires a staggering 5,000 rounds per minute. The only problem here is that the MiG-27 Flogger could only carry 260 rounds for this gun — which is enough for all of three seconds of firing time.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

The GSh-6-30 cannon is the heart of the MiG-27 Flogger.

(Photo by VargaA)

The Flogger didn’t just have a gun, though. The World Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament notes that MiG-27 Flogger also could carry missiles, like the AS-7 Kerry and the AS-14 Kedge, for attacking ground targets. This platform could also haul up to a dozen 250-kilogram bombs, six 500-kilogram bombs, or four UB-32-57 rocket pods. The rocket pods were particularly lethal — each pod holds 32 S-5 rockets, armed with one of nine warheads, one of which was an extremely potent anti-tank option.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

A MiG-27 taking off.

(Photo by Rob Schleiffert)

The MiG-27 has retired from the service of Russia and former Soviet republics. India, however, still has this plane in service and there are a dozen more in Kazakh service.

Learn more about this lethal Russian attack plane that could kill tanks in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXUp71rd5q4

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

We still don’t know how many Raptors were damaged in hurricane

The U.S. Air Force is not ready to say just how many F-22 Raptors left behind at Tyndall Air Force Base sit damaged or crippled following Hurricane Michael’s catastrophic incursion on the Florida installation.

A service spokeswoman told Military.com on Oct. 15, 2018, that officials are still assessing the damage and cannot comment on the issue until the evaluation is complete.

Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright were briefed by base officials as they toured Tyndall facilities on Oct. 14, 2018. The leaders concurred there was severe damage, but were hopeful that air operations on base may one day resume.


“Our maintenance professionals will do a detailed assessment of the F-22 Raptors and other aircraft before we can say with certainty that damaged aircraft can be repaired and sent back into the skies,” the service leaders said in a joint statement. “However, damage was less than we feared and preliminary indications are promising.”

Officials have yet to describe what kind of maintenance was taking place on the stealth jets that led officials to leave them at Tyndall instead of moving them to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where the other F-22s from the 325th Fighter Wing were evacuated to.

It is rumored that anywhere from seven to 17 aircraft may have been damaged by the Category 4 storm. Photos of F-22s left behind in shredded hangars that have surfaced on social media have some in the aviation community theorizing that a significant chunk of the F-22 fleet — roughly 10 percent — may be left stagnant for good.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

John W. Henderson, left, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, right, look at the aftermath left from Hurricane Michael from a CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron above northwest Florida, Oct. 14, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Joseph Pick)

The Air Force has not confirmed any of these numbers.

In the meantime, the unspecified number of F-22s that were able to escape the storm to Wright-Patterson have now been moved to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, Air Combat Command said Oct. 15, 2018. Officials have not said how long the aircraft will remain there.

Experts say this is a perfect argument for why the Air Force should have invested more heavily in its greatest “insurance policy” in an air-to-air fight.

“This storm shows they should have purchased more,” Richard Aboulafia, vice president and analyst at the Teal Group, told Military.com in a phone call Oct. 15, 2018. “If history ever does resume, and a near-peer fight is in our future, you need to keep the skies clean.”

While some aircraft have been moved out of active status for testing purposes, the Air Force has 183 of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made F-22s in its inventory today. More than 160 belong to active-duty units; the remainder are with Air National Guard elements. Four aircraft were lost or severely damaged between 2004 and 2012.

Production was cut short in 2009, with original plans to buy 381 fighters scaled down to a buy of just 187.

As with any small fleet, the limited number of F-22s has presented its own challenges over the years.

According to Defense News’ fiscal 2017 statistics, F-22s had a 49.01 percent mission-capable rate, meaning less than half were flyable at any given time. In 2014, more than three-quarters of F-22s were deemed mission capable.

The Pentagon wants to increase readiness rates for the F-22, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35 Lightning II and F/A-18 Hornet to 80 percent by September 2019 — a 31 percent bump for the Raptor alone.

