This is an article from Curious Kids, a series for children of all ages. The Conversation is asking young people to send in questions they’d like an expert to answer. All questions are welcome: find details on how to enter at the bottom.
What’s it like to be a fighter pilot? – Torben, aged eight, Sussex, UK.
Thanks for your question, Torben. I’m a professor working at the University of Portsmouth’s Extreme Environments Laboratory, where we study how humans respond when going into space, mountains, deserts and the sea, as well as what it’s like to be in submarines, spacecraft and, of course, jet planes.
To be a fast jet pilot, you must be fit and smart, and able to do what’s needed, even when the going gets tough. You also get to wear some very special clothes, to protect your body while flying.
Capts. Andrew Glowa, left, and William Piepenbring launch flares from two A-10C Thunderbolt IIs Aug. 18, 2014, over southern Georgia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter)
If you’re a fighter pilot, you’re not allowed to get air sick (which is a bit like getting car sick, in a plane). And you have to be the right height and weight to fit in the cockpit — and to jump out in emergencies.
Fighter jets can go 1,550 miles an hour: that’s more than twice the speed of sound, or 25 miles in a minute. So, if you live two miles from school, you could get home in less than five seconds in a fighter jet.
Only the best pilots in the world can fly a plane that goes so fast: you have to be able to think and act very quickly. To help you, modern jets listen to your voice, so you can tell them what to do — it’s called “voice command”.
Fast jets aren’t smooth to fly in, like the kind of planes you go on holiday in — they’re more like a fast fairground ride. You have to be strapped into your seat very tightly, so that you don’t get thrown around.
First Lt. Kayla Bowers, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, looks out of the cockpit of her aircraft during the squadron’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 18, 2016.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)
In fact, flying that fast and making lots of turns and dives can make you feel very sick. Can you imagine being sick, while wearing a mask and flying a plane at 1,000 miles an hour? That’s why fighter pilots have to be checked and trained to make sure they don’t get air sick.
Fast jet pilots also have to wear lots of special clothes to protect them in different situations. One thing they have to wear is a helmet to protect their head, and a mask with a microphone.
The mask is linked up to a system that can provide extra oxygen if anything goes wrong — after all, there’s less oxygen in the air when you’re flying very high, and humans need plenty of oxygen to breathe properly.
Standing on Earth, humans experience gravity at 1G (that’s one times the acceleration due to gravity). But when fighter jets make fast turns and rolls, the pilot can experience up to 9G (by comparison, roller coasters only produce 3-6G). That means they feel nine times heavier, which can be very unpleasant and would make most people black out.
To help with this, fighter pilots also wear special trousers that squeeze their legs tightly when they go round bends — this keeps the blood pumping up to their brain, to stop them from fainting: trust me, you don’t want to faint when flying a fast jet.
Lt. Col. Benjamin Bishop completes preflight checks before his first sortie in an F-35A Lightning II, March 6, 2013.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Fast jet pilots may also have to wear a flying suit, a life jacket and an “immersion suit” — that’s a suit which keeps you warm and dry, if you end up in the sea. They may also wear another suit to protect them from chemicals and other dangerous things.
All this kit and clothing can make a fighter pilot pretty hot. Plus the jet has a plastic lid and lots of very clever electronics, which can also heat up the cockpit. And when the plane goes fast through the air, it warms up due to friction — like when you rub your hands together fast.
To stay cool, fighter pilots can wear a special vest with long small tubes in it, which pump cold water around. Or, they can wear a suit next to their skin which has cold air blowing through it.
Pilots sit on a rocket-powered ejector seat, so if he or she gets into trouble, they can pull a handle and be blasted up into the air and away from the crashing plane.
Luckily, the seat has a parachute that opens up and lets them float down to the ground safely. But the force of the ejection actually makes them shorter for a little while afterwards.
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Being an infantry Marine stationed in Hawai’i is a blessing and a curse. If you get stationed out there, civilians will sarcastically tell you how hard your life is and fellow service members will glare at you with jealousy, but they don’t know the truth — not unless they read Terminal Lance, that is.
When you get orders to Hawai’i, you’ll probably feel excited right off the bat. If you grew up in the mainland United States and you’ve never visited, you’ve likely heard of it as a beautiful, tropical vacation spot. Once you get there, you’ll start to realize that, in some ways, it’s far from an island paradise.
So, to get you prepared, here are a few things you should know about being stationed out there:
Luckily, you’ll get compensated for the cost of living.
Everything is expensive
Mentally prepare yourself now for paying insane prices for things like milk or gasoline. If you’re a smoker, you might as well kick the habit now because you’ll be paying for every pack at the exchange on base. If you ever plan on leaving to explore the island, you’ll pay much more than that.
The facilities suck
Marine Corps Base Hawai’i is small and its size can likely be attributed to the fact that it was originally built to be a Marine Corps Air Station. Only after the fact was it then turned into a full-fledged base equipped to house with infantry battalions and artillery batteries. As you might imagine, there aren’t many options for shopping or entertainment on base.
