On the morning of June 7, 1917, after a dry quip to journalists about how he didn’t know whether he and his men’s actions “shall change history tomorrow,” but would “certainly alter the geography,” a British major general ordered a series of mines set off, detonating an almost 1 million pounds of explosives, killing about 1,000 German soldiers, and causing leaders in London —about 130 miles away — to hear the explosion.
A howitzer crew provides fire support during the infantry assault at the Battle of Messines Ridge.
(National Library of Scotland)
It all started soon after World War I descended from a fast-paced maneuver war into the trench-warfare stalemate that would define the conflict. Allied troops facing Germans in Belgium were, like their brethren in the trenches southward across France, quickly demoralized as the war ground on, thousands died, and almost no significant changes were made to the balance of the war.
People were dying by the thousands to seemingly no effect. So, some British officers came up with a plan to shift the line in Belgium by putting in years of work that would guarantee an eventual victory far in the future.
The plan was changed, overhauled, and refined plenty of times in those two years, but the basic underpinnings stayed the same. Near the village of Messines in Belgium, British tunnelers got to work digging towards and then under the German lines along the ridge that dominated the area. This digging operation would continue for two years.
Sappers dig a communication trench near Messines Ridge after the explosion that essentially handed the area to the British. Engineers had worked for nearly two years to dig the original tunnels that made the explosion possible.
(Imperial War Museums)
Shafts were dug across the front, and some were dug as deep as 100 feet and then filled with strong explosives. On top of these subterranean towers of explosives, each major stockpile had a mine that would act as the initiation device.
For German soldiers and officers, this was obviously a nightmare. For those directly over the explosion, the nightmare was over instantly. The Earth erupted around them like a volcano. The earth shook and shot into the sky. Men were wrecked by the blast and then survivors were buried alive in the debris. Approximately 1 millions pounds of explosives were used in the blast.
Soldiers share a smoke on June 10 during the Battle of Messines. The Battle of Messines Ridge had kicked off the British advance and given them a huge advantage when engineers successfully set off nearly 1 million pounds of explosives beneath a key ridge.
(Imperial War Museums)
But the slight breaks between explosions meant that, for minutes afterwards, German troops and officers were terrified that more explosions were coming, that they would be killed or buried in a sudden tower of fire and dirt.
Meanwhile, British troops had been staged to take advantage of the sudden opening in the lines. Many were knocked down by the initial blast despite staging hundreds of yards away. But they stood up and attacked the German lines. What had been a ridge was now a series of major craters, and the British were determined to take them.
The British had known that a large explosion was coming, though many individual soldiers didn’t know the exact details, and so they were able to rally much faster than the Germans. The British infantry assault, preceded by a creeping artillery barrage, successfully captured 7,000 survivors in addition to the 10,000 that the explosions had killed.
And the British were left holding what was left of the ridge. The Germans retreated and this allowed Britain to launch more attacks into Ypres. The Battle of Messines Ridge had been a great success, though the Ypres Offensive it enabled was less so. The idea for the larger offensive had been to capture the German U-Boat pens on the Belgian coast, but the openings at Messines Ridge didn’t eliminate the German defenses further on.
The Ypres Offensive was launched on July 31, just weeks after the explosions at Messines, but Germans fiercely contested the assaults and launched counterattacks of their own. The offensive was, ostensibly, an Allied victory. The Allies took Ypres and a lot of other territory, but suffered 275,000 casualties to Germany’s 220,000.
That’s why most of the world has forgotten the detonation at Messines Ridge. It was one of the largest man-made explosions in history at the time and it allowed the British to pull a victory, seemingly out of thin air. But its strategic impact didn’t last.
Marine Corps boot camp is legendary. But is it anything like the movies show?
The commercials make it look like constant action, with obstacle courses, gladiator style fighting, jumping off high dives, and crawling through the dirt commanding most of the airtime.
In reality, these things are sandwiched between hours and days of monotony and boredom.
I spent the summer of 2012 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and here is a sample day that a recruit might experience in the first phase of training.
A recruit writes in the log book as he stands watch at night.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Caitlin Brink)
0330: Officially, 0400, pronounced as “zero four,” or “oh four hundred,” is the time to wake up and get out of bed. Unofficially, you’re up 30 minutes before that.
The drill instructor woke you up by barking commands at the firewatch. The firewatch, which you will also stand every few days, is the interior guard. They are members of the platoon who are awake for one or two hours at a time throughout the night. The first and last shift aren’t so bad, but the 0000 to 0200 shift is brutal. The drill instructor is yelling at them, asking them why they messed up the log book, making them give the report until they get it right, or just making them run around the squad bay, looking for things that are amiss. You take this time to use the bathroom, as there won’t be time later. There are around 50 recruits to six toilets, so it’s best to go when you have time. Officially, you will have time to go after the lights come on, but it’s best to go now. It’s also best to brush your teeth before the lights come on.
A drill instructor storms through the squad bay as recruits stand “on line.”
(U.S. Sgt. Jennifer Schubert/US Marine Corps)
0400: Lights, lights, lights! That’s what firewatch yells as they throw the switches, turning on all the lights.
There’s no time for stretches or yawns, you get up and stand on line and stick your hand out. You better be ready, because the count starts immediately. Every time your platoon goes anywhere, you are counted. They have to make sure nobody took off in the middle of the night, even if firewatch is there to make sure this doesn’t happen. The recruits are standing “on line,” meaning standing in front of their beds, called “racks,” at attention, awaiting instruction. You will spend a lot of time here on line, so get used to it. The drill instructor runs down the line of recruits, around 25 on the left, and then back down the right, 25 there too. You have to yell your number and snap your arm back down at lightning speed. If somebody messes up, you start over. This counting process takes forever in the first few weeks, as recruits mess up by shouting the wrong number, pausing too long, or skipping over somebody. You do this counting process until you get it right.
Recruits race to put on their uniforms.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)
0401: After 30 seconds to get 50 recruits in and out of the bathroom, now called the head, it’s time to get dressed.
