The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain was a turning point for the allied forces during WWII. After their evacuation at Dunkirk, the British Army was in a poor state, having abandoned much of its warfighting equipment and machinery in France. The Home Guard, the armed citizen militia that supported the British Army, was mobilized in anticipation of a German invasion of the British Isles. As Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, the British people prepared to fight the Germans on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets, and in the hills. Ferrying an army across the English Channel is no easy task though, and the Germans needed to secure air superiority before their invasion.

In July 1940, Germany began an air and sea blockade of Britain with the goal of compelling her government to negotiate a peace settlement. Initially targeting coastal-shipping convoys, ports, and shipping centers, the German Luftwaffe was redirected to incapacitate RAF Fighter Command on August 1. They targeted airfields and infrastructure in an attempt to defeat the RAF on the ground. It was the job of the RAF’s fighter pilots to repel these attacks by the much larger German Luftwaffe. In the words of Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, “Our young men will have to shoot down their young men at the rate of five to one.”


The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
Supermarine Spitfires during the Battle of Britain (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)

When people think about the Battle of Britain, they often envision elegant Supermarine Spitfires with their large, elliptical wings, locked in a deadly aerial ballet with German Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Or perhaps a mental image is conjured of those same beautiful Spitfires cutting swathes through formations of Luftwaffe Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers or Heinkel He 111 level bombers. Either way, the hero aircraft of the Battle of Britain that most people remember is the Supermarine Spitfire. However, the truth of the matter is that the Hawker Hurricane shot down more German aircraft than all other air and ground defenses combined during the Battle of Britain.

Although it was not nearly as pretty as the Spitfire, looking rather like a sad Basset Hound, the Hurricane was a more stable gun platform with its thicker wings. They allowed its eight .303 Browning machine guns to be mounted closer together in the wings and closer to the center of the aircraft, producing more accurate fire. Though the Spitfire was armed with the exact same guns, its thinner wings forced them to be mounted further out from the fuselage which caused the plane to become unbalanced when they were fired.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
Hawker Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)

The Hurricane, with its wood and fabric construction, was also easier for ground crews to repair and conduct maintenance on. Conversely, the Spitfire’s metal construction meant that skilled metal workers were needed to conduct repairs. This difference in design also meant that the Hurricane could be produced quicker and in larger numbers than the Spitfire. During the Battle of Britain, 32 RAF fighter squadrons flew the Hurricane whereas only 19 squadrons flew Spitfires.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
RAF pilots scramble to their Hurricanes (Royal Canadian Air Force photo)

This is not to say that the Spitfire was inferior to the Hurricane; in fact, it was arguably the better dogfighter. Although both planes were powered by the same Rolls-Royce 27-litre liquid-cooled V-12 Merlin engine, the Spitfire could climb faster and turn tighter thanks to its wing design. As a result, Spitfires were generally directed to intercept the Luftwaffe escort fighters while Hurricanes attacked the enemy bomber formations.

In short, neither the Spitfire nor the Hurricane could have won the Battle of Britain alone. The two planes complemented each other in the sky and worked together to repel the onslaught of German air attacks. In the end, the RAF reported 1,542 aircrew killed and 1,744 aircraft destroyed while the Luftwaffe reported 2,585 aircrew killed or missing, 925 captured, and 1,634 aircraft destroyed in combat. Failing to establish air superiority over Britain, Hitler was forced to postpone his invasion indefinitely. Shooting down a majority portion of enemy aircraft, the Hurricane deserves its fair share of fame alongside the Spitfire in staving off the Nazi threat.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this weak, slow ship is the most important one in the fleet

She doesn’t look like much. Weighing in at just under 19,000 tons, this ship doesn’t have much in the way of firepower, either. She’s relatively slow with a top speed of 23 knots. So, when you look at a Blue Ridge-class ship, you may wonder to yourself, “just what the heck is this thing’s purpose?”


The short answer: She’s the brains of the fleet. To be more precise, she’s there to “provide command and control for fleet commanders” according to the United States Navy. But it’s not entirely uncommon for a lesser-armed ship to take on such an important role.

Back in World War II, the auxiliary USS Argonne (AG 31) served as a flagship in the South Pacific for Admiral William F. Halsey. The transport USS MacCawley (APA 4) was used as the flagship for Admiral Richmond “Kelly” Turner until its loss in a friendly fire incident in 1943. The United States even converted a pair of amphibious ships, USS Coronado (APF 11) and USS LaSalle (AGF 3), to act as fleet flagships during the Cold War.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) in the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Behnke)

The two-ship Blue Ridge-class, however, was built specifically for the task of enabling a fleet commander to handle his fleet. As a small, mobile command post, it is much less vulnerable to attacks from terrorists or enemies. There’s a lot of ocean to hide in, so you have to search really hard to find it.