You’ll become well acquainted with those humid jungles, don’t worry.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Aaron S. Patterson)
It’s always humid
Hawai’i is an island nation covered with a lush rain forest and surrounded by ocean. Not only is the heat intense, but the humidity is thick, making matters much worse. Not a day will go by where you won’t sweat — unless you spend the whole day in an air-conditioned building.
At least the sun will be gone for a bit of time.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isabelo Tabanguil)
It’s always raining
Remember how it’s always humid? It’s because it constantly rains. If you’re infantry, you already know that rain is somehow magically, meteorologically attracted to where you are in the world so, don’t expect that to change at all in Hawai’i.
The locals hate you
A good amount of them, anyway. If they’re not a tattoo artist or business owner, they’ll probably have a disdain for you being a part of the United States military. Don’t take it personally and just ignore it because there’s no point in getting yourself into trouble when, at the end of the day, you’re not there by choice, anyway.
It won’t take long before you start to feel the claustrophobia.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Luke Kuennen)
You’re stuck on an island
Your ass belongs to the Corps, so you best believe you can’t leave that island chain without permission. You can’t really even leave O’ahu unless you do some paperwork, so get used to those islands feeling like a prison.
A purple heart recipient and Vietnam war veteran, Dan Osteen, 69, sacrificed his life saving his 3-year-old granddaughter after the Oklahoma house they were in exploded.
Dan Osteen, 69, with granddaughter Paetyn, 3.
Dan Osteen’s son, Brendon, says his father looked forward to every single moment he could spend with his granddaughter, “That’s what he was first and foremost I mean he was all about that baby and she was all about him.”
On Sept. 19, Brendon said his father was lighting a candle next to the stove, when there was a powerful propane gas explosion. Brendon spoke to the immediate selflessness about his father’s actions, “He wasn’t worried about himself at all. I’ll leave it at that, but save [to] her was the message he was trying to get across and he did exactly that.”
Osteen suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs, and severe burns when the blast ripped through the house. Against all odds, he was able to carry his granddaughter out of the explosion into safety—going so far as to traverse a steep driveway that winds over a quarter mile through the woods, with his sustained injuries.
“He just got out of the house and headed straight to where he knew help was. He tried to get in his truck and his keys were melted to him. His phone was exploded in his pocket” Brendon said.
Don’s wife was the first to make it to the scene. There she found the pair in the front pasture of the family’s property, where Don had laid Paetyn in the shade. Brendon said that before he died, Osteen told his wife, Brendon’s mother, that the roof had fallen on top of Paetyn. Miraculously he was able to recover Pateyn and return her to safety, where she was treated for burns on 30% of her body.
Dan Osteen passed away from a heart attack during emergency surgery after spending days fighting for his life. “He was a man set in his faith and he knew where he was going” Brendon added. “He knew that he did his job by saving the life of his Boo Boo Chicken,” he said. “He loved my daughter beyond unconditionally. And he gave it all for her to live.”
Brendon said the Oklahoma house belonged to his parents and brother. The house, along with all their belongings, were destroyed.
Osteen was an Army veteran who received a purple heart from a grenade explosion in Vietnam. He was a man of service to others, who paid the ultimate price to save his granddaughter. A GoFundMe page has been set up by the family.
There are inherent dangers involved with a combat deployment. Even if you don’t have first-hand knowledge, you probably have a pretty solid understanding of what troops go through on a near-daily basis in a country that few can even point to on a globe. Our troops are up against a hostile environment filled with potentially hostile actors that hide behind civilian masks. But one thing that’s never really discussed is downtime — the rest period, the time between missions.
As bizarre as it sounds, it’s often the nothingness that can be most exhausting. At a certain point during a deployment, you adapt to the pressures of war and missions, but being left with nothing to do, without any real outlet to help you escape your surroundings and calm down for a moment, is what gets to some troops most.
So, it’s not unusual for troops to pick up some sort of hobby to pass the time. Some troops take up drawing or learn to play the guitar. Others head to the MWR tent to watch the same late-90s sitcom for the 80th time. Many others pass the time by picking up a controller and playing a video game with their friends.
But the luxury of popping the latest game into an X-Box simply isn’t afforded to all troops — and that’s where care packages from a loved one — or organizations like OSD — come in.
The reason OSD is so in sync with what troops want and need is because many members of the organization are veterans themselves.
OSD has been filling in those gaps of nothingness with a wide assortment of highly-desired goods. Once the OSD team gets a hold of a deployed unit, that unit can usually expect a massive care package filled with entertainment. OSD shipped over 450 such “Supply Drops” in 2017, containing everything from video games to game consoles and televisions to coffee, junk food, and everything else troops might miss from back home.
Troops who are in outlaying bases, like the soldiers of the 101st Aviation Regiment, will now have something to look forward to when their shifts are over.
And that’s just their flagship program. OSD also provides mentorship and resources for veterans seeking employment opportunities through their Heroic Forces program, they assist wounded veterans throughout their recovery processes through Respawn, and they sponsor nominated veterans via Thank You Deployment, a program that celebrates service by giving individuals the day of a lifetime.
Because one care package really can change a deployment for the better.