However long it takes you to get dressed in the morning, it takes longer now. You are about to get dressed “by the numbers.” This process was the single most frustrating part of boot camp for me, since it was so tedious and you would inevitably end up with a sock inside out all day. This process looks like this: the drill instructor names a piece of clothing, say trousers, and all the recruits get that item and bring it on line. The uniform items, or cammies, are hung on the back of the racks overnight, meaning you have to run to the back, get it, and make it back on line, arm outstretched, before the drill instructor gets to zero. If somebody doesn’t make it, you put it back.
You finally get your trousers on, but somebody didn’t get them buttoned by zero, so you take them off and put them back. Once you get your trousers on, it’s time for the blouse. Then it’s time for the boots. You can get to the last item of clothing, say your left boot, and have to start all over. This process takes as long as the drill instructor needs it to. If there is a gap in the schedule, it takes forever. The countdown goes as fast or as slow as they want. You can sometimes tell when the games have gone on too long, as they start counting down slightly slower. But in the beginning, you will finish with a few buttons undone, your boots untied, and you’ll be rushed onto the next task. You are expected to fix it on the fly. Not surprisingly, tying your boots while trying to run down the stairs is not easy.
Recruits “scuzz” the floor of their barracks.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink)
0415: Time to clean house.
With around 50 recruits constantly running in and out of the squadbay, dirt is always present. You will spend many hours “scuzzing” the deck, meaning sweeping the floor with a little hand held “scuzz brush.” This process works much like getting dressed, (“Scuzz brush on line, ready, move!”) but you have to run to the wall, squat down, and push the dirt to the middle of the squadbay. You are in boot camp though, so you have to do so at “parade rest” with your non-scuzz brush hand behind your back. And don’t even think about letting your knee hit the deck. You squat and duck walk your way to the middle. If you don’t get there in time, you do it again. Either before or after this, you make your bed, aka “rack.” In years past, recruits got wise and started sleeping on top of the sheets so as to leave the rack pristine. This was not allowed in the summer of 2012. You either slept under your sheets, or you would have to tear them up in the morning anyway. Making the bed can be as fast or as slow as getting dressed, depending on what’s happening that day. They can let you get it done fast and move on, or they can have you rip all the sheets off and bring them on line. It’s always a surprise.
Recruits at Parris Island march in formation.
(U.S. Marine photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink)
0430: Somewhere during that time, you got your boots tied, and it’s time to get outside and “form up.”
Forming up is the process of getting outside and standing in formation, ready to move to the next place. For right now, it’s breakfast. All meals in boot camp are referred to as “chow.” This is morning chow. You are formed up in the correct order, rifles in hand, and you are ready to march to the chow hall.
This isn’t a leisurely walk though, this is a chance to practice drill. The drill instructors call the commands, and you execute. Depending on how early in the process of learning drill you are, you could be marching at a snail’s pace, your foot hitting the ground only when the drill instructor allows it. You eventually get to the chow hall, you stack your rifles outside, since they don’t go in, and get in line. You leave a couple of guards on the rifles, who will have a chance to eat when the first two in your platoon come out.
While waiting in line for the chow hall, you will study your knowledge. Knowledge is just the word that the Marines use to describe any of the things that will be on the tests. This can be history, land navigation, first aid, marksmanship, drill, uniforms, customs and courtesies, or rank structure. This is usually done at top volume, with the drill instructor shouting the question, and the recruits shouting the answer. For example, the answer to “Two Marines, two medals,” is “Dan Daly, Smedley Butler Ma’am!” at top volume. The question is looking for the two Marines who have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice. The answer will be shouted at top volume, or it will be shouted again.
Eventually you get inside, get your food, and sit down to eat. You eat as fast as possible without choking, since the drill instructor is yelling at you to get out. There is no time here for butter on toast. If you want butter on your toast, you stuff the toast in your mouth, then stuff a pat of butter in after it. You finish eating and go back outside to pick up your gear.
Welcome to the sand pit.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Sarah Stegall)
0500: Your platoon got into the chow hall first, and now you are done. Your next activity doesn’t start until 0600, so it’s time for drill.
Your platoon marches back and forth on a concrete square, called a parade deck, learning how to turn, start and stop, or reverse direction as a unit. If anybody messes up, you start over.
If you are struggling more than they would like, you might be sent to the pit. There is a sand pit conveniently located right next to the parade deck, and you are about to go do exercises in it. You do pushups, sit-ups, mountain climbers, side straddle hops, or hold a plank while screaming at the top of your lungs. Usually you are screaming the number of reps completed. If you aren’t loud enough or you aren’t performing up to their expectations, you just stay in there until you do.
If there is more than one of you in there, it’s a group effort. This is one of the most effective ways to break a recruit down. Maybe I don’t care about getting yelled at or being seen as weak, but there might be five of us in the pit, and nobody gets to leave until I hold that plank for 60 seconds. After 8 or 9 solid minutes of planks, 60 seconds gets a lot longer. They force you to care, because now you’re letting the team down. (“Oh good, Ohlms wants to let her knees touch the deck. Start over.”) The funny thing is, they will say you cheated a move just to piss off your fellow recruits, and you can’t say anything about it. Eventually you get back to your unit, just in time to mess up the next drill move.
Recruits attend classroom training.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jennifer Schubert)
0600: Time for class.
This should be a relaxing time. You go into a classroom, sit in the air conditioning, and learn about topics that the Marine Corps will test you on later. You may be a huge history buff, and this may be a history class, but it will not be fun. You drill over to the classroom and get inside as fast as possible, lining up by a desk. You don’t dare sit down, as you weren’t told to yet. Your rifles get stacked in racks at the back of the room, and you take off your day pack, holding it out parallel to the deck, arms straight out, both thumbs hooked under the carrying handle. You stand there until the drill instructors deem you worthy of sitting.