If worst comes to worst, the Blue Ridge does have some emergency firepower. For self-defense, the ship is outfitted with two Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems. These 20mm guns are a last-ditch defense against incoming missiles, but this ship is intended to be well out of harm’s way. Its primary weapons are its array of communications antennae, allowing commanders to handle operations across an entire theater if need be.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

The reason for these ships in one photo: It provides a secure location for command and control, allowing admirals and generals to run operations.

(DOD photo by Cherie A. Thurlby)

The Blue Ridge-class command ships will be around for at least 20 more years, if not longer — not bad for ships that were commissioned nearly 50 years ago!

Learn more about the brains of the United States Navy’s fleet in the video below.

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

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Articles

This 1973 war is why the Air Force thinks the A-10 can’t survive in modern combat

In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israeli Armed Forces successfully beat back a two-front invasion by Syria and Egypt. The war lasted only a few weeks, but its implications for air combat continue to reverberate — even helping make the case for ditching the iconic A-10 Warthog.


The Yom Kippur War raged from Oct. 6-25, 1973, and the Israeli forces initially suffered severe setbacks. It was a full, combined arms conflict where tanks, artillery, planes, infantrymen and air defense missiles all had their say.

But one string of events reaches forward in time from those weeks and threatens the A-10.

Israel’s air force, the Chel Ha’Avir, was able to slow and halt nearly all advances by tanks and other ground forces when it was safe to fly. But when the enemy forces stayed under the air defense umbrella, Israel’s pilots came under heavy attack.

In one instance, 55 missiles were flying at Israel’s pilots in a single, small strip of land occupied by Syrian forces.

This resulted in Israeli ground forces either quickly losing their air cover to battlefield losses or to pilots becoming so worried about enemy missiles that they couldn’t operate properly. In the first 3 days of fighting, the Chel Ha’Avir lost approximately 50 fighters and fighter-bombers — 14 percent of the air force’s entire frontline combat strength.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
The wreckage of an Israeli A-4 downed during the Yom Kippur War now rests in an Egyptian military museum. (Photo: Leclaire, Public Domain)

Israeli forces turned the tables with a few brilliant maneuvers. At one point, a pilot realized the enemy was firing too many missiles, so he led his men in quick passes as bait for the missileers, causing the enemy to expend all their ordnance while downing a relatively few number of planes. The survivors of this risky maneuver were then able to fly with near impunity.

On another front, artillerymen opened the way for the air force by striking the missile sites with long range guns. They moved forward of their established safe zones to do so, putting their forces at risk to save the planes above them.

Israel went on to win the war, allowing NATO and other Western militaries around the world to pat themselves on the back because their tactics and hardware defeated a coalition equipped with Soviet tactics and hardware.

But for the Chel Ha’Avir and aviation officers around the world, there was a lesson to be parsed out of the data.

Both the A-4 Skyhawk and the F-4 Phantom flew a high number of sorties against the Syrians, Egyptians and their allies. But the Skyhawk suffered a much worse rate of loss than the F-4s.

This was — at least in part — because the F-4 flew faster and higher and could escape surface-to-air missiles and radar-controlled machine guns more easily. Just a year after the A-10’s debut flight and over 3 years before it was introduced to the air fleet, the whole concept of low and slow close air support seemed dated.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
An Israeli A-4 similar to those which flew in the Yom Kippur War. (Photo: Oren Rozen CC BY-SA 3.0)

The resulting argument, that low and slow CAS is too risky, is part of the argument about whether the Air Force should ditch the low-and-slow A-10 Warthog for the fast-moving, stealthy F-35 Lightning II.

Of course, not everyone agrees that the Yom Kippur War is still a proper example of the close air support debate.

First, the A-10 has spent its entire service life in the post-Yom Kippur world. While it suffered six losses against the Iraqis during Desert Storm, it has been flying against more advanced air defenses than the A-4s faced in the Yom Kippur War and remained a lethal force throughout the flight. The A-10 has never needed a safe space.

Second, while the A-10’s speed and preferred altitudes may make it more vulnerable than fast movers to ground fire, it also makes the jet more capable when firing against ground targets. To modernize the old John A. Shedd saying about ships, “A ground-attack jet at high-altitude may be safe, but that’s not what they are designed for.”

