When the Space Force eventually gets off the ground and troops start making their way toward the stars, they’ll be elevated as people. No, we’re not talking about physical elevation. And no, we’re not talking about the status that comes with being one of the elite few to break the Earth’s atmosphere. We’re talking about elevation on both a spiritual and moral level.
Every astronaut that has been to space shares an experience. From up there, they can look back at this tiny, pale blue speck of space dust, and it’s a life-changing, mind-opening sensation. This isn’t to say that “many” astronauts have this experience — it happens to every single astronaut from all walks of life and from every nation. It’s a feeling that astronauts have reported completely independent of one another.
It’s what they’re calling the “Overview Effect.”
You spend your entire life in one spot on this planet, or maybe you’ve traveled across it — regardless, you’re only ever seeing a small fragment of the whole. It’s only when you can step back (or out, in this case) and truly see the big picture that you can really take it all in.
By looking down at this planet from outer space, astronauts can see everything. Every life born. Every country and its cities. And the collection of glimmering lights on the surface is its entire living population. Photography from space has been around since the 1960s — the famous Blue Marble photo, the very first full-planet photo, was taken on December 7, 1972 — but it doesn’t elicit the same response as seeing it with your own eyes.
It’s been described as being set free from Plato’s Cave. Suddenly, you’re looking at Earthly issues from a galactic perspective — and it changes everything.
Funnily enough, the phenomenon wasn’t been recognized until 1987, when philosopher Frank White put a name to it, calling it the “Overview Effect.” The very first human being in space, Yuri Gagarin, first gave clues to his experiencing of the Overview Effect by saying,
“Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship, I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty and not destroy it.”
It’s also worth noting that he also never said, “I see no God up here.” That’s a myth.
Astronauts come back with a sense of purpose after taking in such an awe-inspiring view. It’s hard for minor problems to bother you, apparently, when you’ve been given a look at the true scale of such problems. They describe it as a form of transcendental meditation when they realize what they’re looking at.
Astronauts who’ve experienced this sensation say it never leaves them, and they’ll remember the feeling until the day they die. Ed Gibson, the science pilot aboard the Skylab 4 once said,
“You see how diminutive your life and concerns are compared to other things in the universe. Your life and concerns are important to you, of course. But you can see that a lot of the things you worry about do not make much difference in an overall sense.”
China’s navy needs Maverick and Goose — and many, many more fighter jocks for its growing carrier force.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy is desperately searching for pilots to fill its carrier air wings as the country pushes to build a formidable carrier fleet.
The PLAN launched its 2019 pilot recruitment program Sept.15, 2018, with “the highlight of this year’s recruitment [being] the selection of future carrier-borne aircraft pilot cadets,” according to the Chinese military, which noted that as China’s armed forces shift from “shore-based” to “carrier-based” abilities, the PLAN intends to develop a pilot recruitment system “with Chinese naval characteristics that can adapt to carrier-borne requirements.”
The language appears to indicate a strategic shift from home defense to power projection on the high seas, thinking consistent with Chinese efforts to build an advanced blue water navy.
The lack of pilots trained for carrier-borne operations and combat has been a problem for China in recent years. “They don’t have a whole lot of pilots. Not a lot of capacity in that area,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained to Business Insider in August 2018.
By the end of 2016, there were only 25 pilots qualified to fly China’s carrier-based fighters, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported Sept. 18, 2018.
A J-15 fighter jet sits on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning.
(Photo by Zhang Lei)
Recruiters will travel across the country to 23 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions to find suitable navy aviators. “Some of the pilot cadets recruited in 2018 will receive the top and most systematic training as carrier-borne aircraft pilots,” a PLAN Pilot Recruitment Office official revealed.
Pilots selected and trained to fly carrier-based aircraft will fly the fourth-generation Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, the heaviest carrier-based fighter jet in operation today and the type of fighter that composes the carrier air wing for China’s only operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
The ongoing recruitment program, according to SCMP, marks the first time the Chinese navy has directly recruited pilots for the J-15, a problematic derivative of a Soviet prototype which has been blamed for several fatal training accidents. In the past, aviators from the navy and air force who were trained to fly other types of aircraft were pulled to fly the J-15.
A J-15 ship-borne helicopter prepares to land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning.
(Photo by Zhang Lei)
“Becoming a naval pilot is the best choice for those who want to become heroes of the sky and the sea,” the Chinese military stressed on Sept. 18, 2018, emphasizing the Chinese military’s interest in developing advanced power projection capabilities.