If you don’t get that day pack under the chair and your book on the desk fast enough, you pick them back up, arms parallel to the deck. All the while, a constant stream of yelling. You try again and maybe this time you make it. You sit when told to and you open your book. The teacher is another drill instructor, but the class isn’t so bad. He isn’t yelling at you, unless your eyes start to droop or your head starts to bob. Then you get put on a list. After about an hour, it’s time for a break. Those who were pointed out in class are rushed outside to the pit, while the rest of you are given a chance to go to the head and refill your canteens with water. Everywhere you go, you are screamed at. You are screamed at to fill your canteen faster, pee faster, wash your hands faster, get back in the classroom faster. You get back to the classroom to pick up your pack and hold it out again. As soon as everybody is back, some covered head to toe in sand, the next class starts.
A drill instructor inspects a recruit’s weapon.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Anthony Leite)
0900: Class is over and there is an hour until afternoon chow. Time for more drill.
This time, the sun is beating down on you, adding to the experience. The sweat makes the sand stick so much better.
1000: Afternoon chow. The bugs have come out now, making standing outside the chow hall unbearable. You dare not swat at a bug crawling on your face, as you know that earns you a trip to the pit later. You just stand there screaming knowledge as the sweat drips into your eyes and the bugs crawl on your neck and face. Eventually you get inside, stuff down as much food as you can in 60 seconds, and get back outside.
A recruit in the basic warrior stance during martial arts training.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brooke C Woods)
1100: Time for MCMAP, the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
You move to this football field-size lot of chopped up rubber and slip a mouth guard in. You are about to do the Marine Corps version of karate. You partner up and practice punching, kicking, chokes, escaping from chokes, slamming your partner to the ground, and trying to enunciate with a mouth guard in. If the drill instructors feel like you aren’t going hard enough, they will make you do it again and again until you do. Your partner will thank you to do it right the first time.
1300: Time to go back to the house, but you’ll stop by the parade deck first to get in a little drill.
A drill instructor inspects recruits.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Anthony Leite)
1500: You get back to the squad bay.
With your first inspection coming up, the drill instructor shows you exactly how everything is going to look in the squad bay. Everything has to match. Every recruit has a foot locker, a sea bag, and a rack, and they all must be marked and arranged in exactly the same way. If one person marks their foot locker in the wrong spot, the tape is ripped off of all of them and it is done again.
Recruits line up for chow.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)
1700: Evening chow.
1800: Back to the squad bay. It’s time for all 50 recruits to take a shower.
1805: Done with showers. Get out.
Recruits are responsible for cleaning their rifles.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Maximiliano Bavastro)
1806: Rifle cleaning time.
One piece at a time, and everybody cleans the same piece until they are all done. Also, somebody was slouching, so you are scrubbing with both arms fully extended up over your head.
A recruit reads letters from his family.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mackenzie Carter)
1900: You get one hour of “free time” before bed.
This is when they hand out letters, you have time to study for the upcoming history test, you can practice drill movements that you are having trouble with, or somebody might forget to announce a drill instructor as they enter the room and you spend most of your free time at attention waiting for forgiveness.
Even sleeping involves discipline.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Vaniah Temple)
You lay at the position of attention in your rack until you are given permission to adjust. You will get used to falling asleep in the position of attention. Another day down, only seventy-something left.
Sara Ohlms spent 13 weeks feeding the sand fleas of Parris Island in the summer of 2012. She then spent the next four years as a military working dog handler. She is now a freelance writer based in St. Louis, Missouri.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The women’s branch of the U.S. Naval Reserve during WWII is better known as WAVES – Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. It was established on July 21, 1942, by Congress and signed into law by President Roosevelt just nine days later. This law authorized the Navy to accept women into the Naval Reserve as commissioned officers and enlisted service members, effective for the duration of the war plus six months. This legislation allowed the release of officers and sailors of sea duty and replaced them with women in shore positions.
History of WAVES
In May 1941, Edith Nourse Rogers, a Congresswoman from Massachusetts, introduced a bill to Congress to establish a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). Opposition delayed the bill’s passage until 1942, but it was at the time that the Navy realized having women serve would also be beneficial. However, Read Admiral Chester Nimitz was against having women serve in the Navy, saying there was “no great need.” The Bureau of Naval Personnel recommended that Congress be asked to authorize a women’s organization. Eventually, the director of the Bureau of the Budget opposed the idea but agreed to legislation similar to the WAAC.
However, the notion of women serving in the Navy wasn’t widely supported by Congress or by the Navy. Public Law 686 was put forth largely due in part of the efforts by the Navy’s Women’s Advisory Council, along with support from Margaret Chung and Eleanor Roosevelt. Margaret Chung was the first known American-born Chinese female physician who faced significant sexism in her attempts to have a medical career.
Chung and Roosevelt, along with support from Rogers, asked women educators to bring the bill to fruition, first contacting Virginia Gildersleeve, Dean of Barnard College. The Women’s Advisory Council was formed shortly after that, which boasted an impressive roster of several prominent women. Chosen to lead the commission was Mildred McAfee, president of Wellesley College. McAfee became the first director of WAVEs and was commissioned as a lieutenant commander on August 3, 1942, as the first woman officer in the US Naval Reserve. Later, McAfee was promoted to the rank of captain. McAfee played a significant role in the development of policies relating to how women should be treated in the Navy, and the types of assignments female reserve officers and enlisted sailors should be given.
To be eligible for OCS, women had to be between 20 and 49 and possess a college degree or have at least two years of college and two or more years of professional experience. Enlisted volunteers had to be between 20 and 35 years old and have a high school or business school diploma. Most WAVES officers were trained at Smith College in Massachusetts, and specialized training was conducted on several college campuses and naval facilities around the country. Most enlisted WAVES received their training at Hunter College in the Bronx, New York.
By September, 108 women were commissioned as officers in the WAVES.
Reception among male counterparts
The mission of WAVES was to replace male sailors in short stations for sea duty. This led to hostility from those who didn’t wish to be released. Most instances of hostility were tacit, though there were several occasions when the hostility was open and overt. Sometimes women were assigned to roles for which they were not physically suited, making many historians wonder if these cases of overt sexism were curated to encourage the failure of WAVES. There are several examples of women being assigned to jobs formerly occupied by two men.
