MIGHTY HISTORY

The original ‘Memphis Belle’ is now restored and on display

The Memphis Belle has received a lot of attention over the years. In 1944, this Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber was the subject of a documentary, entitled Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, that followed an aircrew as they completed their 25th and final mission. Today, we now know that the Memphis Belle was actually the second choice for that documentary — the first was shot down in battle.

Nonetheless, the Memphis Belle was thrust into notoriety and had a place in the public eye. Then, in 1990, that documentary was dramatized and turned into a film, titled Memphis Belle, starring Harry Connick Jr.

Now, you can see the famous bomber itself at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The bomber’s display was formally opened on May 17, 2018, which marked the 75th anniversary of the plane’s 25th mission. But this B-17 bomber endured a long journey before finally arriving at the museum.


The Memphis Belle being restored at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. In the background is Swoose, another historic B-17.

(USAF)

According to an Air Force release, restoring the bomber has taken over 55,000 man-hours since 2005. She was saved from the scrapyard by the city of Memphis for a grand total of 0 in 1945. After that, the plane spent most of her days stored outside, left exposed to the elements, as she awaited proper preservation. In 2004, the Air Force reclaimed the bomber.

Still, 55,000 hours is a long restoration period — what took so long? Well, the experts weren’t interested in plastering on a pretty paint job and calling it done. Instead, they wanted this iconic plane to look exactly as it did when she flew that famous 25th mission. That was no easy task. One of the hardest parts was finding authentic parts for the plane, or at least period-accurate parts.

The Memphis Belle as she appeared during World War II.

(USAF)

The Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress, was able to carry as many as 17,600 pounds’ worth of bombs and was equipped with as many as 13 M2 .50-caliber machine guns as well as a single .30-caliber machine gun. It had a crew of ten, a top speed of 325 miles per hour, and a maximum range of 4,420 miles.

Of the over 3,400 B-17Fs built, only three survive today — the Memphis Belle is one of those.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Navy’s Super Hornets need an extended range

The US Navy wants to increase the range of its aircraft so carriers can remain out of missile range, an apparent response to China’s anti-ship defenses.


The Navy recently announced that it has awarded Boeing a $219,600,000 contract to build and deliver conformal fuel tanks for its air wings workhorse, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, as part of an emphasis on increasing fuel capacity and refueling ability.

CFTs are additional fuel tanks that are attached to the outside of the aircraft, somewhat similar to drop tanks. Unlike drop tanks, however, they are attached to the structure of the aircraft instead of the wing, and cannot be dropped.

The F/A-18 Super Hornet. (Photo by U.S. Marine Corp)

The CFTs can carry hundreds of pounds of extra fuel, allowing for more hours of flight time.

The tanks are not a new concept — both the F-15 and the F-16 have conformal fuel tanks that can be fitted to them, as do the Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Also read: The Super Hornet will get these ‘stealth-like’ upgrades

The Navy is also trying to implement aerial refueling for carrier missions that do not require large tankers like the KC-46 and KC-135. This will be done through the use of the MQ-25 Stingray.

The Stingray is a unmanned aerial vehicle that is part of the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, a program that started after the Navy decided to change the direction of the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike project, which was intended to create a UAV that would strike enemy targets.

Boeing gave a sneak peak of the MQ-25 Stingray. (Image via Boeing Twitter)

China has a distinct advantage when it comes to anti-ship defenses and reportedly has the world’s most advanced anti-ship ballistic missile.

Related: This is what Boeing’s new stealth tanker looks like

The DF-21D has an approximate range of 1,100 miles, whereas the F/A-18 Super Hornet only has a range of 500 miles. The DF-21D has been referred to as the “carrier killer.”

China is also developing other missiles that are just as intimidating, such as the DF-26, which reportedly has a maximum range of 2,500 miles. China is also testing hypersonic glide vehicles that can go as fast as mach 10, making them almost impossible to intercept.

Carrier strike groups are extremely important to the US method of waging war. They have often been the first units sent to conduct strikes in places like Syria and Iraq.

Military Life

This is the group that designs iconic unit patches

You’ve seen the colorful patches that adorn the shoulders of the uniforms worn by high-profile officers. Whether they’re on Colin Powell, H. R. McMaster, or some other Army or Marine general, these patches stand out. They represent the units these officers served with — but who designed them?


Believe it or not, nobody in the military did. Well, no active-duty member of the military, to be precise. Instead, the designing of unit patches has been the work of 32 civilians out of Fort Belvoir, near Alexandria, Virginia, at The Institute of Heraldry, U.S. Army. This agency, often called TIOH, has been around since 1960, but military units have been using distinctive patches, flags, and symbols since 1775.

The Institute of Heraldry, U.S. Army has its own coat of arms.

