How sailors navigated before GPS - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How sailors navigated before GPS

Humanity is fated to explore, colonize, and come up with new ways to assert dominance over the forces of nature. The timeline of recorded history is marked by inventions that have propelled us forward to achieve the impossible and expand our collective intelligence. The early explorers navigated the violence of the open ocean by using the stability of the heavenly bodies to guide them.

Before sailors could brave the blank spots on the map, they had to know where home was and how to find their place in the world. By charting the stars, keeping precise time, and using their honed senses, humanity was given the tools needed to explore ever outward.


How sailors navigated before GPS

(HISTORY’s ‘Vikings’)

The Vikings used known points

The vikings sailed far enough from shore to lose sight of landmasses in a time before there was a proven method of navigation. They passed down knowledge of stars, coasts, currents, navigational landmarks, and wildlife to create mental maps.

They would make notes of unique mountain formations and follow currents favored by pods of whales for feeding. They also used a plumb bob, an instrument used to determine water depth by tying a weight to a rope and plopping it into the ocean. Viking sailors navigated by using their senses: listening to the calls of seabirds, allowing them to estimate which region they were in. They’d verify their guess by tasting the water to gauge the amount of fresh water flowing into the sea.

Flóki Vilgerðarson, who appeared in HISTORY’s Vikings, was a real person who used caged ravens when traveling. When he thought land was near, he would release a raven. If it circled the boat, there was no land. If it flew away, the ship followed it towards land. This technique was adopted by other vikings who followed in the footsteps of this pioneer.

Vikings crossed the Atlantic Ocean to found colonies in Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland using these techniques and raided western Europe with impunity, without fear of sea.

How sailors navigated before GPS

Let me sing you the song of my people…

(Maui Guide)

The Polynesians used songs

The Polynesians used songs to navigate the seas, an art passed down from master to apprentice over generations. They maintained guilds on each island that would identify sources of food and directed sailors towards them in times of famine and traded this knowledge for other resources. To identify where they were, they made close observations of sea signs, just as the vikings did, and recorded extremely detailed directions in the form of song lyrics.

The guilds also safeguarded the secrets of constructing outrigger canoes capable of making long voyages across the Pacific Ocean.

How sailors navigated before GPS

With this, I will make my own empire! With blackjack — and freedom!

(ResearchGate)

The British invented the chronometer to identify latitude

Celestial navigation was turned into a science by the British. In 1714, the British government declared a prize of £20,000 be award to whomever could solve the problem of finding a ship’s current longitude position while out on the open ocean. John Harrison was clockmaker who believed the answer was in accurate timekeeping. He proved that one could find their latitude by calculating the position of the sun, moon, stars, or other celestial bodies in relations to the current time to find where you are on the globe.

Making a correct calculation required a timepiece that would not lose its accuracy due to storms, temperature changes, or manufacturing limitations. If one didn’t know the exact time, the almanacs and journals that outlined the location of celestial bodies were, basically, useless.

Harrison made the H4, a chronometer the size of a watch, and it was able to accurately keep GMS time in any clime and place, regardless of conditions. On its maiden voyage to Jamaica, it was only off by five seconds by the journey’s end.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 heroes who saved American lives on Heartbreak Ridge

The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge in 1951 was supposed to be a quick win by U.S. and U.N. forces in Korea. They had just pushed the North Koreans and Chinese off of the nearby “Bloody Ridge,” and they believed the communist forces could be pushed off the ridge quickly as they’d had a limited time to dig in, but it turned into a month-long slugfest that would leave almost 30,000 dead.

Here are six heroes who ensured most of those deaths came from North Korea and China:


How sailors navigated before GPS

Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau

(Military Sealift Command)

Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau

Infantryman Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau’s company was holding a key position at Pia-ri on the ridge when, after repeated attacks, the platoon was nearly out of ammo. They needed to withdraw temporarily, but the near-continuous attacks made that challenging. Pililaau volunteered to stay in position as the men near him withdrew.

Communist forces charged the lines as the rest of the company withdrew, and Pililaau fired through his automatic weapon ammo, threw hand grenades until he ran out, and then fought hand-to-hand with his fists and trench knife until he was overwhelmed. He is thought to have killed more than 40 before dying and later received a posthumous Medal of Honor.

How sailors navigated before GPS

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris was part of the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea.

(Pfc. James Cox, U.S. Army)

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris was part of a series of attacks near Mundung-Ri from October 8-9, 1951. They hit an entrenched force and the attack stalled, except for Burris. Burris charged forward and hurled grenade after grenade, killing 15 and creating an opening. The next day, he spearheaded an assault on the next position.