WAVES served at 900 short stations in the continental US but were initially prohibited from serving on ships or outside the country. IN 1944, Congress amended the law to allow WAVES to volunteer for service in Hawaii and Alaska. WAVES officers held professional positions, serving as physicians, attorneys, engineers, and mathematicians.
Facts & Figures
By the end of WWII, 18% of naval personnel assigned to shore stations were WAVES.
Seven WAVE officers and 62 enlisted WAVES died during WWII.
The Distinguished Service Medal was awarded to Captain McAfee for her efforts as the director of WAVES.
Two WAVES received the Legion of Merit, three received a Bronze Star, 18 received the Secretary of the Navy’s letter of commendation, and one received an Army Commendation Medal.
At the end of WWII, the Navy established five separation centers for the demobilization of WAVES and Navy nurses. Separation processes began on October 1, 1945, and within 30 days, almost 10,000 WAVES were separated. By September 1946, the demobilization was almost complete. At the time, it wasn’t clear whether or not demobilizing WAVES meant an end to women in the military altogether. On July 30, 1948, the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was signed into law by President Truman, allowing women to serve in both the Army and the Navy permanently. The wartime prohibition of women serving in any unit having a combat mission was carried over in the 1948 Act, keeping women from being fully integrated into the military for another 25 years.
A hacker who got ahold of sensitive US military documents tried to sell them on a dark-web forum — only to find there were no buyers. The hacker was forced to lower his price to $150.
After a team of undercover analysts from Recorded Future’s Insikt Group embedded themselves with users from the dark-web forum, they came across the hacker who exploited a simple vulnerability on Netgear-brand routers.
Through this exploit, the hacker gained access to documents belonging to a US Air Force service member stationed at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, and documents belonging to another service member believed to be in the US Army.
The sensitive files included a maintenance manual for the MQ-9A Reaper drone, a list of airmen assigned to a Reaper drone unit, manuals on how to suppress improvised explosive devices, and an M1 Abrams tank manual.
Although the materials do not appear to be classified, the information was still prohibited from being “released to another nation without specific authority” and was intended for “military purposes only.”
The hacker also tapped into live footage of surveillance cameras at the US-Mexico border and NASA bases, and an MQ-1 Predator flying over the Gulf of Mexico.
The MQ-9A Reaper
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The hacker claimed to have stolen “classified” information from the Pentagon, but Insikt Group’s analysts say their interactions with the hacker painted a less sophisticated picture. After building a rapport with other users on the dark-web forum, analysts chatted with the hacker and discovered he possessed “above amateur” abilities and may have been part of a group within a larger group.
“I wouldn’t say that they possess skills of highly advanced threat-actors,” Andrei Barysevich, a researcher at Recorded Future, told Business Insider. “They have enough knowledge to realize the potential of a very simple vulnerability and use it consistently.”
Analysts say they have a “good level of confidence” of the hacker’s identity, and are coordinating with Homeland Security officials in their investigation. A DHS representative declined to comment on the matter and the affected Air Force drone unit did not respond to requests for comment.
He didn’t fear the Reaper
The hacker may not have been fully aware of the nature of the information he possessed. At one point, he complained that he was unable to find interested buyers for the files — which he believed were highly valuable. He ultimately lowered his price.
“I expect about 0 or 0 for being classified information” he said, according to a transcript.
In an attempt to make a quick sale, he was also “proactive in giving” samples to analysts, which in turn allowed them to determine whom the documents were stolen from.
“[It] clearly shows he had no knowledge of how much this data may cost and where and whom to sell it to,” analyst Barysevich said. “He was attempting to get rid of it as soon as possible.”
After Barysevich’s team alerted US officials, the vulnerable computers were taken offline. That move ultimately cut off the hacker’s access to the files.
The hacker, who is believed to live in a poverty-stricken country in South America, said his internet connection was slow and that, because his bandwidth was limited, he did not download as much information as he had hoped to, prior to finding a willing buyer.
Instead, he relied on screenshots and shared them with the analysts, who say they believe he was still unable to find a buyer.
A password impasse
The Netgear router vulnerability, which dates back to 2016, allowed hackers to access private files remotely if a user’s password is outdated. Despite several firmware updates and countless news articles on the subject, thousands of routers remain vulnerable.
A simple search on Shodan, a search engine for devices connected to the internet, reveals more than 4,000 routers that are susceptible to the attack.
“We’re literally talking about thousands of systems,” Barysevich said. “And many of them appear to be operated by government employees.”
Hackers, like the one Barysevich’s team encountered, would scan large segments of the internet by country, identify which routers would have a standard port used by private servers, and then use the default password to discover private files.
It’s difficult to match the contents of the files with their owners, but that’s not exactly the point. It’s a brute-force method with only one goal in mind: to find valuable data and exploit it.
“Sadly, very few understand the importance of properly securing wireless access points [WAP], and even fewer use strong passwords and understand how to spot phishing emails,” Recorded Future said in a report.
“The fact that a single hacker with moderate technical skills was able to identify several vulnerable military targets and exfiltrate highly sensitive information in a week’s time is a disturbing preview of what a more determined and organized group with superior technical and financial resources could achieve.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
That shrapnel-scarred flak jacket or battle-blasted Kevlar might not have much use to the military by the time they’re turned in to an equipment issue facility for reset following a deployment.
But for the service member who wore them and lived to tell the tale, the items’ value just might be immeasurable.
A small provision in the fiscal 2019 defense budget bill aims to make it easier for the military to donate protective gear deemed no longer fit for military use to the service members who wore it during combat and other military operations.
The provision, first reported by Army Times, would grant formal permission to the military to do something that has from time to time been done informally — presenting old gear to the troops it protected as a keepsake — and tacitly acknowledges that the equipment these troops wear tells a story of its own.
“The Secretary of a military department may award to a member of the armed forces… and to any veteran formerly under the jurisdiction of the Secretary, demilitarized personal protective equipment (PPE) of the member or veteran that was damaged in combat or otherwise during the deployment of the member or veteran,” the provision reads. “The award of equipment under this section shall be without cost to the member or veteran concerned.”