In July 2018, the Government Accountability Office found that the F-22 is frequently underutilized, mainly due to maintenance challenges and fewer opportunities for pilot training, as well as the fleet’s inefficient organizational structure.

But the recent misfortune does not mean the F-22 is no longer valuable. In fact, it may be the opposite, experts say.

So far, the U.S. has not seen what the F-22 is truly capable of, one defense analyst told Military.com on Oct. 15, 2018. It remains, like intercontinental ballistic missiles, a capability for assurance and deterrence. And that’s reason enough for it to be prized for any fleet.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

Airmen build shelters at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 15, 2018, during reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

“Remember the example of the B-36 [Peacemaker], the bomber that was supposed to be so intimidating, no one would mess with us,” said the Washington, D.C.-based defense analyst, referencing the Air Force’s largest wing spanned strategic bomber with intercontinental range, used between 1948 to 1959.

“It was solely intended for strategic conflict, and so never flew an operational mission. Was that a success? Was it worth its money? The same kind of question can apply to the ICBM fleet,” the defense analyst, who spoke on background, said.

The analyst continued, “F-22 has yet to be in the fight it was designed for. So there’s no way to say if it’s a good value or not. You certainly don’t need it to blow up drug labs….[But] you don’t ever want to use them” for what they’re intended because that means you’re in a high-scale war.

“Until such time that it gets to perform its intended function, value is hard to evaluate. [But] that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad investment,” the analyst added.

Aboulafia agreed, but added now that there may be even fewer Raptors, the clock is ticking down for the next best thing. And it may not be the Pentagon’s other fifth-generation fighter, the F-35.

“I would tell the Air Force to…cut back on F-35 [Joint Strike Fighter] purchases and move forward with [Next-Generation Air Dominance],” Aboulafia said.

The service in 2016 debuted its Air Superiority 2030 roadmap, which includes the sustainment of old fighters and new jets such as the F-22 and F-35, but also outlines next-gen air dominance, defined as the use of advanced fighter aircraft, sensors or weapons — or all of the above — in a growing and unpredictable threat environment.

Officials say the Air Force’s next-generation platform may defy traditional categorization, with service leaders opting for a “family of systems” approach, but the aviation community remains eager for news of an advanced fighter.

“Either an all-new air vehicle or a hybrid,” Aboulafia said of what he’d expect from a potential sixth-generation fighter.

His reasoning? Because the F-35 may not be able to step up to the F-22’s designated role.

“The F-35 is great for situational awareness, great for ground attack. Is it the best for air-to-air [combat]? Far from it,” Aboulafia said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the best meme pages for each branch

It’s hard to pin down when, exactly, memes got their start. Some say they began with the original rage comics, others say the very first were painted on cave walls. Regardless, the beautiful internet memes of today allow anyone, anywhere to be a comedian. They give people a setup and a punchline — all you’ve got to do is change the text (and maybe photoshop a face on there).

When 2011 rolled around and the popularity of Facebook grew like the boot population at the off-base strip club, meme pages started cropping up, watermarks started getting slapped on, and entire brands have been built on shoddy internet graphics. Over time, people from the different branches of the U.S. Armed Forces started making memes to share their own experiences — and thus, the military meme page was born.

Initially, these pages were run by active-duty service members who were disgruntled about working conditions, but have since become mostly veteran-operated pages. If you thought the inter-service branch rivalries were rough, just wait until you take a look at the fight for the title of best military memes page.

Here’s the best each branch has to offer:


Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

(Air Force Memes)

Air Force — Air Force Nation & Humor

The Air Force may not be the toughest, but they’ve certainly got brains — and that’s an essential asset in the world of memes. For memes of premium quality, check out Air Force Nation Humor.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

(The Salty Soldier)

Army — The Salty Soldier

The Army has some of the best memes on the internet right now and this is one that is relevant across the board, in all branches.

