Unlike the United States, which threw at least a half-dozen outstanding fighters at the Axis in World War II (the F4F Wildcat, the F4U Corsair, the F6F Hellcat, the P-38 Lightning, the P-47 Thunderbolt, and the P-51 Mustang, just to name a few), Nazi Germany relied heavily on two major fighters throughout the war.
One of those planes was produced in staggering numbers, especially when compared to some of today’s planes. Its time in service extended two decades beyond the end of World War II and, in a stroke of irony, this plane actually went on to help a new country stand up against genocidal foes.
That plane was the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke Bf 109.
Many know this plane as the Messerschmidt Me 109, but that’s a misnomer. While it was designed by Willy Messerschmidt, the planes designed through the early stages of World War II had the prefix ‘Bf,’ which stands for Bayerische Flugzeugwerke, or “Bavarian Aircraft Factories” in English. It was only later that the company took the name of Messerschmidt — and with it, the ‘Me’ prefix.
Nazi Germany built over 33,000 Bf 109 fighters.
(German Federal Archives)
The Bf 109 had a top speed of 359 miles per hour and a maximum range of 680 miles. Depending on the variant, Bf 109s were equipped with either 7.9mm machine guns or autocannons. Over 33,000 Bf 109s were produced during the war, making it the most-produced fighter aircraft in history. Even more Bf 109s were designed and built after the war in Spain and Czechoslovakia as well.
Czech-built versions of the Bf 109, known as the S-199, served in the Israeli Air Force.
The planes proved difficult to fly, however, and were replaced by 1950.
Licence-built Bf 109s in Spain had a variety of engines, including the Rolls Royce Merlin.
(Photo by Alan Wilson)
Spain’s Hispano HA-1112, a designed based on the Bf 109, stayed in service until 1965. These variants were notable for using a variety of engines, the Rolls Royce Merlin famously used by the P-51 Mustang.
Learn more about this classic German fighter in the video below.
Samuel Woodfill already had a lengthy career in the U.S. Army by the time the United States declared war on Germany in 1917. The son of a Mexican-American War and Civil War veteran, he enlisted in 1901 at the age of 18 and left his native Indiana.
After basic training, Pvt. Woodfill found himself assigned to the 11th Infantry Regiment stationed in the Philippines. He saw action in various campaigns against the rebellious Moros and earned accolades as a crack shot and for his “honest and faithful service.” In 1910, Woodfill left the Philippines for a number of duty stations. Over the next seven years, he would see service in Alaska, Kentucky, and on the Mexican border. But he would not see any more combat in that time.
Then, everything changed. America declared war on Germany. Woodfill, then a sergeant, attended an officer training course and received a temporary wartime rank of 2nd lieutenant. Soon after, he was given command of a machine gun company of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 5th Division. Finally, in April 1918 his unit sailed for France.
However, the 5th Division stayed in the rear until October 1918 when they were sent to the front to take part in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
Woodfill was leading his company in an attack near the village of Cunel when they came under heavy German machine gun fire from multiple positons. He ordered his company to take cover while he moved forward alone to scope out the situation.
The three German positions were well concealed in some bushes, an old barn, and a derelict church, respectively. Woodfill took aim at the machine gunner firing on his men in the church tower about 300 yards away. Unable to make out the gunner, he simply took aim at a position behind the muzzle flash and pulled the trigger. The gun fell silent. This was repeated four more times, as each German crewmember stepped forward to take their place on the gun.
Woodfill dropped another five-round clip in his Springfield and moved on to the next target. A single shot at the German in the barn put an end to the firing from that position.
He next maneuvered on a third machine gun position. In doing so, he took cover in a shell hole filled with lingering mustard gas. He approached to within ten yards of the position. Then, in rapid succession, he dispatched three of the crew members with his rifle. A fourth, a German officer, charged Woodfill and engaged him in hand-to-hand combat. He overcame the officer and killed him with a M1911 pistol.
With this line of machine guns silenced, Lt. Woodfill’s company continued their advance until they were again held up by a German machine gun nest. The officer once again raced forward to single-handedly attack the position. He killed the entire machine gun crew with his rifle before capturing three ammunition carriers from the position.
As the advance continued, Woodfill’s men again ran into murderous German machine gun fire. And once again their leader charged forward to handle the situation. Woodfill dispatched this crew with five shots from his rifle before drawing his pistol and charging the position to take on the remaining men. He killed one man with his pistol before grabbing a nearby pick axe and bludgeoning the other to death.