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
A-10s aren’t as safe as some other planes, but they save the bacon of the guys on the ground beneath them. (Photo: US Air Force)

Finally, the Yom Kippur War was a short conflict where the Chel Ha’Avir had to fly against a numerically superior enemy while that enemy was marching on its capital. This forced commanders to take additional risks, sending everything they had to slow the initial Syrian and Egyptian momentum.

The U.S. Air Force is much larger and has many more planes at its command. That means that it can field more specialized aircraft. F-35s and F-22s can support ground forces near enemy air defenses and go after missile sites and other fighters while A-10s or the proposed arsenal plane attack ground forces from behind the F-22 and F-35 shield.

This isn’t to say that the Air Force is necessarily wrong to divest out of the A-10 to bolster the F-35. The Warthog can’t stay on the battlefield forever. But if the A-10 has served its entire career in the post-Yom Kippur world, it seems like a shallow argument to say that it couldn’t possibly fight and win for another 5 or 10 years after nearly 40 successful ones.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

The history of the Battle of Gettysburg in 4 minutes

The Battle of Gettysburg is arguably one of the most important of the American Civil War. It was this battle that marked the end of Confederate attempts to take the offensive. Although there were many important battles throughout the bloody war, such as the Battle of Antietam, Gettysburg’s importance cannot be over-emphasized.


The Battle of Gettysburg was immense. As the Civil War Trust notes, over 165,000 troops engaged in combat across both sides. There was a total of 51,112 casualties (7,058 killed, 33,264 wounded, and 10,790 missing or captured). The Gettysburg National Military Park spans almost 4,000 acres — and the battle likely raged far further than the park grounds.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
This map shows the impressive scale of the Battle of Gettysburg. (Wikimedia Commons graphic by Hal Jespersen)

Even Hollywood couldn’t cover it all. The 1993 film, Gettysburg, backed by an all-star cast (Sam Elliot, Martin Sheen, Tom Berenger, and Jeff Daniels among them), ran for four hours and 14 minutes in theaters. The director’s cut added another 17 minutes. Even with more than four and a half hours to tell the tale, they still couldn’t cover the entire battle — omitting cavalry actions east of the main battle and the fighting around Culp’s Hill.

If you’ve got the time to kill, it’s not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon/evening, but we know many of you places to go and things to do. Thankfully, the Civil War Trust has the CliffsNotes version.

The four-minute video below briefly covers the highlights of this crucial Civil War battle, covering everything from the first day’s holding action by Buford’s cavalry division to Chamberlain’s stand at Little Round Top on the second day. And, of course, you can’t cover the Battle of Gettysburg without discussing the “high tide” of the Confederacy, Pickett’s Charge, on the third and final day of the battle.

 

(Civil War Trust | YouTube)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The bravery of America’s first paratroopers will blow your mind – Video

America’s airborne forces did some truly amazing things during World War II — a conflict that marked the apex of airborne warfare.


American (and British) paratroopers in units like the 82nd Airborne Division wreaked havoc on the Nazis in World War II — particularly during the invasions of Sicily and Normandy.

After watching these badasses do their thing in the video below, it’s hard to imagine that Dwight D. Eisenhower wanted to disband the airborne units after Sicily.

We not only get a look at the paratroopers who helped kick in the door of “Fortress Europe,” but also their weapons: The M1 Garand, the M1A1 Thompson submachine gun, the M1 Carbine, the M3 Grease Gun.

While the show does not explicitly cite the Rule of the LGOPs, the phenomenon’s existence is very strongly implied.

Which of those weapons would you jump into action with? Let us know in the comments!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Joint Strike Fighter that might have been

The F-35 Lightning, the ultimate result of the Joint Strike Fighter program, is entering service with the Marines and Air Force. Its prototype, the X-35, won the competition in 2001, but it wasn’t the only serious contender. In fact, we were close to going in a very different direction. Boeing had its own entry into the JSF competition, the X-32, which would have been the F-32 had it won.

While the F-35 looks like a single-engine version of the F-22, the X-32 bore a resemblance to the A-7 Corsair, which is affectionately known as the SLUF, or “short little ugly f*cker.” Like the X-35, Boeing’s offering was to be cheaper than the F-22 Raptor and was intended to replace the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, A-10 Thunderbolt, and AV-8B Harrier.


The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

The X-32 taking off from Little Rock Air Force Base during the fly-off.

(DOD)

The X-32 and X-35 were selected to take part in a fly-off in 1996, beating out designs from Northrop Grumman and McDonnell Douglas.

