No, NASA didn't waste millions making the space pen - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

Look, this whole article is basically a rant written because we’re getting tired of seeing comments about this every time we talk about NASA and/or Roscosmos. Somewhere in the comments on those articles, on our videos, or really anywhere across the internet as a whole, you’ll see someone sharing that same stupid story of NASA investing millions in space pens while Russia sensibly used pencils instead.

Nearly all of that story is complete and utter nonsense.


NASA astronaut and former Air Force test pilot Col. Gordon Fullerton, wearing communications kit assembly mini headset, watches a free-floating pen during checklist procedures on the aft-deck of Space Shuttle Columbia during the third shuttle mission, STS-3, in 1982.

(NASA)

A few quick things: First, neither NASA nor Roscosmos spent a single dime developing the space pen. NASA and Roscosmos both gave their spacefarers pencils and both of them hated to do so because floating graphite flakes can cause fires in sensitive electronics in zero gravity.

NASA, to cut down on the chance of a fire destroying their multi-million dollar spacecraft and killing their priceless astronauts, invested in insanely expensive mechanical pencils. The pencils were 8.89 each, or a grand total of ,382.26 for 34.

Man, imagine having to go to the supply sergeant for a box of those every time the major loses a few.

Astronaut Walter Cunningham writes with a space pen during the Apollo 7 mission in 1968.

(NASA)

Taxpayers, predictably, freaked out. They felt like pencils shouldn’t cost over 0 — fair enough.

So, NASA went back to cheaper pencils, but remained worried about their spacecraft and astronauts. Russia, in a similar vein, was worried about their cosmonauts.

Then, the Fischer Pen Company came to them with an offer to sell “anti-gravity” pens that could write upside down, under water, and in any temperature that humans could survive. It was the uber pen.

A photo of an Apollo astronaut taking notes in space.

(Project Apollo Archive)

NASA paid a grand total of .39 per pen for 400 of them — a total of 6. Russia also bought the pen for the same price per unit (Well, Scientific American thought the cost was .39 each. A NASA historian citing old media reports pegged the number at per — still, not millions in either case).

Thus concludes NASA’s total sunk costs for the first delivery of pens. They paid in development or research costs. None.

Now, the Fischer Pen Company did spend a lot of money developing the pens — about id=”listicle-2608414142″ million, but they’re a private company counting on future sales to make up for the development costs.

And that was a sound bet. After all, lots of industries and the military need pens that can write in any situation. Miners, loggers, divers, soldiers, and a ton of other people in other professions need to be able to write in wet environments. So, Fischer would earn their research money back regardless.

So, please, when you want to make fun of the military or the government for wasting money, point to something else. The multi-million dollar space pen is and has always been bupkis.

Maybe point to the anti-aircraft weapon that attacked toilets or the slew of awesome weapons the military investigated but was unable to bring to fruition.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

When an Air Force major called J.J. completed a solo flight in the U-2 in late August 2016 — 60 years after the high-flying aircraft was introduced — he became the 1,000th pilot to do so.

J.J., whose name was withheld by the US Air Force for security reasons, earned his solo patch a few days after pilots No. 998 and No. 999. Those three pilots are in distinguished company, two fellow pilots said.

“We have a pretty small, elite team of folks. We’re between about 60 and 70 active-duty pilots at any given time,” Maj. Matt “Top” Nauman said during an Air Force event at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City.


“We’re about 1,050 [pilots] right now. So to put that in context, there are more people with Super Bowl rings than there are people with U-2 patches,” Nauman added. “It’s a pretty small group of people that we’ve hired over the last 60 to 65 years.”

Pilots at Beale Air Force Base go through pre-flight checks on a U-2 during the 2018 Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Air Show, Sept. 29, 2018

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze)

The U-2 pilot cadre has remained small in part because the Air Force has long sought applicants with extensive experience and flight time — six years and 1,200 rated hours — to fly a challenging, single-seat plane up to 13 miles above the Earth, all while snapping reconnaissance images. Pilots from all backgrounds, from fighter to trainer, can apply, as can transfers from the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.

The Air Force also recently introduced a program allowing student pilots to go directly to the U-2 training pipeline, though that program will only send a few fliers to the Dragon Lady.

The mission itself also keeps the ranks trim. “Part of the reason that we cut so many of the applicants is it’s a really difficult plane to fly,” said Nauman, who joined the U-2 program in 2012.

The first phase is an interview at Beale Air Force Base, California where the U-2s are based, meant to assess “self-confidence, professionalism and airmanship” on the ground and during flights in a TU-2, the U-2 training aircraft.

99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron airmen prepare a U-2 pilot for a mission at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, March 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)

On a 2012 fact sheet about the application process, the Air Force said pilots “selected for an interview generally possess a strong flight evaluation history, strong performance evaluations, and exceed the minimum flight experience requirements.”

“When you do an interview, you actually go out to Beale for two weeks,” Nauman said. “You’ll sit down and talk with the different commanders, the directors of operations, [go] over your flight records, your performance reviews, and just kind of your overall goals. ‘So why do you want to fly the U-2? What is it that brought you here?'”

An applicant who makes it through the interviews in Week 1 moves on to Week 2, “where you actually get to fly the aircraft,” Nauman said.

“For some folks, they may have never seen a U-2 in person, and the first time they actually touch the jet is Day 1 of their interview,” Nauman added. “They’ve read about it. They’ve seen it. They’ve talked to some people they knew, but by Week 2 they actually put in you a two-seater with an instructor and you have to demonstrate the ability to land the aircraft.”

A U-2 pilot waits for maintainers and crew chiefs to finish final checks before the scheduled flight time at Beale Air Force Base, California, Oct. 26, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Parsons)

While the U-2 excels at high-altitude reconnaissance missions — its ceiling is above 70,000 feet — taking off and landing are more challenging in the ungainly aircraft, which has a 105-foot wingspan and only two landing gear, under the nose and the tail.

Landing requires a kind of controlled crash in which the pilot descends and slows until the plane stalls, dropping onto the runway — all done with the guidance of fellow pilots racing alongside in cars.

“It’s extremely difficult to land,” Nauman said. “You could YouTube videos of bad U-2 landings all day and see interview sorties that look a little bit sketchy. Understand we have a very wide runway and very experienced acceptance flight instructors, so it is safe despite what you might see.”

Applicants do three acceptance flight sorties, during which they perform flight maneuvers, approaches and landings, and other scenarios, including driving the chase car that assists landing U-2s. After that, a decision is made about whether the applicant will be offered an assignment.

A U-2 lands at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

If you do the flying portion of the interview but aren’t picked, “we will not interview you again,” the Air Force says. “Basically, you get one shot.”

U-2 flight training includes time in the T-38 trainer and time to get other qualifications pilots may need, before moving on to flying the actual U-2, on which trainees must complete two courses: basic and mission. Those take about three months each.

The whole training program can take nine months to a year. The 1st Reconnaissance Wing, which Maj. J.J. joined in August 2016, has eight classes of three new pilots each year.

The solo flight that made J.J. the 1,000 solo pilot was his seventh in the aircraft but his first without an instructor. That first solo was to be followed by a few more two-person outings, after which he would never again have to fly the U-2 with someone else.

US Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher greets his ground support crew before a U-2 mission somewhere in Southwest Asia, Nov. 24, 2010.

Trainees adjusting to the technical challenges of the U-2 also have to adapt to the physical strain of operating it.

Cruising at 70,000 feet puts the plane above the Armstrong Line — the point at which the boiling point for liquids, like blood, is equal to the normal human body temperature — and requires pilots to wear a space suit that weighs about 70 pounds. Pilots also have to breathe pure oxygen before flying to rid their system of nitrogen.

The suit can be a physical and psychological stumbling block. Interviewees must sit in it for at least 45 minutes to prove their mettle before moving on.