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(Pop Smoke)

Marine Corps — Pop Smoke

There are plenty of great meme pages run by Marine Corps veterans, but Pop Smoke has, bar far, the best content. One of the best things about Pop Smoke is that the page’s main admin makes memes out of his own personal photos and doesn’t keep his identity a secret.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

(Decelerate Your Life)

Navy — Decelerate Your Life

A lot of the best memes on Decelerate Your Life are actually about the Coast Guard, but here’s one that’ll make you laugh — especially if you’ve been on a float before.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

(Coast Guard)

Coast Guard — Coast Guard Memes

If you didn’t think the Coast Guard itself was enough of a meme, this page just gives everyone more to laugh about.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The hilarious real reason why the F-22 can’t be hacked

Star Trek would be a lot less interesting if we found out the Enterprise didn’t run on an advanced isolinear computing system but instead ran on something like MS-DOS. We might laugh at how incredulous that work of science fiction would be. But in today’s U.S. Air Force, the F-22 – one of the most advanced fighters ever made – runs on a similar disparity.

But of course, the Air Force will remind you that it isn’t science fiction, it’s what they do every day.


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Every. Day.

The F-22 program was killed at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in an effort to reshape the U.S. military. The F-22 was designed as an air superiority fighter to take on advance fighters from China and Russia in air combat, not support troops on the ground. At the time, American troops were focused on insurgencies and ground combat. Until the terrorists started flying F-14s, there was little perceived need for such a fighter. Now that the U.S. military is refocused on great power wars, the need for such a program is becoming more apparent.

The F-22 is the fastest combat aircraft in the U.S. Air Force, even after the development of the F-35. It can detect and attack enemy aircraft from miles away, even if the enemy isn’t yet able to detect the incoming Raptor. In one instance, a Raptor was able to pop up from underneath two Iranian F-4 Phantoms and tell them to go home, which they promptly did, presumably to change their shorts.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

It wasn’t like this, but it could have been.

Just the presence of a Raptor in a battlespace is enough to clear the skies of enemy aircraft. In a great power war with a country like China, the Raptor would be an indispensable part of the Air Force order of battle. Raptors will quickly disperse in order to keep China from targeting them with ballistic missiles. Their stealth and air combat abilities would then be used to escort C-17s and frustrate Chinese fighters, as well as any Chinese efforts to jam their communications. That’s due in large part to the pilots’ advanced training and the advanced stealth technology aboard the airframe. But the reason Chinese hackers couldn’t hack their computers is something different altogether.

The technology is more than 35 years old.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

Like this, except on one of the world’s most advanced killing machines.

When the billion fighter was cut from the Pentagon budget, there was a lot of joking surrounding the fighter, that the United States had developed a weapon it would never use in combat – after all, until that point the F-22 hadn’t flown a combat mission over either of the two wars the U.S. was actually fighting. Former Navy Secretary John Lehman, found a silver lining, telling the Wall Street Journal that at the very least, the plane’s computer technology was safe from Chinese hackers.

“No one in China knows how to program the ’83 vintage IBM software that runs them,” he said.

Ten years later, the F-22 has definitely flown combat sorties over Syria and the rise of China and Russia, and their fifth-generation fighters, some of the technology stolen from the United States, might have the Pentagon wishing they had more Raptors.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Don’t be a victim of a military romance scam

Are you dating or talking online to someone who says they are a military member? Have they asked you for funds or documents? You might be looking for true love, but chances are good that you are the victim of one of thousands of military romance scams conducted every day.

U.S. military officials have warned those involved in online dating to proceed with caution when corresponding with someone claiming to be a U.S. military member serving in Syria, Afghanistan or elsewhere.


Officials and websites like Military.com receive hundreds of questions or allegations a month from victims who state they got involved in an online relationship with someone who claims to be in the U.S. military but started asking for money for various false service-related needs such as transportation costs; communication fees; or marriage, processing or medical fees.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

(Flickr photo by Mr Seb)

Victims of these online scams often think they are doing a good deed by helping a military member. Instead, they have given their money to a scammer, sometimes losing thousands of dollars, with very low possibility of recovery.