China is rapidly building an aircraft carrier fleet with one carrier already in service, another undergoing sea trials, and a third in development, but China is still very new to complex carrier operations. Chinese Navy pilots successfully completed their first nighttime takeoffs and landings in May 2018.
“An elite team among the pilots also has carried out night landings, widely considered the riskiest carrier-based action, and have become capable of performing round-the-clock, all-weather operations,” the China Daily reported Sept. 19, 2018.
In addition to a pilot shortage, China still struggles with power and propulsion, aircraft numbers and reliability, carrier launch systems, and a limited experience with carrier operations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
While we tend to think of drones as a very modern addition to the battlefield, the truth is, America’s Defense Department has long been interested in the concept of unmanned aircraft. In fact, for a short window of time in the 1960s, America’s supersonic, high-flying drones were already attempting reconnaissance flights over China.
In May of 1960, the United States was at a crossroads. A CIA pilot named Francis Gary Powers flying America’s classified U-2 Spy Plane had been shot down over the Soviet Union at the start of the month. The ensuing international incident edged the world one step closer toward nuclear Armageddon, and President Dwight Eisenhower made the decision to cease all manned flights into Soviet Airspace as a result. With reconnaissance satellite technology under development but still years away from providing actionable intelligence, Lockheed’s famed Skunkworks set to work on another possibility: unmanned flights over the Soviet Union.
D-21 Drone with additional rocket booster for launch from a B-52H
In October of 1962, legendary engineer Kelly Johnson, whose career included designing both the U-2 Spy Plane and the SR-71 Blackbird, set to work designing what would come to be called the D-21: a long-range, high altitude drone that leaned heavily on technology developed for the SR-71’s predecessor, the A-12.
The requirements Johnson was given by the CIA and U.S. Air Force were nothing short of extreme: the drone had to reach speeds of Mach 3.3–3.5, an operational altitude of 87,000–95,000 feet, and needed a fuel range of 3,000 nautical miles. Any modern-day engineer would tell you that such a project would still be daunting today, but Johnson had made a career out of accomplishing the seemingly impossible — often with little more than a hand ruler and scratch paper for calculations.
His D-21 design could meet all the requirements set out for him, but in order to achieve such high speeds at such high altitudes, he had to use a ramjet engine that couldn’t function until it was already flying high in the sky. As a result, plans were drawn up to deploy the drone from a variant of the A-12, dubbed the M-21 Blackbird.
Just in case you didn’t think the SR-71 could ever look cooler.
With a wingspan of just over 19 feet and a length of nearly 43 feet, the D-21 looked a lot like someone had just hacked the end off of one of the A-12’s wings, making the M-21 a matching aesthetic choice, if nothing else.
The D-21 carried a single high-resolution camera that would snap photos over a pre-programmed flight path. It would then eject the film canisters, which would drift down via parachute and float in water. The plan was to capture these canisters in the air, with Navy ships positioned to retrieve them from the water as a backup. The drone itself would then self-destruct to avoid being captured and reverse-engineered.
The first three test flights of the D-21 from the M-21 Blackbird went smoothly, but on the fourth attempt, the drone experienced an “asymmetric unstart” passing through the bow wake of its M-21 mothership. The two aircraft collided in mid-air at the blistering speed of Mach 3.25. Both pilots managed to eject, but one ultimately drowned before he could be rescued. The decision was made to scrap the M-21 mothership strategy and instead deploy the D-21 from beneath the wings of the B-52H bomber.
Modified D-21 drones on a B-52H Bomber
After a number of failures, Lockheed’s D-21 completed its first successful B-52H-launched flight in June of 1968 and soon, the program moved into operational reconnaissance flights over China.
In all, four D-21s were launched from B-52Hs and sent into Chinese airspace on reconnaissance missions. Two of the drones completed their flights, but either failed to eject their film, or the film was deemed irretrievable. The other two flights were either shot down or simply disappeared shortly after launch.
Despite their failures over China, the D-21 program was significantly ahead of its time. A Mach-3 capable drone with an operational ceiling of 90,000 feet was an unheard of proposition in its day and remains impressive even in this new era of unmanned aerial vehicles.
The program was ultimately canceled on July 15, 1971, with the B-52s converted for use in the program returned to operational service.
Russian media on Jan. 28, 2019, sparked a social-media frenzy after the release of photos that seem to show a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet locked in the crosshairs of a Russian fighter jet.
Online, a source claiming to represent a Russian fighter-jet pilot surfaced with the picture and said two Su-35s tailed and “humiliated” the US jets until a Japanese F-15 surfaced to support the F/A-18s, which the Russians also said were out-maneuvered and embarrassed.