This October, OSD is running their third annual Vetober, a charity donation drive that helps fuel all of the awesome programs above and more. You can donate the conventional way, but OSD is also staying true to their roots in gaming culture by introducing competition to the mix. Form or join a team, raise cash for veterans, and see if you can come out on top!
Every dollar donated goes to benefit the hundreds of thousands of troops and veterans. 0 raised means a new supply drop goes out to troops who desperately need some entertainment. 0 helps mentor veterans seeking employment. 0 sponsors events in veteran communities across the country. 00 helps OSD grow, allowing them to continue changing thousands of service members’ lives for the better.
Help us break the monotony of deployments and keep our troops happy and healthy. Whether you want to donate directly, help spread the word, organize a fundraising team, or join someone else’s team, you can help make a difference!
On a more personal level, I cannot recommend OSD highly enough. Not only do they hold a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, so you know they’re trustworthy, they also personally impacted my life.
My unit received a supply drop from OSD when we were deployed and, man, was it a welcomed sight. We opened a care package only to find, basically, everything we’ve ever wanted. For the first time in a while, we played games and relaxed. It helped give us a chance to come together as a platoon and take our minds off everything.
Though the distinction between training and exercising might seem unimportant — it isn’t. How you label your physical activity says more about you, your mindset, and your probable rate of success than any PFT score ever could.
I first saw this difference at The Basic School in Quantico. Some of my peers were former college athletes, and a few were training in our off-time for an upcoming marathon. These peers had goals and a plan to achieve them. The rest of us were just doing what I now call “exercising,” random workouts on random days, inconsistently.
I’m on the far left, standing and squinting.
(Photo by Michael Gregory)
The Marines who were actually training were the only ones I knew who could keep a solid schedule and maintain their fitness levels during The Basic School. The rest of us got by on an ever-dwindling fitness reservoir that was nearly empty by the time I finally finished the school.
I finally started applying this training mentality to fitness during the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Course. The course itself was a constant physical beat-down, but in the few classroom lectures, we were taught how to set up a MCMAP and combat conditioning plan for our units. It was then that I realized I could design a plan to become progressively more difficult as fitness levels increase, the same way a pre-deployment workup gets more complicated as the deployment date nears.
A classic case of the slay fest.
(Photo by Cpl. Brooke C. Woods USMC Recruit Depot San Diego)
How I loathed unit PT…
I used to think I hated PT just because I disliked being told what to do.
I have come to realize I actually hated unit PT because it is exercise and not training.
Most units plan solid workups to prepare each member of the unit to the max extent possible with all the skills and proficiencies needed for when they are actually ‘in country.’ This is training, a clear plan that progressively increases in difficulty and complexity with an end state in mind.
I have rarely seen physical fitness approached in the same logical way in unit PT.
Most units approach PT in one of two ways: as a slay fest or a joke.
A Slay Fest: (n) from the ancient Greek Slayus Festivus, meaning make as many people puke or stroke out as possible in an effort to assert physical dominance and make less-fit service members feel inadequate.
A Joke: just going through the motions and checking the quarterly unit PT requirement box.
Neither one of these has the intention of making better the members of the unit. In fact, slay fests often lead to injuries which have the opposite effect on unit readiness, while potentially initiating a hazing investigation because a junior NCO decided to play drill instructor.
Is this a training session or exercise? …Seriously though, what is this?
In the Marine Corps, I saw what could be accomplished when a proper training plan is followed to the most minute detail. I also saw what type of chaos or indifference towards fitness can result from no plan and/or unchecked egos.
This is why you should be training. The most successful athletes are those that have a plan in place that works them towards a goal. I’m a firm believer that everyone is an athlete no matter what your job or current station in life.
Marines are constantly reminded that it doesn’t matter what your MOS is, you could find yourself in combat and you better be prepared for it. Even though some roll their eyes at the idea of a finance technician lobbing grenades in a firefight, they still have an underlying feeling of pride that this is a potentiality.
Promotion on Iwo Jima. I swore to not waste anyone’s time with exercise on that day.
(Photo by Jeremy Graves)
I carry that with me to this day. Constantly thinking about what I would do if a fight breaks out — or if ‘patient zero’ of the zombie apocalypse strolls into my part of town — doesn’t keep me awake at night in dread. It keeps me awake at night in giddy anticipation because I’m training for that sh*t every. Damn. Day.
Of course, your reason for training doesn’t need to be so heavy, violent, or world-altering. Simply wanting to be able to throw a perfect spiral with your future son is a perfect reason to be training. If you need a more immediate time frame, choose a challenge: sign up for an adventure race, a marathon, an adult sports league, or a powerlifting meet (I just took second in my first meet and got a free t-shirt #winning #tigerblood). Train for the on-season or the event day.
As a member of the military community, it’s in your blood to conduct work-ups. Now it’s your turn to determine where and when that “deployment” is and how you train for it. Exercise is a word for people who throw out their back trying to get the gallon of Arizona Iced Tea off the bottom shelf and into their grocery cart. They need exercise; you need to be training.
There’s a reason sit-ups top the list of exercises to get your spare tire under control. They work the major rectus abdominis muscle. They are challenging to do but elementary to understand. They involve no machines or special devices.