“So you get suited up. You go out to the aircraft. It’s pretty warm on the ground, so it could be an endurance test at times,” Maj. Travis “Lefty” Patterson, a U-2 pilot, said at the event.

“If you’re delayed in take off, your core temperature is heating up pretty rapidly as you’re sitting in, effectively, a plastic bag with a fishbowl” on your head, Patterson added.

The cabin is also pressurized, Patterson said. Previous generations of U-2 pilots flew at what felt like about 29,000 feet — roughly the height of Mt. Everest. (That altitude, along with the challenges of longer and more complex missions in the 2000s, took a toll on pilots’ health.)

A U-2 pilot prepares for takeoff at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Dec. 12, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

In the last decade however, the Air Force has brought the U-2’s cockpit altitude down.

“We’re only sitting at about 15,000 feet — a little higher than you would on a normal airliner,” Patterson added. “We still wear that suit in the event that there’s a malfunction or we have to eject or something like that.”

The pilot is strapped into that suit and flying at that altitude for up to 10 hours or 12 hours. But with their focus on the task at hand, a pilot can forget they’re even wearing the suit, Patterson said.

Upon return, however, pilots still getting used to the Dragon Lady may feel the strain acutely.

“I think after my interview sortie, I came back and [said], ‘Wow, I feel like I just did three days of straight Crossfit,’ just because I didn’t know all the tricks of the trade,” Patterson added.

“A good U-2 pilot will land, and you won’t be able to tell from the outside, but inside it’s almost like you’re flailing around. You’re moving the yoke around. Your feet are moving the rudders. It’s kind of like a full-body workout sometimes.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The evolution of military timepieces from pocket watches to Rolexes to G-Shocks

The year is 1945 and U.S. forces are taking back Philippine Islands from the Japanese.

Lt. Col. Henry Mucci and his 133 Rangers are staging a daring rescue of allied POWs at the Cabanatuan prison camp. Mucci checks his watch; it’s time. At 1700 hours on January 30, the Rangers step off from their staging area at Platero. At 1745 hours, they reach their checkpoint at the Pampanga River and split into the two elements for the impending raid.


At 1800 hours, a P-61 Black Widow takes off from Lingayen Field. At 1855 hours, the pilot cuts the engines over the prison camp, drops altitude, and restarts his engines to produce loud backfires and simulate a crippled plane. He circles the camp at low altitude, continuously cutting and restarting his engines and causing an aerial spectacle for the next 20 minutes. This distraction turns the attention of the Japanese soldiers skyward and allows the Rangers to crawl undetected through the low grass leading up to the camp and take their positions for the raid. At 1944 hours, Lt. John Murphy and his support by fire element open up on the Japanese guard towers with a murderous crescendo of gunfire that signals the start of the raid.

The raid at Cabanatuan is just one example of the necessity for precise timing and synchronization in military operations. Before the advent of timepieces, the rising of the sun often served as a method of synchronization, with attacks occurring at first light. Although pocket watches were becoming more popular and commonplace in the late 1800s, they were not standard-issue in the military. The history of U.S. Military watches begins in the trenches of WWI.

The British Army experimented with the idea of a wrist watch a few decades before WWI in the Boer War, but the need for a timepiece worn on the wrist became more apparent in the trenches. During the war, officers would often signal the start of a synchronized charge against an enemy trench with the blow of a whistle. The timing of these attacks was crucial, with some being miles long. Holding a whistle in one hand and a pistol in the other, fumbling with a pocket watch just wasn’t practical.

As a quick-fix solution, metal lugs were soldered on and leather or canvas straps were fashioned to convert a pocket watch to a wristwatch. Trench watches, as they were known, were generally made of chrome plate or solid silver to prevent rusting in the damp trenches. The crystals that covered the face of the watches were made of vulnerable glass. Officers with a bit more money would fit their watches with a protective metal cage called a shrapnel guard to prevent damage to the crystal.

Three examples of trench watches with shrapnel guards (photo from hodinkee.com)

By America’s entry into the war in 1917, many doughboys headed for the western front were issued wristwatches. American watch companies like Waltham and Elgin provided the timepieces which were rushed into service. Because of the haste, only some of the watches were marked “ORD” (U.S. Ordnance).

The development of military wristwatches continued in the inter-war period. Following military specifications, Swiss manufacturer Longines released the A-7 pilot’s watch for the Army Air Corps. Though new technology allowed watches to be made smaller while maintaining high levels of accuracy, the A-7 was oversized and resembled a canted pocket watch. Designed to be worn on the outside of a flight jacket, the watch’s large size made it more legible for pilots who could check the time with a quick glance without having to remove their hands from the controls.

The A-7 featured a single-button chronograph integrated into the onion-shaped crown. (photo from wornandwound.com)

By WWII, the military wristwatch had evolved into something more recognizable today in the form of the “field watch.” The most notable of these was the A-11 (though this refers to a mil-spec production standard and not a specific model name). The Army required the watch to be water or dustproof, resistant to extreme temperatures, powered by a hacking (stoppable for synchronization) 15-jewel minimum movement (jewels are used to reduce friction on the gears of a mechanical watch) with a power reserve of 30-56 hours and accuracy of +/-30 seconds per day, and feature a black dial with white numerals and markings.

Though they were primarily issued to the Air Corps, A-11 watches also found themselves on wrists of infantry and other ground-based troops. American watch manufacturers Waltham, Elgin, and Bulova produced watches to A-11 specifications in such large quantities that it has been given the nickname “The Watch That Won The War”. Similar to A-11 specification, watches produced under the “Ordnance Department” specification utilized a sub-seconds register and were intended specifically for ground troops.

An A-11 spec Bulova (photo by User STR via MWRFoum)

An Ordnance Department spec Elgin (photo from emedals.com)

By the Vietnam War, watches were becoming more specialized. Radioactive paint illuminated the hands and indices of a watch, allowing it to be read in the dark. Dive watches provided exceptional underwater performance at previously unheard of depths, and rotating bezels allowed for timing or the tracking of multiple time zones.

The MIL-W-3818 wrist watch specification saw minor changes throughout the war, but the general guidelines remained the same. Watches featured a parkerized stainless steel case, a black dial, white numerals and indices, hands with green luminescent paint, an acrylic crystal, and a 17-jewel movement with hacking, 36 hours of power reserve, and an accuracy of +/-30 seconds per day. Manufacturers Benrus, Hamilton, Marathon and Altus produced watches for the military under this specification.

The Benrus DTU-2A/P was the first watch produced to MIL-W-3818B spec. (photo from 60clicks.com)

Increasingly, service members were buying their own watches from the PX for use in combat. The Glycine Airman was the first watch capable of tracking multiple time zones via a rotating 24-hour bezel. Because of this feature, it became immensely popular with pilots who crossed multiple time zones in a single day. This popularity extended to military pilots who famously purchased Airman watches from PX’s in Southeast Asia and wore them into combat.

An unnamed captain returns from a sortie and gives a thumbs up with a Glycine Airman on his left wrist. (photo from wornandwound.com)

Although Rolex was not the luxury brand that it is today, the Swiss-made precision tool watches still came at a considerable cost in the 1960’s. On August 13, 1969, Army Specialist Alex P. Saunders purchased a Rolex Submariner 5513 from the PX at Quan Loi, Vietnam. Saunders paid 4.50 (id=”listicle-2646188536″,638.23 adjusted for inflation in 2020) which he recalls, “…was a whole month’s take home for a Buck Sergeant at the time.” The next day, Saunders went out on a mission with his 5-man MACV-SOG Recon Team.

Upon helicopter infil, Saunders and his team came under heavy enemy fire. “During things going on, I had my watch band popped off and I lost the Rolex for a while. I remember digging around in the brush looking for it while we were in contact,” Saunders recalls. “I also remember catching hell from the other guys in my unit. In retrospect, maybe I should have paid a little more attention to the bad guys and less to my investment in the Rolex. Years later, not so much.” Today, a Rolex Submariner 5513 sells for an average of ,000 with exceptional examples fetching as much as ,000.