(US Army)

After World War I saw an explosion in unit patches, the Army got serious about creating an official program to sort it all out. The Quartermaster General began handling the design of unit patches in 1924. Then came World War II. Not only did every division get a patch, it seemed every regiment, fighter squadron, and bomber squadron wanted one, too (remember, the Air Force didn’t break away from the Army until 1947). In 1957, Congress tacked on more responsibility, putting the Army in charge of designing the seals and flags for every federal agency.

Finally, in 1960, TIOH was formed, and placed under the Adjutant General’s Office. Several decades and reorganizations later, the institute now operates under the Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army.

The shoulder patch for the 101st Airborne Division — The Screaming Eagles — reflects that division’s name and heritage.

(U.S. Army)

Through it all, as new units have formed and old ones have faded away, TIOH has helped keep the history alive through their intricate, symbolic design work.

Learn more about what they do in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1cenTQBkl4

www.youtube.com

Articles

Aerial footage of the Abraham Lincoln super carrier drifting

Considered one of the most technologically advanced ships in the Navy’s arsenal, the USS Abraham Lincoln is the fifth ship built in the Nimitz-class of aircraft carriers.


Originally costing nearly three billion dollars in the mid-’80s, the carrier was christened and launched by Newport News Shipbuilding under the command of Capt. J. J. Dantone.

Do you remember when former President George W. Bush gave a speech congratulating America for completing the mission in Iraq back in 2003? That took place aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (and is probably a moment the former POTUS would probably like to take back for obvious reasons but let’s stay on track here).

The mission hasn’t been accomplished, at least not yet.

In May of 2017, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was redelivered back to the Navy after undergoing nearly a four-year mid-life Refueling and Complex Overhaul.

Approximately 2.5 million hours of labor were committed to the overhaul and restoration of this legendary aircraft carrier.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) busting an epic U-turn in the Atlantic Ocean. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The vessel’s upgrades include various repairs and replacements of ventilation, electrical, propellers, rudders, and combat and aviation support systems.

With the innovated modification to the rudders and propellers, the USS Abraham Lincoln can now tactfully turn around with minimal support.

Check out Ultimate Military Channel‘s video below to watch this impressive aircraft carrier drift for yourself.

(YouTube, Ultimate Military Channel)
Articles

12 best military jobs according to Glassdoor

We scraped through job reviews on Glassdoor.com, a site that lets employees rate their employers and their careers anonymously, to find out what the most loved jobs in the military are. Here are 12 of the highest rated careers in uniform:


12. Air Force Aircraft Mechanic (4.1)

Staff Sgt. Doug Miller and Master Sgt. Scott Dolese, aircraft structural maintenance technicians, work a jack support box repair from the inside and outside of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. (Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

The job is basically summed up in the title. Someone has to be in charge of keeping all of the Air Force’s planes flying, and these are the folks who do it. The Air Force has a number of specific jobs that fall under this umbrella, from Remotely Piloted Aircraft Maintenance to Airlift/Special Mission Aircraft Maintenance or Aircraft Hydraulic Systems. (Average rating is a 4.1.)

11. Coast Guard Storekeeper (4.1)

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Stratton, a storekeeper with the Eighth Coast Guard District, sifts through hundreds of procurement requests for different departments for the district, Oct. 31, 2011. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Casey J. Ranel)

Access to all of the ship or command’s goods while hanging out on ships (mostly) near the coasts. Sounds great. Storekeepers can go further out, serving primarily on icebreakers and cutters when they’re not on the shore. They specialize in inventory and supply. (Average rating is a 4.1.)

10. Marine Corps Aircraft Mechanic (4.1)

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Zachary Jackson, an airframe mechanic with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 232, conducts maintenance on an F/A-18C Hornet. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Mason Roy)

Aircraft maintainers in the Marines Corps take care of the fleet of helicopters, fixed wing planes, and tilt-rotor aircraft that carry them and other Marines around the globe. They get a lot of first-hand knowledge of aircraft and are, for the most part, safely tucked away from the worst of the fighting. (Average review is a 4.1.)

9. Air Force Intelligence Analyst (4.2)

The 35th Operations Support Squadron intelligence analysts and Japan Air Self-Defense Force counterparts plot coordinates on a map in preparation for Red Flag-Alaska 17-2, at Misawa Air Base, Japan, May 26, 2017. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

Collect all the signals, images, testimony, and other intel that’s coming from the field, and then think about it really hard. Of course, there’s tons of paperwork and your musings on the information determine whether other people live or die, so no pressure or anything. (Average rating is a 4.2.)