He was hit by machine gun fire, but pressed the attack anyway. He took a second hit, but remained forward, directing a 57mm recoilless rifle team to come up. He drew fire from the enemy machine gun, allowing the team to take it out. Then, he refused medical evacuation and attacked again, taking out more machine gun emplacements before taking a mortal wound. He received a posthumous Medal of Honor.

How sailors navigated before GPS

Corpsmen assist wounded from the 7th Division at the Battle of Triangle Hill in 1952. May was from the 7th Division.

(U.S. Army)

Sgt. Homer I. May

On September 1, 1951, Sgt. Homer May helped lead an assault squad against enemy positions, but the attackers encountered withering machine gun fire. The sergeant sent his men into cover and maneuvered against the guns himself and got eyes on three bunkers, and took one out with grenades.

He doubled back for more grenades and made his way back forward, taking out the other bunkers. The attack was successful, and May received the Distinguished Service Cross for his efforts. He tragically died the next day while helping fend off an enemy counterattack against the hill.

How sailors navigated before GPS

U.S. infantrymen from the 27th Infantry Regiment defend a position near Heartbreak Ridge in August, 1952.

(National Archives Records Administration)

Cpl. James E. Smith

Army Cpl. James E. Smith was manning a defensive position on September 17 as waves of enemy forces attacked. His company was able to repulse attack after attack, but ammunition dwindled and the attacking waves got closer and closer to the American lines. As it became clear that the unit would need to pull back, Smith stayed in position to cover the withdrawal.

He fired through all of his ammunition and then fought with bayonet and his bare fists until he was killed. He is thought to have downed 35 of the enemy before succumbing, earning him a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.

French Sgt. Louis Misseri

French Army Sgt. Louis Misseri was part of an assault on September 29 against a hill that was part of Heartbreak Ridge. The French Battalion came under artillery and mortar attack but kept pressing forward. Misseri split his squad into two sections and led one of them against enemy bunkers on the hill, taking them out.

When the communist forces launched a counterattack, Misseri led the defense and, despite suffering a serious wound, hit 15 enemy soldiers with his rifle fire. He was able to reach the top of Heartbreak Ridge and remained in position until the rest of his force had withdrawn. He would later receive a Distinguished Service Cross from the U.S.

How sailors navigated before GPS

Infantrymen move to the firing line in July 1950 during fighting in Korea.

(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

Sgt. George R. Deemer

On October 10, Company F of the 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, was attacking Hill 800 as mortar and artillery fire rained down. Sgt. George R. Deemer went into the battle carrying a 57mm recoilless rifle. A companion helped him load and he advanced with the skirmish line, knocking out one enemy emplacement after another.

When the company took the Hill, he used the weapon to aid in the defense until he ammunition ran out. Then, he organized two machine gun teams and made three trips under fire to keep them supplied with ammunition. During the third trip, he was mortally wounded by mortar fire. He received a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘The Battle of Khasham’ saw US troops rout Russian mercenaries in Syria

The United States sent its forces into Syria in 2014 to hasten the demise of ISIS. After the fall of the “caliphate” capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa three years later, the U.S. remained. It was determined to conduct operations that would bring the government forces of Bashar al-Asad to heel.

In 2018, U.S. forces and U.S.-backed militias from the Kurish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), controlled the Conoco gas field near the town of al-Tabiyeh in eastern Syria. The Americans and SDF were on the eastern side of the Euphrates River, while Syrian government troops and Russian mercenaries were on the other.


As far as the United States knew, there were no official Russian troops operating in this province. Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made certain of that using official channels to the Russian government, in place to prevent a clash between American and Russian troops. The Russians operating with Bashar al-Asad’s troops were military contractors hired by the Wagner Group.

Pro-Assad forces controlled the nearby major city of Deir-ez-Zor, which allowed them a staging area for nearby attacks and to easily cross the river.

The pro-government forces had begun massing in Deir-ez-Zor for days prior and the American-led Coalition could see every move they made, even if they didn’t know who exactly was making those moves. For all the Coalition forces knew, they could have been ISIS. That’s when a large force departed the city, headed for the headquarters of the U.S.-SDF forces at Khasham.

On Feb. 7, 2018, 500 pro-government Syrian troops, including Iranian-trained Shia militiamen, along with Russian military contractors began their attack on the SDF headquarters. The assault began with mortars and rockets, supported by Soviet-built T-72 and T-55 tanks. Unfortunately for the Syrians, the SDF base just happened to be filled with 40 American special operations forces. After calling to ensure no official Russian forces would be harmed in the making of their counterattack, the operators called down the thunder.