And yet… there’s no way around it. Sit-ups are boring. Up, down, up, down — the exercise gets really old, really fast. They are also good but not perfect: All that rounding of the spine places stress on the lower back which can cause injury over time. More over, the exercise works your abdominals in two planes of motion, but does not engage your obliques or transversus abdominus, limiting the true amount of core strength you can build.
Not to worry, flat abs were not built by sit-ups alone. There are plenty of other moves out there that can give you the muscle tone you want without the monotony you dread. Here are 10 ab exercises to try instead of sit-ups.
The cousin of full sit-ups, crunches involve lying on your back, feet either flat on the floor or elevated in the air with knees bent. Perform small contractions of your abdominal muscles to raise and lower your torso a few inches. You can do these with hands by your sides or behind your head for support. Aim for 100 crunches.
A key part of core strength is balance. In this exercise, start sitting with your knees bent, feet flat on floor. Place one hand behind each knee. Slowly lean back, lifting your feet off the floor so that the hover a few inches off the ground. When you find the sweet spot where you are balanced between your raised legs and backward-leaning torso, stop. Try to extend your legs into a straight position, so that your body forms a V shape. Hold for 10 counts.
3. Bicycle Crunches
An oldie but goodie, the bicycle move is great because it engages your oblique muscles as you twist your torso from side to side. Start by lying on your back, knees bent, feet in the air. Bend elbows and place your hands behind your head. Start circling legs in a bicycle-like motion, bringing opposite elbow to knee. Do this for one minute.
4. Inverted Hinges
Start in an extended push-up position, legs and arms straight. From here, hike your hips toward the ceiling, keeping your back flat and legs straight. Keep going until your body forms an inverted V shape, with your butt as the apex. Hold here for five counts, then slowly stretch back out in a controlled manner. Do 10 inverted hinges.
From an extended push-up position, drop down so that your weight is supported by your elbows, which should rest beneath your shoulders. Hold this position, back straight, for one minute.
(Photo by Sam Owoyemi)
6. Side Plank
From the front plank position, shift your weight so that you are resting on your right arm. Twist your entire body so that your left shoulder points toward the ceiling and your legs are stacked on one of top of the other with your left side on top. Maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Hold for one minute, then rotate to the other side and repeat.
Start sitting on the floor, knees bent, feet tucked under a sofa or chair base for support. Stretch your arms in front of you and slowly lean your torso back until your upper body creates a wide V shape with your legs. Stop in this position and begin to make small pulsations back and forward with your upper body. Do this for one minute.
Begin this move in the same wide V shape as above. Instead of pulsing up and down, swing both arms over to your right side and twist your torso to follow. Begin to “pulse” in this position, making small twists to the right and back to center (as opposed to up and down). Do 10 times, then rotate arms and torso to the left side and repeat.
9. Windshield Wipers
Start lying on your back, feet in the air, legs straight. Place arms out to either side of support. In a controlled manner, drop both legs over to the right, reaching for the floor. Keep hips still and facing up toward the ceiling. Bring legs back to the centerline, then drop them over to the left side. Repeat this side-to-side motion (like a set of windshield wipers) 10 times.
10. Leg Raises
Lie on your back, legs straight. Tuck hands under the small of your back for support. Keeping your legs straight and together, raise feet off the floor toward the ceiling. In a controlled manner, lower legs back to the floor without arching your back. Do 10 times.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
When you look at South Korea, this is a country that has a need to be very ready to fight for its survival. This is particularly true for the pilots in the Republic of Korea Air Force. If South Korea were to lose a war with North Korea, the ones who survive the war and who are captured will be unluckier than those who are killed in action.
Hyperbole? Well, just look at the “re-education camps” that the North Vietnamese used after they conquered South Vietnam. The stakes are at least that high for South Korean military officers should South Korea fall to the North.
South Korean P-51 Mustangs. (AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM)
As you can imagine, these pilots train a lot. South Korea has often taken part in Red Flag Alaska, where American and allied pilots train for war. But the Republic of Korea’s Air Force is also very powerful in its own right – flying high-tech fighter jets that are made in South Korea. That is a far cry from when it was flying second-hand P-51 Mustangs during the Korean War.
According to FlightGlobal.com, South Korea has 169 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons, 59 F-15K Slam Eagles (comparable to the F-15E Strike Eagle), 71 F-4Es, 158 F-5Es, 20 FA-50s, 80 T-50s, and 36 F-5Fs in service. This is one of the most modern air forces in the world. By comparison, North Korea has 35 MiG-29s, 56 MiG-25s, and still relies on nearly 200 J-5 and J-6s, which are Chinese copies of the MiG-17 Fresco and MiG-19 Farmer, respectively.
The combination of good planes and well-trained pilots is a very difficult one to defeat. South Korea stands a very good chance of being able to take control of the air should hostilities break out with North Korea.
Kilroy, the bald guy with the long nose hanging over a wall, may be the world’s first viral meme. While it didn’t originate with U.S. servicemen in World War II, it resonated with them. And Kilroy has had staying power all over the world well after WWII.