By this time, Woodfill was suffering heavily from exposure to mustard gas and was limping from a shrapnel wound. He was evacuated from the front lines and sent to Bordeaux to recover.
On Jan. 22, 1919, Woodfill was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions the previous fall. The next month, Gen. John Pershing personally presented the award to the young lieutenant.
In 1921, Gen. Pershing bestowed two more honors on Woodfill. When asked that year to name the outstanding American soldier of the Great War, Pershing surprised everyone by naming Lt. Samuel Woodfill, claiming he had always considered him “America’s Greatest Doughboy,” over the likes of Alvin York, Charles Wittlesey of the Lost Battalion, and even Eddie Rickenbacker.
Pershing then named Woodfill as a pallbearer, this time along with Alvin York, for the internment of the first Unknown Soldier.
The legendary soldier, having reverted to his pre-war enlisted status, retired from the Army as a Master Sergeant in 1923. However, he served his country again during World War II. Then commissioned a Major, he trained and inspired young officers as they prepared for the great challenges ahead.
Woodfill’s final service to his country was to once again act as a pallbearer, this time for his former commanding officer and supporter, Gen. Pershing. Woodfill himself passed away at the age of 68 in August 1951.
Have you ever noticed how birds fly in a V formation? Well, this isn’t just some fluke of nature, nor is it a defensive deterrent to aerial predators like it was for WWII bombers. Rather, avian scientists have determined that birds fly in V formations, especially on long migratory flights, in order to increase their aerodynamic efficiencies by flying in close formation.
The lead bird creates an updraft that the trail birds can take advantage of in order to reduce their own energy output. It’s similar to the technique of drafting that racing drivers use to overtake each other. By sitting closely behind the driver in front, the overall effect of drag on the driver behind is reduced. This allows the trail driver to save energy by exploiting the lead driver’s slipstream.
A computer rendering of the updraft that fello’fly is trying to take advantage of (Airbus)
Airbus has begun investigating the principle of wake energy retrieval for airplanes. They call it the Airbus fello’fly demonstrator project. By applying the principle to commercial planes, they aim to reduce CO2 emissions from widebody operations by 3-4 million tons per year. However, flying in formation poses a number of risks and challenges to all parties involved in the proposed passenger formation flights.
For airlines, the first problem that will have to be addressed is determining which planes will fly together on a given day. For air navigation service providers, the challenge will be bringing the planes together in formation in a safe and efficient manner. In order to conduct their study, Airbus has partnered with two airlines, French Bee and SAS Scandinavian Airlines, and three ANSPs, the French DSNA, the UK’s NATS, and EUROCONTROL.
ATC would coordinate the rendezvous of the two planes (Airbus)
The easiest approach to coordinating formations will be to apply the principle to frequently flown routes first. For example, the transatlantic route sees heavy traffic between the East Coast of the United States and Western Europe. In this example, a plane flying from London to New York would be paired with a plane flying from Paris to Washington, D.C. Fello’fly proposes that once both flights are in oceanic airspace, a single ANSP would assume control and bring the two planes together.
According to current regulations, planes in oceanic airspace are required to maintain a distance of 30-50 nautical miles. However, fello’fly suggests that the planes would have to close that distance to just 1.5 nautical miles in order to take advantage of wake energy retrieval. The two flights would be directed by air traffic control to arrive at a designated oceanic clearance point before entering their transatlantic route. ATC would direct both planes to arrive at the point at the same time, but on two different flight levels and separated by 1,000 feet of altitude. The trail aircraft would then be guided into position 1.5 nautical miles behind the lead aircraft and still 1,000 feet below. From here, the pilots would employ flight assistance functions in order to move their aircraft into the wake energy retrieval positions. The trail plane would sit in the updraft of the lead plane and both aircraft would be identified as a single formation flight until they separated to head to their respective destinations.
The pilots would be guided into position by assistance systems (Airbus)
The first step in making flying formation a reality for commercial flights is to create standard operating procedures and regulations in order to ensure that the practice is safely implemented. Airbus’ fello’fly team is working closely with airlines and ANSPs to generate these guidelines. “In the aviation industry, achieving our emission-reduction targets will require implementing innovative new ways to use aircraft in the skies,” said fello’fly Demonstrator Leader Nick Macdonald. “Our collaboration with our airline partners and ANSPs on fello’fly shows that we’re making good progress towards these goals.” Initial flight tests have already begun as the fello’fly team evaluates pilot assistance technology to ensure optimal conditions for safety when planes fly in formation. Fello’fly aims to conduct flight demonstrations in oceanic airspace in 2021, and involve airlines, ANSPs, and a controlled Entry-Into-Service by 2025. In the near future, commercial planes might fly like formations of birds or B-17 bombers.