8. Coast Guard Information Systems Technician (4.2)

Chief Petty Officer Mark Bigsby, an information systems technician from Coast Guard Base Seattle, operates a deployable contingency communications system near Ellensburg, Washington. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Marshall Wilson)

It’s an IT job, but with the Coast Guard. Keep computers properly hooked up and set up new networks when needed; you could even get called to keep all the computers on an ocean-going cutter working together. And odd note about the Glassdoor for this job though: the IT guys are less likely to recommend the Coast Guard to a friend (62 percent vs. 88 percent) than Coasties as a whole reported. (Average rating is a 4.2.)

7. Coast Guard Operations Specialist (4.2)

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Pat DeQuattro, deputy commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area, talks with Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Perkins, an operations specialist, in Pohang, Republic of Korea, April 12, 2017. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Rob Simpson)

Another top Coast Guard position, operations specialists are in charge of helping plan operations for ships and then chart courses and allocate resources to make it possible. They can be tasked with everything from taking down smugglers to rescues at sea. (Average review is a 4.2.)

6. Navy Hospital Corpsman (4.2)

Petty Officer 3rd Class Steven Martinez, left, a corpsman, and Staff Sgt. Joseph Quintanilla, a platoon sergeant, brace as a CH-53E Super Stallion takes off after inserting the company into a landing zone. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Owen Kimbrel)

A combination of hospital nurses and field medics, Navy corpsmen give medical aid to sailors, Marines, and others both on ship and shore as well as in combat around the world. Obviously, this can result in a lot of stress but can also be very fulfilling. (Average rating is a 4.2.)

5. Army Human Resources Specialist (4.2)

(Photo: US Army Sgt. Jason Means)

It’s one of the more ridiculed jobs, an “uber-POG” position that rarely sees combat. But human resource specialists seem happy with their desk jobs, tracking personnel and making sure pay goes through properly. (Average rating is a 4.2, vs. an average of 3.4 for the infantry).

4. Army Logistics Manager (4.2)

Mine-resistant, ambush-protected, all-terrain vehicles line up for a convoy. (Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Alex Manne)

The Glassdoor ratings for “Army Logistics Manager” cover a variety of jobs, mostly in the transportation branch. They drive trucks, plan routes, and send convoys through enemy territory. So, a little adventure on some days, but humdrum the rest of the time. A sweet life, unless we run into another era like the rise of the IED. Then it sucks. Horribly. (Average rating is a 4.2.)

3. Military officer (4.4)

Capt. Robert Duchaine, B Company Commander, 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, visits with children Oct. 31 at a Kindergarten school in the Khadamiyah area of western Baghdad. (Photo: U.S. Army 1st Lt. Bob Miller).

“Officer” is a wide catch-all that includes everything from the folks who manage door kickers to those who manage desk jockeys to those who manage truck drivers. (Glassdoor has a separate “Officer” category for each branch, but they all average ratings between 4.3 and 4.5.)

2. Army Operations Manager (4.5)

Master Sgt. Jeffrey Golden, the operations noncommissioned officer for the Regional Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer, plans operations on May 7, 2017. (Photo: U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Christopher Hernandez)

This is another ratings category where the reviewers came from different jobs, but these are the folks who worked their way into an operations shop and are now in charge of planning missions and ensuring the teams have everything they need for success, from engineers building new roads to infantrymen slaying bodies. (Average rating is a 4.5.)

1. Coast Guard Machinery Technician (4.8)

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeff Bernard, a machinery technician aboard Coast Guard Cutter Healy, cleans the block of one of Healy’s main diesel engines, Sept.18, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson)

Machinery technicians work on all of the Coast Guards engines, generators, and other pumps, and they service vessels from tiny rafts to cutters and icebreakers. All that working with their hands seems to keep the technicians super happy. (Average rating is a 4.8.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US and Taliban agree to the ‘framework’ of a peace deal

U.S. and Taliban officials have agreed in principle to the “framework” of a peace deal, The New York Times quotes U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad as saying after five days of talks between the militant group and the United States in Qatar.

Both sides have said “progress” had been made in the talks aimed at ending the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.

“We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” The New York Times quoted Khalilzad as saying on Jan. 28, 2019, in an interview in Kabul.


In the framework, the militants agree to prevent Afghan territory from being used by groups such as Al-Qaeda to stage terrorist attacks.

That could lead to a full pullout of U.S. combat troops, but only in return for the Taliban entering talks with the Afghan government and agreeing to a lasting cease-fire.

Zalmay Khalilzad.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The Taliban “committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals,” Khalilzad was quoted as saying.

“We felt enough confidence that we said we need to get this fleshed out, and details need to be worked out,” he added, according to The New York Times.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has struggled to fend off a resurgent Taliban and other militant groups.

The Taliban has so far refused to hold direct negotiations with Afghan government officials, whom they dismiss as “puppets.”

In separate comments made at a meeting with the Afghan media in Kabul on Jan. 28, 2019, Khalilzad said, “I have encouraged the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government. It is our policy to get to intra-Afghan talks.”

The militants have said they will only begin talks with the government once a firm date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops has been agreed.