Saunders wearing his Rolex in Vietnam. (photo from QualityTyme.net)

These days, most service members are seen wearing personally bought Casio G-Shocks which are famous for their affordability and durability. The Suunto Core and GPS watches have also become increasingly popular with ground troops. However, many service members may be surprised to learn that the military still has mil-spec wristwatches available through the GSA Global Supply Catalog. Issued more commonly during the 1990’s, Marathon wristwatches are Swiss-made and can be purchased by unit supply clerks to be issued to formations. Of course, with the proliferation of affordable watches like G-Shocks and military budget limitations, these watches are rarely ordered and issued in the 21st century.

Since WWI, personal timekeeping has been a necessary function in the U.S. Military. Horological technology has evolved through the 20th century making accurate timekeeping available to the masses in the form of affordable, battery-powered quartz watches. Despite the more commonplace use of smartphones and smartwatches to tell the time, the humble wrist watch continues to be a mainstay in the formations of the U.S. Military. Just don’t expect that digital G-Shock you bought at the PX to be worth thousands of dollars in 50 years.

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘We would have lost’: Did U.S. lend-lease aid tip the balance in Soviet fight against Nazi Germany?

On February 24, 1943, a Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft with serial number 42-32892 rolled out of a factory in Long Beach, California, and was handed over to the U.S. Air Force.

On March 12, 1943, the plane was given to the Soviet Air Force in Fairbanks, Alaska, and given the registration USSR-N238. From there, it flew 5,650 kilometers to the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, one of some 14,000 aircraft sent by the United States to the Soviet Union during World War II under the massive Lend-Lease program.


This particular C-47 was sent to the Far North and spent the war conducting reconnaissance and weather-monitoring missions over the Kara Sea. After the war, it was transferred to civilian aviation, carrying passengers over the frozen tundra above the Arctic Circle. On April 23, 1947, it was forced to make an emergency landing with 36 people on board near the village of Volochanka on the Taimyr Peninsula.

On May 11, 1947, 27 people were rescued, having spent nearly three weeks in the icebound wreck. The captain, two crew members, and six passengers had left earlier in an ill-fated effort to get help. The body of the captain, Maksim Tyurikov, was found by local hunters about 120 kilometers from the wreck in 1953. The others were never found.

The plane spent 69 years on the tundra before a Russian Geographical Society expedition rescued it in 2016 and returned the wreckage to Krasnoyarsk.

“I knew that its place was in a museum,” Vyacheslav Filippov, a colonel in the Russian Air Force reserve who has written extensively about the Lend-Lease program’s Siberian connection, told RFE/RL at the time. “It was not just some piece of scrap metal. It is our living history. This Douglas is the only Lend-Lease aircraft that remains in Russia.”

An estimated 25 million Soviet citizens perished in the titanic conflict with Nazi Germany between June 1941 and May 1945. Overcoming massive defeats and colossal losses over the first 18 months of the war, the Red Army was able to reorganize and rebuild to form a juggernaut that marched all the way to Berlin. But the Soviet Union was never alone: Months before the United States formally entered the war, it had already begun providing massive military and economic assistance to its Soviet ally through the Lend-Lease program.

From the depths of the Cold War to the present day, many Soviet and Russian politicians have ignored or downplayed the impact of American assistance to the Soviets, as well as the impact of the entire U.S.-British war against the Nazis.

A Soviet report by Politburo member Nikolai Voznesensky in 1948 asserted that the United States, described as “the head of the antidemocratic camp and the warrior of imperialist expansion around the world,” contributed materiel during the war that amounted to just 4.8 percent of the Soviet Union’s own wartime production.

A map of lend-lease shipments from the United States to the U.S.S.R. from 1941-45.

The Short History Of The Great Patriotic War, also from 1948, acknowledged the Lend-Lease shipments, but concluded: “Overall this assistance was not significant enough to in any way exert a decisive influence over the course of the Great Patriotic War.”

Nikolai Ryzhkov, the last head of the government of the Soviet Union, wrote in 2015 that “it can be confidently stated that [Lend-Lease assistance] did not play a decisive role in the Great Victory.”

Such assessments, however, are contradicted by the opinions of Soviet war participants. Most famously, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin raised a toast to the Lend-Lease program at the November 1943 Tehran conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.

“I want to tell you what, from the Russian point of view, the president and the United States have done for victory in this war,” Stalin said. “The most important things in this war are the machines…. The United States is a country of machines. Without the machines we received through Lend-Lease, we would have lost the war.”

Nikita Khrushchev offered the same opinion.

“If the United States had not helped us, we would not have won the war,” he wrote in his memoirs. “One-on-one against Hitler’s Germany, we would not have withstood its onslaught and would have lost the war. No one talks about this officially, and Stalin never, I think, left any written traces of his opinion, but I can say that he expressed this view several times in conversations with me.”

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Lend-Lease Act on March 11, 1941.

The Lend-Lease act was enacted in March 1941 and authorized the United States to provide weapons, provisions, and raw materials to strategically important countries fighting Germany and Japan — primarily, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China. In all, the United States shipped billion (8 billion in 2020 money) worth of materiel under the program, including .3 billion to the Soviet Union. In addition, much of the billion worth of aid sent to the United Kingdom was also passed on to the Soviet Union via convoys through the Barents Sea to Murmansk.

Most visibly, the United States provided the Soviet Union with more than 400,000 jeeps and trucks, 14,000 aircraft, 8,000 tractors and construction vehicles, and 13,000 battle tanks.

However, the real significance of Lend-Lease for the Soviet war effort was that it covered the “sensitive points” of Soviet production — gasoline, explosives, aluminum, nonferrous metals, radio communications, and so on, says historian Boris Sokolov.

“In a hypothetical battle one-on-one between the U.S.S.R and Germany, without the help of Lend-Lease and without the diversion of significant forces of the Luftwaffe and the German Navy and the diversion of more than one-quarter of its land forces in the fight against Britain and the United States, Stalin could hardly have beaten Hitler,” Sokolov wrote in an essay for RFE/RL’s Russian Service.

British Matilda tanks are loaded onto a ship for transportation to the U.S.S.R. as part of the Lend-Lease program.

Under Lend-Lease, the United States provided more than one-third of all the explosives used by the Soviet Union during the war. The United States and the British Commonwealth provided 55 percent of all the aluminum the Soviet Union used during the war and more than 80 percent of the copper.

Lend-Lease also sent aviation fuel equivalent to 57 percent of what the Soviet Union itself produced. Much of the American fuel was added to lower-grade Soviet fuel to produce the high-octane fuel needed by modern military aircraft.

The Lend-Lease program also provided more than 35,000 radio sets and 32,000 motorcycles. When the war ended, almost 33 percent of all the Red Army’s vehicles had been provided through Lend-Lease. More than 20,000 Katyusha mobile multiple-rocket launchers were mounted on the chassis of American Studebaker trucks.

In addition, the Lend-Lease program propped up the Soviet railway system, which played a fundamental role in moving and supplying troops. The program sent nearly 2,000 locomotives and innumerable boxcars to the Soviet Union. In addition, almost half of all the rails used by the Soviet Union during the war came through Lend-Lease.

A monument in Fairbanks, Alaska, to the American pilots who flew almost 8,000 U.S. planes to Alaska and to the Soviet pilots who flew them on to Siberia as part of Lend-Lease.

“It should be remembered that during World War I, the transportation crisis in Russia in 1916-17 that did a lot to facilitate the February Revolution [which lead to the abdication of the tsar] was caused by a shortage in the production of railway rails, engines, and freight cars because industrial production had been diverted to munitions,” Sokolov wrote. “During World War II, only the supplies brought in by Lend-Lease prevented the paralysis of rail transport in the Soviet Union.”