American Special Forces called in AC-130 “Spooky” Gunships, F-15E Strike Eagles, Reaper drones, Apache helicopters, F-22 Raptors and even B-52 Stratofortress bombers. If that wasn’t enough to kill everything coming at them, nearby Marine Corps artillery batteries got in on the action. The attack was turned away, decisively. The only questions that remained were how many were killed in the “fighting” and how was the Syrian government going to cover up this epic mistake?

Coalition forces took one casualty, an SDF fighter who was wounded. The United States estimated the Syrians lost 100 killed. The Syrian government says 55 were killed in the fighting with a further loss of 10 Russian mercenaries. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 68 Syrians dead. Russian media lamented the idea that Russian remains were “abandoned” on the battlefield.

The Russian firm that hired the contractors had a more colorful response.

“Write it on your forehead: 14 volunteers were killed in Syria. I’m fed up with you chewing snot and telling fairy tales in your petty articles. As for your speculations there, what you write about those f****** investigations – no one has abandoned anyone.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army’s Expert Infantryman training is getting an update

Army officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are rewriting the requirements infantry soldiers must meet when they test for the Expert Infantryman Badge.

Each year, infantry soldiers who have not earned the distinctive badge, consisting of a silver musket mounted on a blue field, must go through EIB testing, a series of 30 infantry tasks, ranging from land navigation to completing a 12-mile road march in under three hours.


Soon, EIB testing will feature more up-to-date tasks to reflect the modern battlefield, according to a recent Army news release.

Infantry officials recently conducted a modernized EIB pilot with multiple infantry soldiers, Master Sgt. Charles Evans, from the office of the Chief of the Infantry, said in the release.

“Their feedback was really essential to rolling out this new standard, making sure it was validated,” Evans said. “Just working out all the kinks and making sure that all the tasks were applicable, realistic and up-to-date with the latest doctrine.”

How sailors navigated before GPS

Parachute infantryman Spc. Sean Tighe, assigned to B Company 1st Battalion (Airborne) 501st Infantry Regiment, performs push-ups as 1SG Landon Sahagun, B Company 1st Battalion (Airborne) 501st Infantry Regiment, counts his repetitions during the Expert Infantryman Badge testing.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

Many of the changes in the manual are designed to standardize options for units in how to conduct the testing, but “there will be significant changes to some of the tests themselves,” according to the release.

“Indirect fire, move under fire, grenades, CPR and care under fire are all being reworked,” the release states.

The results of the pilot will soon be put into an updated training manual for EIB testing.

“The reason we did this event was to make sure it wasn’t just written from a single perspective, that it had feedback from all the different types of units across the Army,” Evans said.

The Army also is updating infantry training for new recruits. Fort Benning just started a pilot program to extend One Station Unit Training for infantry from 14 to 22 weeks to ensure soldiers spend more time mastering infantry skills such as land navigation and fire and maneuver techniques.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why these morale patches caught the Navy’s attention

One of the best things about the military is its subculture and sense of humor. If you give any group in the military any leeway at all in regard to uniform wear, even the slightest bit, the chances are good that they’ll make jokes out of it. One such tradition is the morale patch. Usually worn during deployments and on aircrew, the morale patch is worn solely by the designation of a unit commander. They often make fun of some of the worst, most boring, or most defining aspects of a career field.

Recently, some Naval aviators got into hot water by wearing patches that may have been a little too close to political.


How sailors navigated before GPS

It’s not as if this is the military’s first Trump joke.

Many of the best morale patches often have a pop culture element to them. Some of them may have some kind of inside joke, or technical jargon. In the patch above, for example, a UARRSI is part of an aircraft’s in-flight refueling apparatus, specifically on the receiving end.

Related: 13 of the best military morale patches

Unfortunately for the Navy aircrew sporting the red patch and the “Make (blank) Great Again” joke, using an image of the President’s 2016 campaign slogan might be a little too political for the Navy’s top brass, with or without the “p*ssy” joke the Air Force used in the second patch above. No matter what the reason, the military is increasingly concerned about U.S. troops and their acts of political affiliation in uniform.

How sailors navigated before GPS

Trump signed signature red “MAGA” hats for deployed troops during a New Years visit in 2018. What concerned brass then was that the White House didn’t distribute the hats, troops already brought them.

The Pentagon’s Uniform Code of Military Justice states “active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.” This expressed line may be the cause of the Navy’s ire with the red Trump aircrew patch.

More: 13 more awesome military morale patches from around the service

It’s possible that the aircrews were making a political statement, but it’s much more likely that the reference to the President and his 2016 campaign slogan is a pop culture one. Trump’s revival of the old 1980 Reagan election theme has permeated American culture since Trump adopted it and made it his own. Even the President’s detractors use some variation of the MAGA line to insult the President and his policies.

