Here's how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

In the 1950s U.S. forces were stretched dangerously thin. U.S. President Dwight D Eisenhower stated of this, “My feeling…remains, that it would be impossible for the United States to maintain the military commitments which it now sustains around the world (without turning into a garrison state) did we not possess atomic weapons and the will to use them when necessary.”

No surprise from this that, unsatisfied with the portability of their shiny new M65 nuclear cannons, which required a couple of very large trucks to transport, and further unsatisfied that firing it off in many tactical situations would be a bit like killing a mosquito with a hand grenade, in the late 1950s the U.S. military brass for once were thinking smaller. What they really wanted was a simple weapon that could launch a miniature nuclear warhead, could be carted around by a few soldiers, and be fired relatively quickly and reliably. This would allow a handful of soldiers to successful combat far superior forces on the other side, even at relatively close range, which none of the other nuclear weapons of the age could safely do — Enter the Davy Crockett.


Rumor has it the name was chosen in homage to the famed American politician owing to the legend that he once grinned a bear to death, with the idea referencing the association between Russia, and the Soviet Union in general, with bears.

Whether that’s actually the reasoning behind the name or not, the first prototype of the Davy Crockett was completed in November of 1958 and ultimately deployed about two and a half years later in May of 1961. Featuring a variant of the W54 warhead contained in an M388 round, the projectile was fired from an M-28 or M-29 smooth bore recoilless gun. This was capable of launching the 10 or 20 ton yield nuke as far as about 1.25 miles for the M28 or 2.5 miles for the M29.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

As for portability, the Davy Crockett could be either deployed and fired from the back of a jeep for maximum mobility, or even broken down into its components, with the pieces of the weapon carried by five soldiers on foot.

The general procedure for firing the 76 pound nuclear round was quite simple. First a spotting round would be shot from an attached gun to ensure the weapon was aimed reasonably well. After this, in order to get the nuke to end up more or less where the spotting round did, the angle of the gun would have to be adjusted. To do this, a small book with pre-calculated tables was carried giving adjustment figures for said angle.

However, it turns out test firings with non-live nukes showed again and again that the Davey Crockett was an obscenely inaccurate weapon, possibly both because of the angle adjustment and that the weapon itself was smooth bore. Of course, the fact that the Davey Crockett was shooting a nuclear warhead helped make this inaccuracy issue not as much of a problem as would be the case with other similar weapons.

Once the target was mildly locked on, the propellant charge would be inserted into the muzzle with a metal piston placed in after as a sort of cap. This was followed by the M388 round itself containing the W54 warhead. As the M388 was far too big to fit inside the bore, instead a rod would be attached to the back, with the nuke sitting at the front.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

As for how the warhead would know when to detonate, there was a timer dial that would be set based on estimated distance to the target, using figures given in the aforementioned book containing a spreadsheet of tables.

However, contrary to what is often stated, the timer was not actually the thing that triggered detonation. Rather, it simply armed the bomb once the time ran out. The actual trigger for detonation was a simple radar device in the back of the M388 that would detect how far above the ground the nuke was. There was also a high and low switch that could slightly adjust height of detonation based on the radar reading.

As you might have gleaned from all this, also contrary to what is often stated, this switch did not control the yield of the bomb, just what height it would detonate above the ground, roughly 20-40 feet AGL, depending on setting.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

It should also be noted that, unlike many other nuclear weapons, this was an otherwise dumb nuke. Once the timer was set and it was fired, it would either go off or prove itself to be a dud. There was no aborting detonation after launch.

If all that is involved in firing the Davey Crockett sounds like it might take a long time, it turns out not at all given the destructive power of this weapon. One former Davey Crockett section soldier, Thomas Hermann, notes that they were actually trained and well capable of firing a nuke every two and a half minutes!

So just how deadly could this weapon be? While extremely low-powered as nukes go, the weapon nonetheless produced a blast in the ballpark of as large as the highest yield non-nuclear explosive devices of the era. But unlike many of these, it was relatively small and portable. More important than that was its potential for extended damage long after the initial blast. This was particularly useful when fired around critical routes that enemy soldiers would have to traverse. Not only would the initial blast do significant damage to any soldiers and enemy vehicles around at the time, but the radioactive fallout, which would almost certainly be fatal to anyone within about a quarter of a mile of the initial blast when it went off, would remain long after, making a given route, such as a mountain pass, impassable for several days after if one was interested in not dying of radiation poisoning. Naturally, the Soviets could defend against this simply by equipping each of their soldiers with lead-lined refrigerators, but for whatever reason they never seemed to have chosen to go this route.

On the other end of things, neither did the Americans. This was despite the fact that the Davey Crockett was also not terribly safe for those firing it. While 1.25-2.5 miles away is plenty of range to keep the soldiers who pulled the trigger safe from being harmed by the blast itself, in real world scenarios the enemy being fired upon could be closer and some of your own troops might also be even closer still.