The Lend-Lease program also sent tons of factory equipment and machine tools to the Soviet Union, including more than 38,000 lathes and other metal-working tools. Such machines were of higher quality than analogues produced in the Soviet Union, which made a significant contribution to boosting Soviet industrial production.

American aid also provided 4.5 million tons of food, 1.5 million blankets, and 15 million pairs of boots.

“In order to really assess the significance of Lend-Lease for the Soviet victory, you only have to imagine how the Soviet Union would have had to fight if there had been no Lend-Lease aid,” Sokolov wrote. “Without Lend-Lease, the Red Army would not have had about one-third of its ammunition, half of its aircraft, or half of its tanks. In addition, there would have been constant shortages of transportation and fuel. The railroads would have periodically come to a halt. And Soviet forces would have been much more poorly coordinated with a constant lack of radio equipment. And they would have been perpetually hungry without American canned meat and fats.”

In 1963, KGB monitoring recorded Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov saying: “People say that the allies didn’t help us. But it cannot be denied that the Americans sent us materiel without which we could not have formed our reserves or continued the war. The Americans provided vital explosives and gunpowder. And how much steel! Could we really have set up the production of our tanks without American steel? And now they are saying that we had plenty of everything on our own.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 absurd military habits that stay with you forever

The thing about your regular habits in the military is that they are sometimes literally drilled into you. Chances are good you still have the urgent desire to remove your hat when you walk into a building. You probably fall into lock-step when anyone starts walking next to you and feel incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of putting your hands in your pockets. These are just the little things you’ve done for years, things you may not even notice.

There are many, many other things you probably do notice that you probably wish you could break – because you look ridiculous.


“I don’t know what you have planned for the weekend, Wayne, but I’m out.”

The bug-out bag in your trunk.

This one isn’t that big a deal. You’re basically ready to deploy to somewhere at a moment’s notice, even though you don’t need to be. Luckily, only the people who see inside your trunk (and probably also in your closet) will know about this one. But lo and behold, you are prepared for almost any eventuality, no matter when it happens. House fire? All set. Earthquake? Ready to go. Zombie apocalypse? Absolutely. Your go-bag contains food (probably an MRE), important papers, a water filter, and anything else you’ll need to survive or walk away with in case stuff hits the fan. Even if you don’t have this, you think you need to get one.

To the rest of the world, you might look like a crazy survivalist, but they’ll be dead, and you’ll be alive so who cares?

Now: 12 important things that need to be in your bug-out bag

I would rather ride in silence.

Shouting in the passenger seat.

Does the driver of the vehicle you’re riding shotgun in need to know if he or she is clear on the right or left? That doesn’t matter because you’re going to tell them, and probably do it a little louder than your indoor voice. If, for some reason, there is some kind of vehicle or other object on the way, you’ll be sure to let them know exactly what it is and how far away it is from the vehicle. If not you’re letting them know: CLEAR RIGHT.

Extra points if you feel the need to fill up at half a tank and/or check the pressure of every tire, including the spare.

How to gain credibility in one easy photo.

Staring at everyone’s shoes.

Sure, that guy who interviewed you was the senior reporter for the local news channel, but it looks like he polished his shoes with a Hershey bar and was thus slightly less deserving of your respect. He probably also has terrible attention to detail as all people with rough-looking shoes must have, right? You know who those people are because you’re staring at shoes for a few seconds upon meeting literally anyone and everyone.

Eating too fast.

How does it taste? We may never know. Veterans could eat an entire Thanksgiving dinner during a Lions-Packers commercial break.

Carrying everything in your left hand.

When you’re in the military, this is not only a regulation, it just makes sense. How are you supposed to salute when your right hand is full? The answer is that your right hand should always be empty. When you’re out of the military, this is so ingrained in your muscle memory that you’ll carry a whole week’s groceries in one hand while your right is completely free.

When you find out White Castle has a free meal for veterans.

Moving with a sense of purpose for things that don’t warrant it. 

There’s no reason to make a beeline for the prime rib at Golden Corral, but the actions of hundreds of veterans on Veterans Day would make one think otherwise. There’s a high probability veterans get annoyed at civilians who don’t move through the taco bar fast enough.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Bunkers, bones, and booze: The eerie mysteries of Odesa’s catacombs

Deep below the Ukrainian port city of Odesa lies one of the largest underground labyrinths in the world. The Odesa catacombs date back to the early 1800s when limestone was mined for the city’s grand buildings. Through the years, the vast subterranean maze has served as a Cold War bunker, a World War II refuge for Soviet fighters, and a hideout for smugglers. Today, local explorers are still mapping the vast tunnel system and discovering new insights into the past.


MIGHTY HISTORY

Before he wrote children’s books, Roald Dahl was a menace to Axis forces in the sky

Roald Dahl is often considered to be one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century. Among his most popular publications are classic stories like James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Even if you haven’t read the books or seen their film adaptations, the titles of these stories have achieved a mythical status in the world of children’s entertainment. Those that have read his second autobiographical publication, Going Solo, will know that Dahl served as a fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force during WWII. In the book, he details his service to King and Country and his combat experiences against Axis forces.

After finishing school and taking a hiking trip through Newfoundland in 1934, Dahl went to work for the Shell Petroleum Company. Following two years of training in Britain, he was assigned to Mombasa, Kenya and then Dar es-Salaam, Tanganyika (present-day Tanzania); the former German colony was still home to many Germans. In August 1939, as a second war with Germany loomed on the horizon, Britain made plans to round up the hundreds of Germans living in Dar es-Salaam to prevent any sort of rebellion or uprising. Dahl joined the King’s African Rifles, receiving a commission as a lieutenant and command of a platoon of indigenous askari soldiers.

In November of that year, Dahl joined the RAF as an aircraftman and made the 600-mile drive from Dar es-Salaam to Nairobi where he was accepted for pilot training. Of the sixteen other men that joined with him, only three would live to see the end of the war. After just seven hours and forty minutes of instruction in a De Havilland Tiger Moth, Dahl made his first solo flight.

Following his initial flight training, Dahl received advanced flight training at RAF Habbaniya outside of Baghdad. He trained there for six months on Hawker Harts before he was commissioned as a pilot officer on August 24, 1940.

Dahl was assigned to fly the obsolete Gloster Gladiator, the RAF’s last biplane fighter, with No. 80 Squadron RAF. Though he received no training on the Gladiator nor any specific instruction on aerial combat, Dahl received orders on September 19, 1940 to fly his Gladiator from Abu Seir to No. 80 Squadron’s forward airstrip near Mersa Matruh. On the last leg of his flight, Dahl could not locate the airstrip and was running low on fuel. With night approaching, he attempted an emergency landing in the desert. The undercarriage of his Gladiator hit a boulder and Dahl crashed, fracturing his skull, smashing his nose, and emerged from his aircraft’s wreck temporarily blinded. He passed out and was rescued by friendly forces who took him to the aid station at Mersa Matruh before being transferred to the Royal Navy hospital in Alexandria. An RAF inquiry later revealed that Dahl had been given an incorrect location and was mistakenly sent to the no man’s land between the British and Italian forces.

In February 1941, Dahl was discharged from the hospital and returned to flight status. By then, No. 80 Squadron had been transferred to Eleusina, near Athens, as part of the Greek campaign. The squadron had traded in their Gladiators for the new Hawker Hurricane and Dahl was ordered to fly one across the Mediterranean in April after just seven hours in the aircraft. Luckily, Dahl made it to Greece without incident and rejoined his squadron. At this point in the Greek campaign, the RAF combat aircraft in the operating area consisted of just 14 Hurricanes and four Bristol Blenheim light bombers.

On April 15, Dahl got his first taste of action flying solo over the city of Chalcis. He intercepted a formation of six Junkers Ju 88 bombers that were attacking ships and managed to shoot one of them down. The next day, he scored another kill on a Ju 88.