The problem is this time, U.S. troops were seen by members of the media sporting the patches during an official Trump visit to the USS Wasp in Tokyo Bay. The image of troops wearing the patch went viral, and people who don’t seem to know about the morale patch tradition called it “more than patriotism” and “inappropriate.”

How sailors navigated before GPS

President Trump delivers a Memorial Day speech aboard the USS Wasp.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Shorter)

The Navy downplayed the patches officially, calling them “old news” but acknowledged it was conducting an inquiry to determine if the move was an overtly political act.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldier posthumously receives high valor award for Battle of Kamdesh

A 4th Infantry Division soldier was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest Army award for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force, in a ceremony on Dec. 15, 2018, for his actions during the battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan Oct. 3, 2009.

Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos, then 27, a team leader with Troop B, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th ID, was originally awarded a Silver Star for his part in the battle that saw approximately 300 Taliban fighters attack fewer than 60 U.S. soldiers.


Col. Dave Zinn, the commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4 ID, presented the Distinguished Service Cross to Gallegos’ son MacAiden and Sen. Lisa Murkowski presented him a folded flag.

Although Gallegos never served with U.S. Army Alaska, USARAK hosted the ceremony because MacAiden and his mother, Amanda Marr are residents of Alaska.

How sailors navigated before GPS

U.S. Army Col. Dave Zinn, Commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division presents Staff. Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s son MacAiden with the Distinguished Service Cross during a ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joel F. Gibson)

“As the battle kicked off on the early morning of Oct. 3, 2009, this group of men were outmanned and out gunned by an enemy force that numbered up to 300,” said Lt. Col. Michael Meyer, commander of 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division and master of ceremonies, “The enemy had better positioning and surprise, hiding in the micro terrain and scrub trees of the mountains of Nuristan.”

How sailors navigated before GPS

U.S. Army Col. Dave Zinn, Commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division presents Staff. Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s son MacAiden with the Distinguished Service Cross during a ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joel F. Gibson)

The commander of Troop B at the time of the battle, Maj. Stoney Portis, said, “When I heard the news that Justin’s Distinguished Service Cross had finally been approved, I knew that one of the discrepancies in the narrative of the Battle of COP Keating had finally been corrected.”

“Justin Gallegos risked his life to save Stephan Mace. It was that one event, which we were not able to articulate in the narrative of Justin’s Silver Star, that called for an upgrade to the Distinguished Service Cross,” said Portis.

Portis then read from the Distinguished Service Cross narrative describing the actions of the event, which neither Gallegos nor Mace survived.

How sailors navigated before GPS

U.S. Army Col. Dave Zinn, Commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division presents Staff. Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s son MacAiden with the Distinguished Service Cross during a ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joel F. Gibson)

Portis said,”We had always known that Justin is a hero, but within the context of his saving Stephan Mace, we are reminded that Justin is not only a great hero, but that he is also a good man.”

“Justin’s actions that day, as well the actions of Josh Hardt, Josh Kirk, Stephan Mace, Michael Scusa, Chris Griffin, Kevin Thomson, and Vernon Martin, preserved the lives of so many others,” said Portis.

The battle of Kamdesh claimed eight American lives and resulted in the awarding of 2 Medals of Honor, 27 Purple Heart Medals, 37 Army Commendation Medals with “V” device for valor, 18 Bronze Stars with “V” device and nine Silver Stars.

“Medal upgrades aren’t unheard of but in fairness they are rare, they are very rare,” Murkowski said, “It’s said they almost require an act of Congress, well in this case it did require an act of Congress.”

Medal of Honor recipients Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha and Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, veterans of the Battle of Kamdesh, attended the ceremony.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

popular

This Medal of Honor recipient blocked out being paralyzed to finish the mission

Drafted into the Army in March of 1968, George Lang graduated boot camp and went right into advanced infantry training before heading off to the jungles of Vietnam.


In February of 1969, Lang was scheduled to go on leave when an intelligence officer got word of enemy movement closing in.

Lang had just spit-shined his boots when the company first sergeant updated him on his new mission. Lang put his leave on hold and geared up without hesitation. He and his squad loaded up on “tangos” (boats) and proceeded down the river toward their objective.

Lang and his men maneuvered down the canal toward Kien Hoa Province in South Vietnam, where they eventually dismounted the “tangos” and proceeded inland on foot.

After only 50-meters of patrolling, the anxious squad came in contact with a series of bunkers, linked together by communication wires.

Taking point, Lang was first to spot five armed men guarding the area — he quickly engaged. After expelling a full magazine and getting hit by enemy artillery, the squad came under attack by an additional, but unexpected force — red ants.