The reign of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (or USSR) came to a screeching halt in 1991. After 68 years of reign, the collective of socialist countries were dissolved and reformed into new borders and republic entities.
This month, we look back on the August Coup, when Soviet Communists failed their takeover, and eventually, to the dissolution to the Soviet Union as a whole.
Take a look at the best memes we found commemorating this important event in world history.
When talking the future of helicopters, the Sikorsky S-97 Raider has been figuring prominently in the discussion. This is because the Raider holds the potential for high performance not seen since the AH-56 Cheyenne took to the skies. Now it has gotten its “test flight” card, and according to DefenseNews.com, the Raider will get its chance to show its stuff.
The Raider had a bit of a setback last year when the first prototype had what was called a “hard landing” (really a delicate way of saying it crashed). The Raider uses what is known as X2 technology, which uses a combination of counter-rotating main rotors and a pusher in the tail to attain high speeds. While the Raider itself has only pushed past 150 knots, the X2 demonstrator blew past 250 knots in 2010.
Plans call for the Raider to push past 200 knots in the testing. The Raider is seen as a contender for armed reconnaissance missions, where two other helicopters, the RAH-66 Comanche and the ARH-70 Arapaho, did not manage to reach front-line service. The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior was retired, and the scout mission was passed to the AH-64 Apache.
The S-97 Raider is seen as a contender for the armed reconnaissance role.
(Lockheed Martin graphic)
The Raider and the larger SB-1 Defiant are among the designs contending for all or part of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program. The goal of this program is to replace the current Army helicopters, including the classic UH-60 Blackhawk, CH-47 Chinook, and AH-64 Apache with more advanced airframes through a series of Joint Multi-Role Helicopters.
The S-97 uses a pusher rotor, much like that on the AH-56 Cheyenne.
(Lockheed Martin photo)
The plan is to shrink the current inventory from 25 types of helicopters and tiltrotors to as few as five: JMR-Light, a new scout helicopter; JMR Medium-Light; JMR-Medium, which will replace the AH-64 and UH-60; JMR-Heavy, a replacement for the CH-47; and JMR-Ultra, which will combine the payload and performance of the C-130J with vertical lift capability.
The first of these next-generation helicopters could emerge as soon as 2027. But we are getting a glimpse at what they will be able to do now.
Think of all the parts of the U.S. government that can and should have a plan to keep working after a nuclear attack. The Department of Defense? Sure. Congress? Yup. FBI, NSA, and CIA? Yeah, they seem necessary in the aftermath. But there are two groups you may not have thought of who plan to dig in and get the job done: The IRS and the USPS.
Yeah, you’re almost certain to keep getting taxed after a nuclear attack, and you might even be getting notices through the mail (though, not if you were in the city that got hit).
But the IRS and USPS weren’t focused on that, and they were actually working with the Parks Service for a good reason: Those three agencies were key to a rebuilding plan.
If your city is hit by a hurricane or crippled by an earthquake, you’re evacuated to cities outside of the danger zone. But if multiple cities or dozens are hit with nuclear bombs, then there likely won’t be suitable infrastructure to support all the refugees in nearby cities. So, the plan was to move them to the national parks.
A role player pretends to be injured during Exercise Scarlet Response at Guardian Center, Georgia.
(U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Dylan Bowyer)
But what then? Hundreds of thousands of lives would be gone, and billions of dollars in buildings and infrastructure destroyed. Even in the midst of the grief, the government would have a job to do. There would be millions of people living in the parks, and it would fall to the USPS to process who had remained in the city, who had escaped, and who had died.
And that could include delivering notices of new tax plans. If only one or two cities were lost then, as crazy as it sounds, that would mean the IRS could get back to business as usual with few major changes. It would be horrible, but the American economy would shake itself off and get back up.
But a more extensive attack would’ve changed the way the U.S. worked for generations. There would be no guarantee that income and corporate taxes could cover the insane costs necessary to rebuild lost cities, decontaminate hundreds of square miles of terrain, and support the war being waged against the attacker.
So the Treasury Department had a plan to restart the economy and to help the IRS develop a new collection plan within 30 days of an attack. The new tax plan could be something as simple as a flat sales tax (congratulations, libertarians!) That would greatly simplify the IRS’s job, something that would be pretty necessary if their offices in Washington D.C. were hit.
