That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

Few feats of engineering are as impressive as a military-grade helicopter. Today worth millions of dollars each, these high-tech birds are a formidable military asset, including, among many other uses, for rescue operations — all a fact US military personnel helpfully chose to ignore during Operation Frequent Wind when they pushed several dozen of them into the sea, in one case for no other reason than to save a mother, a father, and their five children.


For anyone unfamiliar with it, Operation Frequent Wind was the name give to the final phase of evacuations during the Fall of Saigon — effectively the final days of the Vietnam War. Noted as being one of the largest military evacuations in history and the largest involving helicopters as the primary means of evacuation, Operation Frequent Wind is celebrated as a logistical success for the US due to the fact that a few dozen helicopter pilots were somehow able to evacuate over 7,000 people in around 18 hours. This is made all the more impressive when you realize that the mass evacuation was never supposed to involve helicopters much at all.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

A South Vietnamese helicopter is pushed over the side of the USS Okinawa during Operation Frequent Wind, April 1975.

(US Marine Corps photo)

You see, while Operation Frequent Wind is now famous for being the most successful mass helicopter evacuation ever organised, using helicopters as the primary means of evacuation was never the original plan — it wasn’t even the backup plan. It turns out that it was the backup to the backup to the backup plan.

Known initially as Operation Talon Vise until North Vietnamese spies heard whispers of it, the plans for a mass evacuation of Vietnam had been in place for several years and were originally supposed to involve the primary use of both commercial and military aircraft which would evacuate at-risk citizens and military personnel, with the total slated to be evacuated estimated to be about 2 million people.

Failing or in addition to this, the idea was to dock ships at Saigon port and load them with as many people as possible. In the event none of these options were possible, the final, Hail Mary plan was to instead use military helicopters to transport people to ships off shore.

Of course, evacuating the original estimate of 2 million people was never an option for the helicopter plan alone, nor even the extremely whittled down number of about 100,000-200,000 that military brass eventually reduced that figure to. Instead, at this point it was just as many people as they could as fast as they could.

So why did the US have to fall back to literally their least effective option if they’d been planning the evacuation for years? Well, much of the blame falls somewhat unbelievably to the actions of a single man — Graham Anderson Martin, the American ambassador to South Vietnam at the time who steadfastly refused to agree to start an evacuation for fear of mass panic and given his unshakable faith in the notion that the threat of the “superior American firepower” would keep the enemy at bay.

Despite this, recommendations did go out in advance of Operation Frequent Wind that at risk people should leave the country, resulting in a total of around 50,000 people, including a few thousand orphans, leaving via various planes in the months leading up to an actual evacuation being started. This was mostly done via supply aircraft who would bring supplies in, and then load up as many people as they could for the trip home. Yet an official full scale evacuation, which would have seen these efforts massively ramped up, was continually stalled by Martin.

Military brass tried and failed to persuade Martin to change his mind, with Brigadier General Richard E. Carey going as far as to travel to Saigon to plead personally with with the ambassador. This was a meeting Carey would later diplomatically call “cold and non productive” and should be noted took place on April 13th, 2 weeks after preparations were already supposed to have begun for the mass evacuation.

This back and forth continued until April 28th when North Vietnamese forces bombed the Tan Son Nhut Air Base, effectively eliminating any possibility of getting people out via large aircraft capable of mass evacuation. When this was pointed out to the Martin, he still refused to call for the evacuation, deciding to wait until the next day so he could drive out to the base and confirm the damage for himself.

Upon confirming that North Vietnamese forces had indeed destroyed the air base and the best option for a mass evacuation, he finally relented.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

South Vietnamese refugees arrive on a U.S. Navy vessel during Operation Frequent Wind.

This was an order that was relayed to soldiers on the ground via the official Armed Forces Radio station by the words “The temperature in Saigon is 105 degrees and rising,” followed by the playing the song I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas by Bing Crosby.

As a direct result of Martin’s stubbornness, the military had no choice but to rely on the least effective means of mass evacuation — via helicopter, with the operation officially commencing later that afternoon at 14:00.

Even as the operation began, Martin’s bullheaded refusal to prepare in anyway for an evacuation caused problems for certain helicopter pilots, most notably the ones trying to evacuate him and his staff.

How?

Well there was a large tree in the embassy courtyard that military brass had “strongly advised” Martin cut down so as to better allow helicopters to land there should the worst happen. Martin, believing that doing so would be as good as admitting the war had already been lost, absolutely refused to do this. As Henry Kissinger would later note, “Faced with imminent disaster, Martin decided to go down with the ship.”

On that note, to his credit, Martin refused to leave once the evacuation had begun, though this was much to the annoyance of the pilot, Colonel Gerry Berry, sent to fetch him. Instead, Martin continually had refugees boarded while he simply waited with his staff in his office, knowing that as long as he was there, the helicopter would keep coming back allowing more lives to be saved.

It wasn’t until the 14th trip that an exhausted Berry finally reached his wits’ end. Said Berry, “I called the sergeant over. And he got up in the cockpit. And I said, ‘This is it. Get all these people off. This helicopter’s not leaving the roof until the ambassador’s on board. The President sends.'”