The graffiti originated with a British doodle called “Mr. Chad,” who commented on rationing and shortages during the war. Often accompanied by the phrase “Wot? No Sugar”, “Wot? No engines?”, or anything decrying the lack of supplies in Britain at the time. “Eventually,” etymologist Eric Shackle writes, “the spirit of Allied unity merged, with the British drawing appearing over the American phrase.”
The little graffiti doodle became a national joke. GIs and civilians alike would compete to draw “Kilroy was here” in the most remote, obscure places. “Kilroy was here” suddenly appeared on the torch of the Statue of Liberty, Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Marco Polo Bridge in China, a girder on the George Washington Bridge in New York, and even the bellies of pregnant women in hospitals.
Kilroy the name is widely considered to originate from J.J. Kilroy, a welding inspector at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyards in Quincy, Massachusetts. The New York Times told the story of how Kilroy, tired of co-workers claiming he didn’t inspect their work, began writing “Kilroy was here” with a crayon, instead of making the usual chalk mark. When these ships came in for repairs in worldwide ports, wartime workers would open sealed compartments to find the doodle. This random appearance would be an amazing feat from the repair crews’ perspective since no one would have been able to access these areas.
For years, rumors and theories abounded about the origin of the name. In 1946, the American Transit Association held a contest, offering a full-size street car to anyone who could prove they were the real Kilroy. J.J. Kilroy entered and corroborated his story with other shipyard workers. The ATA sent the trolley to Kilroy’s house in Halifax, Mass. where he attached the 12-ton car to his home and used it as living space for his nine children.
Feature image: Engraving of Kilroy on the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Wikimedia Commons)
The recent delivery of a QF-16 from Boeing to the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron marks an important milestone on the road to recovery for Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
“The arrival of this QF-16 brings us one step closer to resuming operations,” said Col. Steven Boatright, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group commander. “It is vital to the warfighter that we resume operations when it is deemed safe to do so.”
The QF-16 enables live fire weapons testing in the Joint Gulf Range Complex, which is made up of 180,000 square miles that stretches from Key West to northwest Florida, and allows for joint test and training exercises.
The 82nd ATRS currently has 18 QF-16s assigned to Tyndall AFB. Six QF-16s are unmanned, but all of them are modified to be flown remotely. The manned configuration of the aircraft can be used with a pilot in the cockpit to train the remote pilots flying from the ground station.
“It is important that we continue to accept new target aircraft into the fleet to keep test programs on schedule and to deliver capability to the warfighter,” said Lt. Col Ryan Serrill, 82nd ATRS commander. “Our people are safe and are eager to get the flying mission back off the ground. Our mission is one that will continue at Tyndall and we look forward to getting back to flying operations.”
A QF-16 is prepared for takeoff during an unmanned live fire exercise at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., June 25, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Montoya)
In addition to supporting the test community, the WEG hosts visiting fighter aircraft units from around the globe to participate in Combat Archer. During their two week stay at Tyndall AFB, units are evaluated on all phases of air-to-air combat operations including an end-to-end kill-chain evaluation of man, weapon, and machine in a realistic combat environment.
“No other Air Force in the world comes anywhere close to the same scale of weapons testing as the Air Force,” said Serrill. “We recognize the importance of this data to continually improve our warfighters ability which is why it’s so important that the WEG mission continue.”
Government civilians and contractors provide the backbone of QF-16 operations in both its manned and unmanned configurations. They are critical to our unique unmanned mission, as they are the only ones that operate the target in its final unmanned configuration.
“Our group is comprised of military, civilians and contractors,” said Boatright. “These are men and women who have called Panama City home for decades, and have poured so much of their life into Tyndall AFB and Panama City. We couldn’t do what we do in the WEG without them. I am proud to be able to serve alongside not just our uniformed military, but our local civilians and contractors. It is devastating to see what the hurricane did to this community, but we will rebuild. The men and women who survived Hurricane Michael are just as eager as I am to be fully mission ready again.”
Back in the days before DVRs and movies on demand, what television networks aired really mattered. If something wasn’t on television, you didn’t watch it. If something really, really good was on, everyone was watching it. This was why ABC started the tradition of showing Saving Private Ryan every Veterans Day for nearly five years. It was really good, and everyone watched it.
Then one Super Bowl night, Janet Jackson’s privates changed the cultural landscape of the United States.
None of us were prepared for what was about to happen.
It goes without saying (but I’m going to anyway) that Saving Private Ryan is easily one of the best – if not the best – war films ever made. Its realism is unmatched, and the Omaha Beach landings are so realistic, actual World War II veterans called it the most realistic they’d ever seen, it caused post-traumatic stress-related episodes in theaters, and the VA had to set up a hotline just for vets who were shook by the film.
Saving Private Ryan influenced every World War II film that came after it and sparked a resurgence in Americans’ waning interest in World War II and highlighted the declining numbers of surviving World War II veterans. So it makes sense that the ABC television network would decide to show the film every year on Veterans Day, uncut and with limited commercial interruptions. The profanity and combat scenes were left in their entirety on network television. All that changed after 2004.