On April 20, Dahl took part in the Battle of Athens alongside his friend David Coke and Pat Pattle, the highest-scoring British Commonwealth ace of the war. The battle was an absolute furball which Dahl described as “an endless blur of enemy fighters whizzing towards me from every side.” Five of the twelve Hurricanes involved in the battle were shot down and four of their pilots were killed including Pattle. Greek observers counted 22 German aircraft shot down, but because of the chaos of the aerial melee, none of the pilots were able to take credit for specific kills. Dahl received credit for one kill, though he likely shot down more.

In May, as the Germans closed on Athens, Dahl and No. 80 Squadron were evacuated to Egypt and reassembled in Haifa. From there, Dahl flew daily sorties over the course of four weeks. On June 8, he shot down a Vichy French Air Force Potez 63 heavy fighter, and on June 15, he shot down his third Ju 88.

Following this period, Dahl began to suffer from headaches that caused him to blackout and he was invalided home to Britain. He would serve the rest of the war as a diplomat and an intelligence officer, attaining the rank of wing commander by its end. In 1946, he was invalided out of service with the rank of squadron leader. His combat record of five aerial victories, confirmed by post-war research and cross-referenced with Axis records, qualify him as a fighter ace.

Dahl would go on to write the aforementioned children’s stories and many more besides. His kindhearted books and their warm sentiment serve as the antithesis to his violent wartime experiences.

MIGHTY CULTURE

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

My grandparents valued our nation’s history, and they did everything they could to ensure they passed down their knowledge and understanding of that history to the next generation. So, each summer from 5th Grade through my freshman year of high school, they took my cousins and I on road trips across the United States. Every trip ranged from two weeks to a month, traveling everywhere from the old Civil War battlefields in North Carolina to the cobblestone roads of River Street in Savannah, Georgia.


Even though we were just kids, we soaked up every bit of information we could about our nation’s convoluted and conflicted history. We learned to value our past, and the men and women who made our nation what it is today. For me, those trips laid a foundation I wouldn’t come to fully appreciate until years later … riding shotgun through Afghanistan.

My Grandfather was born in September 1939, too young for World War II or Korea, and too old for Vietnam by the time it came around. Grandpa was a model American though, at least as far as I was concerned. He worked a 30-year career with the phone company, raised three beautiful children, and married his high school sweetheart. He was eventually diagnosed with throat cancer; within a few years of diagnosis they removed all the cancer cells as well as his voice box.

But that didn’t stop him from doing what he thought was right.

Speaking with a mechanized voice box, he told his kids — including my mom — that he wanted to take the grandkids on a road trip to travel and explore our nation that summer. That led to many days and late nights in the passenger seat of my grandparents’ motorhome holding a Rand McNally road atlas while listening to my grandpa speak about his family’s legacy of military service with genuine admiration.

Grandpa told us about his oldest brother — they called him C.F. — who was an Infantryman that stormed Normandy’s beaches on D-Day. His brother Byron drove a tank through Italy, France, and Germany before almost being sent to Okinawa after the war in Europe had ended.

Against all odds, they somehow stumbled across each other during the war. Bryon was sitting on his tank as C.F. walked by with his unit; they were shocked at the sight of each other and took a moment to shower each other with questions before saying their good-byes and good lucks. That story stayed with me for a long time.

And then there was grandpa’s brother-in-law, Curtis. He rode on horseback behind enemy lines to establish communication lines in France during the war.

My grandpa spoke briefly but highly of his father-in-law — my great-grandfather, saying he served in World War I as an artilleryman. He struggled with shell shock; we call that PTSD these days. He’s standing next to an artillery cannon in France in the only picture we have of him.

My mind was doused in imagination; these men … these giants were the igniter. I had known them as kind, old southern gentlemen my entire childhood; my grandfather’s stories forced me to re-envision them as gigantic, unstoppable figures who changed the course of the world. These men were my heroes.

I still cherish every moment we spent together on the road discussing how our robust nation came to fruition, how our 16th President is revered as one of the best Presidents given the circumstances, and how FDR handled one of the greatest conflicts the world has ever experienced. My grandfather spent the waning years of his life passing down this historical knowledge to my cousins and me, and for that he will always be my hero.

From a very young age, I understood that our nation and livelihood was only attainable and sustained because of men like my relatives. Whether it was the moment Japan bombed Pearl Harbor or when Wilson brought us into WW1, these men answered the call willingly and selflessly. They understood what needed to be done to keep our nation’s virtues safe and guarded.

I was born in 1989, so a world-changing event like Pearl Harbor wouldn’t come into my life until a fall morning in 2001. I was in my 7th grade social studies class. Our teacher frantically rolled in the television and turned on the news. We sat as a class and watched one of the two towers burn in front of our eyes. A second plane came into frame, flying directly into the second tower. The gasps and cries in the room that day have never left my mind.

After about thirty minutes, the principal came over the intercom and cancelled classes for the day. I rushed to my bicycle, unlocked it, and pedaled home as fast as I could while images of the second plane crashing into the building devoured my thoughts. The front door of my house didn’t stand a chance; I unlocked it faster than I unlocked my bike, turned on the news and didn’t leave the living room until my mother got home from work.

She asked me if I’d been watching the tragic news all day. “Of course,” I told her. “If whatever happens is still happening when I turn eighteen, then I’m going to go and fight.” It was 2001 and 18 (the minimum age to go to war) was so far off in the distance that my mother didn’t argue. She knew I had a passionate love for this nation and respected the military tradition that our nation, and our family had cultivated.

Time went by. Days became months, months became years, and 2001 became 2005. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the same time my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. On October 31, 2007, Julean Hatcher, my beloved grandmother who was the rock for all of us, passed away.

My life had not amounted to anything by that point. I wasn’t actively trying to pursue college … or anything to better myself for that matter. I finally held myself accountable for the oath I made to my mother as a 7th grader in 2001 and signed a contract with the Marine Corps. On Mother’s Day 2008, I left for Parris Island, South Carolina to begin my journey toward becoming a U.S. Marine.

Over the course of recruit training we were told numerous times we weren’t going to go anywhere, that we would go to Iraq if we were lucky. Would I follow in Grandpa’s footsteps and miss the war?

The war in Iraq was nearing its end (or so we thought), but what no one saw coming was President Obama taking office and ordering 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. That changed my life and the course of hundreds of thousands of lives. From my great-uncles to my great-grandfather, to every single man and woman that ever served this nation prior to this moment, I could feel our history was about to be written.

In January 2010, I was sent to Afghanistan as a combat replacement to Route Clearance Platoon 2. I spent the next four months operating in and out of Marjah, Afghanistan looking for and disposing of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

Department of Defense

In April 2011, we deployed again to Helmand Province. But this time we were pushing into the now-infamous Sangin Valley, where we met heavy resistance. I spent so many days covered in a salt stained F.R.O.G. top wondering if my lineage would be proud of what we were doing, if they would be proud of the men and women who came after them to fight the good fight. I guess I’ll never truly know, but I’m confident they would be proud of every single one of us who raised our hands, recited that oath, and waved goodbye to family members as we loaded busses headed for war — just like they did.

I spent many days and late nights in the vehicle commander’s seat of a 4X4 MRAP truck building overlays on my map, marking the IED hits, SAF locations, and crater positions for hours on end. I sat there, navigating our platoon all throughout our area of operations, while reflecting on the times I spent with my grandfather learning about C.F. running through a curtain of steel while fighting his way up the Norman beaches. Thinking about Byron maneuvering his tank in just the right way to survive in the throes of battle. Imagining Curtis on horseback, evading the Nazis while setting up communications.

And my great-grandfather in France fighting against some of the worst evil the world had seen.

I couldn’t help but draw inspiration, motivation, and reasoning from my family’s history while fighting my generation’s war. They pushed me to excel and pursue becoming the type of American that might be somewhere … anywhere near the caliber of men they were.