With an order supposedly from the President himself, though not actually in reality, Martin finally relented and allowed Berry to complete his mission by transporting Martin and his entourage.

Of course, what the military brass had failed to remember after this supposed last flight was that they’d accidentally left almost a dozen soldiers behind at the compound… This wouldn’t be realized for many hours, but all 11 Marines were rescued after being forced to barricade themselves on the rooftop for the night in case of an attack.

Leaving the evacuations as late as Martin did understandably resulted in mass panic across Saigon with many thousands of South Vietnamese citizens fleeing in everything from cars to stolen planes and helicopters.

In addition, lack of time meant that helicopter pilots had a laughable number of people to rescue, resulting in many ignoring the “recommended” weight limit of their craft and massively overloading them to the very extremes of what they could handle given the pilot’s assessments and weather conditions. In one case, one pilot noted he was overweight to the point that he could only hover inches off the ground, but no one was willing to get off as for many it would mean their life if they could not get out of the country.

He then stated he thought if he could get some forward speed he could get the additional lift needed, so simply pitched the craft forward and took a dive off the rooftop he was on, barely recovering before hitting the rooftops below and then managing to very slowly climb from there.

As for these pilots, they were instructed to ferry evacuees to waiting ships in the South China Sea, many of which quickly began to run out of space resulting in people sleeping double in the small bunks, as well as just anywhere on the ships there was available space for someone to sit or lie down on.

On top of that, any South Vietnamese pilots that could manage to get a hold of their own helicopters and flee to sea were also crowding the decks as they arrived. This resulted in the order to push some of these South Vietnamese helicopters overboard to make more space, or orders for some pilots to simply crash their helicopters into the ocean and await rescue after they’d dropped off any passengers.

This all brings us around to the incredible story of Major Buang Lee. Knowing he and his family — a wife and five children — would in all likelihood be executed if they couldn’t find a way out of the country immediately, the Major managed to commandeer a small Cessna O-1 spotter plane. Under heavy fire, he managed to take off and flee the country with two adults and five children jam packed aboard the tiny, slow moving aircraft.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

A South Vietnamese UH-1H is pushed overboard to make room for a Cessna O-1 landing.

He then headed out to sea in search of a ship to land on or ditch the plane next to. About an hour and a half off the coast and with only about an hour of fuel left, he finally found one in the USS Midway.

The issue now was there was not sufficient room to land on the ship, owing to the number of helicopters on the deck. Unable to find the right frequency on the radio to talk to those on the Midway, Buang resorted to dropping notes.

The first two notes, unfortunately blew away before anyone aboard could grab them. Buang tied the third to his gun and dropped it. When the crew aboard retrieved it, they saw it read: “Can you move the helicopters to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly 1 hour more, we have enough time to move. Please rescue me. -Major Buang, Wife and 5 child.”

The captain of the vessel, one Lawrence Chambers then had a decision to make. While it was possible to move some of the helicopters out of the way, there was no room to move them all. The young captain, only appointed to that post some five weeks before, decided that there was little chance the family would all survive if they tried to ditch in the sea next to the Midway and be rescued that way.

Said Lawrence of the event, “When a man has the courage to put his family in a plane and make a daring escape like that, you have to have the heart to let him in.”

So, thinking he’d likely be court-martialed for it, he made the call to move what helicopters could be moved and dump the rest in the ocean after stripping them of any valuable gear that could be removed quickly. In total, some million (about million today) worth of helicopters were ditched in this way.

There was another problem, however. The plane in question typically needs a minimum of a little over 600 feet of runway to land and come to a full stop. The Midway itself in total was about 1,000 feet long, but the runway deck was only about 2/3 of that, meaning there was zero margin for error here.

Thus, in order to land such a craft on the deck with enough margin of safety, the ship really needed to be moving as fast as possible to make the plane’s relative speed slow enough that it could stop in time before falling off the end. Using the cable system to stop the craft faster wasn’t deemed a good option as in all likelihood it would have just resulted in the landing gear ripping off and/or the plane flipping over in a spectacular crash.

Unfortunately, Chambers had previously granted the ship’s engineers permission to take the Midway’s engines partially offline for routine maintenance. After all, helicopters did not need nor want that relative wind, especially when landing on such a crowded deck.

Said Chambers, “When I told the chief engineer that I needed 25 knots, he informed me that we didn’t have enough steam. I ordered him to shift the hotel load to the emergency diesels.”

With this, the ship was able to achieve the requested speed and Buang’s landing was also helped by another 15 knots of headwind, further reducing his needed stopping distance.

With that done and deck cleared as it could be, Buang was given the greenlight to land, ultimately doing so with textbook precision and with plenty of deck to spare, becoming a rare individual in relatively modern times to land such an aircraft aboard a military carrier.

And, thankfully for Captain Lawrence, he was not court-martialed for ditching rather valuable military hardware to save Major Buang and his family, and instead enjoyed a continuance of his successful career, eventually retiring as a Rear Admiral.