And it would be necessary in a cash-based economy. Yes, cash-based. The plan was to slowly release stockpiled billion in cash until they could get back to printing money. In an odd twist of fate, that was mostly two-dollar bills. A 1970s printing run of the currency had failed to impress the public, so the government just used the unpopular bills to create their stockpile.
As a showcase for the fourth biennial Gainey Cup International Best Scout Squad Competition, the U.S. Army Armor School hosted the Scouts in Action demonstration, April 29, 2019, at Red Cloud Range.
The Gainey Cup determines the best six-soldier scout squad in the Army and internationally by testing squads on their scout and cavalry skills, their physical stamina, and their cohesion as a team.
(Photo by Mr. Markeith Horace)
The Scouts in Action demonstration was an opportunity for the Armor School to tell the history of the U.S. Cavalry and to show the public what scout squads do for their units, according to Capt. Tim Sweeney, Cavalry Leaders Course instructor.
“Part of what we do in the cavalry is really in the shadows and really hidden from the world to see, because that’s the nature of our business,” said Sweeney. “[Scouts in Action] was a demonstration of the different weapons platforms that we have and how they can be used to execute missions on the battlefield. So we’re just bringing what the Cav does to light.”
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, right, the namesake of the biennial Gainey Cup, speaks to competitors before the Recon Run.
(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)
During the historical portion of Scouts in Action, the spectators, which included soldiers, civilians and Family members, saw scouts as they would have appeared in period uniforms as they would have ridden or driven period conveyances. They rode horses as Army scouts would have during the Civil War and drove jeeps as Army scouts would have during World War II. Then they drove the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, the Bradley fighting vehicle and the Stryker armored vehicle, all from the latter part of the 20th century.
(Photo by Mr. Markeith Horace)
As part of the demonstration of scout skills for the audience, a scout squad performed aerial reconnaissance using a drone. After a notional enemy fired upon the scouts the scouts fired back. Their HMMWV got several rounds off in a one-second burst. Then a Bradley fighting vehicle joined the aciton. Then scouts in Abrams tanks fired at the enemy, each concussive thud knocking up dust.
(Photo by Mr. Markeith Horace)
“So today was the demonstration of the firepower they have,” said Sweeney. “Then over the next three days, they’ll use that firepower and use their dismounted capabilities to execute the missions and really achieve their commander’s end state.”
When the demonstration concluded, the spectators had the opportunity to get refreshments, talk with soldiers and explore some of the vehicles they had just seen in action. The demonstration served as a public entry point to the competition already in progress.
(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)
The scout squads arrived the week before and took part in knowledge tests, vehicle identification, a call for fire, a gunnery skills test and a land navigation course.
Units participating this year include the 1st Armored Division; 1st Cavalry Division; 1st, 3rd, 4th, 7th and 25th Infantry Divisions; 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team; 10th Mountain Division; 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions; 2nd, 3rd and 134th Cavalry Regiments; 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment; U.S. Army Alaska; 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment; and the Canadian, Great Britain, Netherlands and German armies.
(Photo by Mr. Markeith Horace)
The squads began the second week of competition with an early morning reconnaissance run at Brave Rifles Field at Harmony Church. During the reconnaissance run, the six-person scout squads must run in uniform and with gear over a set course they do not know the distance to. The course is complete once every member of a squad crosses the finish line back at Brave Rifles Field.
(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)
Over three days, the squads will perform exercises that synthesize skills they were evaluated on during the first week. A scout squad proficiency exercise requires the scout squads to orient on a reconnaissance objective while performing reconnaissance on 20 kilometers of terrain occupied by enemy forces. During the scout skills event, the squads must maneuver within their vehicle while collecting and reporting information. As part of a lethality exercise, the squads must conduct a tactical mission under live fire, and then they receive a grade according to their ability to report and engage the enemy force.
(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)
Besides drawing focus to the scout mission operational specialty, the competition also serves as a training event for the U.S. Armor School and the units the scout squads represent.
(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)
“This competition does a very good job of highlighting the capabilities and limitations that Cavalry scouts encounter, so it’s a way that units can continue to build their training plan, and the Army can look at training and figure out how we can become more and more lethal,” he said.
(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)
The final event of the competition is the Final Charge scheduled for 8 a.m. May 3, 2019, at Brave Rifles Field. After the final charge, the awards ceremony is scheduled to begin.