In a televised address on Jan. 28, 2019, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called on the Taliban to enter “serious” negotiations with the government in Kabul and “accept Afghans’ demand for peace.”

“Either they join the great nation of Afghanistan with a united voice, or be the tool of foreign objectives,” he told the militant group.

Ghani spoke after Khalilzad briefed him and other Afghan officials in Kabul on the six-day talks he held with Taliban representatives in the Qatari capital, Doha, January 2019.

The president’s office quoted Khalilzad as saying he had held talks about the withdrawal of foreign troops and a possible cease-fire, but nothing was agreed upon.

“The U.S. insisted in their talks with the Taliban that the only solution for lasting peace in Afghanistan is intra-Afghan talks,” Khalilzad said, according to a statement.

“My role is to facilitate” such talks between the insurgents and Kabul, Khalilzad was quoted as saying.

The U.S. envoy said on Jan. 26, 2019, that the United States and the Taliban had made “significant progress,” adding that the Doha talks were “more productive than they have been in the past.”

He also emphasized that the sides “have a number of issues left to work out,” and that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that while there was “progress” at the meetings, reports of an agreement on a cease-fire were “not true.”

Mujahid also said in a statement that talks about “unresolved matters” will continue.

Until the withdrawal of international troops was hammered out, “progress in other issues is impossible,” he insisted.

Another round of peace talks between the Taliban and the United States was tentatively set for Feb. 25, 2019, the Reuters news agency quoted a Qatari Foreign Ministry official as saying on Jan. 28, 2019.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why only 29 percent of young people are eligible for service

Military service isn’t for everyone. Many potential recruits are passionate about enlisting but can’t due to some limitation while others who would make perfect applicants have no interest. The Pentagon doesn’t sweat the loss of young adults who aren’t eligible or have no interest, however, because of the many able troops willing to raise their right hand and pick up the slack.


But, in more recent years, the number of eligible enlistees has been getting smaller and smaller.

According to recently released data from the Pentagon, only 10 million of the 34 million young Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 are eligible to serve in the military. This is the continuation of a trend observed in 2014. To properly sustain the ranks, recruiters need to find the U.S. Army 80,000 new troops, the Marine Corps needs 38,000, the Air Force needs 33,000, and the Navy needs 31,000 annually. This brings the total to 182,000 troops per year. To make those numbers, 1.82% of the total 18-24-year-old American population that can enlist must do so.

And 4,000 new Coast Guardsmen, but they never have to worry about meeting their numbers. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney)

The military relies on a constant flow of new recruits to fill in the gaps left by troops who left the service that year. That number grows and shrinks with each passing year, but if a manpower shortage becomes too great, it could spark a national security emergency.

But that’s a long ways off.

There are many reasons for disqualifying potential recruits. In recent years, the biggest disqualifier has been obesity. Basic training isn’t designed to get unhealthy people into fighting shape — it’s about getting reasonably fit people combat-ready. It’s not uncommon for potential recruits to get fit before they even step in a recruiter’s office.

Working hard is a virtue shared by troops. Being fit means they’re one step closer mentally. (Photo by Scott Sturkol)

The recruits who spend work months slimming down often take their service much more seriously. The same goes for other disqualifying factors, like education (which can be fixed with studying for the ASVAB or earning a GED) and financial concerns (which can be overcome through aid and personal perseverance).

If they’ve worked to earn their spot on the team, they won’t take it for granted.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why this Civil War vet marched across England with the US flag

Gilbert Bates knew what a lack of understanding between people could lead to: violence and war. Bates was a Civil War veteran of the Wisconsin artillery who knew that people were basically good, no matter what the rumors said. If there was an area that was supposed to be hostile and dangerous for Americans, Bates would set out to prove the rumors wrong.

And he did so on more than one occasion.


After the Civil War ended, Sgt. Bates returned to his Wisconsin farm. Tensions between North and South were still high, even though the war had resolved the major issues. Northerner and Southerner were still mistrustful of one another. But Bates knew the South was in the Union for good. The victory was hard-won, but won nonetheless. So when his Wisconsin neighbors began to circulate rumors that the South was rising once more in rebellion and that any Northerner was not safe down there, Bates set out to prove them wrong by marching across the South with the U.S. Flag in hand.

Bates’ march received so much notoriety at the time that even Mark Twain, the famous American author wrote of it, predicting that Bates would “get more black eyes, down there among those unreconstructed rebels than he can ever carry along with him without breaking his back.” But everyone who predicted his demise greatly exaggerated.

Bates walked across the unreconstructed South, some 1,500 miles, through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia to Washington, DC. He didn’t arrive on one leg and with an eye missing, as Twain predicted. The opposite was true, actually. Bates received genteel Southern Hospitality everywhere he went, even flying the American flag he carried over the former Confederate capital at Richmond. The only place he wasn’t allowed to fly it was over the U.S. Capitol building.