In the aftermath of Operation Frequent Wind, the U.S. ships continued to hang around for a few days off the coast, trying to pick up as many refugees from the water as they could. Finally, the order was given to head home, forcing the commanders to leave many thousands of people that had been promised evacuation behind.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

While Black Hawks, Apaches, and Chinooks usually get top billing when the Army comes out to play at air shows and sporting events (plus the occasional MH-6 Little Bird when special operation aviators come to play), the service does have another helicopter quietly working behind the scenes to plug crucial gaps: the UH-72 Lakota.


That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

(New Jersey National Guard Mark Olsen)

There are a few reasons why you may not know much about the Lakota. First, there aren’t very many of them. While the Army has over 2,000 Black Hawks, there are less than 500 UH-72 Lakotas. And a new purchase of less than a dozen UH-72 airframes can trigger news coverage. Meanwhile, even the expensive and relatively niche Apache fleet boasts over 650 birds.

But another reason the Lakota doesn’t usually get on the front page is that it doesn’t deploy. It wasn’t purchased to deploy, and then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Congress that it couldn’t go overseas as currently configured. It simply doesn’t have the necessary systems to protect itself from enemy fire and keep its pilots alive after crashes.

But the missions the Lakota can do are still important. It’s a workhorse that can fly in rough weather and provide assistance during disaster response. That’s a big part of why it’s primarily flown by National Guard units. It may not be expected to fight and win in the deserts of the Middle East, but it can hoist a family out of hell or high water during a wildfire or flood.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

(Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office Scott Sturkol)

And it can do so at a discount. It costs 30 to 50 percent less to fly per flight hour than a Black Hawk according to Sikorsky estimates, partially thanks to the lack of all those protective systems that a Black Hawk has.

It first flew in 2006, making it the youngest helicopter in the Army’s fleet. It has two engines that supply over 1,400 shaft horsepower to the main rotor over 36-feet in diameter. The main and tail rotors are intentionally set higher than normal above the ground so that, when the helicopter is on the ground, it’s still relatively safe to load patients, passengers, or cargo into the side or rear doors.

This is especially valuable when the UH-72 is used as an air ambulance, which it often is. Litter crews can load a patient in quickly and safely from multiple angles, and the helicopter can carry two litters and a medic per flight. In its utility role, it can carry eight troops instead of the two passengers.

It can reach a maximum altitude of 18,000 feet, pretty close to the Black Hawk’s 19,000 feet ceiling. Though, again, that’s largely thanks to all the gizmos the Lakota doesn’t need for its peacetime missions. The newest Black Hawk has way more power at over 3,600 shaft horsepower, more than 2.5X the Lakota’s.

All of this makes the Lakota great for homeland security and disaster response, and the Army has even made it the primary helicopter in its training fleet.

But don’t expect it to become the shiny crown jewel in the Army’s fleet. Modifying the Lakota to take on the Black Hawk’s mission or anything similar would drastically drive up costs and, without upgraded engines, adds little in terms of capability. And the Army is already shopping for more exotic designs like the tilt-rotor V-280 Valor and Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider with its compound rotor and push propeller.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

The US military is currently conducting a massive sealift stress test during which ships will flex atrophied muscles needed to fight a great power conflict.

US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), which oversees important military logistics activities, launched the large-scale “Turbo Activiation” sealift readiness exercise on Sept. 16, 2019, the command announced in a statement Sept. 17, 2019.

While these exercises, which began in 1994, typically include only a handful of ships, the latest iteration will involve 28 vessels from the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) and TRANSCOM’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) Ready Reserve Force.


Navy Capt. Kevin Stephens, a TRANSCOM spokesperson, told Defense News that this is the largest training activation on record.

Ships located along the East, West, and Gulf Coasts will have five days to go from reduced operating status to fully crewed and ready for action. The no-notice activations are usually followed by sea trials.

The MSC, according to The War Zone, has 15 roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo ships, and MARAD has another 46 ships consisting of 35 RORO ships and 11 special mission ships. The MSC, Defense News reports, also has 26 pre-positioning ships.

These vessels are “maintained in a reserve status in the event that the Department of Defense needs these ships to support the rapid, massive movement of military supplies and troops for a military exercise or large-scale conflict,” TRANSCOM explained in a statement.

There are reportedly another 60 US-flagged commercial ships in the US Maritime Security Program available to serve, but they are not part of the reserve fleets.

These sealift ships would be responsible for moving roughly 90 percent of US Army and Marine Corps equipment abroad for a fight, but this force has been languishing for years.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

(US Army photo by Steven J. Mirrer)

“We are not in a good position today,” Rear Adm. Peter Clarke, the director of Strategy, Policy, Programs and Logistics at Transportation Command, said of US sealift capabilities last year, according to USNI News. “We’re on the ragged edge,” Kevin Tokarski, the associate administrator at MARAD, explained at that time. “Foreign countries [especially China] are eclipsing us.”

There are also concerns that in the event of a major great power conflict, the US Navy may not be able to provide enough escorts, given that the service is smaller than it once was.

The ongoing stress test is a critical evaluation of the sealift force’s ability to surge ships, but also the “underlying support network involved in maintaining, manning and operating the nation’s ready sealift forces,” TRANSCOM explained.