Some weapons are universally loved by the troops that carry them. Others somehow make it past the drawing board, through testing, and into the hands of soldiers — who then hate them. These are the most reviled.
6. The Ross Rifle
The Ross Rifle was a Canadian rifle with some interesting design features that saw service in WWI. For one, it had a single-motion bolt that was supposed to make it quicker to fire than the turn-and-pull style of conventional rifles. However, this feature also allowed for the rifle to be reassembled incorrectly and still fire, which resulted in the bolt flying out the back and killing or maiming the shooter.
Also, despite excellent accuracy in range conditions, the rifle proved very susceptible to jamming when caked with the dirt and mud of combat. Additionally, the bayonet of the Ross also had a tendency to fall off when the weapon was fired. The performance of the rifle was so poor that many Canadian soldiers discarded them in favor of Lee-Enfields they took from dead British soldiers.
5. Breda 30
The Breda 30 was an Italian light machine gun used in WWII. Italian designers were having trouble with round extraction and arrived at a solution that arguably made things worse. The gun had a system that lubricated each cartridge as it entered the chamber with the idea that it would make extraction easier. In reality, the oil attracted dust and dirt, which fouled the action and slowed the gun’s rate of fire. Despite the slowed rate of fire, the barrel would still heat up, which would inevitably heat up the oil and, in turn, cook off a round in the chamber.
If that wasn’t a poor enough design, the gun also had a fixed, 20-round box magazine that had to be loaded with stripper clips. To say the troops weren’t fond of the Breda would be an understatement. The Breda was such a poor weapon, Italian troops often had battles turn against them because they could not keep up sufficient fire.
4. Sten gun
The Sten gun is one of those weapons that, despite serious drawbacks, was able to stay in service after much-needed improvements. Designed and built under the threat of a German invasion, the early models of the Sten, especially the Mk II’s and Mk III’s, were cheap and poorly made, earnings them nicknames, such as “Plumber’s abortion” and “the Stench gun.”
Sten guns were notoriously unreliable and had issues with misfires, even when simply set down. The issues were so pervasive that units would extensively test their Sten guns before combat in order to weed out the bad ones. Eventually, as improvements were made and quality improved, Mk V versions of the Sten would see combat with British paratroopers and other frontline units.
3. FP-45 Liberator
The FP-45 Liberator was a small gun meant to be distributed to guerrillas and resistance forces throughout Europe and Asia. The pistol, though firing a .45 caliber round, was only single-shot and required a wooden dowel to remove the spent cartridge. It also had an effective range of about 25 feet.
This was meant to have a great psychological effect on the enemy. However, the pistol never really got a chance to be hated by the troops as neither the generals in Europe or the Pacific saw the weapon as worth using. Large numbers of the pistols were passed on to the OSS, but they didn’t find them worth giving out either.
Like the Sten gun, the M16 had a troubled beginning but, after improvements, later found affection from the troops who carried it. In its early days, in the jungles of Vietnam, the supposedly self-cleaning rifle failed in combat conditions. The major problem was a “failure to extract,” or when the chamber became fouled due to excessive firing. U.S. troops, not issued sufficient cleaning kits, were often found killed with their rifles disassembled as they tried to clean them and remove the jammed cartridge in the middle of a firefight.
American troops hated the new rifle. However, the U.S. military quickly made changes to the rifle that increased its reliability. Despite early issues, it has gone on to be the longest-serving standard rifle in the U.S. military.
The Chauchat is perhaps the most-hated weapon on this list. Designed by the French to operate as a light machine gun carried by one man, it had numerous shortcomings. One major problem was its open-sided, half-moon magazine. The open side allowed mud and dirt to enter the magazine, impeding the ability to feed and causing stoppages. The long recoil operation of the gun also caused stoppages when it heated up and jammed the barrel to the rear.
The weapon was so unreliable that, in combat conditions, it frequently jammed after only 100 rounds. Unfortunately for the troops, there was no alternative for a light machine gun until the Americans brought the BAR into action near the end of the war.
China’s People’s Liberation Army Gen. He Lei, one of the more hawkish voices asserting Beijing’s absolute rights to the South China Sea, made a telling observation at a defense conference in Singapore that reveals his military’s biggest weakness.
Though it’s strange to regret peace, He correctly identified what the Academy of Military Science of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army previously told Business Insider was the Chinese military’s biggest weakness: inexperience.
The People’s Liberation Army, the military owned by China’s Communist Party, has never fought a real war. Its missions center around humanitarian relief and policing its own borders. Besides a brief fights with Vietnam, India, and Russia on its borders, as well as involvement in the Korean War, the entire post-World War II period for China has been peaceful.