This march led to Bates taking on a bet. A wealthy friend of his bet the flag carrier that he could not do the same march across England without receiving a single insult. Bates, who had an incredible belief in the goodness of his fellow man took that bet.

Relations with England at the time of the Civil War were much different from the “Special Relationship” we enjoy today. In the 1860s, the British were more interested in King Cotton than supporting the United States against its rebels. In many ways, the English Crown supported the Confederacy, if not openly, then as an open secret. Still undeterred, Bates marched on foot – in full Union uniform – across the country. He walked some 400 miles from the border of Scotland to London to great fanfare. The English could not support him enough. He never paid for a meal or a place to sleep. By the time he got to London, the crowds swelled so much he had to take a carriage to the raise the Stars and Stripes next to the Union Jack.

Upon arriving, he telegrammed his friend, canceling the bet. To Bates, the event was worth more than any sum.

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Ukraine sent a strong message to Russia with its new service rifle choice

The AK-47 and the AK-74 assault rifles have long been associated with the remnants of the Soviet Union. In fact, the two iconic weapons still see service within the USSR’s former satellite republics. But if all goes according to plan, Ukraine — once the arsenal and munitions capital of the USSR — will be swapping out its AKs for a western rifle.


Instead of fielding more modern variants of the AK platform, Ukrainian defense officials have instead opted to field test a derivative of the American M-16 family of rifles to equip their ground forces. Choosing an American weapon to become the basis of their small arms complement is just the latest in a series of moves through which the country hopes to achieve full membership with NATO.

The past decade has seen Ukraine’s relationship with Russia steadily sour, culminating in an armed conflict in 2014 that saw thousands of troops on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides perish in combat. Part of what has wedged a divide between Russia and its former puppet republic is Ukraine’s NATO aspirations.

A Ukrainian soldier moving to cover during a training exercise in 2015.
(US Army)

Ukraine, like a number of other post-Soviet states, has sought membership with NATO for years, which would give the embattled country considerable military support from European nations and the United States. It would also afford the Ukrainian military the opportunity upgrade and revamp, phasing out older weapons and vehicles in favor of modern warfighting systems and gear.

Uniformity and standardization happen to be large parts of acquiring NATO membership. All member nations use similar calibers for their weaponry, integrated communications systems, etc. Moving away from primarily using gear of Russian origin would quickly allow allied troops in the region to replenish their munitions while fighting alongside personnel from other NATO states.

A Marine fires his M-16A4 during training.
(USMC photo by Corporal Thomas J. Griffith)

While NATO member states use 5.56x45mm rounds for their rifles, Ukraine still utilizes the Soviet-era 5.45x39mm and 7.62x39mm rounds for their service weapons. This is partly because Ukraine is still home to munitions factories that produced these bullets in large quantities for the Soviet military and other Warsaw Pact nations during the Cold War.

A potential solution to moving the Ukrainian ground forces away from these calibers comes in the form of the WAC-47, designed and produced by Aeroscraft, an American firm. Though it looks just like the standard rifle of the US military on the surface, the WAC-47 is unlike any M-16 or M4 you’ve ever seen or used before.

While it has the same features as the M-16/M4 rifles, including a charging handle above the receiver, a rail mounting system, a retractable stock, etc., it’s designed to fire both the 7.62 Soviet and 5.45mm rounds. This is made possible by an exchangeable upper receiver and barrel, allowing the user to switch between round types in a matter of minutes without the use of any tools or jigs.

But that’s hardly the best part.

A WAC-47 with an interchangeable upper receiver.
(VoidWanderer)

The WAC-47 can later be retooled in a similar way to accept and fire 5.56 NATO rounds, helping to pave the path towards NATO commonality for Ukraine’s ground forces. This helps the Ukrainian military avoid having to go through the process of finding and buying new rifles once they phase out the older AK derivatives — the weapons will be available and ready for a simple modification.

For now, Ukraine plans to stick with 7.62 Soviet and 5.45mm, only because of the massive stockpiles it currently possesses of these rounds. As its plans to join NATO move ahead, the Ukrainian military has already begun the process of incorporating western equipment and machinery into common use with the ground forces.

It’s unclear when exactly NATO will offer full membership to Ukraine, with some estimating the process taking as long as 20 years. When it does happen, however, it’s very likely that the former Soviet state’s military will be rolling around in western vehicles, toting western rifles like the WAC-47, having shed all remnants of its former Soviet military identity.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s military to end side hustles and focus on war fighting

Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the military to put an end to paid service activities once and for all and focus on combat readiness as the commander-in-chief attempts to build a world-class fighting force by mid-century.