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

MUSIC

That time Elvis’ combat training took down Alice Cooper

It’s a well-known fact that the King of Rock n’ Roll enjoyed practicing karate. What might not be so well-known is that he was pretty good at it, too. After starting his training while in the Army in Europe in 1958, Elvis Presley studied martial arts until his death in 1977 — when he was a seventh-degree black belt.

This talent came in handy one night when rocker Alice Cooper pulled a gun on him.


Elvis earned his black belt after a rigorous six-week-long training regimen and test. Though his fighting style wasn’t “pretty,” the King still passed the test. Elvis would even eventually start his own dojo, the Tennessee Karate Institute, and write books about how he trained for real-life dangers — including meditations on how to prepare for attackers with real guns.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families
Elvis (left) in a karate demonstration.
(YouTube)

He was so serious about the art that he was ready to be promoted beyond the level of his trainer much faster than anyone could’ve anticipated. He was as bold in the studio as he was in real life: Presley once even got out of his limo at an intersection in Madison, Wisconsin, to stop a fight at a gas station. The then-42-year-old walked up to the fight, told the two men, “I’ll take you two on,” and assumed a karate stance. The two men stopped fighting.

“Is everything settled now?” he said.

Despite not being considered “pretty” when he first earned his black belt, Elvis’ karate improved greatly over the next 15 years. Wayne Carman, who trained with Elvis under their master, Kang Rhee, said this about Presley’s karate:

“His technique was crisp and powerful and his movements were graceful.”

It was a good thing, too. One night in Las Vegas, Elvis was in the penthouse of a hotel when a young Alice Cooper (along with Liza Minelli and Linda Lovelace) came into his room. He wasn’t just looking for an audience with the King. After they were all frisked by Elvis’ security, Elvis took Cooper into the kitchen and took out a .32 snub-nose revolver. He told the kid to put it to his head.

Cooper recounted the story to the UK’s Mirror:

“I had this gun in my hand and was expecting one of his security to come in any second, see me holding a weapon, and shoot me dead… A little voice in my left ear was telling me, ‘Go on, this is history, kill him, you’ll always be the guy who killed Elvis.’ In my other ear was another voice saying, ‘You can’t kill him, it’s Elvis Presley – wound him instead, you’ll only get a few years!’.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families
You come at the King, you best not miss.

That’s when Elvis did a flying kick at the gun, knocking it out of Cooper’s hand. He then tripped Cooper and pinned him to the ground by his neck.

“That’s how you stop a man with a gun,” he said.
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Mattis was obsessed with a certain day in history

Everyone who is a fan of veteran Marine Corps General and onetime Secretary of Defense James Mattis knows of his affinity for reading, for consuming as much knowledge on a subject as he can before giving his opinion. His lifestyle of eschewing a family in favor of a lifetime of learning and dedication to duty even earned him the moniker “The Warrior Monk.” This well-known devotion to knowledge makes it all the more interesting to discover Mattis was “obsessed” with the date August 1914.


That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

From the Iraq War to the Trump Administration, Mattis is always the man for the job.

In journalist Bob Woodward’s book, “Fear: Trump in the White House” one Trump Administration official who spoke highly of then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Woodward that the former general was “obsessed with August 1914… the idea that you take actions, military actions, that are seen as prudent planning and the unintended consequences are that you can’t get off the war train.”

Specifically, Mattis was “obsessed” with historian Barbara Tuchman’s World War I history book, “The Guns of August,” which has a spot on every reading list he ever published for the troops.

In June 1914, as we should all know by now, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot by an assassin in Sarajevo. Austria-Hungary issues an ultimatum to Serbia as European allies began to muster their troops throughout the continent during July of 1914. At the end of July, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declares war on Serbia, shelling Belgrade just days later. As July turns to August, Serbia’s ally Russia begins to mobilize for war. That’s when Germany demanded Russia stop preparing for war, which Russia ignored.

On Aug. 1, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. Russia’s allies began preparing for war in response to their mutual defense treaties. Germany then declared war on France and invaded neutral Belgium, forcing Great Britain and its Empire to declare war on Germany. Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia. By Aug. 7, 1914, much of the world was at war. By the end of August, the fighting had spread to Africa and the Chinese mainland. What started as a regional dispute that could have been mediated led to millions of lives lost in a brutal, industrialized war machine.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

German defenders of Tsingtao, China, who were fighting against the Japanese invaders because a Serbian shot an Austrian archduke in Bosnia.

In this context, Mattis was trying to keep the United States and NATO out of a war with Russia, which (according to Woodward’s book) seemed like a real possibility if the Trump Administration had enacted some of its more sweeping changes to American defense policy. Mattis was also trying to convince Trump that the U.S. needed to be in NATO, and if NATO didn’t already exist, it should be created – because Russia could not win a war against NATO, in Mattis’ opinion.

Russia had privately warned Mattis that if a war broke out in the Baltics, the Russians would use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO forces. Mattis and Gen. Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, began to think Russia as an existential threat to the United States. Even so, Mattis was determined to keep Russia and NATO from sliding into a similar war via a web of alliances.