The squad dashed toward a shallow pond while under fire to wash off the six-legged attackers. Cleaned off and ready to go, the soldiers located a blood trail and followed it to find the bodies of the VC troops they previously engaged.

Suddenly, another barrage of incoming fire opened up from a nearby bunker, killing a handful of Americans. Lang sprinted toward the dug-in position and took it out with his rifle and a few hand grenades.

Also Read: 3 key differences between Recon Marines and Marine Raiders

Lang destroyed a total of three enemy bunkers, which were also full of weapons. Upon returning to his squad, a deadly rocket detonated nearby, shooting hot shrapnel into Lang’s back, damaging his spinal cord.

Unable to move his legs and suffering unbelievable pain, Lang continued to direct his men. After several hours of coordinating troop movement and medical evacuations, Lang was finally removed from the battlefield and brought to safety for treatment.

On March 2, 1971, George Lang was awarded the Medal of Honor from former President Richard Nixon.

Check out the Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear this incredible story from the legend himself.

(Medal of Honor Book | YouTube)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia appears to be lying about size of military exercises

In September 2018, Russia kicked off its Vostok-18 military exercises, drills that defense officials claim involve some 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, 1,000 aircraft, and scores of warships and have touted as “unprecedented in scale.”

That’s roughly a third of the entire Russia military, much of which would have to be moved to the far east to participate in these large-scale maneuvers.

2018’s version of the Vostok, or East, exercise is billed as the largest ever, topping the 1981 Zapad, or West, military exercise, which took place in the Baltic Sea area and Eastern Europe amid heightened tension with the US after President Ronald Reagan took office.


Vostok is a no doubt a major undertaking for Russia’s armed forces — and a major geopolitical development, given the inclusion of Chinese forces for the first time — but there are a number of reasons to believe Moscow is overstating the forces it has mustered.

The logistical challenges of moving that many personnel and their equipment cast doubt on the stated numbers.

The 300,000 troops Russian officials have said would participate would be roughly one-third of the country’s military. Gathering such a force would be a considerable financial challenge in light of Russia’s decreasing defense spending and its standing military commitments elsewhere, according to The Diplomat. By comparison, that force would represent roughly two-thirds of the much better funded and equipped active-duty US Army.

How sailors navigated before GPS

Tanks rolling during the Vostok 2018 military exercises in Russia.

A conservative estimate of the vehicles in the Central and Eastern military districts is around 7,000 to 10,000. Bringing in roughly 25,000 more vehicles would clog railways and highways, and shuttling in that many troops would likely overwhelm Russia’s military logistics structure.

The size of the force involved is likely around 50,000 to 100,000, according to The Diplomat. Other estimates put it around 150,000 — about the size of the Vostok-81 exercise — which is still very massive force.

Inflating the number of military personnel involved in such exercises is nothing new for Russia. And there appear to be a number of types of legerdemain through which Russian officials carry it out.

The stated total — 297,000, to be precise — likely includes all units stationed in the Central and Eastern military districts, as well as those in the Northern and Eastern Fleets and in the airborne units that are taking part.

“For every battalion fielded they will likely count the entire brigade, and for a few regiments an entire division, etc.,” writes Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at CNA and the Wilson Center.

Many of those are involved may not ever venture into the field, instead remaining at command posts. (The US has also counted geographically dispersed units as taking part in certain exercises, but typically at much smaller scales.)

Participation may go beyond uniformed troops and include civilian reserves, Jeffrey Edmonds, a former Russia director for the National Security Council, told Voice of America

Edmonds noted that other units, like those operating in western Russia, may be included in some tallies.

Moscow has also likely counted under-strength units at full strength and included units that have been alerted or are indirectly involved — like those that are taking over assignments from units that are redeploying to actually take part, according to The Diplomat.

How sailors navigated before GPS

Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The figures presented by Moscow for these kinds of exercises could be called “true lies,” Kofman told Voice of America, “in that they’re statistical lies whereby the Russian army’s General Staff tallies every single unit-formation that either sends somebody to the exercise or has some tangential command component in it.”

“So these numbers are not entirely fictional, but you have to divide them by a substantial amount to get any sense of how big the exercise actually is,” Kofman added.

Such sleight of hand is not new — similar tactics were used during the Cold War — and using them now may also be meant to avoid adding to anger over reduced social spending and proposed hikes to pension-eligibility ages.

Russia faces economic and demographic challenges, and, as noted by Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert and fellow at the European University Institute, the government spends an outsize portion of its federal budget on security.

Overstating the number of forces involved also likely serves broader geopolitical purposes.

Over the past decade and a half, President Vladimir Putin has turned a weakened military into a capable force, but the Russian leader is aware that his country lags in objective measures of strength, Galeotti notes at The Atlantic.