In an effort to fulfill a pledge first made three years ago, Xi instructed the armed services on July 31, 2018, to halt all commercial activities, such as “kindergarten education, publishing services, and real estate rentals,” before the year’s end, Bloomberg News reported on Aug. 1, 2018, citing China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.


Xi called for the cessation of practices that have led troops and officers to become “mercenaries for hire,” the Asia Times reported , citing the PLA Daily, the main newspaper of the Chinese armed services. He reportedly stressed that the move is intended to improve the military by allowing it to “focus on its main mission of battle readiness” through concentrated efforts to strengthen war preparation and fighting ability.

Short on funds, the Chinese military began engaging in commercial activities after the reform and opening up period in the 1970s, but such activities were, with certain exceptions, prohibited by 1998. The Chinese president’s new directive “allows no exception, discount or makeshift compromise,” Xinhua explained, noting that the aim is to purify the military and reduce corruption by eliminating commercial perks and moonlighting opportunities for members of the armed services.

Chinese President Xi Jinping

(Photo by Michel Temer)

“Paid services can sometimes encourage corruption and the military should focus on national defense,” National Defense University professor Gong Fangbin told the Chinese state-affiliated outlet Global Times in March 2016 when Xi first announced plans to eliminate the military’s paid services activities. At that time, he argued that ending paid services would enhance “the military’s combat capability.”

The Chinese military had put an end to 106,000 paid service programs by June 30, 2018, according to the China Daily.

The Chinese president’s announcement on July 31, 2018, came on the eve of China’s Army Day celebrations, when the Chinese People’s Liberation Army turned 91.

Xi, as the leader of China and head of the Communist Party of China’s Central Military Commission, stressed his goal of building a world-class military that can win wars in any theater of combat by 2050 in his speech before the 19th Communist Party Congress in October 2017, stating, “China’s dream of a strong national army will be realized” with mechanization completed by 2020 and modernization finished by 2035.

While the Chinese military has grown stronger, especially with the development of new military technologies and systems, expert observers like Adam Ni, a visiting fellow at the Strategic and Defense Studies Center at Australian National University, argue that China’s military continues to struggle to overcome certain lingering problems, including a lack of combat experience, extensive corruption, limited discipline, and nascent power projection capabilities.

Other countries, the US in particular, are watching carefully as China strives to bolster its national military power. “Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of US national security,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stated when the 2018 National Defense Strategy was released, highlighting the threat posed by “revisionist” powers like China and Russia.

Prior to his departure as head of what is now Indo-Pacific Command, then-Adm. Harry Harris reiterated that China is the greatest challenge facing the US. “China remains our biggest long-term challenge. Without focused involvement and engagement by the United States and our allies and partners, China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia,” he said in May 2018.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Help reunite these WWII enemies who became best friends after the war

A crowdfunding campaign has launched to reunite two World War II veterans who fought against each other during the war and became as close as brothers after the war. The mission is to bring the two World War II veterans together again for a mini-documentary in Normandy, France.

They fought each other in Tunisia, Africa; however, they reunited decades after, and became friends, even as close as brothers. Sadly, there is not much time left, it may be even the last opportunity to do so. Graham lives in the United Kingdom and Charley in Germany, with their health decreasing and them getting older each day, it may be the last opportunity to have them meet again. But with your help, they may be able to reunite one more time and have their last encounter and story told in a mini-documentary.


This is their story


In late March 1943, Allied and Axis forces prepared for one of the fiercest battles of the World War II African campaign near Mareth, Tunisia. It was here, where after four months on the run, Rommel’s Africa Corps took one of its last stands. Enclosed on one side by rocky, hilly terrain and the Mediterranean on the other, capturing Mareth proved a difficult proposition for the British Eighth Army.

In order to outflank the Axis forces, the British 8th Armored Brigade, along with New Zealand infantry swung southwest and then north through an inland mountain pass to attack the Axis troops from behind.

They ran into the German 21. Panzer Division. Karl Friedrich “Charley” Koenig, only newly arrived in Tunisia as a 19-year-old officer candidate, waited for his first combat as a loader in a Panzer IV of Panzer-Regiment 5.

‘Charley’ Koenig

Across the hardscrabble Matmata hills, Sherman tanks of the Sherwood Ranger Yeomanry Tank Regiment readied themselves for the attack. In one sat machine gunner and co-driver Graham Stevenson. Graham had fought at the battle at El Alamein and bailed out of a tank as a 17-year-old. Taking part in the hard fighting all along the way from Alamein through Tunisia, he had just barely reached the tender age of 18.

On March 23rd, Panzer Regiment 5 and the Sherwood Rangers tanks stalked one another and engaged in individual tank battles. Shells whistled loudly by Charley’s tank, his experienced commander advising calm. Their Panzer IV would not be knocked out on this day, but it would not be for long.