Articles

This special ops sniper challenge is the most ridiculous video you’ll see all day

Snipers are considered one of the most dangerous warfighters in the battlefield, taking out targets from concealed and undisclosed locations while homing in on prey that has no clue that they’re even in the crosshairs.


So who in their right mind would challenge a highly-trained sniper to a duel without having a weapon?

Answer: This freaking guy.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families
Comedian and BuzzFeed Blue host Mike Carrier. (Source: Buzz Feed Blue/ Screenshot)

Related: WWI’s deadliest sniper was from Canada

You may have seen Mike on the popular show “Outsmarted” currently on the BuzzFeed Blue channel on YouTube as he attempts to outsmart some of the toughest minds and computer software out there.

In the episode “I Tried Escaping A Special Operation Sniper,” Mike challenges a retired Marine Corps sniper, claiming that he can evade the devil dog’s crosshairs in a wide open space for 10 minutes.

If Mike wins, he’ll eat his favorite candy — Reese’s peanut cup. But if he loses the duel, he’ll be forced to eat wet cat food.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families
Yum. (Source: Buzz Feed Blue/ Screenshot)

Let the games begin!

Step 1: Mike stands out in the open and strips down a layer of his clothing. Underneath, he is wearing a Zentai suit which he finishes putting on.

What a nice beach bod? (Images via Giphy)

Step 2: A car pulls up next to Mike, and four other men with matching body types also wearing Zentai suits pop out. A decoy perhaps?

Yeah, it’s a decoy. (Images via Giphy)

Step 3: Mike and his team ignite colored smoke grenades which confused the sh*t out of our trained sniper.

The confusion draws out the sniper. (Images via Giphy)

Step 4: The decoys dance in a circle, bringing the sniper in for a closer look.

Ring around the rosy. (Images via Giphy)

Step 5: After showing off their incredible dance skills, the decoys pair off and hide under blankets.

Team work. (Images via Giphy)

Step 5: Time is up! The sniper shoots one of the decoys in the a**.

Shot directly on the right cheek. (Images via Giphy)

Step 6: The winner is! Mike.

It’s time to celebrate. (Images via Giphy)

Step 7: Claim your prize.

Looks delicious. (Images via Giphy)Check out Buzz Feed Blue’s video to watch this intelligent dude attempt to outsmart a retired Marine sniper.
(YouTube, BuzzFeedBlue)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

A French company is developing target-acquiring drones for tanks

Remotely piloted aircraft, more commonly known as drones, have become an established part of warfare, serving as both intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance (ISR for short) assets as well as attack platforms.

More recently, smaller man-portable drones have been proposed as a way to provide infantry units with a faster organic method of scanning the battlefield around them and relaying critical intelligence and data back to infantry leaders. Now, Nexter — a French defense contractor — wants to take drone usage in a different direction and attach them to heavy armored vehicles.

More specifically… tanks.


That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

The gunner’s station in a Leclerc tank

(Wikimedia Commons photo by Rama)

The theory behind fitting out tanks with small drones is maddeningly simple — just tether a drone to the hull or turret of the tank, and integrate scanners and sensors aboard the drone into the tank’s onboard computers. This allows the drone to seamlessly pass what it sees to the tank’s crew, and allows them to use the data to get a visual on the enemy before the enemy sees them, or to dial in their shots for better effects on target.

Using drones, tanks could shoot “blind” out of a defilade position, allowing them to mail accurate shots downrange without having to break out of cover or expose themselves to enemy fire and retaliation.

Nexter, the developer of the Leclerc main battle tank, states that its drone, which will be fully unveiled later this year at the 2019 International Defense Exhibition Conference in the UAE, will be able to designate targets for the Leclerc, and will likely work in tandem with the company’s upcoming POLYNEGE and M3M “smart” 120 mm shells.

Given that the idea and its surrounding development is in full swing over in Europe, it’s only a matter of time until target-designating drones become an asset for American armored elements, especially the Army and Marine Corps’ M1A2 Abrams tank units, which have seen action in both Afghanistan and Iraq in the past 15 years.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Ted Banks)

In recent years, both the Army and General Dynamics Land Systems (which supports, produces, and rebuilds M1A2s) have made moves towards developing methods for the Abrams to not only interface with drones, but also take control of them and use them to attack targets in a dynamic combat environment.

With a concurrent push for guided artillery munitions and “smart” shells for tanks, it’s only a matter of a few short years until the Department of Defense brings in Nexter’s tethered drone concept and implements it across the board with the latest iteration of the Abrams — the M1A2SEP V4.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Surfing superstar Hangs 10 and donates $20k to veterans

Kelly Slater is known around the world as arguably the greatest surfer of all time. An 11-time world champion, Slater is iconic in the surfing community.


Watching videos on YouTube, it’s easy to see why he has been so dominant on the board and has had such a huge influence and impact on the sport.

Outside the surfing community, there’s another group of people Slater continues to help: veterans.

Slater built a pretty rad surfing ranch out in the California countryside that attracts surf aficionados and celebrities alike.

The ranch is also a spot used by nonprofits to provide outlets for wounded warriors to surf as a part of therapy.