Lance Cpl. Bradley A. Snipes stands with the helmet that saved his life. During a mission with his platoon, Snipes was shot in the head by an enemy sniper. The only thing that saved his life was the Kevlar helmet he wore.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jerad W. Alexander)
The stories of troops whose lives have been saved because their Kevlar helmets stopped an enemy bullet have become a genre of their own in reports from the battlefield. Photos showing Marines and soldiers mugging with shredded helmets highlight the importance of the stories these protective items tell.
One Marine Corps news release from 2005 recounts how Lance Cpl. Bradley Snipes, an anti-tank assaultman with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, was hit squarely in the head by a sniper round during a deployment to Iraq. He came away uninjured, thanks to his Kevlar.
“I was really surprised. It’s supposed to be able to stop a 7.62mm round at long distances. Well, it did,” he told a Marine combat correspondent at the time. “The gear works, don’t doubt it. This is proof.”
The story added that Snipes wanted to petition to keep his helmet as a memento. It’s not clear from the story or follow-on reports if he was given the chance to do so.
“I want to put it in a case with a plaque that says, ‘The little bullet that couldn’t,'” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
The wreckage of a World War II US Navy aircraft carrier was found on the floor of the South Pacific Ocean more than 76 years after it sank.
The USS Hornet sank during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on Oct. 26, 1942, killing about 140 of its 2,200 sailors and crew members. It lay on the seabed until January 2019, when it was discovered more than 17,000 feet (5,000 meters) below the ocean’s surface.
An F4F Wildcat aircraft with its wings folded was discovered with the wreckage of the USS Hornet.
(Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc.)
Robert Kraft, Vulcan’s director of subsea operations, said in a statement that the mission to find the Hornet was in honor of Allen.
“Paul Allen was particularly interested in aircraft carriers, so this was a discovery that honors his memory,” Kraft said.
He added: “We had the Hornet on our list of WWII warships that we wanted to locate because of its place in history as a capitol carrier that saw many pivotal moments in naval battles.”
The RV Petrel deployed its autonomous underwater vehicle in the search for the USS Hornet.
(Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.)
The Hornet was commissioned in October 1941, launched the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, and played a key role in the US victory in the Battle of Midway with Japan in 1942, sinking four Japanese aircraft carriers.
But the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, one year after it was commissioned, was its last fight. On the first day, it was hit by four bombs and two torpedoes in 10 minutes. Most crew members were transferred to another ship, while others tried to repair the damage.
It was attacked again with a torpedo and two bombs, and the rest of the crew abandoned it. It sank the next morning.
Richard Nowatzki, a gunner on the ship who survived the battle, told CBS News that when enemy planes left, “we were dead in the water.”
“They used armor-piercing bombs,” he said. “Now when they come down, you hear ’em going through the decks … plink, plink, plink, plink … and then when they explode the whole ship shakes.”
Damage on the hull of the USS Hornet.
(Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.)
A 10-person crew on the 250-foot Petrel found the wreck on the first mission of its autonomous underwater vehicle by using data from national and naval archives, Vulcan said.
A 10-person crew on the 250-foot Petrel found the wreck on the first mission of its autonomous underwater vehicle by using data from national and naval archives, Vulcan said.
Featured image: Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Capt. Zoe “SiS” Kotnik is the new commander of the F-16 of the Viper Demo Team (VDT).
On Jan. 29, 2019, Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, certified the new F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot and commander ahead of the 2019 season, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. The final certification by the ACC Commander follows extensive training including four certifications, off-station training flights and more than 30 practice missions.
With over 1,000 flying hours in her eight years of military service “SiS”, originally assigned to the 55th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, is the Air Force’s first female single-ship aerial demonstration pilot.
She will lead the team in about 20 locations across the world during the upcoming airshow season.
“What I’m looking forward to most is the potential to have an influence on younger generations,” said Kotnik in a public release. “I know firsthand how impactful airshows can be and what a difference it makes to young people to see just one example of what they too can do and who they can become. I hope to be a source of inspiration and motivation they can draw from to apply in their own lives.”
The F-16 VDT performs an aerobatic display whose aim is to demonstrate the unique capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, better known as “Viper” in the pilot community.
“These shows allow us to demonstrate the capabilities of the F-16 to a world-wide audience while highlighting the work of the airmen who keep the Viper flying,” said Master Sgt. Chris Schneider, F-16 VDT superintendent. “It’s not every day people get the chance to hear the sound of freedom roaring over their heads or watch a team of maintainers working together to make it happen.”
If you are interested in learning a bit more about her, here’s an interview “Sis” gave to LiveAirshowTV in fall 2018:
The Marine Corps is getting ready to launch a test to determine if lighter footwear will improve the performance of Marines at boot camp.
According to a release from Marine Corps Systems Command, the test, to be run during a future recruit training cycle, will involve two lightweight boots designed for warmer climates: the Danner Reckoning Hot Weather Boot, currently available to Marines for optional wear; and the Rocky Tropical boot, which has participated and performed well in recent wear tests assessing jungle footwear for Marines.
The Marine Corps plans to order 700 pairs of each to issue to an equal number of male and female recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. They will be compared to the standard Marine Corps combat boot during the test, according to the release.
During the three-month test, users will be monitored to determine if there is a decrease in lower extremity injuries for those wearing the lighter boots, according to the release.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Brianna Gaudi)
“The feedback we’ve received from Marines on the Reckoning boots, is positive,” Todd Towles, project officer for the Clothing and Equipment Team at Marine Corps Systems Command, said in a statement. “The boots are lightweight, durable, and there’s virtually no break-in period.”
While officials did not say when the test is set to take place, they have already begun to procure the boots it requires.
On March 22, 2018, the Marine Corps published an intent to sole source 700 pairs of the Reckoning boot. It published a request for a quote on the Rocky boot.
This most recent effort follows a series of wear tests in 2016 and 2017 involving tropical boot prototypes. The tests, which took place in Hawaii and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, involved boots made by four different companies: Rocky Boots, Bates Footwear, Altama, and Danner.
While the Marine Corps has not publicized full results of those tests, they said the Rocky brand performed well during testing.