The next day, a radio signal warned the Germans of an incoming RAF Hurricane IID tank buster attack. Scrambling out of their Panzer IV, Charley’s crew moved side-to-side as Hurricanes swept in from all directions at nearly zero altitude firing their powerful 40-millimeter cannon.

An accurate Hurricane pilot hit the rear of the tank, shortly before a lone British artillery shell, fired out of the blue, made a direct hit on their front deck. A half-track arrived in the night to tow them to the be repaired. Charley was now out of the way, while Graham and his crew took part in the Tebaga Gap battle on March 26th, the Shermans and the Maori infantry inflicting a severe mauling on the 21. Panzer-Division.

Graham Stevenson

Graham survived Africa and returned to England with the Sherwood Rangers to train in Sherman DD swimming tanks for the invasion of Normandy. Due to a slight disagreement with a commanding officer that landed him in the guardhouse, he came in on Gold Beach, Normandy a bit later than his Sherwood Ranger comrades.

In his first day of hedgerow fighting, untested and frightened infantrymen escorting his tank fled under fire, leaving Graham and his tank commander to conduct their own reconnaissance. Just steps outside of his tank, Graham was hit and nearly killed by German machine gun fire. As an artery bled out, his life hung on a thread. Luckily, a nearby aid station saved his life. But his war ended there.

Charley’s career ended in May, 1943, when he was taken prisoner by the Americans and transported to camps in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Belgium, and England before returning home in 1947. Even decades later, he could never forget the war in Africa, and his honorable opponents.

In 1991, he sought out the Sherwood Rangers and found Ken Ewing, head of the southern branch of the Sherwood Rangers Old Comrades’ Association. It wasn’t long before they became like brothers. After Charley attended ceremonies for the regiment in Normandy and Holland, he was invited in as a member of the Association, where he was accepted wholeheartedly by the remaining British World War II veterans, including Graham, who was in the same tank crew with Ken.

Graham and Charley in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Graham and Charley in Bayeux

On Gold Beach, the German bunker which stood in the way of the Sherwood Rangers’ entry into Normandy still stands sentinel. On that spot this June 6th , the Sherwood Rangers dedicated a plaque to the tankers who fought and died to take this beach.

Now, Graham and Charley are the only members of Sherwood Rangers Old Comrades’ Association left alive who fought in Africa 75 years ago. Their friendship, which has transcended the brutality of war to reveal that mutual respect, healing, and reconciliation can exist between former enemies, sends a powerful message to future generations.

Heather Steele, Founder and CEO of non-profit organization World War II History Project, has launched a $25,000 crowdfunding campaign to make this reunion and filming of a mini-documentary happen. You can help make this possible — I’ve spoken with Heather and she’s incredible passionate to make this happen. There are various perks available for your kind donations from getting personalized postcards from the Veterans to flying in a WWII bomber or riding a tank!

Click here to Donate to the Crowdfunding Campaign!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Marine Corps tech looks like it’s from ‘Star Wars’

The Marine Corps is integrating new technologies into an existing handheld GPS targeting system that helps Marines locate adversaries on the battlefield.

Fielded in 2017, the Common Laser Range Finder-Integrated Capability is a handheld target location system that uses an eye-safe laser range finder and algorithms to determine a target’s location. It then transmits that location to the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System or another fire support system.

Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems began an in-production engineering change proposal — or ECP — process to integrate an enhanced digital magnetic capability into the CLRF-IC. The configuration change will reduce the amount of time and movement required by Marines when using the system.


A U.S. Marine with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.1, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, uses a Common Laser Range Finder-Integrated Capability system to locate notional targets during a close-air-support training event with the British Royal Air Force at Holbeach Range, England, Feb. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

“Previously, the magnetic effects of an environment would cause the operator to go through a series of sitting and standing, stepping to the left and to the right in order to calibrate the system,” said Jeff Nebel, MCSC’s Fire Support Coordination team lead. “What we’re integrating is a new digital magnetic compass so the operator can calibrate the system basically the same way you do your cellphone — just rotate it left to right, and up and down a few times.”

A U.S. Marine with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.1, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, uses a Common Laser Range Finder-Integrated Capability system to locate notional targets during a close-air-support training event with the British Royal Air Force at Holbeach Range, England, Feb. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

MCSC is also integrating a capability to export video or still-pictures from the CLRF-IC to a target handoff system, enabling Marines to transmit photographs of targets to Marine Corps headquarters, which could help identify enemies.

“We did an in-production ECP, and we’ll begin fielding the enhanced CLRF-IC system in the next couple of months,” said Nebel.

The first enhanced CLRF-IC devices are slated to field later this year, and Nebel projects the system will reach Full Operational Capability by early 2021.

“We took a short pause from our fielding so we could incorporate the in-production ECP, and that pushed back our FOC,” said Nebel. “But now we’re going to be able to get a more capable system out to Marines.”