In addition to surfing, Slater is also known for many other things from being a businessman, model, actor, environmentalist, philanthropist and overall cool dude.

When it comes to philanthropy, Slater is known for giving to myriad causes. He has donated and raised awareness for protecting the ocean and worked on suicide prevention.

But this weekend, his focus was on an oft forgotten population – wounded warriors.

In addition to being the greatest surfer of all time, Slater is also an avid golfer. Every year he can, he participates in the ATT Pebble Beach Pro-Am which was held this past weekend.

The Pro-Am is a celebrity-studded event which features the best golfers in the world playing alongside athletes from other sports and entertainment celebrities.

Crowds love the atmosphere which is more relaxed than usual golf events.

One of the events held was the Chevron Shootout. The shootout is where past champions of the tournament are paired with champions from the world of sports to compete in a team putting competition at the Pebble Beach Putting Green with winnings going to the player’s charity of choice.

Other athletes included Steve Young, Matt Ryan, Larry Fitzgerald, Jimmy Walker and Brandt Snedeker. Slater was paired with D.A. Point and won the Shootout, donating his winnings to his charity of choice: Wounded Warrior Project.

Of the ,000 prize his team won, he gets to donate half to that cause.

Slater later posted on Facebook posting pics of the event.

As you can see in the comments, veterans loved the love Slater gave to the veteran community. Mahola, Mr. Slater.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

The Blackburn Buccaneer was a fast-attack jet of the Royal Navy designed to kill Russian cruisers from just above the waves with conventional and nuclear weapons in engagements lasting only a minute or so. Now, a retired oil company CEO has bought a retired Buccaneer and flies it around South Africa.


Blackburn Buccaneer – British Nuclear Bomber

www.youtube.com

The plane was sent to the fleet in 1962 and served for over 30 years. The need for the jet came in 1952 when Russia introduced the Sverdlov-class cruisers. These were a class of cruisers valuable for defending the Russian coasts and attacking British and other carriers at night when the British would be unable to launch planes.

Britain could either build a new fleet of its own to counter Russia’s new fleets and the Sverdlov cruisers or, it could find a way to negate the new Russian assets. The British decided to build a new plane that could launch day or night, and that could quickly attack enemy ships and get away before the ship could retaliate.

This was a tall order against the Sverdlov which had cutting-edge radar and anti-aircraft weapons. British designers got around this by making the Buccaneer capable of flying just over the waves, below the radar of the enemy ships. And when they reached the target, the Buccaneers would launch their weapons in less than a minute and make their escape.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

A Blackburn Buccaneer with its wings folded.

(Paul Lucas, CC BY 2.0)

The Buccaneer was supposed to eventually receive a custom-made nuclear air-to-surface missile, but actually spent most of its career carrying conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. Despite the failure to create the nuclear air-to-surface missile, the Buccaneer was equipped with nuclear free-fall bombs.

The aircraft performed plenty of training in the Cold War and were used for a number of missions, including extensive duties in Iraq during the Gulf War, but was retired in 1994 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

And that was where Ian Pringle came in. A successful oil businessman, Pringle had the money to scoop up a Buccaneer when it went up for sale. He had the plane transported to Thunder City, South Africa, where civilians are allowed to fly nuclear-capable aircraft.

Once there, he took lessons in how to fly the aircraft, a dangerous process. His plane was an operational one, and so it only has controls in the front seat, so his trainer had to sit in the back seat and coach him from there. If Pringle had panicked in flight, there was no way for the instructor to take over.

But Pringle figured it out, and now he races the plane low over the grass of South Africa when he can. The plane was made to allow pilots to fly just above the water, and so he can take it pretty low to the grass.

He’s one of only two civilians ever to fly the plane, though he obviously can’t fly it with missiles or bombs on board.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How one Russian truck can shoot down an entire squadron in a full-scale war

While the United States has let its short-range air defense systems decline since the end of the Cold War, Russia’s been very active in bolstering theirs. Of course, this can be explained in part by the different situations the two countries face.


That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families
An A-10C Thunderbolt II assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron performs a low-angle strafe using its 30mm GAU-8 rotary cannon. Planes like the A-10 have usually operated unimpeded over battlefields, to the benefit of American troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

Generally, the United States controls the skies over the battlefield, often to the detriment of gear that the Russians have sold to countries like Iraq, Libya, and Yugoslavia. This makes other countries that either bought or licensed Russian designs nervous. So, Russia’s been working hard to come up with more effective defenses, especially for battlefield forces, like tank and infantry divisions.

The latest in this series is a system called Pantsir. It is an advanced, self-propelled combined gun/missile system that is used on 8×8 trucks. On these trucks are 12 SA-22 “Greyhound” surface-to-air missiles and a pair of 30mm cannon. This is a higher capacity than the previous state-of-the-art Russian tactical defense system, the 2S6 Tunguska, which had eight SA-19 “Grison” missiles and two 30mm cannon on a tracked vehicle. To put it bluntly, one of these truck-mounted systems has enough missiles to kill an entire Navy or Marine squadron of F/A-18 Hornets.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families
The heart of Pantsir: 12 SA-22 Greyhound missiles and two 30mm cannon. (Photo form Wikimedia Commons)

The SA-22 Greyhound missiles have a maximum range of just over 11 miles, according to GlobalSecurity.org, but Deagel.com reports that an advanced version of this missile could have a range of nearly 25 miles – well in excess of many precision-guided bombs in the American inventory.