Known as one of the bloodiest campaigns of all of World War II, nearly one million people lost their lives during the Battle for Stalingrad.
The battle was a colossal matchup between European dictators Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Throughout the campaign, thousands of bombs were dropped, killing innumerous innocent civilians and leaving nothing but ruins and a massive maze of defensive positions for the Soviets.
As the Germans moved forward, they came within meters of their Russian enemy and, in some cases, combat devolved into hand-to-hand combat. Meanwhile, talented snipers set themselves up in burned-out buildings and would egress out immediately after taking a single shot — discovery in such close quarters was otherwise inevitable.
Although the Germans took heavy casualties during their push into the city’s high ground, their losses couldn’t compare to the enormous dent they made in Russian personnel.
It would take nearly four weeks of intense and grueling combat for the Germans to reach the Mamayev Hill.
As the Germans continued to push forward, the Russian frontline began to rapidly collapse. Members of the Red Army began retreating from their positions en masse, some even forfeiting their weapons to nearby troops.
Many Russian troops felt the battle was unwinnable. Their iron-fisted dictator, however, refused to back down. Today, many military strategists feel that if Stalin had ordered a retreat and had given his men time to regroup, they could have successfully reestablished defenses sooner.
Although it appeared Stalingrad would soon fall, Hitler’s infantry was spreading a little too thin.
Then, the Russian’s introduced their well-engineered T-34 tank, which struck fear in the Germans. The armored vehicle was a sturdy as Stalin’s confidence. As time went on, what once felt like an easy victory for the Germans become a titanic beating.
Although the Russians were regaining ground, they continued to suffer heavy casualties throughout. For Hitler, losing a city named after his nemesis was unacceptable.
After five months of carnage, the Battle of Stalingrad finally came to a halt. It officially ended on Feb. 2, 1943, with a Soviet victory.
If you browse through the huge amount of photographs regularly released by the DoD, you’ll notice that some of the Air Force Special Operation Command’s CV-22 and U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys have been modified. The tilt-rotor aircraft now sport a new “bulge” on the upper fuselage between the wings and the tail. After a quick investigation we have found that the “bulge” is actually a radome hosting a SATCOM antenna quite similar to the one used aboard airliners to give passengers the ability to stream Prime Video or Netflix live on their mobile devices while airborne.
The antenna is aimed to give the Ospreys the ability to interconnect to classified (and unclassified) networks with increased bandwidth and transparent transitions among multiple satellite beams in process: this significantly improves Situational Awareness, as the Osprey can get tactical details and access secure channels in a reliable way while enroute. The problem faced by the V-22s (both the U.S. Air Force CV-22s and the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22s) as well as other assets, is the changes occurring during a long air transit to the target area. The battlefield is a extremely dynamic scenario with forces in continuous movement. A Special Operations aircraft launching from a Forward Operating Base located at 1-hour flight time from the area of operations may find a completely changed tactical situation than the one briefed before departure by the time it gets there. Describing the need to be constantly updated, the commanding officer of a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force said in a news release: “As an infantryman, it’s very frustrating when you’ve fully planned a mission. Then after a long air transit to the objective area you get off the plane and find out everything is different … rules of engagement, enemy locations, even the objective itself.”
Soldiers from the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command and 3rd Special Forces Group move toward U.S. Air Force CV-22 Ospreys Feb. 26, 2018, at Melrose Training Range. The CV-22 in the foreground has the SATCOM radome, the one in the background does not sport any bulge.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Clayton Cupit)
For instance, during the civil war in South Sudan, Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys flew a Marine response force from Spainto Djibouti in a non-stop flight of 3,200 nautical miles – the distance from Alaska to Florida. But U.S. Marine Corps crisis response units for U.S. Africa and U.S. Central Commands aboard MV-22 Osprey and KC-130J aircraft were typically disconnected from intelligence updates, tactical data sources and each other while flying to a crisis hot spot. This means that but needed a capability to conduct mission planning, and command and control when flying to distant objective areas.
For this reason, it is extremely important that the aircraft is constantly fed with relevant updates while enroute .
Dealing with the MV-22s, the antenna is part of the Networking On-The-Move-Airborne Increment 2 (NOTM-A Inc 2)initiative launched in 2016. It includes a suite that can be fitted to the KC-130J and MV-22 to provide an airborne en route mission planning and over-the-horizon/beyond-line-of-sight (OTH/BLOS) communication and collaboration capability. Noteworthy, the NOTM-A is capable of installation/configuration within 60 minutes, and rapid disembarkation from its host airframe in preparation for future missions. The Quick-Release-Antenna-System for the satellite communications system varies depending on host aircraft but features network management equipment and C2 components that are airframe agnostic. The system provides internal secure wireless LAN access point for staff personnel to perform digital C2 functions in the SATCOM host aircraft: in other words the NOTM-A provides connectivity for the aircrew through secure WiFi network. Interestingly, access to the global information grid and Marine Corps enterprise network can be accomplished via commercial network access.
Ground communications specialist Marines train on configuring and operating the Networking On-the-Move-Airborne Increment II. In Spetember 2018 Marine Corps Systems Command fielded the first NOTM-A Inc. II System to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit to enhance their ability to communicate in the air.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy of Chris Wagner)
According to the U.S. Marine Corps, in May 2015, the first NOTM-Airborne Increment I (also known as the Hatch-Mounted Satellite Communication Antenna System) was fielded to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces. It gave embarked ground personnel real-time access to networks during airborne operations aboard KC-130 aircraft. As a consequence of the success with the Super Hercules, the Marine Corps decided to install NOTM-A Inc. II on the MV-22 and, in June 2018, the first of the systems was fielded to the 22nd MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit).
“It can take hours to fly to a location to complete a mission, and during that time, the situation on the ground can change significantly,” said Chris Wagner, NOTM lead engineer in MCSC’s Command Element Systems in an official news release. “The NOTM capability provides Marines with real time command, control and collaborative mission planning while airborne.”