​CLRF-IC popular among Marines

The original CLRF system fielded in 2012. Back then, the system incorporated the common laser range finder and a thermal laser spot imager. Five years later, an updated, lightweight version — the CLRF-IC — was introduced to Marines.

U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.1, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, locate simulated enemy positions during a close-air-support training event with the British Royal Air Force at Holbeach Range, England, Feb. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

Feedback on the CLRF-IC from Marines has been positive, Nebel said.

“Most of the Marines like how light the system is,” said Nebel. “It’s significantly lighter than the previous system.”

Paul Knight, lead systems engineer for the CLRF-IC, echoed Nebel’s sentiments. A lighter system reduces the amount of weight the Marine Air-Ground Task Force must carry on the battlefield, Knight said, which allows them to haul additional gear if necessary.

“If you’re subtracting weight in one place, that means Marines can carry extra gear that previously would have overburdened them,” said Knight. “The CLRF-IC reduces that weight significantly.”

U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.1 and Marine Rotational Force-Europe 19.1, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, practice calling-for-fire during a close-air-support training event with the British Royal Air Force at Holbeach Range, England, Feb. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

The CLRF-IC also transmits information faster than the original version, said Knight. It features day and night cameras, a rangefinder and celestial positioning precision so Marines can use the system in various weather conditions.

MCSC also created an application that contains the system’s technical and operator manuals, so joint fires observers and joint terminal attack controllers can access information electronically instead of carrying printed manuals to the field.

“Marines can use this application for troubleshooting, operator maintenance or training,” said Nebel. “We’ve done a lot of things to make the system more effective.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Coast Guard busts another cocaine-carrying ‘narco sub’

Coast Guard crew members aboard the cutter Valiant intercepted a self-propelled semi-submersible carrying 12,000 pounds of cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean, arresting four suspected smugglers in the process.

The 40-foot vessel, of a type often called a “narco sub” (though most are not fully submersible), was first detected and tracked by a maritime patrol aircraft. The Joint Interagency Task Force South, a multinational body that coordinates law-enforcement efforts in the waters around Central and South America, directed the Valiant to intercept it.


A Coast Guard release didn’t give an exact date for the seizure, saying only that it took place in September 2019 and the Valiant arrived on the scene after sunset.

Coast Guard crew members aboard a “narco sub” in the Pacific Ocean with a suspected smuggler, September 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

The cutter launched two small boats carrying members of its crew and two members of the Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team. They caught up with the narco sub in the early morning hours and boarded it with the help of the Colombian navy, which arrived a short time later.

The crew members transferred more than 1,100 pounds of cocaine from the sub to the Valiant but were unable to get the rest because of concerns about the sub’s stability. (The total value of the drugs was estimated at more than 5 million.)

“This interdiction was an all-hands-on-deck evolution, and each crew member performed above and beyond the call of duty,” Cmdr. Matthew Waldron, commanding officer of the Valiant, said in the release.

Members of a US Coast Guard cutter Valiant boarding team transfer narcotics between an interceptor boat and a suspected smuggling vessel in September.

(US Coast Guard)

2 ‘momentous events’

Narco subs have appeared in the waters between the US and South America for years and have only gotten more sophisticated. But they are still homemade vessels, often built in jungles in Colombia, and can be unsteady on the open ocean, particularly when law enforcement stop them to board.

Narco subs typically cost id=”listicle-2640583643″ million to million to built, but their multimillion-dollar drug cargoes more than make up for the expense.

“Colombian traffickers like to use the semi-submersibles because they are hard to detect” and cheaper than full-fledged submarines, Mike Vigil, former director of international operations at the US Drug Enforcement Administration, told Business Insider in 2018.

The vessels are typically made of fiberglass and the most expensive component is the engine. Some even have lead linings to reduce their infrared signature, Vigil said.

Bales of cocaine seized from a suspected smuggling vessel on the deck of the US Coast Guard cutter Valiant in September.

(US Coast Guard)

The Coast Guard in late 2017 said it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile smuggling vessels like narco subs.

“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels — 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in an October 2018 interview.

Schultz and other Coast Guard officials pointed to narco subs as a sign of smugglers’ ability to adapt to pressure. The service has pursued what Schultz called a “push-out-the-border strategy,” sending ships into the Pacific to bust drugs at the point in the smuggling process when the loads are the largest.

For the Valiant, that meant this particular bust coincided with a mariner’s milestone: crossing the equator.

“There are no words to describe the feeling Valiant crew is experiencing right now,” Waldron said. “In a 24-hour period, the crew both crossed the equator and intercepted a drug-laden self-propelled semi-submersible vessel.”

Both are “momentous events in any cutterman’s career,” Waldron added. “Taken together, however, it is truly remarkably unprecedented.”

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