“Instead, [Putin] relies on bluff and bluster, theater and shadow play,” Galeotti writes. “He wants to project an image of a dangerous yet confident country, one that should be placated, not challenged.”

China’s inclusion may also indicate a shift in Moscow’s thinking.

Previous iterations of the Vostok exercise were meant to send a message to Beijing, which Moscow long viewed as a rival. The relatively small Chinese contingent taking part this year has been interpreted as a message to the West that Russia is not isolated and could further embrace China.

Many doubt a formal military alliance between China and Russia is in the offing, instead seeing their cooperation on Vostok — they have carried out joint military exercises elsewhere — as an effort by both sides to balance against US and by Russia to allay Chinese concerns about the target of the exercises.

“Maybe the announcements of how big it’s going to be is a reaction to hostilities with the West, but the actual exercise itself is a pretty standard Russian military activity,” Edmonds, now a research scientist at CNA, told Voice of America.

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

Articles

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

The Blackhawks are one of the lesser-known superheroes in the DC Comics pantheon today, but from the 1940s to the 1960s, they were big names. The only hero who outsold them during the early years of their run was Superman.


Part of the appeal was their planes. In the 1950s, their primary mount was the Lockheed F-90, which they used to fight off their monster and alien foes.

But here’s the kicker – the plane they flew has some origin in fact, but it never got past the flight test stage.

How sailors navigated before GPS
F-90 with the Blackhawks. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Dubbed the “XF-90,” the experimental plane’s tale is one of the few real failures that came from Lockheed’s legendary Skunk Works.

According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Air Force was looking for a long-range jet fighter to escort bombers to targets. Lockheed went with the F-90, and proceeded to build it in a very sturdy fashion.

The good news was that this was one tough plane, and had six 20mm cannon (enough to blast just about any plane out of the sky), but it weighed 50 percent more than its competitor, the XF-88 Voodoo from McDonnell.

From the get-go, the XF-90 had problems. The plane was underpowered and was outperformed by the F-86A — even when afterburners were added to the plane’s two XJ34 jet engines. The Air Force chose the XF-88 Voodoo to be its penetration fighter, but that never went into production.

Only two XF-90s were built.

How sailors navigated before GPS

Lockheed had tried a number of other options, including the use of a single J47 engine to boost the F-90s performance, but there was too much re-design work involved. The first F-90 version the Blackhawks used, the F-90B, did feature a single engine. The second version, the F-90C, was said to be lighter version of the F-90B.

The Blackhawks eventually faded — partially due to some bad 1960s storylines — and the super hero team was eventually eclipsed by Batman and many of the superheroes who are familiar today.

And as for the XF-90 prototypes? One was tested to destruction by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and the other was banged up in the nuclear tests of the 1950s.

That second plane is currently in storage at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how air crews learned to navigate in World War II

These days, when a plane sets off to drop bombs on a target, all the pilot needs to do is punch the coordinates into their Global Positioning System and follow the steering cues on the heads-up display — pretty straightforward. In fact, GPS has become so enmeshed in the military that the Air Force ran some training on how to fight without it.

But back in World War II, such technology didn’t exist. They used only the classic navigational tools: a map, a compass, and some intuition.


How sailors navigated before GPS

Today’s navigators have GPS and a host of other technologies that make getting from Point A to Point B easy.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

So, how did they figure out their position using just a map and a compass in the cramped quarters of an airplane? The answer is old-fashioned hard work and diligent training.

Back then, navigators undertook about 500 hours of ground instruction. Assuming they had ten hours of classes per day, five days a week, that amounts to ten weeks spent on the ground. Then, they did another another 100 hours of training in the air. At the end, they needed to be able to plot a route with a course error no greater than 11 degrees, being no more than one minute off per hour of flight time. They also had to get within fifteen miles of an objective during a night flight.

How sailors navigated before GPS

This 1946 photo shows the level of technology available to World War II air crews. Much of it was done with maps, a compass, radar (if the plane was really advanced), and a fair bit of guesswork.

(USAF)

During World War II, some new navigation technology, like radio beacons, helped navigators bring their planes home. Over 50,000 personnel were trained to navigate aircraft to the precision requirements mentioned above.

Check out the video blow to see some of what would-be navigators were taught about maps and compasses.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQrGbz1dczY

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Lawmakers want to give $2,500 bonus to GWOT vets

Two U.S. lawmakers on March 4, 2019, introduced legislation to pay veterans bonuses for serving in America’s longest war.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, introduced the bipartisan American Forces Going Home After Noble (AFGHAN) Service Act to “honor the volunteers who bravely serve our nation by providing bonuses to those who have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism, and redirect the savings from ending nation-building in Afghanistan to America’s needs at home,” according to an announcement.