I will always admire my grandfather for teaching me and captivating me with these stories of giant men and women who made a real impact on the world with their actions, all while leaving an impact that resonated to my core, shaped my thought process, and guided me to where I am today. We stand on the shoulders of giants, becoming giants for our children and their children to climb.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the French GIGN go into a mission wielding a revolver

After the horrific terror attacks at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics ended in the death of 11 hostages, nations of the world began creating their own versions what we, in the United States, call Special Weapons and Tactics teams, or SWAT teams. Just under a year later, France established their very own elite tactical police unit called the Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale, or GIGN.

Their counter-terrorism efforts are well regarded when they operate within their homeland, but not many know that they’re also a component of the French Armed Forces, which means they’re one part elite police officers and one part special operations soldier.

They’ve quickly become the most experienced and successful counter-terrorist organization in the world, tallying up over 1,800 publicly known missions with a near-flawless track record. And each time the Gendarmerie step up against a threat, they’ll always bring a trusty six-shooter revolver as their sidearm.


If it looks stupid, but works, it ain’t stupid.

(Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale)

While the GIGN does employ a wide variety of firearms for any given mission, including the MP5 submachine gun, the Fabarm SDASS Tactical shotgun, the Hécate II sniper rifle, and, recently, the BREN 2 rifle, their sidearm of choice is almost always the Manurhin MR73 double-action revolver. It should be noted that some have been known to carry Glock 17s, but that’s more the exception than the rule.

When the testing which sidearm to field, the MR73 made the cut after the teams were able to each shoot over 150 rounds of .38 Special with their sample weapons. They didn’t need to see any other firearms — the MR73 was the first and only sidearm they wanted to test.

Each MR73 is made to be used in marksmanship competitions. Each has an adjustable trigger weight in both double-action and single-action modes so it can be made to perfectly fit its wielder.

Even when the officer is given a choice of firearms, they’ll still almost always take the revolver. Because nothing beats a classic.

(Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale)

But while the MR73 revolver is a solid, practical choice, it’s just as much a status symbol. Commissioner Robert Broussard also saw what the revolver meant to the lawmen of America. It was the weapon of choice used by police to take down both Wild West outlaws and prohibition-era gangsters. A weapon like that earned its place among his police.

Historical status aside, the Manurhin MR73 is one the last remaining high-quality French firearms. The truth is, there simply aren’t many French firearm manufacturers that strive to achieve ultimate quality. Having a highly-customizable, expertly-crafted, .38 Special-firing symbol of both France industry and Wild West lawman? It’s the perfect match for the GIGN.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How enemy aircraft get their American nicknames

So, if you’re a loyal WATM reader, you’ve probably noticed that, when we’re talking Chinese or Russian aircraft, they’ve got some odd-sounding names. Fishbed, Flanker, Backfire, Bear, Badger… you may be wondering, “how the f*ck did they get that name?” Well, it’s a long story – and it goes back to World War II.


This painting shows ground crews loading AS-16 Kickback air-to-surface missiles on a Tu-22M Backfire. (DOD painting)

In 1942, Captain Frank McCoy of the Army Air Force was tasked with heading the materiel section of Army Air Force intelligence for the Southwest Pacific. Early on, he realized that pilots could get confused about enemy fighters. To address this potential confusion, the Tennessee native began giving them nicknames. Fighters got male names, bombers and other planes got female names, and transports were given names that started with the letter T. Training planes were named for trees and gliders for birds.

When it first was encountered in the Pacific, the A6M3 version of the Zero was given the code name ‘Hap,’ drawing the ire of ‘Hap’ Arnold. (Japanese Navy photo)

The idea was a good one – and it began to spread across the entire Pacific. All went well until a new Japanese Navy fighter got the nickname, ‘Hap.’ You see, that was also the nickname of the Army Air Force Commander, General Henry “Hap” Arnold. To say Arnold wasn’t happy is an understatement. McCoy was quickly called in to explain it.

This modernized MiG-21 Fishbed in service with the Indian Air Force is armed with AA-12 Adder and AA-11 Archer air-to-air missiles. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Sheeju)

When the Cold War started, and both the Soviet Union and Communist China became threats, the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization turned to a version of McCoy’s naming conventions. They adjusted the system. This time, code names for fighters started with the letter F, those for bombers started with B, transport planes start with the letter C, other planes start with M. If the name has one syllable, it’s a prop plane. If it has multiple syllables, it’s a jet. Helicopter names start with the letter H.

For a comprehensive list, go to designation-systems.net.

Chinese Communist planes, like the J-8 Finback — shown here flying a little too close to a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries — were also given NATO code names. (DoD photo)

The system also covered missiles: Air-to-air missiles start with the letter A, air-to-surface missiles start with the letter K, surface-to-surface missiles start with the letter S, and surface-to-air missiles start with the letter G. NATO even began to use code names for Soviet and Chinese Communist submarines and surface ships.

Code names were also assigned to ships, submarines, and missiles. This Indian Navy Osa-class missile boat is firing an SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missile. (Indian Navy photo)

McCoy retired as a two-star general in 1968, but what he did in World War II still helps pilots and troops today. So, that’s why they call a Flanker, a multisyllabic fighter jet, a Flanker.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Revamped training curriculum will develop ready and resilient airmen

After listening to feedback from the field, a few changes to the Air Force Basic Military Training curriculum will transform trainees into more combat-ready airmen.

The changes, which began Sept. 4, 2018, are entirely focused on readiness and lethality, airmanship, fitness, and warrior ethos.

“The future of BMT focuses on creating disciplined, warrior-airmen who are ready to support our joint partners in conflicts around the globe,” said Col. Jason Corrothers, former 737th Training Group and BMT commander who spearheaded the modifications. “These changes to refine the basic training experience are about increasing our readiness and lethality while simultaneously instilling airmanship and core values from the very beginning.”


Restoring readiness is one of the Air Force’s top priorities. The changes address readiness through a revamped expeditionary skills and weapons training curriculum, said Lt. Col. Jose Surita, 326th Training Squadron commander, who has overseen the development of the revamped curriculum.

Basic Expeditionary Airmen Skills Training which previously took place in week five of training, is resequenced to the final training week as the culminating event of BMT. Air Force recruits will also experience a beefed up Self-Aid/Buddy Care regimen, called the Tactical Combat Casualty Course.

“We need highly trained and ready airmen,” Surita said. “Readiness is the central theme across the BMT curriculum as we deliver trained and committed airmen capable of delivering 21st century airpower.”

There is also an increased focus on weapons handling and familiarization, said Surita.

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees prepare for a log climb and rope walk obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

Airmen’s Week, which was focused on a values-based “Airmanship 100” curriculum, was taught the week after trainees completed basic training. Airmen’s Week lessons, which are not being changed, are now incorporated throughout 8.5 weeks of BMT.

This change gives end-to-end ownership of the training to the military training instructor corps, delivering a continuous immersion that accelerates “mind to heart” adoption of the Air Force core values and warrior ethos principles

“Our airmen need to be technically capable, but they also need to be motivated,” said Master Sgt. Robert Kaufman, military training instructor. “Airmanship 100 lessons focus on their resilience and challenge recruits to commit to holding each other accountable to our core values.”

An Air Force Basic Military Training trainee attacks a dummy during an obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

With an emphasis on improving human performance, BMT will also see a bump up in the overall number of fitness sessions, increasing from 31 to 44 periods throughout training. Workouts will be a balanced mix of cardio, strength, and interval training.

“Physical fitness is a critical component of readiness,” said Master Sgt. Andrea Jefferson, military training instructor. “By increasing the number of physical training sessions, we build fitness habits that will help recruits perform both in the military environment, and in their personal lives.”