The X-32 was based on reliable technology. To achieve Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing capability, it used a thrust-vectoring system similar to that used by the AV-8B Harrier. It had a top speed of 1,243 miles per hour and a maximum unrefueled range of 979 miles. It packed a M61 20mm gun (again, proven technology) and was capable of carrying as many as six AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles or up to 15,000 pounds of bombs.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

The X-32’s big chin inlet, which gave it the appearance of a futuristic A-7, netted it the nickname “Monica.”

(USAF)

Lockheed’s X-35 used a separate lift-fan, much like the failed Yak-141 fighter. That gave it a performance edge over the X-32. As a result, “Monica” ended up losing out.

Both X-32 prototypes survived and have since been sent to museums.

Learn more about the Joint Strike Fighter that could have been in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJOc3vWc7_U

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MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

The Constitution (Article II, Section 2, Clause 1) gives American presidents the power to grant full pardons. Throughout history, presidents have used this power, some more than others. Presidents Harrison and Garfield issued zero pardons, mostly because both of them died shortly after taking office. (Harrison died of pneumonia and Garfield was assassinated.) President Franklin Roosevelt issued 3,687 pardons, but a factor in that total is the fact he held office for 12 years. President Andrew Johnson either pardoned over 7,000 or just 654 people, depending on how you score it. (See below for details.)


The average number of pardons per president to date is just over 665.

Pardons have taken many forms. Some have been high-visibility because of their impact on politics and pop culture like when President Ford pardoned former President Nixon or when President Clinton pardoned publishing heir Patty Hearst following her stint as a domestic terrorist. Some have been personal like when President Clinton pardoned his brother Roger following a conviction on cocaine possession charges.

But presidents also being commanders-in-chief, naturally, some pardons in American history have had something to do with the military. Here are 5 of the most important among them:

1. James Buchanan pardons Brigham Young

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
Brigham Young

In the mid-1800s the Buchanan administration grew concerned about the activities of the Latter Day Saints, led by Brigham Young. The president was afraid that Young was on the verge of creating a theocracy out west and so he sent the U.S. Army to intervene. The resulting “Utah War” was mostly without bloodshed, with the notable exception of the time some Mormons murdered 12o settlers from Arkansas. Young was accused of giving the order or, at least, not doing enough to prevent it. He was later able to prove that he’d actually sent a dispatch ordering his people to let the settlers pass in peace, but it got there two days after the massacre. As a result, Young was ultimately pardoned by President Buchanan.

2. Andrew Johnson let the Confederate military get off scot free

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
Andrew Johnson

During the election seasons in the years immediately following the Civil War, it became politically expedient to get the conflict behind the country. In fact, the U.S. Senate was so disappointed in President Johnson’s Reconstruction progress that they impeached him. So on Christmas Day in 1868, Johnson offered amnesty to all Confederates. At about the same time he also pardoned Dr. Samuel Mudd, the Maryland doctor who patched up Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth. President Grant, who’d led the North to victory as a Union general, finished the process, later signing the Amnesty Act of 1872, which pardoned all but 500 of the top Confederate leaders.

3. Gerald Ford pardons ‘Tokyo Rose’

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

Iva Toguri D’Aquino was an LA native Japanese-American who had the misfortune of being in Tokyo when war broke out between the U.S. and Japan. She became the voice of Japanese propaganda aimed at American servicemembers across the Pacific Theater. She was frighteningly accurate with military details from time to time, which did cause GIs some concern, but she was also a source of entertainment for them because her broadcasts were equally campy as provocative.

When the war ended “Tokyo Rose,” as D’Aquino was popularly known, was charged with treason, convicted and imprisoned until 1956. In time the facts emerged that she had been pressed into service for the Japanese war machine under duress. She was pardoned by President Ford in 1976.

4. Richard Nixon lets William Calley off the hook

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
Lt. William Calley during his trial at Fort Benning. (Photo: AP)

William Calley was a community college dropout who found himself in charge of a platoon fighting the Vietnam War. His weak leadership and lack of military skill led to the systematic murder of 500 Vietnamese civilians. Life magazine broke the story over a year and a half later with a graphic photo essay that shocked the nation and did much to shift public sentiment against the war once and for all.

Calley’s court-martial was a high-visibility event, and he was eventually found guilty of 22 counts (of the 109 he was charged with) of premeditated murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at Leavenworth. President Nixon, reacting to another public sentiment that Calley had been made a scapegoat and that the punishments should have gone higher up the chain of command, ordered his sentence modified to house arrest. Eventually, his time was reduced from life to 20 years. He served three and a half years of that when Nixon pardoned him.