If passed, the AFGHAN Service Act would also permanently end America’s involvement in Afghanistan and overturn the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, said the lawmakers, who serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“It is time to declare the victory we achieved long ago, bring them home, and put America’s needs first,” Paul said.

How sailors navigated before GPS

A machine gun crew with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, sets up an overwatch position during a foot patrol May 8, 2012, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

“Soon, U.S. service members will begin deploying to Afghanistan to fight in a war that began before they were born,” Udall said. “It is Congress that has failed to conduct the proper oversight of this nearly 18-year war. Now, we must step up, and listen to the American people — who rightly question the wisdom of such endless wars.”

The bill would order the government to pay any and all members of the military who have served in the Global War on Terrorism a ,500 bonus within one year of the legislation passing, according to the AFGHAN Service Act.

“Since 2001, more than 3,002,635 men and women of the United States Armed Forces have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism, with more than 1,400,000 of them deploying more than once,” the bill states.

“This would be a one-time cost of approximately billion and an immediate savings of over 83 percent when compared to the current yearly costs. The billion a year can be redirected to domestic priorities.”

The lawmakers argue that the numbers alone give reason to step away from the conflict.

How sailors navigated before GPS

Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division patrol a small village during an air assault mission in eastern Afghanistan, Nov. 4, 2008.

(Photo by Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez)

“Over 2,300 military members have sacrificed their lives in the war, with another 20,000 wounded in action. In addition, the Afghanistan war has cost the United States trillion, with the war currently costing over billion a year,” they said.

The end to the war would come as peace negotiations with the Taliban are ongoing, and al-Qaida’s footprint in the country is shrinking, they added.

“The masterminds of the [Sept. 11] attack are no longer capable of carrying out such an attack from Afghanistan,” they said. “Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, and [al-Qaida] has been all but eliminated from Afghanistan.”

If enacted, the legislation gives Pentagon and State Department leaders, among others, 45 days to formulate a plan for an orderly withdrawal and turnover of facilities to the Afghan government.

The goal is to remove all U.S. forces from Afghanistan within one year of the bill’s passage.

How sailors navigated before GPS

Soldiers of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment move into position to support the Afghan National Police.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel)

Paul and Udall’s message comes as a coalition of Democratic lawmakers has endorsed a veteran activist organization’s efforts to end the “forever wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other global hot spots, and finally bring U.S. troops home.

Common Defense, a grassroots group comprised of veterans and military families that stood up after the 2016 election, has secured sponsorship from lawmakers and presidential hopefuls such as Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.

Both initiatives mirror President Donald Trump’s vision to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan and instead focus on counterterrorism and peace negotiations with a smaller footprint in the region.

In his State of the Union address in February 2019, Trump highlighted the need to pull out of Afghanistan.

“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he said.

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

Articles

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

For most soldiers in the Vietnam-era, the time between getting drafted or volunteering and their heading to war was short. The Army had each draftee for only two years. After they were shipped to basic, trained, shipped overseas, plus the time needed to ship home and use their two months of accrued leave, each draftee could expect a year of deployed time preceded by 4-6 months of training.


How sailors navigated before GPS
Paratroopers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team fighting on Hill 823 during the Battle of Dak To. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Volunteers, especially officers, had it a little better. They may train for up to a year before deploying — attending advanced training like Ranger School after basic and job training.

Either way, they were expected to grow from boys to men quickly. For the three men in this video, that growth would be harder than most. The veterans fought at the Battle of Dak To, one of the bloodiest American battles of the war. Hill 875, the single costliest terrain feature of the war, was captured there.

A recently recovered film of the Battle of Dak To shows two hours of fighting in and around Hill 724, another tough terrain feature captured. Bob Walkoviak, one of the veterans in the discussion above, fought on the hill and helped find the lost footage.
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How US Air Force pilot landed his F-35 safely after a mid-air power failure

The day started like any other Thursday fly day. We briefed, put on our flight gear and stepped to the jets. Startup, taxi, takeoff and departure to the airspace all went as planned.

Upon reaching the outer limits of Salt Lake City airspace, I felt the cabin pressurize, the air conditioning stop and a warning tone annunciate in my headset and on the panoramic cockpit displays.

While maintaining aircraft control and keeping a safe distance from my flight lead, I looked at my Integrated Caution and Warnings, or ICAWs, and saw that I had an “IPP FAIL” warning along with an advisory telling me that I was now using the auxiliary oxygen bottle instead of the Onboard Oxygen Generation System, better known as OBOGS.


In the F-35 Lightning II, loss of the Integrated Power Package, or IPP, means loss of OBOGS, cabin pressurization, cooling functions to many vehicle systems, backup generator power and numerous other functions.