There are people in the post-9/11 U.S. that think this is the worst thing that ever happened to America.
On February 1st, 2004, Super Bowl XXXVIII saw the New England Patriots defeat the upstart Carolina Panthers. But no one remembers the score of the game because all anyone could talk about for the next decade was Janet Jackson’s right nipple. During the halftime show, a young Justin Timberlake joined Jackson on stage. At the end of their performance and the halftime show itself, Timberlake ripped off part of Jackson’s outfit, revealing her right breast to the millions of people who were watching for roughly half a second.
The backlash was immediate. The FCC tried to give CBS the largest fine it ever handed down. Jackson’s music was blacklisted from TV and radio worldwide, and the phrase “wardrobe malfunction” entered the American lexicon. More than that, politicians used the controversy to attempt to curtail material deemed inappropriate for general consumption on network television. Even Congress jumped on board. Watch New Mexico Representative and future Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson practically break down in tears over a half-second of Janet Jackson’s nipple.
Victims of the knee-jerk veer toward self-censorship included daytime soap operas, Bono, Howard Stern, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and more. By Veterans Day 2004, nine months later, the backlash had still not died down, and when it came time to show Saving Private Ryan in its traditional Veterans Day primetime slot, ABC affiliates began to balk. When the uncut version of the film began to air, a large chunk of ABC stations opted not to show the film – even though the Walt Disney Company offered to pay any FCC fines incurred by airing it.
Randy Sharp of the American Family Association, said that Ryan’s language — the f-word is used at least 20 times — is not suitable for children watching at 8 p.m. “It may be OK on the battlefield, but it’s not OK on the public airwaves during prime-time broadcast hours.”
Instead of seeing the greatest, most realistic war movie on Veterans Day, some people instead saw Return to Mayberry, a made-for-TV movie based on the Andy Griffith Show, where Andy, Opie, and Barney Fife solve the mystery of a local lake monster.
There was no fallout from airing Saving Private Ryan – at least, not from the Federal government. The end result was that ABC no longer shows the film every Veterans Day. At a time when the United States was fighting two wars – Afghanistan and Iraq – and still reeling from the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, a half-second of what is now the world’s most famous nipple was enough to distract the country from nearly everything else.
The Su-25 Frogfoot, known as the Grach or “Rook” by Russian pilots, is one of those aircraft that may not be at the cutting edge of technology, but still has seen widespread service around the world because it offers an effective and useful solution to the need to blast targets on the ground.
Also unlike the Thunderbolt, it has been disseminated it all over the world and seen action in over a dozen wars, including in the air campaigns over Syria, Iraq and Ukraine.
Not only has Russia had a lot of experience flying Su-25s in combat — it has shot several down as well.
During World War II, Russia’s armored Il-2 Sturmovik attack planes, nicknamed “Flying Tanks,” were renowned for their ability to take a pounding while dishing it out to German Panzer divisions with bombs, rockets and cannon fire.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II.
Unlike the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s, which was enamored with the concept of “winning” nuclear wars with strategic bombers, the Soviet air service, the VVS, placed more emphasis on supporting ground armies in its Frontal Aviation branch. However, no worthy successor to the Shturmovik immediately appeared after World War II
In 1968, the VVS service decided it was time for another properly designed flying tank. After a three-way competition, the prototype submitted by Sukhoi was selected and the first Su-25 attack planes entered production in 1978 in a factory in Tbilisi, Georgia. Coincidentally, the American A-10 Thunderbolt had begun entering service a few years earlier.
Like the A-10, the Su-25 was all about winning a titanic clash between the ground forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact by busting tanks and blasting infantry in Close Air Support missions. This meant flying low and slow to properly observe the battlefield and line up the plane for an attack run.
Flying low would also help the Su-25 avoid all the deadly long-range SAMs that would have been active in a European battlefield. However, this would have exposed it to all kinds of antiaircraft guns. Thus, the pilot of the Su-25 benefited from an “armored bathtub” — ten to twenty-five millimeters of armor plating that wrapped around the cockpit and even padded the pilot’s headrest. It also had armored fuel tanks and redundant control schemes to increase the likelihood of surviving a hit. And in their extensive combat careers, Su-25s have survived some really badhits.
A Sukhoi Su-25SM at the Celebration of the 100th anniversary of Russian Air Force.
Despite the similarities with the A-10, the Su-25 is a smaller and lighter, and has a maximum speed fifty percent faster than the Thunderbolt’s at around six hundred miles per hour. However, the Frogfoot has shorter range and loiter time, can only operate at half the altitude, and has a lighter maximum load of up to eight thousand pounds of munitions, compared to sixteen thousand on the Thunderbolt.
More importantly, the types of munitions usually carried are typically different. The Thunderbolt’s mainstays are precision-guided munitions, especially Maverick antitank missiles, as well as its monstrous, fast-firing GAU-8 cannon.
The Su-25’s armament has typically consisted of unguided 250 or 500 kilogram bombs, cluster bombs and rockets. The rockets come in forms ranging from pods containing dozens of smaller 57- or 80-millimeter rockets, to five-shot 130-millimeter S-13system, to large singular 240- or 330-millimeter rockets. The Su-25 also has a Gsh-30-2 30-millimeter cannon under the nose with 260 rounds of ammunition, though it doesn’t have the absurd rate of fire of the GAU-8.