In 2009, while speaking a Kiwanis Club in Ohio, Calley issued the following apology for his role at My Lai:

There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai. I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry…. If you are asking why I did not stand up to them when I was given the orders, I will have to say that I was a 2nd Lieutenant getting orders from my commander and I followed them—foolishly, I guess.

5. Jimmy Carter pardons the Vietnam draft dodgers

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

Although Gerald Ford had been the first to deal with letting draft dodgers off the hook, his version had been conditional and only affected one-third of the population. President Carter, elected on a progressive agenda, took it the rest of the way by issuing an unconditional pardon for all of those who’d evaded the draft, about 150,000 young American men — including a number of aspiring politicians who would go on to hold the highest offices in the land.

popular

Pictures from the world’s forgotten Venus landers

On July 20, 1969, the United States won the space race. America had put two astronauts on the moon, secured the ultimate high ground, and put an end to decades of back and forth victories won by American and Soviet scientists. While many Americans saw the space race as a matter of national honor and prestige, many involved in the race for each nation’s government knew the truth: the space race was an extension of the Cold War in every appreciable way, and there was far more at stake than simply bragging rights.


Perhaps it’s because of this struggle for space supremacy, or what felt like the very real possibility that the Soviets might win it, that makes American audiences tend to gloss over the incredible achievements of the Soviet space program. It certainly makes sense not to celebrate the victories of your opponent, but in the grand scheme of things, many of the incredible feats put on display in both Russian and American space programs were victories for the human race, even if the politics of the day made it impossible to appreciate such a concept.

There may be no better example of this idea than the Soviet Venera program that took place between 1961 and 1984. The Soviets’ Mars efforts may have been marred in failure, but many Americans may be surprised to learn that they actually had a great deal of success in sending orbiters and even landers to Venus.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
This might be one of the toughest little space robots you’ve ever seen. (Venera 10 courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

 

Over the span of just over two decades, the Soviets managed to put thirteen probes in orbit around Venus, with ten hardened devices reaching the planet’s hell-like surface to send back scientific data and even images of the planet. Because of the Soviet practice of keeping their space-endeavors a secret until it was politically beneficial to announce them, very little was known about these missions for decades, and it seems that much of the data acquired by these landers was lost during the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, but some treasures did manage to survive. Color photos of the Venusian surface taken by Venera 13, for instance, offer us a rare glimpse of what it’s like on the surface of a world many of us may have never thought we’d get to see.

Unlike the arid and cold environment of Mars that allows for the extended use of landers and rovers, Venus’ harsh environment made the long-term survival of any equipment utterly impossible. Instead, Soviet scientists hardened their landing platforms using the best technology available to them with a singular goal: they only had to last long enough to gather some data, snap some pictures, and transmit it all back to earth. If a lander could do that before the extreme atmospheric pressures and temperatures as high as eight hundred and seventy degrees Fahrenheit destroyed it, it was deemed a success.

It took Venera 13 four months to reach the surface of Venus, but once there, it survived for only around 120 minutes. During that time, it sent back fourteen color photos, eight more in black and white, and it drilled for a few soil samples which it analyzed internally. A duplicate lander, the Venera 14, was launched five days later and also managed to reach the surface, but survived only about an hour before succumbing the extreme environment.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
Venera 13 lasted around 2 hours on the surface of Venus before the heat and pressure destroyed it. (Roscosmos)

 

While other Venera landers reached Venus, no others were able to transmit back color photographs of the environment. A number of them did. however, transmit back black and white images.

The pictures we have of the surface of Venus taken by the Soviet Venera program may not offer the same sweeping panoramic views we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from NASA’s Martian efforts, but they do offer an almost uncanny glimpse into a world that, upon getting a good look, doesn’t appear as alien as we may have expected. In a strange way, seeing Venus makes it feel that much closer, and although these images were captured by the Soviet Union during an era of extreme tension and a world on the verge of conflict, from our vantage point firmly in the future, it’s hard not to appreciate the incredible accomplishment these photos truly represent.

Besides, we did end up winning the space race, after all.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 dos and don’ts you need to know to become a better marksman

Rifle marksmanship is one of the handful of skills that everyone in the military needs to master. It doesn’t matter if you’re an infantryman, a special operator, or an admin clerk in the Reserves, everyone needs to master the fundamentals of marksmanship.