Russian commenters rushed to brand the incident as proof of the “total superiority of the Russian and the total humiliation of the Americans.”
A U.S. Navy F/A-18C in flight.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The same source previously said they beat a US F-22 stealth fighter in a mock dogfight — a fighting scenario that involves close-range turning and maneuvering — in the skies above Syria, but this incident supposedly took place over Russia’s far-east region.
Lt. Cmdr. Joe Hontz, a US European Command spokesman, told Business Insider that US “aircraft and ships routinely interact with Russian units in international airspace and seas, and most interactions are safe and professional.”
“Unless an interaction is unsafe, we will not discuss specific details,” Hontz added.
This suggests that either the encounter happened and was deemed totally safe, or that the encounter did not happen.
The US did have an aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Regan, in Russia’s far-east region and in Japan in late January 2019. Japanese fighter jets regularly train with the US.
Russia’s Su-35 holds several advantages over US F/A-18s in dogfights. But, as Business Insider has extensively reported, dogfighting — the focus of World War II air-to-air combat — has taken on a drastically reduced importance in real combat.
The F-15’s dogfighting abilities more closely match up with the Su-35, but, again, these jets now mainly seek to fight and win medium-range standoffs with guided missiles, rather than participate in dogfights.
Additionally, Russian media has a history of running with tales of military or moral victories in their armed forces that usually end with something for Russians to cheer about at the expense of US, which is usually exposed as incompetent.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Veterans visit their fallen brothers and sisters at cemeteries all around the globe every day. Most people pay their respects by leaving some flowers to decorate the area while others leave a personal touch. Some of the tokens left at gravesites have rich history and deep meaning.
Check out these five ways we’ve paid homage to our fallen.
1. Connection through coins
We’re not talking about command coins, even though leaving one is still respectful. We’re talking about quarters, dimes, and nickels. Each coin has a special meaning attached to them that dates back to WWII.
A penny on a headstone is a message to the fallen’s family that someone visited the grave to pay their respects.
A nickel indicates the grave was visited by another veteran who trained in boot camp with the deceased.
A dime means the veterans served together in some way.
A quarter tells the family that someone visited the site who was near the hero when he or she died.
Actor and Army Veteran Don Knotts’ gravestone. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
2. Placing stones on the headstones
If you’ve haven’t seen “Schindler’s List,” then you need to stream it tonight after you buy a box of tissues (trust me, you’re going to need them). At the very end of the film, you’ll see a powerful moment where “Schindler’s Jews” and the actors who played them in the film place stones on his grave site.
Many Jewish military veterans continue this tradition placing stones on the graves to help keep the dead from haunting the living.
3. Sticking lit cigarettes into the ground
Go to any base, and you’ll see service members “smoking and joking” at designated areas called “smoke pits.” It’s a time where we socialize while puffing on a cigarette or enjoying a lip full of dip.
If the fallen was known for his or her tobacco use, lighting a cigarette for them to smoke is a standard practice.
4. Leaving a small bottle or two of liquor
The majority of service members drink — it’s just what we do when we bond with our military brothers and sisters. So that tradition carries on well after we get out. When we visit one of our fallen comrades at the cemetery, we commonly bring their favorite alcoholic beverage with us and leave it behind.
If we feel like it, we’ll even take a shot with them.
There’s nothing better for veterans than to get together with their military family while visiting a deceased grave site and relive the good times through story. Having a few beers and reminding the group all the funny experiences you had with the fallen can be incredibly therapeutic and bring the group closer together.
What are some unique ways you’ve paid you’re respects? Comment below.
Most people are familiar with the basics: Slap together enough uranium or plutonium and — kaboom! — you have a nuclear blast. But the details of how these complex devices are made, delivered, and controlled can make the difference between keeping the peace and sparking a cataclysm.
It doesn’t help that there’s more than 60 years’ worth of convoluted terminology surrounding the complex policies and politics of nuclear weapons. There are words like isotopes, tritium, and yellowcake; abbreviations such as HEU, LEU, SSBN, and CVID; and the subtle yet striking difference between uranium-235 and uranium-238.
As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo resumes talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, we’ve defined some of the most important (and misunderstood) words, phrases, and acronyms here.
That effort could take years to pan out, and it’s guaranteed to get very, very complicated.
A mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device.
(U.S. Department of Defense photo)
1. Nuclear weapon
A conventional explosive device rapidly burns up a chemical to cause a blast. A nuclear weapon, meanwhile — such as a bomb or warhead — splits atoms to release thousands of times more energy.