The lower tip of the Frogfoot’s nose holds a glass-enclosed laser designator. Su-25s did make occasional use of Kh-25ML and Kh-29 laser guided missiles in Afghanistan to take out Mujahideen fortified caves, striking targets as far as five miles away. KAB-250 laser-guided bombs began to see use in Chechnya as well. However, use of such weapons was relatively rare. For example, they made up only 2 percent of munitions expended by the Russian Air Force in Chechnya.
The Su-25 was still packing plenty of antipersonnel firepower—and that’s exactly what was called for when it first saw action in Afghanistan beginning in 1981. The Su-25 was the workhorse fixed-wing attack plane in the conflict, flying more than sixty thousand sorties in bombing raids on mujahedeen villages and mountain strongholds. They often teamed up with Mi-24 attack helicopters to provide air support for Soviet armored units.
However, as the Afghan rebels began to acquire Stinger missiles from the United States, Su-25s began to suffer losses and the Soviet pilots were forced to fly higher to avoid the man-portable surface-to-air missiles. In all, some fifteen Su-25s were shot down in Afghanistan before the Soviet withdrawal.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Su-25s were passed onto the air services of all the Soviet successor states. Those that didn’t use Su-25s in local wars—on both sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, for example—often exported them to countries that did. Frogfoots have seen action in the service of Macedonia (against Albanian rebels), Ethiopia (against Eritrea, with one shot down), Sudan (target: Darfur), and Georgia versus Abkhazian separatists that shot down several. And that list is not comprehensive.
In one notable episode, Cote d’Ivoire acquired several Su-25s and used them in its civil war. When the government of President Laurent Gbagbo was angered by the perceived partisanship of French peacekeepers, his mercenary-piloted Su-25s bombed the French camp, killing nine. Whoever ordered the attack didn’t consider that there was a French contingent stationed at the Yamoussoukro Airfield where the Frogfoots were based. The French used anti-tank missiles to destroy the fighter bombers on the ground in retaliation.
Russian Su-25 were back in action in the Chechnya campaign of 1994 to 1995, flying 5,300 strike sorties. Early on they helped wipe out Chechen aircraft on the ground and hit the Presidential Palace in Grozny with anti-concrete bombs. They then pursued a more general bombing campaign. Four were lost to missiles and flak. They were again prominent in the Second Chechen War in 1999, where only one was lost.
Of course, it’s important to note at this juncture that the Su-25 is one of a handful of Soviet aircraft that received its own American computer game in 1990.
In addition to the base model, the Frogfoot also came in an export variant, the Su-25K, and a variety of two-seat trainers with a hunchback canopy, including the combat-capable Su-25UBM.
There were a number of projects to modernize the Su-25, including small productions runs of Su-25T and Su-25TM tank busters. But the Russian Air Force finally selected the Su-25SM in the early 2000s for all future modernization.
The SM has a new BARS satellite navigation/attack system, which allows for more precise targeting, as well as a whole slew of improved avionics such as news heads-up displays (HUDS), Radar Warning Receivers and the like. The Su-25SM can use the excellent R-73 short-range air-to-air missile, and has improved targeting abilities for laser-guided bombs. Other improvements reduce maintenance requirements and lower aircraft weight.
The National Interest‘s Dave Majumdar has written about the latest SM3 upgrade, which includes the capacity to fire Kh-58 anti-radar missiles, which could enable Su-25s to help suppress enemy air defenses, as well as a Vitebskelectronic-countermeasure system that could increase its survivability against both radar- and infarred-guided surface to air missiles.
Georgia and Ukraine also have limited numbers of their own domestically upgrade variants, the Su-25KM and the Su-25M1 respectively. You can check out the Su-25KM variant, produced with an Israeli firm, in this video full of unironic 1980s flair.
Speaking of Georgia, things got messy in 2008 when both Russia and Georgia operated Frogfoots in the Russo-Georgian War. The Georgian Frogfoots provided air support for Georgian troops seizing the city of Tskhinvali. Then Russian Su-25s assisted Russian armor in blasting them out. Russia lost three Su-25s to MANPADS—two likely from friendly fire—and Georgia lost a similar number to Russian SAMs. To the surprise of observers, however, the Russian Air Force did not succeed in sweeping Georgian aviation from the sky.
In 2014, Ukraine deployed its Frogfoots to support ground forces combating separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine. They assisted in the initial recapture of the Donetsk airport in May, would be followed over a half year of seesaw battles ending in a separatist victory in 2015. Ukraine lost four Su-25s in the ensuing ground-attack missions—three were hit by missiles (one MANPADS, two allegedly by longer-ranged systems across the Russian border), and a fourth was reportedly downed by a Russian MiG-29. Two others survivedhits from missiles. As a result, Su-25 strikes were sharply curtailed to avoid incurring further losses.