BMT curriculum changes also includes a purpose built heritage program that introduces recruits to Air Force heroes, and weaves heritage and warrior ethos throughout training.

An Air Force Basic Military Training Instructor watch an Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT) graduation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

“We will be introducing warrior identity, as well as Air Force history and heroes, every week throughout training,” said Master Sgt. Richard Bonsra, military training instructor. “Those topics will then be reinforced during all training events, such as naming physical training sessions after a fallen airman to cement the experience.”

Future changes to how heritage and warrior ethos are ingrained into BMT will include naming obstacles on the “Creating Leaders, Airmen, Warriors” Course after Air Force heroes, said Bonsra.

Air Force Basic Military Training Instructors train drill and ceremony movements at Air Force Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

“Over the last 70 years, we have become the most dominant Air Force the world has ever known, but there is no doubt we must be, and can be better in the future,” said Chief Master Sgt. Lee Hoover, 737th TRG superintendent, “The next generation of airmen will take us there, so it’s critical we start them on the right foot. These changes ensure we move in that direction.”

Headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, the 737th TRG is the Air Force’s largest training group, comprised of nine squadrons and more than 900 permanent-party personnel. BMT, with an average daily load of 7,000 trainees, graduated more than 37,314 airmen in fiscal year 2017 and BMT instructors are postured to increase that number to more than 40,200 graduates in fiscal year 2019.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia is proposing a revolutionary catamaran carrier

Russia — the country that’s failed to build its super carrier and any meaningful amount of its newest jets or tanks — is now claiming that it’s going to build the world’s first catamaran aircraft carrier, a vessel that would carry an air wing while suffering less drag and costing less than other carriers.

While this effort will likely suffer from the same problems that prevented the construction of the super carrier, it’s still a revolutionary design that’s generating a lot of buzz.


The U.S. has purchased and leased some catamaran ships, but nothing nearly the size of the proposed Russian aircraft carrier. The HSV 2 in the photo has a displacement of less than 5 percent the size of the Russian design.

(U.S. Navy)

So, first, let’s explore the highlights. Catamarans are multi-hulled vessels with the hulls in parallel. If you’re unfamiliar, that basically means that if you look at the vessel from the front, you can see a gap right down the middle of the hull near the waterline. The Russian vessel would be a semi-catamaran, so there would be a gap, but it would be beneath the waterline.

This greatly reduces drag and makes the vessel more stable while turning, but also reduces the amount of space below the waterline for aircraft storage, living spaces, and so forth.

The proposed design would be a 40,000 to 45,000-ton displacement ship, similar to American Landing Helicopter Assault ships, vessels that would’ve been called escort carriers in World War II. This puts it at a fraction of the size of America’s Ford-class carriers, which displace nearly 100,000 tons.

Russia’s only current carrier is the Admiral Kuznetsov, and it’s less than impressive.

(U.S. Defense Department)

But it would still carry a healthy complement of aircraft, up to 46, including early warning aircraft and helicopters. That’s a far cry from the Ford’s 75 aircraft, but a pretty nice upgrade over the LHAs’ 30+ aircraft.

The catamaran would have an 8,000-mile endurance, anti-torpedo and anti-aircraft defenses, electronic warfare systems, and four bomb launchers.

All-in-all, that could make for an effective and affordable aircraft carrier. So, will Russia be able to crank this ship out, maybe clone it a couple of times, and become the effective master of the seas?

Russia: Mistral replacement? Storm Supercarrier model unveiled in St Petersburg

www.youtube.com

Well, no. Almost certainly not. First, Russia has the same spending problem it had when it threw a hissy fit after France cancelled the delivery of two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships. Russia responded with designs for the Storm Supercarrier, a ship larger than America’s Ford-class.

Most defense experts at the time weren’t very worried, and we shouldn’t be now. Russia has few personnel with experience building ships of this size. That’s actually why they wanted to buy the Mistral class in the first place — and the Mistral is half the size of this proposed catamaran.

The Soviet Union constructed the bulk of its ships in areas that broke away when the Soviet Union collapsed. Many were built in Ukraine, which now has a troubled relationship with Russia (to put it mildly). Russia lacks the facilities and personnel for such construction.

The PAK-FA/Su-57 is seemingly a capable fighter despite issues with its engines and other developmental hangups, but Russia simply can’t afford to buy them, or to buy a catamaran carrier.

Infographic from Anton Egorov of Infographicposter.com

And then there’s the money. Russia designed a reasonably modern and well-received tank in the T-14 and a good fighter in the PAK-FA, but they couldn’t build many of them because oil, currently, is way too cheap. Russia’s economy is relatively small — actually smaller than that of Texas or California — and it’s heavily reliant on oil sales.

And then there are the glaring flaws of the design. While the catamaran has the advantages mentioned above, it would have serious trouble moving in rough seas, as catamarans have a tendency to dig their bows into waves in rough conditions — and taking waves from the side would likely be even worse.

Someone may build a catamaran carrier one day, but it won’t be Russia. So, for now, just check out the model and think about how cool it is. But don’t expect to see this thing at sea. Russia will have to just keep making due with the leaky, poop-filled, unreliable Admiral Kuznetsov.

MIGHTY CULTURE

As Goldfein’s service as 21st Chief of Staff comes to a close, his bond to Airmen remains strong

Gen. David L. Goldfein’s four-year tenure as the 21st U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff is coming to an end. As he takes stock of a period marked by ground-breaking achievements, including birth of the U.S. Space Force, the evolution of Joint All Domain Command and Control, and unprecedented challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, his most poignant – and treasured – memories are the bonds he forged with Airmen while engaging with them around the force over the years.


CSAF 21 Gen David L. Goldfein – The Exit Interview

www.youtube.com

“Our Airmen are the most incredible, patriotic and disciplined,” he said in a recent interview. “This might be the next greatest generation. Every one of them joined the service while the nation was at war, and their innovative spirit, and willingness to endure hardships to serve in uniform is really inspiring.”

During his frequent travels, Goldfein gained a reputation for seeking out Airmen – often young in their service – to get a better understanding of who they are and to hear their stories. On one occasion in 2019, after meeting all day with air chiefs from more than a dozen nations about space, he struck up a conversation with a young officer. The officer mentioned that he was a second-generation Airman. Without hesitation, Goldfein asked the officer, “You got your phone? Call your dad.” The father and Goldfein had a 10-minute conversation while the startled officer watched.

“I always ask two questions: tell me your story, and what does it mean to be a part of the squadron they are in,” he said. “I’m asking them deeper questions, questions about the culture of the organization. What we want that answer to be is something along the lines of, It means I’m a valued member of this organization, it’s a high-powered team, the Airman to my right and to my left are some of the best Airmen I have ever worked with in my life, and we are doing something really important that is much bigger than myself. If we get that part right, so many other things are going to go right.”

Gen. David. L. Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, talks to a group of total force recruiters during the Bluegreen Vacations 500 NASCAR race in Phoenix. The general talked to the recruiters and answered any questions prior to the race. (AIR FORCE PHOTO // MASTER SGT. CHANCE BABIN)

The Air Force Chief of Staff position demands expertise in military doctrine and operations, as well as skill for developing policy, crafting priorities and helping assemble the Air Force’s budget request. It also requires acute political awareness since Goldfein represents the Air Force before Congress, influential think tanks and the public.

Goldfein, 61, is responsible for the organization, training and equipping 685,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian personnel serving in the United States and overseas. As Chief of Staff, he also held a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As he prepares for his 37-year Air Force career to come to an end as the senior uniformed Air Force officer, Goldfein will take with him an approach to the job that was equal parts cerebral and disciplined.

“When I stepped foot on the Air Force Academy campus, only my wildest dreams would’ve ever allowed me to see myself in this seat,” he said. “It truly is the honor of the lifetime to be able to lead the service that has played such an integral part of my life.

Cadet David L. Goldfein and Dawn Goldfein at the the Air Force Academy.