Yet the term “nuclear weapon” can also refer to a vehicle that’s able to deliver a nuclear attack, such as missiles, fighter jets, stealth bombers, and truck-like mobile launchers. (If flying dinosaurs were alive today and trained to drop nuclear bombs, the creatures may be considered nuclear weapons.)
During weapons inspections like the ones between the US and Russia, nuclear warheads are actually concealed with a piece of cloth; it’s the vehicles, missiles, and launch or bombing bays that are the focus. Without them, a warhead can’t get anywhere quickly.
A Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, launching from North Korea.
Technically speaking, an ICBM is any missile capable of delivering a warhead from more than 3,415 miles away. The missile silos in the US in which they’re stored are sprinkled around the country, with most stationed in middle America.
Fallout describes the dangerous leftovers of a nuclear weapon: a cloud of dust, dirt, sand, pebbles, and bits of debris that an explosion has irradiated.
Bombs or warheads detonated near the ground vastly increase the amount of fallout by sucking up soil and debris, irradiating it, and spreading it for dozens if not hundreds of miles. Very fine particles can circle the globe and be detected by special airplanes.
Part of CNO cycle diagram, made just to be illustrative for nuclear reactions in general.
Each element on the Periodic Table has a unique chemical identity but can have different weights, or isotopes.
For example, hydrogen is the smallest atom and is usually made of just one positively-charged proton in its nucleus, or core. Its shorthand name, H-1, specifies its atomic weight. If a chargeless neutron gets added, you get the isotope deuterium, or H-2. Add two neutrons and you have the isotope tritium, or H-3.
All three forms of hydrogen have nearly identical chemistry and can, say, bond with oxygen to form water. But their nuclear properties differ significantly: deuterium and tritium can fuel thermonuclear explosions because their extra neutrons can encourage helium atoms (which have two protons) to fuse together far more easily than H-1 alone.
5. Uranium — including U-238, U-235, and U-233
Uranium is a dense element and a key ingredient in nuclear weapons production. It occurs naturally in ores and minerals and has a few important isotopes.
U-238 makes up about 99.27% of natural uranium and is inert. Less than 1% of the uranium in ore is U-235 — the “active ingredient” that can be used for nuclear reactor fuel or bombs.
U-235 is special because it becomes very unstable when it catches a flying neutron. This capture causes it to split (known as fission), release a huge amount of energy, and shoot out more neutrons. Those neutrons can then split other atoms of U-235 in a chain reaction.
Although plutonium (which we’ll describe in a moment) is now the favored bomb-making material, U-235 was used in the Little Boy bomb that the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
U-233 is another isotope that’s weapons-ready, but it’s only made inside special reactors that no longer exist (for now).
6. Plutonium, including Pu-238, Pu-239, and Pu-240
Plutonium is a metallic element that doesn’t occur in nature, and it most often refers to the isotope Pu-239: the go-to material for modern nuclear weapons.
Only nuclear reactors can make Pu-239. They do so by irradiating U-238 with neutrons. The plutonium can then be separated from the uranium, concentrated, and formed into weapons pits — the cores of nuclear weapons.
Pu-239 can more easily trigger a nuclear explosion than uranium, and with less material; as little as about 10 lbs can be enough.
Plutonium-240 is an unwanted and pretty radioactive byproduct of making Pu-239. It can make bombs prematurely explode and fizzle because it’s fairly radioactive. Pu-238 is a byproduct of Cold War weapons production that generates a lot of warmth and powers NASA’s most adventurous robots in the cold, dark depths of space.
7. Yellowcake uranium
Yellowcake is a powder of uranium oxide that’s made by leaching uranium from natural ores and chemically treating it. Despite its name, it’s most often brown or black in color.
The powder is a concentrated form of natural uranium — about 99.72% U-238 and 0.72% U-235. It’s an important commodity because it can be stockpiled and later processed to extract and enrich U-235.
The U-235 and U-238 isotopes are chemically identical and nearly the same weight — so they’re very hard to separate. However, one of the easiest ways to separate uranium is a centrifuge.
The process starts with converting yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride (UF 6), then heating the compound into a gas. The gas then enters a centrifuge: a tall, hollow tube that spins faster than the speed of sound. The rotation pulls heavier U-238 toward the centrifuge’s outer wall while leaving more U-235 near the middle.
Cascades of centrifuges — one linked to another in long chains — further separate and concentrate each isotope. U-235-rich gas moves through an “upstream” line of centrifuges, growing until a desired level of concentration is reached. Meanwhile, U-238 moves “downstream” until it’s mostly depleted of U-235.