The scary thing is that Russia is already exporting this advanced air-defense system. So far, buyers have included the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and, ominously, Syria. In short, American combat planes could very well be facing a Russian truck that could blow them out of the sky

Military Life

5 reasons why troops and first responders get along so well

There’re no two groups of Americans that get along quite as well as the military and the first-responder community. It makes sense on a broad level; they’re both occupations filled by people who hope to help their fellow man and make the world a slightly better place.


But it goes much deeper than that — it’s not just a shared, we-got-10-percent-off-our-meal-at-a-restaurant connection.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

Civilians just don’t understand the actual amount of paperwork and bureaucracy that happens in both. That fact alone is why so many police officers love ‘Hot Fuzz.’

(Photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Taylor)

They share the same culture

Part of what makes the armed forces fun is the inter-service banter exchanged between branches. Funnily enough, first responders playfully mock one another as well.

EMS will throw some jabs in jest at firefighters and firefighters will tell jokes at the police’s expense. Hell, even within the different bureaus, police will riff on each other. Law enforcement officers and firefighters, just like Marines and airmen, will happily mock one another all day long, but treat each other as family when push comes to shove.

This is just one of the many areas in which the two cultures overlap.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

They also come up with the same off-the-wall insults that troops love.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Pedro A. Rodriguez)

They share the same lingo

Troops say a lot of little things that they don’t realize are uncommon in the civilian world, but the lingo is easily understood by first responders.

The phonetic alphabet is an obvious one, but it makes my veteran heart grow knowing that police also call each other blue falcons.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

The hardest times for both are often the memorial services.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Fowler)

They share the same bad days

The sad reality is that the bad days both groups experience can be hard to explain to civilians.

There are fantastic moments that you can be proud to share with your children and your spouse, but helping the world will also show you things that’ll keep you up at night — you can’t know this feeling without experiencing it.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

Have you ever been to a fire station? It’s basically a frat house in between calls.

(Photo by Jamal Wilson)

They share a strong bond of brotherhood with their peers

It’s no secret that troops are close to one another — and first responders are no different.

They grow together through shared pain, mockery, and brief moments of brevity until the sh*t hits the fan again. This level of camaraderie is respected across both groups.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

Or you enlist for a change of pace but end up doing the same thing in a different uniform.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Octavius Thompson)

Many have served in both

The main reason why so many of each community can relate with one another is because many troops leave the service and make a living as a first responder, and vice versa.

During a moment of peace in Basic or Boot Camp, it’s not uncommon to hear a new troop say that they were a volunteer firefighter for a few semesters in college.

MIGHTY CULTURE

12 things NOT to say to a military spouse during the holidays

1. Well, at least you don’t have to get him/her a gift right away.

I’m sorry, what? I will more than likely still get my spouse a gift and squirrel it away until they get home, but also why is that the one thing you think I am thinking about the most? Our gift to each other will be a phone call or a quick Skype call. That is better than any other gift either one of us could get each other.


2. Well, you signed up for this, why are you surprised?

I may shank the next person that says that. Just saying. I fell in love with a human not their occupation. Their occupation is a small part of who they are and we adjust to the situation. We are simply making it each day at a time.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

(Photo by Alexander Dummer)

3. Wait, the military won’t send him/her home for the holidays?!

You realize that the military does not care what day of the week it is let alone a holiday. Stop with the silliness. The service members are on a deployment, field exercise, staff duty, etc. they cannot come home.

4. Why are you staying here? Why aren’t you just moving home?

Well, I have a whole life and network system I have established at the base that I can’t just abandon. Yes, I miss my family and will come home to visit them, but it isn’t possible for me to move home while my spouse is away.

5. He’s only in overseas why don’t you just go visit him/her?

Are you planning on paying for the ticket or…? We are living on a budget and don’t have the luxury of always going to visit each other. The idea is great but not practical. Also, do you know what a war zone is?

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. displays some holiday spirit as he speaks to the soldiers of 1st Armored Division in Germany.

(US Army photo)

6. At least you don’t have kids, it would be so much worse.

Thank you? It is still hard to be apart from my spouse even though we don’t have kids. Can someone just hand me a bottle of wine the next time someone tries to comfort me with that.

7. Well at least the kids are young, they won’t remember.

The kids will still miss their parent. The kids will still ask where they are first thing in the morning. Looking around the house, seeing if their dad/mom will surprise them or waiting patiently by the phone to hear their voice. No it won’t be easy no matter the age of our kids, but we make it work.

8. Isn’t it nice to have your own space? I love when my husband isn’t home.

Well, I much prefer when he is home, but that is just me. We have spent enough time apart I am ready to be together again. Sure a nice weekend apart spent with family or my girlfriends is nice, but after a few months I am more than ready for him/her to be home.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

Lancer Brigade soldier makes it home for the holidays.