He is a command pilot with more than 4,200 flying hours including combat missions in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and most famously, Operation Allied Force when, in 1999, he was shot down flying a mission over Kosovo. His rescue only reinforced to him the important role – and valor – of combat search and rescue teams. It is also a reason that the naming this year of the Air Force’s newest combat rescue helicopter, the HH-60W as the “Jolly Green II,” carried special meaning.

“We don’t know, as young leaders, especially as young officers, when a young Airman is going to risk everything to pull us out of bad guy land, or a burning truck or an aircraft….and risk everything to save us,” he said. “All we know is on that day, we better be worthy of their risk. And so it is all about character, and what the nation expects of those who were privileged to serve in uniform.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfien talks to Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright after touring the new HH-60W combat rescue helicopter at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 27, 2020. During the event, the HH-60W was given the name “Jolly Green II,” following the legendary tradition of the Vietnam-era HH-3E Jolly Green and HH-53 Super Jolly Green crews who pioneered the combat search and rescue mission. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. JAMES RICHARDSON)

During his four years as Chief of Staff, Goldfein led multiple initiatives to improve and update the Air Force’s warfighting capability: including enhancing the service’s multi-domain capability, pushing to increase the number of operational squadrons to 386 by 2030, and the birth of the Space Force. He played a major role in bringing the F-35s into the fleet, as well the development of the B-21 strike bomber and the T-7A Red Hawk trainer aircraft, among others. The push to 386 was necessary, he said, to build “the Air Force we need” and to reconfigure the force to address China, Russia and other near-peer nations.

He and other Air Force leaders understood that the National Defense Strategy marked the reemergence of the long-term and strategic competition with China and Russia. The Air Force’s goal is to compete, deter, and win this competition by fielding a force that is lethal, resilient, rapidly adapting and integrates seamlessly with the joint force and its allies and partners. Expanding number of squadrons laid the groundwork to enhance the forces preparedness, and in turn will increase the number of fighting units, he explained.

“Today, we are the best Air Force in the world,” he said in 2018. “Our adversaries know it. They have been studying our way of war, and investing in ways to take away those advantages. This is how we stay in front.”

With an increase in fighting units underway, Goldfein led the way on a new, more universal, approach to communicate and fight: not only across all military branches, but between aircraft, operators and commands as well. He was one of the originators of a new, linked and network-centric approach to warfighting known as Joint All Domain Command and Control in which elements from all services from air, land, sea, space and cyber are seamlessly linked to overwhelm and defeat any adversary.

Members of the 6th Special Operations Squadron, perform a training exercise showcasing the capabilities of the Advanced Battle Management System at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 17, 2019. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH. SGT. JOSHUA J. GARCIA)

“Victory in future combat will depend less on individual capabilities and more on the integrated strengths of a connected network available for coalition leaders to employ,” he said in 2019. “What I’m talking about is a fully networked force where each platform’s sensors and operators are connected.”

In addition to spearheading the move to Joint All Domain Command and Control operations, Goldfein used his close working relationships with senior leaders, including Department of the Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and former Secretaries Heather Wilson and Deborah Lee James, to realize some of the most sweeping changes for the Air Force in recent years.

He focused efforts on maintaining bonds with existing allies and partners while developing new global relationships. In 2019, he became the first Air Force Chief of Staff to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War.

He pushed the Air Force to embrace “agile basing” and to return to a more expeditionary mindset. Both efforts enhanced flexibility and scalability of units to address threats even in harsh, distant and contested areas. Goldfein drove this mindset by getting the wings to “train like they fight.” He also pushed units to deploy together, rather than deploying as aggregations of individuals rounded up from all over the Air Force.

“The next fight, the one we must prepare for as laid out in the National Defense Strategy, may not have fixed bases, infrastructures and established command and control, with leaders already forward, ready to receive follow-on forces,” he said in 2018. So, it’s time to return to our expeditionary roots. The expeditionary Air Force framework Secretary Peters and Gen. Ryan laid out remains valid today. But, it must be adapted and updated to support the Joint All Domain Command and Control operations of the 21st century.”

After initially being uncertain about the need for a separate Space Force, Goldfein reflected on his journey to a different understanding. He now sees himself as one of the Space Force’s strongest advocates.

Goldfein understood the need to shift the Air Force’s culture to make the service more diverse, he and former Secretary James recognized the benefits of diversity and to address problems connected to racial and criminal justice inequity in his first few years in office. This continued to be a focus when Barrett and Goldfein, for example, recently asked the Air Force Inspector General to examine the service’s promotion and military justice record so inequities can be better identified and addressed.

In early 2020 Goldfein also brought about changes to the Air Force’s official anthem to make the lyrics more inclusive. Goldfein didn’t go many places where he didn’t boast on his “best friend, Dawn” and his daughters and granddaughters. He often explained how they kept him grounded, and helped him appreciate the sacrifice our Air Force families endure. Dawn pushed to make improvements for Air Force families when she chaired the “Key Spouse Conference” and was an advocate for universal licensure. Goldfein actively embraced both.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright learn about new innovations being made at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, May 14, 2020. Airmen at Team Minot, in the midst of a global pandemic, demonstrate the ever adapting ability of the Global Strikers to CSAF General Goldfein and CMSAF Wright during their visit to Minot Air Force Base. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JESSE JENNY)

Perhaps the single most influential voice over Goldfein’s four years as chief was that of Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. The tight bond between the two men was widely understood and often on display. It also was genuine.

“They don’t come any better than Chief Wright,” Goldfein said recently. “He is one of my closest life-long friends…. He’s the guy that I lean on the most.”

Goldfein and Wright took an active approach together to address resiliency, mental health and the overall culture of the force, often appearing side-by-side with Airmen. The close partnership came into clear view recently in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the national call for racial justice. Goldfein and Wright were prominent in their public calls for reform within the Air Force.

“Something broke loose that day, and what broke loose was there shouldn’t be any resistance to making meaningful changes in our United States Air Force to make sure we celebrate all of us, that we are a force that includes and embraces all of us,” he said. “History is not on our side here. If we follow history, we will be pretty excited for a couple of months and will make some marginal changes, we will feel good about ourselves, and then other things will pop up and this will be pushed to the back burner,” he said, referring to past efforts to address racial and criminal justice inequality. “Let’s prove history wrong this time.”

With a goal of a more inclusive Air Force always in mind, Goldfein made a point to show his appreciation and kinship to the Airmen he was able to meet.

Goldfein concedes that many people and events shaped his tenure. But, aside from his wife Dawn and Wright, none was more influential than his countless interactions with Airmen of all ranks and capabilities across the Air Force. It was shaped as well by a separate and tragic moment, the death of Air Force Master Sgt. John A. Chapman in 2002, and in 2018 when Chapman was awarded the Medal of Honor.

“While I never met John, I feel like I know him because his picture hangs in my office, as it has for the past two years,” Goldfein said in 2018. “… At difficult times and when faced with hard decisions, I can look at that picture and find strength in his strength, and I’m reminded that leading and representing Airmen like John Chapman remains the honor of a lifetime.”

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Air Force David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright present a plaque to Valerie Nessel, wife of Medal of Honor recipient Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, during the Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., Aug. 23, 2018. Sergeant Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002, an elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through high-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. RUSTY FRANK)

That realization, Goldfein would often say, was his North Star.

As Goldfein’s time as Air Force Chief of staff comes to an end, he feels confident in the selection of the next Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.

“I feel closure. I didn’t get everything done, I wanted to get done, but we certainly got a lot done, and I’m feeling so good,” he said. “I’ve been watching Gen. Brown for years, I got to see his intellect, his mind and work. He’s a brilliant, operational and strategic thinker. I’ve seen him interact with Airmen, and he’s just absolutely phenomenal. So, I’m feeling great about this opportunity to hand the Air Force over to a guy that I admire, and a good friend as well.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.