9. Highly enriched uranium (HEU) and low-enriched uranium (LEU)
Highly enriched uranium is any amount of uranium with 20% or more U-235 — the kind that can spur a nuclear detonation.
HEU with a concentration of 85% or more U-235 is considered “weapons-grade,” since that is enough to cause a large and efficient nuclear explosion. But it’s rarely used anymore: It most often goes into special reactors that power naval ships and submarines, can make plutonium, or create medically important isotopes (such as molybdenum-99, which can help diagnose certain heart diseases and cancers).
10. Lithium deuteride (sometimes called lithium hydride)
Lithium deuteride is a whitish salt made of one lithium atom and one deuterium atom (hydrogen-2).
It’s a key ingredient in thermonuclear weapons, also called hydrogen bombs — the most powerful type of nuclear arms. (Russia’s Tzar Bomba thermonuclear weapon, detonated in 1961, was about 3,300 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb in 1945.)
A thermonuclear weapon is actually two bombs in one. Energy from the first explosion is absorbed by and “ignites” the lithium deuteride, leading to fusion — where two atoms combine — and creating a plasma many times hotter than the sun.
The process also creates a lot of neutrons. These bullet-like particles can then ram into and split a lot of nearby U-238 in the bomb, vastly multiplying the weapon’s destructive energy.
A UGM-96 Trident I clears the water after launch from a US Navy submarine in 1984
11. Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
An SLBM is a nuclear-tipped rocket that shoots out of launch tubes in an underwater attack submarine.
Unlike most land-based missiles, SLBMs are mobile and very difficult to track. Some models can fly nearly 7,500 miles, which is about 30% of Earth’s circumference. That’s plenty of range to strike any inland target from a coast.
12. Ballistic-missile submarines (SSBN or SSB)
Attack submarines that can launch ballistic missiles are known as SSBs or SSBNs. The “SS” stands for “submersible ship,” the “B” for ballistic” (as in ballistic missile), and the “N,” if present, means “nuclear” (as in powered by a nuclear reactor).
These vessels can stay underwater for 90 days and carry more than a dozen nuclear-warhead-tipped SLBMs — each of which can strike targets thousands of miles inland.
13. Complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)
CVID is the strategy that was pursued in disarming Libya of its nuclear weapons. The Trump administration pursued it in initial talks with Kim Jong Un and North Korea.
The approach allows inspectors into a country to count weapons, witness their destruction, disable nuclear reactors, prevent the development of missiles, and perform other watchdog work.
Weapons experts think North Korea will reject CVID, mostly because it’d bar the use of nuclear reactors to produce energy and rule out the development of rockets, which can launch satellites and people into space.
Experts also point out that the strategy has a nasty historical precedent: Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi followed through on a US-led CVID program but ultimately ended up dead in the streets.
Deterrence is the idea that if countries have nuclear weapons, the threat of an overwhelming retaliation in response to an attack will keep the peace.
In 1995, a few years after the Cold War ended, Reagan-era government officials wrote:
“Deterrence must create fear in the mind of the adversary — fear that he will not achieve his objectives, fear that his losses and pain will far outweigh any potential gains, fear that he will be punished. It should ultimately create the fear of extinction — extinction of either the adversary’s leaders themselves or their national independence, or both. Yet, there must always appear to be a ‘door to salvation’ open to them should they reverse course.”
Some nuclear weapons experts worry that deterrence will only keep the peace for so long. They also think belief in deterrence encourages the development and spread of nuclear weapons— so if and when nuclear conflict does break out, the catastrophe will be much worse.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Obviously, video games are nothing like the real world. No one is going to give you 100 gold coins to go clear a bunch of rats out of a dungeon and no one is impressed by your ability to roll on the ground to get places faster.
Where this division between real life and gaming hits the hardest is in the military. Think about it — not once has a recruiter tried to tell you about the “quest reward” that is the GI Bill. On the bright side, there are a lot less people screaming that they’ve done unspeakable acts to others’ mothers — so there’s that.
These are six video game tropes that are completely detached from reality.
Usually, waiting for your vision to stop going red indicates a concussion…
Most games have one of two types of healing: Either you just hide behind a rock for a few seconds and you’re perfect or you run over a first-aid kit and it immediately feel better You might be surprised to learn that this isn’t how it works on an actual battlefield.
There are entire occupations in the military dedicated to delivering aid to wounded troops. The cold reality is that just throwing a first aid kit at someone isn’t going to get them back to 100%.
It’s probably for the best. A laser could get set off by anyone: friend, foe, or civilian bystander.