In 2015, the Russian separatists of the Luhansk People’s Republic claimed to have launched airstrikes with an Su-25 of their own. Depending on who you ask, the airplane was restored from a museum or flew in from Russia.
The Iraqi Air Force has deployed its own Su-25s in the war against ISIS, purchasing five from Russia in 2014 and receiving seven from Iran that had been impounded during the 1991 Gulf War.
Finally, in the fall of 2015, Russia deployed a dozen modernized Su-25SMs in support of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Many observers noted that of the aircraft involved in the mission, the Su-25s were the best adapted for the close air-support role. The Frogfoot flew 1,600 sorties against rebel-held Syrian cities, and expended more than six thousand munitions, mostly unguided bombs and S-13 rockets. They were withdrawn this year, leaving attack helicopter behind to perform more precise—and risky—close air support missions.
Lessons Learned from Flying Tanks?
While it’s fun to admire high-performing fighters like the MiG-29 or F-22 Raptor, the unglamorous Su-25 has so far had a greater impact on a wide range of conflicts. We can draw a few lessons from its recent combat record.
First, the significant losses suffered by Su-25s demonstrate that without effective air-defense suppression and electronic counter-measures, low-and-slow ground support planes are poised to take heavy losses against Russian-made surface-to-air missiles deployed in sufficient numbers.
Second, observation of Russia’s Syrian contingent suggests that despite possessing a diverse arsenal of precision guided munitions, the Russian Air Force continues to rely primarily on unguided bombs and rockets for the close air support mission.
Lastly, aircraft capable of delivering punishing attacks on ground targets while retaining a good chance of surviving hits taken in return are going to remain in high demand worldwide.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
On Oct. 18, 2006, Justin Constantine was deployed to Al-Anbar Province, Iraq when a sniper shot him in the head.
He had just stepped out of his Humvee to warn a reporter about the sharpshooter operating in the area when the enemy took the shot.
“He [the reporter] told me later that based on that [Constantine’s warning] he took a big step forward and a split second later a bullet came in right where his head had been and hit the wall between us,” Constantine, who retired a Marine lieutenant colonel, said in the video below. “Before I could react, the next bullet hit me behind the left ear and exploded out of my mouth, causing incredible damage along the way.”
Constantine’s original prognosis was “killed in action,” but thanks to a quick-thinking 25-year-old Navy Corpsman, he lived.
“Even though blood was pouring out of my skull in what was left of my face, George was somehow able to perform rescue breathing on me, and then he cut open my throat and performed an emergency tracheotomy so that I wouldn’t drown in my own blood,” he added.
The Corpsman’s first aid was so perfect that Constantine’s plastic surgeon at the Naval Hospital thought another surgeon had performed the procedure.
He retired from the Marine Corps with a Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq.
Despite his recovery challenges and PTSD, Constantine has led an inspiring post-injury life, helping veterans and civilians overcome adversity. He now serves on the Board of Directors of the Wounded Warrior Project, Give An Hour, and others.
United States Army Aviation Branch is perhaps best known for revolutionizing the use of helicopters in combat. Whether it’s the highly versatile UH-60 Blackhawk, the extremely lethal AH-64 Apache, or the logistically mighty CH-47 Chinook, Army Aviation seems to be all about the choppers.
But that’s not all they fly. Despite being known for its rotorcraft, the Army has operated fixed-wing aircraft for the last seven decades, including the CV-2/C-7 Caribou and the C-23 Sherpa.
The Army’s operation of fixed-wing aircraft has been a touchy subject ever since the Army-Air Force divorce that followed World War II. Ultimately, this split led to the Key West Agreement of 1948. This agreement laid out the responsibilities of each branch of the United States Armed Forces. In brief, it left airborne combat in the capable hands of the US Air Force, while the US Army would only take to the seas or skies to support the troops on the ground.
But this agreement didn’t leave the Army solely with transports.
Three of the variants of the Mohawk.
(Graphic by Greg Goebel)
The Army also needed aircraft to provide reconnaissance for troops in the fight. The fact was, in the late 1950s, helicopters were fairly fragile and weren’t yet capable of carrying a significant payload. So, the Army turned to fixed-wing planes that could operate from rudimentary conditions.
One such plane was the OV-1 Mohawk, which came in three variants. The OV-1A was intended to operate with regular cameras. The OV-1B used a side-looking aerial radar to locate enemy vehicles. The OV-1C was equipped with infrared sensors to detect enemy forces (both vehicles and personnel) in all weather conditions. Later, the OV-1D was developed, capable of handling any of these systems.
An OV-1D prepares to take off during Operation Desert Storm. Note the side-looking radar underneath the fuselage.
The OV-1 entered service in 1959. It had a top speed of 297 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,678 miles, and a crew of two. It also had a provision for rocket pods and gun pods under the wings. That last provision caused a stir — the Air Force claimed it violated the Key West Agreement. Ultimately, the Army agreed not to arm planes like the Mohawk in return for not having limits on the performance of helicopters.
The Mohawk served for an impressive 35 years, finally retiring in 1996. Some surplus Mohawks are flown at air shows or with private companies, while other have gone to museums.
Watch the Army introduce this historically significant recon plane in the video below.