An MV-22 Avionics technician installs the Quick-Release-Antenna-System which is part of the Networking On-the-Move-Airborne Increment II.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy of Chris Wagner)
In order to accommodate the new system, the Naval Air Systems Command and MCSC had to modify the Osprey: “This involved modifications such as replacing the rear overhead hatch, installing a SATCOM radome, and installing system interface cables. Mission ready, the system is capable of providing communications access for up to five users, including networks, voice, email, video and text.
With the new equipment, the MV-22 aircrews can get accurate and up-to-date en route information: “If the situation on the ground changes, we can get updates to the Common Operating Picture, from reconnaissance assets to the commander enabling mission changes while en route.”
Testing with the MV-22 took place November through December 2017 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Marine Expeditionary Forces I and II will receive the NOTM-A Inc. II System when fielding continues in 2019.
U.S. Army Special Operations Soldiers exfiltrate from a training area, via a U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey, March 1, 2018, at Melrose Air Force Range, New Mexico. This CV-22 is not equipped with the new SATCOM system.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sam Weaver)
The presentation includes interesting details about the SATCOM antennae used to connect to ViaSat services by C-17 airlifters, AC-130U gunships, Air Force One and VIP aircraft (including C-40 and C-32), RC-135 Rivet Joint spyplanes (both the U.S. and UK ones) as well as MV-22 and CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. Dealing with the latter ones, the presentation states that at least 6 shipsets had already been delivered to AFSOC for the CV-22 Satcom System and Service whilst the initial 4 shipsets for the MV-22 Satcom Systems had been contracted. Based on this, it looks like the system used by the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 and CV-22 is the same (as one might expect): it offers a kit with easy roll on/roll off capability, maintenance and upgrades.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
General Dynamics Land Systems has unveiled a new heavily armed, yet lighter-weight expeditionary armored vehicle as part of an effort to build a future Army war platform, a new combat vehicle being engineered to support maneuvering infantry — and ultimately change land war.
Called the Griffin III, the General Dynamics Land Systems offering is a 40-ton armored vehicle with both deep-strike technology and counter-drone sensors, Michael Peck, GDLS Director of Enterprise Business Development, told Warrior.
“This is a deployable tracked vehicle with the armor protection required by the Army,” Peck said in an interview.
While referred to by some as a “light tank,” Army officials specify that plans for the new platform seek to engineer a mobile combat platform able to deploy quickly.
The new vehicle represents an Army push toward more expeditionary warfare and rapid deployability; it is no surprise that two Griffin IIIs are being built to fit on an Air Force C-17 aircraft.
“In the future it will be important to get off-road. Mobility can help with lethality and protection because you can hit the adversary before they can disrupt your ability to move,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, TRADOC, told Warrior Maven in an interview in early 2018.
Smith’s emphasis upon how lighter-weight armored vehicles can address terrain challenges, and off-road mobility aligns with findings from analytical historical research performed years ago by the Dupuy Institute.
U.S. Soldiers load the .50-caliber machine gun of an M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams main battle tank during a combined arms live-fire exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Nov. 19, 2015.
(U.S. Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)
Commissioned by the US Army Center for Army Analysis, the study concluded that heavily armed, yet lighter-weight, more maneuverable armored combat platforms could provide a substantial advantage to combat infantry in many scenarios.
“Vehicle weight is sometimes a limiting factor in less developed areas. In all cases where this was a problem, there was not a corresponding armor threat. As such, in almost all cases, the missions and tasks of a tank can be fulfilled with other light armor,” the study writes.
Drawing upon this conceptual premise, it also stands to reason that a medium-armored vehicle, with heavy firepower, might be able to support greater mobility for advancing infantry while simultaneously engaging in major combat, mechanized force-on-force kinds of engagements where there is armored resistance.
Current Abrams tanks, while armed with 120mm cannons and fortified by heavy armor, are challenged to support infantry in some scenarios due to weight and mobility constraints.
As Smith explained, bridges, or other terrain-oriented impediments preclude the ability of heavy tanks to support maneuvering IBCTs.
Smith also explained that Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs), expected to operate in a more expansive battlespace, will require deployable, fast-moving close-to-contact direct fire support.
Also, while likely not able to match the speed of a wheeled Stryker vehicle, a “tracked” vehicle can better enable “off-road” combat, as Smith explained.
Also, rapid deployability is of particular significance in areas such as Europe, where Russian forces, for instance, might be in closer proximity to US or NATO forces.
Tactically speaking, given that IBCTs are likely to face drones armed with precision weapons, armored vehicle columns advancing with long-range targeting technology and artillery, infantry on-the-move needs to have firepower and sensors sufficient to outmatch an advanced enemy. General Dynamics plans to model construction of eight new prototypes, is one of several industry offerings for the Army to consider.
Soldiers inspect an M1A2 Abrams tank.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)
While many details of the GDLS Griffin III have yet to be revealed, Peck did say the vehicle is engineered to accommodate built-in Active Protection Systems — sensors, fire control radar and interceptors used to detect, track and destroy incoming enemy fire, Peck said.
GDLS is pursuing a two-fold strategy with its Griffin III; the firm plans to work with the Army to adjust as needed and refine aspects of the platform, while also jumping in front of the Army’s current plan to build prototypes in the next few years.
The Army’s new lightweight armored vehicles are expected to change land war by outmatching Russian equivalents and bringing a new dimension to advancing infantry as it maneuvers toward enemy attack.
Long-range precision fire, coordinated air-ground assault, mechanized force-on-force armored vehicle attacks, and drone threats are all changing so quickly that maneuvering US Army infantry now needs improved firepower to advance on major adversaries in war, Army leaders explain.
All of these factors are indicative of how concepts of Combined Arms Maneuver are evolving to account for how different land war is expected to be moving forward. This reality underscores the reason infantry needs tank-like firepower to cross bridges, travel off-road and keep pace with advancing forces.
For the Army, the effort involves what could be described as a dual-pronged acquisition strategy in that it seeks to leverage currently-available or fast-emerging technology while engineering the vehicle with an architecture such that it can integrate new weapons and systems as they emerge over time.