For some reason, claymore mines in video games are always set to go off when someone walks in front of the little lasers attached to the front.
In real life, mines like those do exist, but they aren’t used on the battlefield. Laser tripwire mines are highly discouraged by the Geneva convention. Typically, real claymore mines are detonated with a wire and switch.
Even in the apocalypse, any weapon you find works perfectly.
(Bethesda Game Studios)
Perfectly working weapons
No matter what wide assortment of weapons and firearms the game presents to the player, every weapon will always work perfectly. You never have to clean them, maintain them, or deal with many of the issues that plague actual weapons.
Cleaning weapons is a daily routine for combat arms troops. But even if the weapon is at peak cleanliness, they may still suffer a failure to feed, load, or eject, which takes a troop out of the fight temporarily. It’d be nice for immersion if the gamer had to perform SPORTS on a disabled rifle, but it definitely wouldn’t be any fun.
Older games tended to be a lot more straightforward with their orders.
In a sense, there are briefings in video games. While the mission loads up, players are told what to do and then sent off to play. If they don’t like a mission, they can usually just skip it — or disregard orders and play it however they see fit.
Declining a mission from someone who outranks you or putting your own “creative twist” on an objective to it is a surefire way to incur administrative action — especially if your idiotic move has terrible consequences for someone else.
It’s also much harder to do a 360 No-Scope in real life, so don’t try it at home, kids.
“Running and gunning”
In multiplayer games, when a match starts, players set out with a singular objective of outscoring the other guys. This means that everyone plays the fun role of the badass who runs around the map shooting fools in the face.
Actual missions are set up differently and broken down into many different tasks. Your security element is often away from the fight and watching what the enemy is up to, the support element makes sure things go according to plan, and even the assault teams you’d expect to be doing the badass stuff often are given a single task like, “just watch this one particular window.”
Thankfully, helicopter pilots don’t give a damn if you’ve gone on a 7-kill streak or not.
Video games try to give everyone an equal and competitive chance at winning. Developers spend months fine tuning a game before launching it to make sure every player is given the same chance as the next. In a perfect, competitive environment, the only variable is skill.
There’s no way in Hell that U.S. troops would willingly fight on the same level as their enemy. Sure, there’s always going to be that one tool who complains about the Geneva Convention “holding us back,” but in the grander scheme of things, it really doesn’t. U.S. troops kick an unbelievable amount of ass — and they do so with bigger guns, better technology, and more rigorous training.
The only good mines are one that are cleared — or better yet, never used in the first place. Today mines are generally seen as relics of bygone eras, deadly weapons that remain dangerous long after the war is fought. Forgotten minefields all over the world kill civilians by the score – more than 8,600 in 2016 alone. Many of these are children.
Many who join armed forces around the world do so with the idea that they can keep their children and families – along with the children and families of their fellow countrymen – safe from the imminent dangers of impending war. When faced with an existential threat, countries will go to horrifying lengths to defend themselves.
Such was the case in the early 1980s, the nascent years of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran fought a brutal war against Iraq since 1980, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein smelled blood in the disorganized post-Revolution Iran and attempted to seize its access to the Persian Gulf by force.
The Iran-Iraq War was particularly brutal, even as far as warfare in the Middle East is concerned. The war was defined by eight years of stalemates and failed offensives, indiscriminate ballistic missile attacks — often using chemical weapons — and insane asymmetrical warfare.
Insane symmetrical warfare is a very clean term for the tactics Iran used to level the playing field of the Western-backed, technologically superior Iraqis. Iran recently purged its professional military of those loyal to the deposed Shah and was by no means ready to fight a war with a series of Revolutionary militias. The Ayatollah Khomeini was no military commander. He saw a success in war in terms of casualties inflicted on the enemy versus the number his forces took, a World War I-era approach to warfare.
To Khomeini, as long as the math worked and his fighters were sufficiently motivated by religious fanaticism and revolutionary spirit, he could push all the way to Baghdad. So he enlisted large numbers of civilians with little or no military training to execute his plans. This entrenched incompetence included the field command leadership who most often sent men to die in droves using human wave attacks, another World War I relic. The horror doesn’t stop there.
The New York Times’ Terence Smith, writing about Iran in 1984, described the use of child soldiers by Iran to clear minefields. Young boys, aged 12-17 years, wore red headbands with the words ‘Sar Allah’ in Farsi (Warriors of God) and small metal keys that the Ayatollah declared were their tickets to Paradise if they were martyred in their mission. Many were sent into battle against Iraqi tanks without any protection and bound by ropes to prevent desertion.