Being well-versed in marksmanship is what makes all of America’s warfighters, without exception, deadly in combat. If that wasn’t enough of an incentive, it’s also the one badge that every troop, service-wide, wears to signify their combat prowess. The marksmanship badge holds enough weight that a young private with expert could easily flex on a senior NCO with just a pizza box.

Here’s what you need to know:


The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

These fundamentals can be applied to stress shoots, too.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elvis Umanzor)

Don’t: overthink it

There are just four things (outside of the obvious safety concerns) to worry about while you’re firing a weapon. These four basic components are drilled into every Army recruit’s head while at basic and they’ve been incorporated into marching cadences: steady, aim, breathe, fire. This should be your mental checklist before you take a shot.

Are you and the weapon in a steady position? Are the sights properly aligned to ensure accuracy? Are you breathing normally and timing your shots accordingly? Is your finger comfortably aligned with your trigger so you can pull it straight back?

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

Hey, man. It’s cheap, you can practice the fundamentals of marksmanship, and it’s fun.

(Screengrab via YouTube / ThePinballCompany)

Do: practice as much as you can

There are countless drills that you can do if your armorer lets you draw your weapon. For example, there’s the famous “washer and dime” drill. You can test how well you’re following the 4 fundamentals mentioned above by placing a single washer or dime on the barrel of an unloaded rifle. If your stance is good, your aiming isn’t jerky, your breathing is regular, and your trigger squeeze is solid, the balancing dime shouldn’t fall when you pull the trigger.

In the absence of your rifle, as odd as it sounds, you can still get some “range” time at your local arcade. If you spend your entire attention on the four fundamentals, playing some coin-operated shooter video game can be great practice. You’ll have to worry less about aiming, though — those machines are almost always misaligned.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

Spend a little extra time getting everything just right.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jericho Crutcher)

Don’t: rush zeroing

No two people will have the same sight picture, so you need to zero your almost nearly every time. Even something as slight as adjusting where you place your cheek against the buttstock will readjust the sight picture.

Even if you’ve spent the entire afternoon getting everything to surgeon-level precision, do it again. Endure whatever asschewing you’ll get from higher ups and belittlement from your peers because you’re not hurrying along.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

The only terrible part of the day is having to police call the ammo.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tiffany Edwards)

Do: relax

Firing a weapon is meditative for some people. Leave your stresses and worries at the bleachers because, right now, it’s just you and your firearm. In that brief moment when the range safety calls your lane hot, all you need to think about is hitting the target.

Don’t be intimidated by your weapon. You’re almost certainly safe if you’re on the opposite side of the barrel. There will be a bit of a kick when you fire — that’s normal. If you start anticipating the kick, you’re going to screw up all the four fundamentals because you’ll be more worried about how your weapon nudges your shoulder.

Enjoy the fact that you’re not spending your own money on ammunition or range time. If you miss a target, who cares? Don’t waste ammo trying to shoot that target a second time. The Army’s rifle qualification is 40 targets with 40 rounds. If you fire and the target doesn’t go down, don’t spend two more rounds trying to hit it or else you just screwed yourself out of two more potential hits.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

Hate to sound like that guy, but someone else can and will take care of it. Don’t stress.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Peter Lewis)

Don’t: panic if your weapon jams

There’re plenty of different ways that your weapon might act up, preventing you from putting more rounds down range. The easiest fix is simply slapping the bottom of your lowest-bidder magazine to ensure that the next round enters the chamber.

If it’s something that takes more than a few seconds to fix yourself, simply clear your weapon and place it on the sandbags. Explain what happened to the nearest range safety officer and you’ll probably get another crack at qualifications next round.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

There is a method to the madness. If your NCO is having you clean them days or weeks after the range (and you already cleaned them then), they’re just looking for busy work.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Do: clean your weapon afterwords

There’s a very good reason that they tell you to clean every single crevice of your rifle every time. A rifle is made up of many tiny, precise mechanisms that need to be perfectly clean and in order to avoid any kind of malfunction. A small carbon build-up can wreck the chamber of a rifle worse than any kind of mud.

On the bright side, while you’re taking your weapon apart and cleaning it thoroughly, you’ll grow a deeper understanding of how these little parts all work in relation to one another. Before you know it, you’ll think of your rifle as an extension of your body.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how the British planned to shut down air bases in World War III

The Tomahawk strike on Shayrat Air Base in western Syria was pretty potent – after all, 59 of the missiles hit the place. But the base still had aircraft taking off and landing within a day of the strike. 


That system was called JP233, and while it doesn’t sound very fearsome, if World War III broke out, this was to be a key weapon in shutting down the Warsaw Pact’s air force.