An estimation of technologies likely to figure prominently in the Army’s future vehicle developmental process leads towards the use of lightweight armor composites, Active Protection Systems and a new generation of higher-resolution targeting sensors. Smith explained how this initiative is already gaining considerable traction.
This includes the rapid incorporation of greater computer automation and AI, designed to enable one sensor to perform the functions of many sensors in real-time. For instance, it’s by no means beyond the imagination to envision high-resolution forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, electromagnetic weapons, and EO-IR cameras operating through a single sensor.
“The science is how do I fuse them together? How do I take multiple optical, infrared, and electromagnetic sensors and use them all at once in real-time ” Smith said. “If you are out in the desert in an operational setting, infrared alone may be constrained by heat, so you need all types of sensors together, and machines can help us sift through information.”
In fact, the Army’s Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) is already building prototype sensors with this in mind. In particular, this early work is part of a longer-range effort to inform the Army’s emerging Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV). The NGCV, expected to become an entire fleet of armored vehicles, is now being explored as something to emerge in the late 2020s or early 2030s.
One of the key technical challenges when it comes to engineering a mobile, yet lethal, weapon is to build a cannon both powerful and lightweight enough to meet speed, lethality and deployability requirements.
U.S. Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites the need to bring large-caliber cannon technology to lightweight vehicles. Among other things, the strategy cites a lightweight 120mm gun called the XM360 — built for the now-cancelled Future Combat Systems Mounted Combat System. While the weapon is now being thought of as something for NGCV or a future tank variant — which seeks to maximize lightweight, mobile firepower.
Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.
Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
You might call it the Doomsday scramble, but it’s not exactly that. It’s when an Air Force bomber wing sends up its planes as quickly as they possibly can – before an inter-continental ballistic missile can hit its target.
Given that it takes an ICBM about 30 minutes, to arrive to its target – that is not a lot of time. In fact, it will get there faster than a pizza you ordered. So, it looks like a base would be doomed before it could get all of its bombers up. Well, you’d be wrong. During the Cold War, Strategic Air Command came up with what they called the “Minimum Interval Take-Off” – or MITO.
In essence, the MITO is a well-rehearsed mad dash to get the planes up. They take off at the rate of four a minute – one every fifteen seconds. This is done by a dance called the “elephant walk” – a specialized form of taxiing to the runway to get bombers (or transports or fighters) ready for a mad scramble.
This video below is from Global Thunder 17, an exercise that took place this past October. It starts with a lot of SUVs and pickups driving like crazy – that’s how the Air Force gets the crews to the planes – which are dispersed to make it harder for one nuke to kill the entire wing. Then the BUFFs taxi to the runway.
Then, one by one, the B-52H Stratofortress bombers take off. The goal is to have an incoming ICBM hit an empty base. So far, this has only been done in drills, but if that Doomsday moment ever comes, it looks as if the Air Force will be ready for it.
The KC-135 Stratotanker, one of the oldest aircraft still flying in the US Air Force today, will likely get a life extension thanks to budget and replacement issues according to Gen. Carlton Everhart of Air Mobility Command, adding over 40 more years to its service record which began in the mid-1950s.
By the time this legendary aerial refueler enters retirement and is phased out from the USAF once and for all, it will have served just over 100 years — longer than any other aircraft in American history. Having seen action in virtually every American-involved conflict since 1956, the Stratotanker is easily one of the most recognizable and beloved aircraft flying today with the Air Force.
The KC-135 was, at first, supposed to be replaced entirely by the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus. But thanks to budget cuts and slashes to the projected buy for the KC-46, the Air Force will be left with a shortage of tankers to carry out aerial refueling operations both at home and overseas, severely impacting the service’s ability to extend the range of the vast majority of its aircraft. Instead, the Air Force will be looking to upgrade its KC-135s into a “Super Stratotanker” of sorts, keeping it flying for 40 more years until the branch initiates the KC-Z replacement program to supersede the Stratotanker for good.
Crew members from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepare to take off in a KC-135 Stratotanker before performing a refueling mission over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 15, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years — and could be on the flightline for another 40 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)
The KC-46, the result of the controversial KC-X program, was destined to be a larger longer-range follow-on to the KC-135, featuring two engines instead of four, and greater fuel carriage capacity, allowing for more aircraft to be refueling during a typical mission than what the Stratotanker could handle. However, the program has been constantly plagued with a variety of issues including cost overruns and delays, which ultimately led to the Air Force scaling down the number of Pegasus tankers it originally planned on buying to just 179.
This pushes retiring the KC-135 out of the question, as the Air Force (and Air National Guard) require a greater number of tankers to continue carrying out their mission at home and around the world.
While the USAF will continue with its plans to field the Pegasus, the Stratotanker fleet’s life-extension seems inevitable. At the moment, the Air Force has already begun the $910 million Block 45 extension program, which seeks to keep these 60-year-old aircraft relevant and able to meet the needs of the modern Air Force. As part of the Block 45 updates, all American KC-135s will receive a new glass cockpit, replacing the older analog/gauge cockpits still in use, new avionics and an upgraded autopilot system, an enhanced navigation suite, and much more.
To keep the KC-135 flying for 40 more years, an advanced networking and electronic countermeasures suite would likely be the next upgrade the Air Force will pursue with the aircraft, during or after the completion of Block 45, which will end in 2028. Currently, the USAF estimates that their KC-135s have only used up around 35 percent of their lifetime flying hours, meaning that the aircraft is perfectly capable of flying on until 2040 with regular maintenance and scheduled overhauls.
As of 2014, there are 414 KC-135s in service with the US military — 167 assigned to the active duty Air Force, 180 to the Air National Guard, and 67 in the Air Force Reserve. Once the Air Force finishes procuring its 179 KC-46s, the number of Stratotankers in service will likely drop by 100 airframes, which will be retired to the boneyard at Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona.
It’s also probable that the KC-135’s current [younger] sister tanker, the three-engined KC-10 Extender, will receive a similar upgrade to keep its smaller fleet flying longer. Eventually, both of these aircraft will see their flying days come to an end with the initiation of the KC-Y and KC-Z next generation tanker programs, still decades away from coming to fruition.