Meanwhile, the US and Russia, other top-tier militaries, have engaged in regular battles.
While much of China’s emerging new military doctrine seems sound in theory, it’s yet to be tested.
China can build ships and planes, but can’t shake the doubt
Rowden explained that while a US and a Chinese ship may both appear combat-ready,”[o]ne of them couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag and the other one will rock anything that it comes up against.”
But that’s just at sea, and ground combat with its toll on individual soldiers is a whole different beast. When Chinese soldiers, many of them conscripts, are tested in battle, it’s unclear if they’ll soldier on with the same grit as the US’s all-volunteer force.
While the world can appreciate peace and a lack of fighting, as China looks to displace the US as the dominant military power, it will remain untested and doubt-ridden until it faces real combat.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An unconventional visionary: Col. Charles “Chargin’ Charlie” Beckwith
Charlie Beckwith commissioned in the Army in 1952, volunteering for Special Forcers a few years later.
In 1960, he deployed to Laos as part of a covert special-operations program to harass the North Vietnamese. Following that tour, Beckwith was an exchange officer with the British Special Air Service (SAS).
He was given command of an SAS troop (about 15 operators) and deployed to Malaya, where the British were fighting a Communist insurgency. That deployment had a profound impact on “Charlie Blister,” as the British called him.
At the time, the British commandos were pioneering special-operations, unconventional warfare, and counterterrorism doctrine. They had recently adopted an “individualistic” approach to selection and assessment, scrutinizing a soldier’s ability to operate and excel on his own.
Beckwith put lessons from the SAS to good use when he redeployed to Vietnam in the late 1960s, but by the 1970s, international terrorism was becoming prevalent. Beckwith saw the need for a unit with counterterrorism and hostage-rescue capabilities.
After years of cajoling senior officers and navigating military bureaucracy, Beckwith created the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, better known as Delta Force.
The unit was part of the attempt to rescue American hostages in Tehran 1980. The failed operation, and Beckwith’s recommendations afterward, led to the creation of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
Beckwith’s greatest accomplishment was Delta Force. His vision, buttressed by his buzzing energy, achieved what others could not.
“He dug the foundations but also paved the future,” a former Delta Force operator told Insider. “He knew he wouldn’t be there forever, so he had to recruit the best guys — the best noncommissioned officers and officers — who would safeguard his baby. And they did. Look at where the unit’s at today.”
During his career, Beckwith received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest award for valor under fire, and two Silver Stars. He retired in 1981 and died in 1994, but in 2001 he received the Bull Simons lifetime achievement award, the highest honor given by Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
One hell of a soldier: Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell
Bargewell enlisted in the Army in 1967 and went straight to the Special Forces, aiming to serve in Vietnam.
He was assigned to Military Assistance Command — Vietnam Studies and Operations Group (MACV-SOG), a secretive special-operations unit that conducted highly classified operations in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam.
Bargewell led cross-border missions that recovered valuable intelligence and put him in close contact with the enemy. During one such operation, a North Vietnamese soldier shot Bargewell in the chest as he cleared a NVA camp, but the bullet got stuck on his chest rig.
On another mission a few years later, he was shot in the face but fought on, allowing his team to exfiltrate, and was the last man out before the NVA overwhelmed the perimeter. His actions earned him the Distinguished Service Cross.
“Eldon always strived to learn,” John Stryker “Tilt” Meyer, a Green Beret legend who served alongside Bargewell in SOG and has written about the unit’s daring operations, told Insider.
“He always wanted to the job better, and he was relentless that way. His desire to learn never left him, not even when he made general. He never changed in all his years. He was one hell of a soldier,” Meyer said.
Bargewell commissioned as an officer after Vietnam, and in 1981, he passed Delta’s arduous selection process and became an operator in the new unit. Bargewell went on to command at all levels in Delta.
“He always pushed his men to practice the basics,” Meyer added. “If there was an operational lull, Eldon filled it up with training. He knew it would come handy in the future.”
And it did. In 1989, Bargewell commanded Operation Acid Gambit, the daring rescue of Kurt Muse, a CIA operative held captive by Panamanian forces in a heavily defended prison.
During the extraction, the MH-6 Little Bird carrying Muse and some operators crashed close to prison, wounding several of them. Bargewell, then a lieutenant colonel, exposed himself to enemy fire to provide cover with a machine gun while his troops exited the damaged helicopter.