The U.S. has established numerous task forces to deal with this growing epidemic. Unfortunately, the people committing these scams are often overseas — using untraceable email addresses, routing accounts through numerous locations around the world and utilizing pay-per-hour Internet cyber cafes.

Are you being scammed? Here’s how to know.

Military romance scams: what to look for

There are a variety of words and phrases used by scammers to hook unsuspecting men and women into relationships. Here are some examples:

  • They say they are on a “peacekeeping” mission.
  • They say they are looking for an honest woman.
  • They note that their parents, wife or husband is deceased.
  • They say they have a child or children being cared for by a nanny or other guardian.
  • They profess their love almost immediately.
  • They refer to you as “my love,” “my darling” or any other affectionate term almost immediately.
  • They tell you they cannot wait to be with you.
  • They tell you they cannot talk on the phone or via webcam for security reasons.
  • They tell you they are sending you something (money, jewelry) through a diplomat.
  • They claim to be in the U.S. military; however, their English and grammar do not match that of someone born and raised in the United States.

Military romance scams: common questions

Scammers tend to use similar stories to convince men and women that they have a legitimate need. Military.com regularly receives questions about these claims. Here are common answers to those questions:

  • Military members and their loved ones are not charged money so that they can go on leave.
  • No one is required to request leave on behalf of a military member.
  • A general officer will not correspond with you on behalf of military personnel planning to take leave.
  • A general officer will not be a member of an internet dating site.
  • Military members are not charged money or taxes to secure communications or leave.
  • Military members do not need permission to get married.
  • Military members do not have to pay for early retirement.
  • All military personnel have medical insurance for themselves and their immediate family members (spouse and/or children), which pays for their medical costs when treated at health care facilities worldwide. Family and friends do not need to pay their medical expenses.
  • Military aircraft are not used to transport privately owned vehicles.
  • Military financial offices are not used to help military personnel buy or sell items of any kind.
  • Member of the military deployed to combat zones do not need to solicit money from the public to feed or house their troops.
  • Deployed military personnel do not find large sums of money and do not need your help to get that money out of the country.

Military romance scams: how to avoid them

You can avoid being taken for a ride by a military romance scam artist by practicing a few easy habits.

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

(Flickr photo by Saws)

  1. Never send money. Be extremely suspicious if you are asked for money for transportation costs, communication fees or marriage processing and medical fees via Western Union.
  2. Do your research. If you do start an Internet-based relationship with someone, check them out. Research what they are telling you with someone who would know, such as a current or former service member.
  3. Communicate by phone. Be very suspicious if you never get to actually speak with the person on the phone or are told you cannot write or receive letters in the mail. Servicemen and women serving overseas will often have an APO or FPO mailing address. Internet or not, service members always appreciate a letter in the mail.
  4. Fact-check. Many of the negative claims made about the military and the supposed lack of support and services provided to troops overseas are far from reality. Check the facts.
  5. Don’t use a third party. Be very suspicious if you are asked to send money or ship property to a third party or company. Often, the company exists but has no idea or is not a part of the scam.
  6. Watch for African countries. Be very suspicious if the person you are corresponding with wants you to mail anything to an African country. While some U.S. troops are stationed there, they are few and far between. Someone claiming to be in a place where we have few troops is suspect. Many scams originate in Nigeria.
  7. Watch for grammar. Be aware of common spelling, grammatical or language errors in the emails.
  8. Be guarded. Be very suspicious of someone you have never met and who pledges their love at warp speed.

Military romance scams: how to get help

How do you get help if you are the victim of a romance scam or think you have found a scammer posing as a military member?

Unfortunately, if you’ve given money to a scammer, you’re unlikely to get it back since scammers are often located overseas and are untraceable.

You can, however, report it.

You can report the theft to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) (FBI-NW3C Partnership) on its website.

You can also report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the United States in their investigations. Report it online or by phone at 1-877-ID-THEFT.

Finally, report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission on Nigerian Scams by email at spam@uce.gov.

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

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