The JP233 was quite a clever armament. According to the “Encyclopedia of Modern Air Weapons,” the system came in two pods. One would be hung in the rear of the aircraft carrying 30 SG357 runway-cratering munitions. Now, President Trump’s tweet that pointed out the ease of repairing runways is accurate. But this is where the second pod comes in.

The second pod, usually hung in front of the first one, carried 215 HB876 area-denial munitions. Or, in a more simple term: Land mines. These diabolical devices were designed to not only take out the trained runway-repair crews, they could also kill the vehicles that make runway repair a quick and simple task.

The Tornado would fly low and fast over the enemy airfield’s runways with the sub-munitions from two sets of pods slung underneath the fuselage scattering all over the place. If the enemy planes were in the air, they had no place to land. If they were on the ground, they were staying there until follow-up strikes could take care of them.

JP233 wasn’t just a one-trick pony. It could also be used on supply bases, highways, docks, railway yards… really just about any place where you wanted to create a bottleneck on land.

Thankfully, World War III never happened. But JP233 did see action in Operation Desert Storm on Iraqi runways. Press coverage at the time, such as a Jan. 23, 1991 article in the Los Angeles Times, blamed the Tornado’s anti-runway mission and use of JP233 for several crashes.

The blog Defence of the Realm, though, notes that of the six RAF Tornados lost during Desert Storm, only one was on a mission using JP233, and its loss was due to a crash during a low-level turn after carrying out a successful strike, not enemy action.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
A Tornado GR.1 that was donated to the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The Tornado was the primary delivery system for the JP233.(USAF photo)


Still, the JP233 took the blame, and between the public-relations black eye, and the 1999 Ottawa Treaty, it was retired. Under the terms of that agreement, all but a few examples sent to museums were destroyed.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The amazing thing the SR-71 did the day before its retirement

Usually, when someone or something retires, it’s because they’ve grown a little older — and maybe a little slower — over time. Maybe their skills aren’t as useful as they once were, so they opt to spend their sunset years peacefully watching others take over their old duties.

But not the SR-71 Blackbird. It went out with a sonic boom.


The SR-71 was in the prime of its amazing life. This was a titanium bird designed to outrun and spy on the Russians, a bird that was fooling Russians even before it was assembled.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

(Laughs in Blackbird)

When the Blackbird was retired in 1990, not everyone was thrilled with the idea. Much of the debate around the SR-71’s mission and usefulness was because of political infighting, not because of any actual military need the plane couldn’t fill. Still, the program was derided by Congressional military and budget hawks as being too costly for its designated mission. Some speculate the old guard of Air Force Cold Warriors had long since retired and newer generals couldn’t explain the plane’s mission in the post-Soviet order.

Whatever the reason for its retirement, the Air Force’s most glorious bird was headed for the sunset — but not before making history and setting a few more records.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

An SR-71 refuels in mid-air during sunset.

(U.S. Air Force)

When it was operationally retired in 1990, a Blackbird piloted by Lt. Col. Raymond E. Yeilding and Lt. Col. Joseph T. Vida was tasked to fly one last time from Palmdale, Calif. to its new home at the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Apparently, they had somewhere to be in the D.C. area that day, too.

During that Blackbird’s final flight on Mar. 7, 1990, the plane and its pilots set four new speed records:

  • West Coast of the United States to the U.S. East Coast – 2,404 miles in 68:17.
  • Los Angeles, Calif., to Washington, D.C. – 2,299 miles in 64:20
  • Kansas City, Mo., to Washington, D.C. – 942 miles in 25:59
  • St. Louis, Mo., to Cincinnati, Ohio – 311 miles in 8:32
The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

(U.S. Air Force)

The SR-71 refueled in mid-air over the Pacific Ocean before beginning its transcontinental journey. It arrived at Dulles International Airport to a throng of onlookers and well-wishers who knew a good thing when they saw one.

Addressing the full Senate after the historic, record-setting 1990 flight, Senator John Glenn told the assembly that the flight would be remembered as “a sad memorial to our short-sighted policy in strategic aerial reconnaissance.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Stephen Hawking is one of humanity’s designated survivors

You may be familiar with the term “designated survivor” from the ABC television series, Designated Survivor, in which — and this is a real thing — one member of the President’s Cabinet is required to be physically far away from a gathering of the President, VP, and Cabinet leaders during certain events in case of some unforeseen catastrophe.