They were the first wave, making the way for Iranian tanks by clearing barbed wire and minefields with their bodies.
These children weren’t the only human wave attackers, but they certainly were the most notable – and effective. In the same interview, Smith notes the Iranian commanders are unapologetic. Iraq has many tanks and a lot of support. Iran has very few. What Iran had is exactly what the Ayatollah predicted, a large population filled with religious fervor.
The total number of casualties inflicted on Iran and Iraq throughout the war isn’t clearly known, but what is known is a number ranging anywhere between 500,000 to one million killed and wounded in the eight-year slugfest.
They used to call him “The Giant” – they being The Taliban. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva is still a giant, he’s just not fighting in Afghanistan anymore. His new fight is the ten-yard fight and the erstwhile U.S. Army second lieutenant’s new job is protecting the back of Steelers QB, Ben Roethlisberger. And judging by the team’s performance against the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 8, 2018, he must be pretty good at it.
Before the game kicked off, Fox Sports caught a glimpse of Villanueva jogging over to the sidelines to greet some active duty and reserve troops. That’s when you can really understand why the Taliban gave him that nickname.
Villanueva is a West Point graduate and played collegiate football on the offensive line for the Army Black Knights. When photographed with other NFL players — who are all large human beings — his size doesn’t seem all that remarkable. It’s when he goes to the sidelines to visit U.S. troops that you can see just how huge he is compared to the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States – who are no strangers to working out themselves.
And that’s probably why the Steelers have him watching Big Ben’s back.
One of these two is nicknamed “Big,” the other one is Alejandro Villanueva.
On the field, Roethlisberger looks like he lives up to the nickname “Big Ben.” The Steelers QB is 6’5″ and 240 pounds, cutting a unique outline on the playing field. In comparison, Villanueva is 6’9″ and 320 pounds.
Villanueva is still dedicated to the traditions held dear by most military veterans. During the 2017-2018 season, he created a row by leaving the locker room for the national anthem, leaving the rest of his team inside, a decision he later regretted. When sales of his jersey spiked in response to that action, it became the most popular jersey in the league. The former Army Ranger donated the proceeds of jersey sales to the USO and veteran-related nonprofits in AFC North cities, as he always has.
That consistency defines Alejandro Villanueva. He wasn’t just visiting troops before the Steelers-Panthers game because of the NFL’s “Salute to Service” month or any special event. He always goes to shake hands with visiting troops before every game, home or away.
Just for fun, watch Villanueva manhandle legendary Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who is 6’3″ and 265 pounds and is number 19 on the all-time QB sack records. Villanueva chops him down like he’s made of balsa wood.
At the end of the movie “Black Hawk Down,” CWO Mike Durant is sitting in a dark room as a POW, as a helicopter flies by overhead. From the passing bird, comes a voice: “Mike Durant, we won’t leave you behind.”
This makes for an agonizing scene, with Durant suffering from a broken cheekbone, eye socket, back, femur, and nose as the sun goes down over Mogadishu. He thought he was going to die. And the Somalis did try to kill him three times.
But the Army didn’t just remind one of their soldiers that he wouldn’t be left behind, his friends in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment wanted him to know they were actively looking for him and they wouldn’t stop until they found him.
“When you’re in captivity,” Durant told documentarians filming AC/DC’s “Beyond the Thunder,” “if you hear an aircraft, it obviously gets your attention because the first thing you’re trying to determine is, ‘Do they know where I am?”’
As the Somalis started to scramble, Durant heard a telltale “BONG” of his favorite song, and then the opening lines of AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells.”
“It was an incredible moment,” Durant recalled. “They had loudspeakers attached to this Black Hawk, flying around the city, broadcasting this music.” That’s when the voice bellowed the words echoed in the movie:
“Mike, we won’t leave here without you.”
It was a moment Durant says he will never forget. He spent 11 days in captivity.
Durant’s helicopter, Super Six-Four, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade after dropping off his 18 Rangers into the heart of Mogadishu. His mission was finished until he was called to replace Super Six-One as fire support over the target.
The Army lost five Black Hawks that day. When the helos hit the ground, the Somalis would overrun the wreckage and kill everyone aboard. Mike Durant says he was incredibly lucky that someone recognized his value as a prisoner.
The single most cherished item that Uncle Sam has given its fighting men and women since the Vietnam War has got to be the poncho liner or, as it’s affectionately known within the military community as, the “woobie.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the one piece of military gear that was designed with a troop’s comfort in mind has a huge fan base.