(US Army photo)

9. Ask when is he coming home and immediately respond with, “Well, that isn’t too far away.”

One day is too far away. Yes, my countdown app has helped me stay focused and able to remember we are one day closer, but somedays (most days) it is far too many days away. Minutes feel like days, days feel like weeks, weeks feel like months, and so forth. It is a long and frustrating experience I would not wish on my worst enemy.

10. Why are you visiting his side of the family? He’s not even home.

They are still family. No matter if my spouse is home or not I am going to see my in-laws at holidays. They are as special to me as my own family and I want to see them. It is silly to think that just because my spouse isn’t home I would not go see that side of the family.

11. Aren’t you scared he’s going to get lonely being so far away?

Well, yes he may get lonely, but so will I. Yes, we will have struggles, but we also have each other. We also have our phones, Skype, Facebook messenger, various apps that will get us through the time apart. We also have our friends that will help us deal with the frustrations that come with time spent apart.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

Soldiers gather together during a Christmas service at Combat Outpost Shur Andam, Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

12. Well, one year my spouse had to go out of town for an extended weekend so I completely understand what you are going through.

Seriously, if anyone comes to me with this this holiday season you better be handing me a bottle of chardonnay with that comment. Yes, some couples go through time apart from their loved one, but no one understands the separation like other military significant others. It is a different, it is an everyday struggle, a daunting task that only can be dealt with by fellow military spouses that understand the hardships that will happen and that are happening.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways troops can make the most of their time in the field

Being in the field sucks for almost everyone involved. Lower enlisted get thrown into collective tents, leaders have to train their troops in crappy conditions, that one staff officer never shuts up about how they could “kill for a Starbucks,” and everyone has to deal with everyone else’s crap. Your experience and level of suckitude may differ.

Civilians pay money to go camping and feel “more rugged” when they wake up outdoors to the sound of birds chirping, so it can’t be all bad, right? In the famous words of nearly every old-timer who never shuts up about how much harder it was back in the day: Suck it up, buttercup. Things will be alright once you learn to look at the positives.


That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

Unfortunately, you can’t substitute the food. Hope you enjoy your eggs with extra salt…

(U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Nancy Lugo)

Bring personal gear with you

It’s no secret that the military buys from the lowest bidder. The gear you’ve been issued has been used repeatedly by several other troops before it finally got to you. If you don’t have complete faith in the gear that was handed to you, you can always pick something up with your own cash.

Of course, you should always stay within regulations for most gear, like rucksacks and body armor, but unless you’re specifically told not to do so, you can probably get away with bringing a personal sleeping system in addition to the one your unit supplied.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

You never truly know someone until you’ve played with them as your partner in Spades.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Opal Vaughn)

Bring stuff to do outside of training

There will be downtime. Exactly how much will differ between units, but you’ll at least get a moment to breathe every now and then. In those moments, you’ll need something to do other than lose your mind.

It’s the field, so it’s obviously a stupid idea to bring a TV and video games. If you do, you deserve to be mocked for it. But you can never go wrong with bringing a deck of cards and getting a game of Spades going.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

With profit margins like that, you can put it on your resume when you leave the service.

(Photo via U.S. Army WTF Moments)

Sell wanted stuff to other troops

No one ever brings everything they need to last the entire time in the field. Some may load up their hygiene kit but forget razors. Your unit may be just given MREs and mermites and nobody thinks to bring a bottle of Tabasco. You’ll even find people who think a single pack of cigarettes will last them the full two weeks. You could be the guy who makes a quick buck off of the under-prepared.

Even if you don’t smoke or dip, there will be others in your unit that do. You’ll see them start to get on edge after they’ve run out by the end of the first week. At that point, no one will bat an eye if you sell them a pack for . I mean, technically, MPs might because it’s frowned upon by the court of law to sell tobacco without a license, but those profit margins are mighty fine.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

No one will blame you if you take pre-CS chamber selfies. We don’t want to see your face covered in snot and tears.

(U.S. Army photo by Cpt. Gregory McElwain)

Take photos

Of all the regrets veterans might have few about their time in the service, few rank higher than failing to take advantage of photo opportunities with the squad. Years down the road, when those vets are reflecting on how awesome they once were, they’ll be disappointed to find the only hard evidence is a handful of photos from promotion ceremonies and an awkward snapshot from a unit ball.

Don’t be that guy. Bring a camera or have your phone’s camera primed. If it seems like a dumb idea or if things generally sucks, take a photo. Tragedy plus time almost always equals comedy gold. You’ll thank yourself later.

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

Your leaders are wellsprings of information, both good and bad. It’s up to you to learn the difference.

(U.S. Army photo courtesy of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 8th Special Troops Battalion)

Actually listen to what your leader wants to teach you

There aren’t too opportunities for a leader to truly break down training and give you a hands-on experience outside of being in the field. That’s why you’re there in the first place.

They’ll have everything planned out to try and prepare you for what’s coming later. Listen to them. They’ve got much to tell you. Believe me when I say this: Your leader wants to teach you everything they know to make you better. If they don’t, they’re not a leader.