You may not have known that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, was the designated survivor during President Trump’s 2018 State of the Union Address. You also may not have known that the human race has its own designated survivor program.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

In 2008, game developer Richard Garriot developed the “Immortality Drive,” a sort of digital time capsule on the International Space Station that contains the DNA and genetic codes of a handful of humans. Think of it as a kind of backup disk in case of worldwide calamity. If humans were to be wiped out, this drive exists as a source code for rebooting humanity.

“The Immortality Drive is a digital archive of mankind’s greatest achievements and a snapshot of humanity itself,” Garriot says. “This archive will be stored on the International Space Station to serve as a remote “offsite backup” of humanity, should we suffer a disastrous fate.”

Now, obviously, Stephen Hawking isn’t going to be held on the International Space Station forever. But just because he died doesn’t mean he can’t be a blueprint for the next iteration of life on Earth. His genetic code will live forever, along with a few others, as one of humanity’s designated survivors.

Comedian Stephen Colbert, legendary television writer Melvyn B. Sherer, Businessmen Kevin Rose and Tim Draper, Pro Wrestler Matt Morgan, athlete Lance Armstrong, and Playboy model Jo Garcia join a lot of sci-fi/fantasy and TV writers in the Immortality Drive.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
If there are any objections, go make your own Immortality Drive.

At this point, you might be worried that Hawking will be overlooked by potential alien reboots in favor of making a species of WWE Superstars, adult models, or Dungeons and Dragons writers.

But, for a few reasons, there’s no cause for concern. First and foremost, you’ll be dead. Secondly, if superintelligent aliens do come to Earth, find the Immortality Drive, and reboot the human race, Hawking himself believed their first instinct would be to simply enslave us.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
But would they even know about the nerd heaven they could be making?

And finally, as the series Life After People predicts, the International Space Station will come crashing into Earth within three years of the end of life on Earth. So, either hope the DNA lands in some kind of primordial ooze or that aliens make our fantasy-fun-world full of TV writers as soon as possible.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want man-portable kamikaze drones

As the Marine Corps continues its quest to get more capability from long-range precision fires, it’s asking industry for proposals on a portable system that can fire high-tech attack and reconnaissance drones on the go.

The service released a request for proposals April 23, 2018, describing a futuristic system unlike any of its existing precision-fires programs.


The theoretical weapons system, which the Corps is simply calling Organic Precision Fire, needs to be capable of providing fire support at distances of up to 60 kilometers, or more than 37 miles, according to the RFP document.

This range would exceed that of the M777 155mm howitzer, which can fire Excalibur rounds up to 40 kilometers, or around 25 miles.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
Soldiers load an M777u00a0155mm howitzer
(Photo by Gertrud Zach)

The system, which ideally would be light enough for just one Marine to carry, would launch loitering munitions from a canister or tube no larger than 10 inches across and eight feet long. The projectile would be able to loiter for up to two hours, according to the solicitation, while gathering data and acquiring a target

Loitering munitions, known informally as suicide or kamikaze drones, are unmanned aerial vehicles, typically containing warheads, designed to hover or loiter rather than traveling straight to a target. They’re becoming increasingly common on the battlefield.

The California-based company AeroVironment’s Switchblade loitering munition is now in use by the Marine Corps and Army. It is described as small enough to fit inside a Marine’s ALICE pack. The Blackwing UAV, also made by AeroVironment, is tube-launched, but designed to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, rather than to attack.

The Marines want whoever can make the system they seek to give it the ability to communicate securely with a ground control system at a distance of up to 60 kilometers. It should also be advanced enough to perform positive identification on a target, and engage and attack a range of targets including personnel, vehicles and facilities.

Companies have until May 18, 2018, to submit proposals to the Marine Corps on such a system.

The ambitious RFP comes shortly after the Corps issued a request for proposals on the manufacture of the Advanced Capability Extended Range Mortar, or ACERM, a round that will almost quadruple the range of the current M252 81mm mortar system.

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain
Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, is briefed on the Advanced Capability Extended Range Mortaru00a0during an Office of Naval Researchu00a0awareness day.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Service leaders have publicly said they’re planning to make big investments in the field of long-range precision fires as they prepare for future conflicts.

The commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, told Military.com in December 2017, that the service was making decisions to divest of certain less successful weapons systems in order to shift more resources to developing these capabilities. The service had already done so, he said, with its 120mm towed mortar system, the Expeditionary Fire Support System.

“We made that decision to divest of it, and we’re going to move that money into some other area, probably into the precision fires area,” Walsh told Military.com. “So programs that we see as not as viable, this [program objective memorandum] development that we’re doing right now is to really look at those areas critically and see what can we divest of to free money up to modernize.”

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

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