From my emergency procedures training, I knew the first steps in the 11-step checklist were to descend below 17,000 mean sea level, manually turn on the backup oxygen system, bring the throttle to idle for five seconds and actuate the flight control system/engine reset switch. These critical steps made sure I wasn’t exposed to any physiological effects from the cabin depressurizing or losing the OBOGS and hopefully reset the IPP without further troubleshooting.

How sailors navigated before GPS

A US Air Force F-35A from the 421st Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, takes off during Operation Rapid Forge at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, July 18, 2019

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Unfortunately, these initial actions did not reset the IPP, so I radioed my flight lead to let him know what was happening. He confirmed that I had completed the initial checklist actions, gave me the lead and backed me up in the checklist. I saw no other abnormal indications other than the IPP warning, so I began the process to manually reset the IPP. At this time, there was no urgent need to land, so we maintained our flight plan to the airspace with hopes a successful reset would allow us to continue our mission.

I began the reset procedure, and after a few minutes, the IPP FAIL went away, indicating the jet believed I had a successful reset; however, things did not seem right in the cockpit. The air conditioning seemed weak and I did not feel or see the cabin pressurize as expected. Realizing this, I pushed my power up to military power, or MIL, and within a few seconds got a second IPP FAIL warning.

After the second failure, my flight lead and I concurred that we needed to return to base quickly. It was a warm day in September, and degraded aircraft cooling could be an issue. He took the radios and began coordinating with Salt Lake Center Approach while I finished up with the checklist.

I turned my cabin pressure switch to RAM, or ram air, which allows for outside air cooling for flight critical systems and also turned off my nonessential avionics to reduce the cooling load. We declared an emergency, approach cleared us to our normal recovery pattern and we began to prepare for landing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

How sailors navigated before GPS

A US Air Force F-35A, from the 421st Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, during Operation Rapid Forge, July 16, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kyle Cope)

As we pointed to our recovery point, another ICAW annunciated, indicating degraded cooling to my flight control system. This ICAW was expected when the IPP failed; however, when I opened the checklist, I initially went to the failed cooling page, which told me to land as soon as possible. I told my flight lead, we pointed directly to the field for a visual straight-in approach, and I began to dump fuel — something I should have considered prior to this point due to still having roughly 13,000 pounds of fuel; well above what I wanted to land with.

We switched to the supervisor of flying, or SOF, frequency and updated him on our plan. The SOF backed us up and made sure we were all on the same checklist. This was when I realized that I needed to reference the degraded cooling checklist, which was right next to the failed cooling checklist. It did not change our game plan, but it was something I could have handled better during the emergency procedure.

As I flew to a 5-mile final, my flight lead told me to focus on flying a good final and adhering to all normal checklists. The last thing either of us wanted was to make an emergency situation worse by flying a bad approach.

At 5-mile final, I put my gear handle down and the gear extended normally. Seconds after putting my gear down, I heard another warning tone and saw another ICAW, this time indicating some serious cooling issues had occurred to my voltage converters, which are critical for several aircraft functions that allow us to land. This ICAW starts a worst-case, 14-minute timer for gear, brake and hook actuation.

I did not have time to reference my checklist since I was already on 5-mile final, so I told my flight lead to confirm checklist steps with the SOF, primarily for immediate concerns and after-landing considerations. The landing was normal, and I elected to taxi clear of the runway and shutdown as soon as possible since I now had multiple cooling issues.

How sailors navigated before GPS

Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II returning to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, after a two-month European deployment, July 31, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Overall, IPP FAILs are not common in the F-35, but they do happen from time to time and we train frequently to emergency procedures in simulators to handle them correctly. As a young wingman in a single-seat fighter, I learned — and confirmed — five good lessons that I believe are applicable for any airframe and pilot:

  1. Always maintain your composure and accomplish each phase of flight or emergency procedures one step at a time.
  2. Take your time and maintain control of your aircraft before digging into a checklist.
  3. Use the resources around you to back up your diagnosis and decisions. This will allow you to focus on the highest priority tasks. In this case, I had an awesome flight lead who took the radios and trusted my ability to handle what I was seeing. The supervisor of flying backed me up on checklist management and our game plan, and Salt Lake Approach Control got us where we needed to go in an expedited manner.
  4. Checklist management is critical, especially in a single-seat, single-engine aircraft with hundreds of different checklists. I believe this was something I could have done better as we made our recovery back to Hill AFB.
  5. Once you are on final and prepared to land, focus on making a good approach and landing a bad aircraft, as to not make a bad situation worse. My flight lead did a great job reminding me of that and making sure my mind was in the right place as we approached final.

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

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