The operation was one of Delta Force’s first successful hostage rescues and firmly established it as the US military’s top hostage-rescue outfit.
Bargewell went on to command Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) and to have key positions in JSOC and SOCOM. When he retired in 2006, after almost 40 years in uniform, he was among the Army’s most decorated soldiers.
Bargewell spent almost his entire career in Army special-operations units, including Special Forces and the Rangers, but he left his mark with Delta Force. In 2010, he received the Bull Simons award. Bargewell died in 2019.
The networker: Gen. Stanley McChrystal
Stanley McChrystal commissioned in the Army in 1976 and served in airborne, Ranger, and Special Forces units during a 34-year career.
When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, McChrystal was a rising star. He assumed command of JSOC, which includes Delta Force and SEAL Team 6, and went after Iraq’s growing Islamist insurgency.
With the motto “it takes a network to defeat a network,” McChrystal put liaisons everywhere, from the CIA to conventional military units, putting JSOC at the center of a web of units and agencies that shared intelligence like never before and acted fast.
For example, a Delta Force troop would hit a target early one night, gather intelligence, and conduct another raid immediately afterward, sometimes hitting three targets all over Iraq in the same night.
“We really turned it on with him,” a Delta Force operator told Insider. “The op tempo was crazy, but we pulled it off. We’d do two [or] three hits a night for weeks.”
Shrewd and tactful enough to navigate bureaucracy, McChrystal was still a warrior at heart.
At a counterterrorism meeting in an East African country, the CIA station chief present took a cavalier attitude toward McChrystal, who let him finish before saying, “Hey look, if you ever talk to me that way again, I’m going to come around this desk and beat the s— out of you,” according to journalist Sean Naylor.
In 2009, McChrystal assumed command in Afghanistan, where he devised the counterinsurgency strategy. Following Gen. David Petraeus’ example in Iraq, McChrystal argued for a surge of troops to defeat the Taliban. In the end, he persuaded President Barack Obama and the Pentagon despite the political cost of sending tens of thousands of additional troops to what many saw as a forgotten war.
But that command, and McChrystal’s career, ended with a blemish after he and his aides were quoted disparaging the Obama administration in a Rolling Stone article.
McChrystal retired with the defeat of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and JSOC’s renovation as his greatest achievements and with “his place secure as one of America’s greatest warriors,” according to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
Star Trek would be a lot less interesting if we found out the Enterprise didn’t run on an advanced isolinear computing system but instead ran on something like MS-DOS. We might laugh at how incredulous that work of science fiction would be. But in today’s U.S. Air Force, the F-22 – one of the most advanced fighters ever made – runs on a similar disparity.
But of course, the Air Force will remind you that it isn’t science fiction, it’s what they do every day.
The F-22 program was killed at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in an effort to reshape the U.S. military. The F-22 was designed as an air superiority fighter to take on advance fighters from China and Russia in air combat, not support troops on the ground. At the time, American troops were focused on insurgencies and ground combat. Until the terrorists started flying F-14s, there was little perceived need for such a fighter. Now that the U.S. military is refocused on great power wars, the need for such a program is becoming more apparent.
The F-22 is the fastest combat aircraft in the U.S. Air Force, even after the development of the F-35. It can detect and attack enemy aircraft from miles away, even if the enemy isn’t yet able to detect the incoming Raptor. In one instance, a Raptor was able to pop up from underneath two Iranian F-4 Phantoms and tell them to go home, which they promptly did, presumably to change their shorts.
It wasn’t like this, but it could have been.
Just the presence of a Raptor in a battlespace is enough to clear the skies of enemy aircraft. In a great power war with a country like China, the Raptor would be an indispensable part of the Air Force order of battle. Raptors will quickly disperse in order to keep China from targeting them with ballistic missiles. Their stealth and air combat abilities would then be used to escort C-17s and frustrate Chinese fighters, as well as any Chinese efforts to jam their communications. That’s due in large part to the pilots’ advanced training and the advanced stealth technology aboard the airframe. But the reason Chinese hackers couldn’t hack their computers is something different altogether.
The technology is more than 35 years old.
Like this, except on one of the world’s most advanced killing machines.
When the billion fighter was cut from the Pentagon budget, there was a lot of joking surrounding the fighter, that the United States had developed a weapon it would never use in combat – after all, until that point the F-22 hadn’t flown a combat mission over either of the two wars the U.S. was actually fighting. Former Navy Secretary John Lehman, found a silver lining, telling the Wall Street Journal that at the very least, the plane’s computer technology was safe from Chinese hackers.