It’s more often than not called the “woobie” because, in practice, very few people use it for its intended purpose: lining a poncho. Obviously, there’s no hole for your head to go through, so you’re not actually wearing the woobie with the poncho at the same time. The designers want you to use the little holes on the side that correspond with poncho straps to tie it together, but show of hands: How many people have actually taken those steps each and every time instead of just using the woobie as its own individual item? Thought so.
Here’s how the woobie is actually being used by troops:
It’s funny. Just one one piece of fabric can make 48-hour patrols suck a little less.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)
1. Blanket… obviously
The sleeping bag system that the military offers is nice, but it’s not enough. It’s missing a nice, homey touch that you can only get with a warm and cozy woobie.
And this doesn’t end when troops go on their last field exercise. It’s not uncommon for vets to snag a poncho liner (or two) and keep them laying around the house or in an emergency kit — or on their bed, just like it used to be.
When this is your life for 12 months, you might be willing to bite that bullet to get a bit of privacy.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)
2. Tent divider
While deployed, troops aren’t typically given enough room for personal space. Your “personal space,” at best, is usually just a single bunk that everyone can walk past.
If you need some alone time and you’re willing to part with your precious poncho liner, you can string it across the tent to mark off your side.
Now, the real question is, are you willing to destroy your woobie to make it into something else?
(Photo via Reddit user Hellsniperr)
Cutting a hole in the poncho liner to actually line a poncho is ridiculous — but walking around the barracks wrapped in a poncho liner like it’s a cape is some how… not?
Troops and vets have been known to step their woobie game up by having it made into a wide assortment of apparel — like a bathrobe or a smoker’s jacket. Fashion and function!
This is basically the one thing every troop wishes they could have done with their woobie while in the field.
The mesh pattern and all-weather durability of a poncho liner means it’s perfectly suited to surviving outside for long periods of time. This quality is best exemplified by the fact that you’ll find it in the backyard of nearly every veteran who owns a hammock. You’ll probably find their old woobie inside it.
The overly silly name that troops and vets gave a woobie makes a bit more sense when it’s given to their kids. Yeah, it’s kind of small for a full-grown warfighter, but it’s the perfect size for their kid.
When vets pass down a woobie to their kid or grandkid, it typically comes with a long, drawn-out origin story — but it’s so comfortable that the recipient probably doesn’t mind curling up and listening to the same story for the tenth time.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F/A-18 Hornet are both “lightweight” fighters. Each was intended to complement a larger, heavier fighter (the F-15 for the F-16, the F-14 for the F/A-18). But they also have some big differences. Let’s look over some of them:
1. The number of engines
The F-16 has one engine – the F/A-18 has two. This is largely due to their differing operational environments. The F-16 operates from land bases, while the F/A-18 operates primarily from carriers.
Of course, this also bears a lot on survivability. If an F-16 loses an engine, the pilot’s gotta grab the loud handle. An F/A-18, on the other hand, can limp back to the carrier.
2. Operating from a carrier
The F-16 is tied to land bases – its landing gear cannot handle the shock of hitting a carrier deck. On the other hand, the F/A-18 can readily shift between a carrier operation and flying from land bases.
3. Initial weapons suite
Did you know the F-16 originally didn’t have any radar-guided missiles? Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that early A/B versions (Blocks 1, 5, 10, and 15) didn’t have the ability to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM or AIM-7 Sparrow. The Block 15 ADF was the first version to carry a radar guided missile, the AIM-7.
The F/A-18, though, could carry radar-guided missiles from day one. This was because while the F/A-18 was replacing an attack plane, it was also intended to help defend the carrier.
4. Pure speed
The F-16 has a top speed of Mach 2.0. The F/A-18 can only reach Mach 1.8. Still, these planes are both very fast when they need to be. But in a pure drag race, the F-16 will win – and by a decent margin.
5. How they refuel
The F/A-18 uses a probe to latch into a drogue. The good news is that it can use just about anyone’s tankers – even USAF tankers, which are modified to carry drogues in addition to their booms.
The F-16s in the United States Air Force inventory, though, have a receptacle for the boom from a KC-135, KC-10, or KC-46 to plug into. Part of this is because the Air Force also has to refuel big bombers and cargo planes that need a lot of fuel quickly – and the boom can do just that.
6. Movie career
The F-16 has a clear edge in this one. In the movie “Iron Eagle,” the F-16 is arguably the star alongside Louis Gossett, Jr. (Chappy Sinclair) and Jason Gedrick (Doug Masters). The F/A-18 played a role in “Independence Day,” but it wasn’t quite the star the F-16 was in Iron Eagle.
So, what other differences can you think of between these two planes?