“No one in China knows how to program the ’83 vintage IBM software that runs them,” he said.
Ten years later, the F-22 has definitely flown combat sorties over Syria and the rise of China and Russia, and their fifth-generation fighters, some of the technology stolen from the United States, might have the Pentagon wishing they had more Raptors.
US F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters and B-2 stealth bombers in the western Pacific recently trained for high-end combat scenarios requiring the full might of the US military — exercises that came as Beijing reacts with fury to heavy-duty missile deployments.
In a first, the F-35B, the short-takeoff, vertical-landing variant of the world’s most expensive weapons system, took off from the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship capable of launching aircraft, and dropped externally mounted bombs.
The F-35 is a stealth aircraft designed to store most of its weapons internally to preserve its streamlined, radar-evading shape, but the F-35Bs on the Wasp ditched that tactic to carry more bombs and air-to-air missiles.
An executive from Lockheed Martin, which builds the F-35, previously told Business Insider that an F-35 with external bomb stores represented a kind of “beast mode,” or an alternative to the normal stealth mode, and was something F-35s would do on the third day of a war, after enemy defenses had been knocked out and stealth became less of a priority.
A B-2 bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri conducts aerial refueling near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii during a training exercise in January 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)
“We conducted these missions by launching from the USS Wasp, engaging role-player adversary aircraft, striking simulated targets with internally and externally mounted precision-guided munitions,” and then landing aboard the Wasp, Lt. Col. Michael Rountree, the F-35B detachment officer-in-charge on the Wasp, said in a statement.
While F-35s trained for Day Three of an all-out war in the Pacific, stealthier jets — the F-22 fighter and the B-2 bomber — trained for Day One.
The B-2s spent their time near Hawaii “going out to an airspace and practicing realistic threats,” with an F-22 on either wing, said Lt. Col. Robert Schoeneberg, commander of the 393rd Bomb Squadron at Whiteman.
Chinese state media said in early February 2019 that Gen. Xu Qiliang, the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, “required the officers and soldiers to be well-prepared for different cases, encouraging them to staunchly safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests.”
China responded to the US Navy’s sailing in international waters near its artificial islands with its usual fury, saying the US had threatened its sovereignty.
Beijing knows Washington is training, and it wants anti-stealth
China has been pioneering anti-stealth technology in an attempt to blunt the advantage of F-22s and F-35s.
“China is fielding networked air-defense systems that can coordinate the radar pictures from multiple sites in an area like the South China Sea,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments who was formerly a special assistant to the chief of naval operations, told Business Insider.
“This could enable the radars to see F-35Bs or other low-observable aircraft from the side or back aspect, where they have higher radar signatures, and share that information with [surface-to-air missile] launchers elsewhere in the region to engage the F-35Bs,” he added.
But the US knows no aircraft is truly invisible, especially in an area with a dense network of radars, like the South China Sea.
Instead of focusing solely on stealth, the US has shifted to employing decoys and electronic warfare to fight in highly contested areas, Clark said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Army has a new non-lethal weapon to help soldiers in Afghanistan “irritate and deter” potential adversaries with pepper-filled balls, Army Times reports.
The non-lethal launcher, known as the Variable Kinetic System (VKS), is made by PepperBall Technologies. It fires projectiles much like paintballs containing a hot pepper solution.
“We are truly honored the US Army has selected PepperBall’s VKS to use as its non-lethal protection in its mission to defending the United States,” Ron Johnson, CEO of United Tactical Systems, which owns PepperBall, said in a statement.
“Our VKS platform was the only non-lethal source that was capable of complying to the US Army’s standards,” Johnson added.
The projectiles have a range of around 50 yards and leave a “debilitating cloud,” impacting the eyes, nose and respiratory system. The irritant, which is 5% pelargonic acid vanillylamide (PAVA) and a synthetic version of pepper spray, is released when the projectile makes contact.
The weapon is built like a paintball gun and can carry up to 180 rounds when it’s in “hopper mode” and 10 or 15 rounds when it’s in “magazine mode.”
The Army awarded a $650,000 contract for the weapons, which reportedly have the same controls and ergonomics of the M4/M16 weapons system, which many soldiers already carry. In other words, it will not be tough for most soldiers to transition into using these non-lethal launchers.
In total, the Army reportedly purchased 267 of the weapons, which are currently being used in training.
Weapons like this can help soldiers in high-intensity, urban settings and especially during crowd control situations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.