Critical to all of this was also wind direction. With no wind, the radiation kill zone in the immediately aftermath of the blast was approximately 1,500 feet, but wind could easily blow dangerous radioactive particles towards one’s own troops. As such, crew were instructed to, if possible, only fire the gun when suitable cover behind a hill or the like was available to help reduce radiation exposure.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

Photograph of a U.S. developed M-388 Davy Crockett nuclear weapon mounted to a recoilless rifle on a tripod

(Department of Defense)

That said, presumably to try to get the soldiers operating the weapon to be slightly less hesitant about firing it, the instruction manual notes that the leader of the troop should instill a great sense of urgency in the soldiers operating the Davy Crockett and to remember that, to quote, “The search for nuclear targets is constant and vigorous!”

On top of that, the manual states that if the nuke failed to detonate for some reason, the soldiers should wait a half hour and then go and recover the supposed to be armed and ready to detonate at the whim of a radar trigger nuke…

Needless to say, while the Davy Crockett was deployed everywhere from West Germany to South Korea, with well over 2,000 of the M388 rounds made and 100 of the guns deployed, it was never actually used in battle.

That said, the Army did do one test fire of the Davy Crockett with a live M388 round. This occurred during Operation Sunbeam in a test code named “Little Feller I”, which took place on July 17, 1962. The nuke flew approximately 1.7 miles and detonated successfully about 30 feet above the ground, with an estimated yield of 18 tons from the blast. Interestingly enough, this was the last time the United States would detonate a nuke in the air close to the ground thanks to the 1963 Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water. (And, yes, that is the real name of the treaty).

In the end, as cool as having a portable nuclear gun is and all, within only a few years the weapon would become antiquated, and by 1967 the Army was already beginning to phase it out, with it going the way of the Dodo completely by 1971. No doubt to the eternal relief of the soldiers tasked with firing the things should the need arise.

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

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MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the French are better at war than you think

The United States and France do not always see eye-to-eye on military matters. In 1966, French President Charles de Gaulle pulled France from NATO during the height of the Cold War to preserve French independence. (Nicolas Sarkozy rejoined the alliance in 2009.) France tested nuclear devices well into the 1990s, decades after most of the other nuclear powers signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963. Most recently, France begged off on joining the U.S.-U.K. “Coalition of the Willing” to oust Saddam Hussein in Iraq.


And because of the world wars of the 20th Century, the French military tends to be seen with disdain. The French didn’t fare so well in World War I, as the Germans’ drive through Belgium resulted in much of the fighting being done on French soil. The inability to repel the German forces made the French seem weak. Truthfully, it was a multinational force who failed to expel the invaders, so it’s not entirely France’s fault. And then of course, the quick capitulation and subsequent collaboration of France to the Nazis in World War II gave them the reputation they have today.

The truth is the French armed forces are much more aggressive and capable than these few events would have you believe. Aside from the French Foreign Legion, who are noteworthy in their own right, France projects military power all over Europe, Africa, and Asia, and they’re really good at it. They just have a bad rep. It was the French, led by Charles Martel who kept the Muslims from conquering Western Europe at the Battle of Poitiers in 732. Since then, the French have had their wins and losses, just like anyone else.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round
You might have heard of some.

In WWII, Free French forces had the élan to fight their own countrymen who had sided with the collaborationist Vichy government. Free French troops worked in concert with the British and Americans throughout the war. Those who could not escape the fall of France in 1940 fought on as partisans for four years under the Nazi occupation, assisting with U.S. and British intelligence operations, assassinations, sabotage, and were essential to planning the D-Day invasions. The operators of the French Résistance are symbolic of underground resistance movements to this day.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

Vive la résistance!

After World War II, the French experienced a number of setbacks in its former colonies, most notably in French Indochina (aka Vietnam – and we in the U.S. know that war wasn’t as easily winnable as it might have seemed at the time), and in Algiers, where the independence movement led to a series of bloody, brutal attacks and counter attacks between French forces and the Algerian rebels. Since then, France has been resolute in its ideals and willing and able to back up those ideals with military force.

In response to the Nov. 2015 attacks on Paris from ISIS (Daesh), France immediately launched at least 30 air strikes against the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa alone. French audacity led the way for the U.S. to hit ISIS oil facilities in Iraq and Syria, a main source of the terror group’s operating funds. The nuclear-powered French carrier Charles de Gaulle is currently en route to the Mediterranean to support anti-ISIS operations.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

The Charles de Gaulle led an expedition of the one-fourth of the French Navy that supported operations in Afghanistan. The French launched 140 air strikes to support operations on the ground during the 2001 invasion as well as lending its recon aircraft to support U.S. special operations forces and then conventional forces in Operation Anaconda. French ground forces have been in Afghanistan since 2010, and 88 troops died there.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round
SAROBI, Afghanistan – French army soldiers prepare their vehicles for a convoy prior to departing camp for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission, Operation Eagle. (ISAF photo by MC1 Michael E. Wagoner)

France is especially active in its former African colonies. During the 2004 Ivorian Civil War, the French sent 2,500 troops to keep the peace and prevent the sides from slaughtering each other. When French and Western civilians were rescued by French military helicopters as mobs of Ivorians raided Westerner’s homes. When Ivorian government forces, ostensibly under the guise of attacking rebel positions, hit a French base in Bouaké, killing nine and injuring 31, the French retaliated by an overland march on Yamoussoukro airport, taking out much of the Ivorian Air Force on the ground, and then capturing the country’s main airport in Abidjan.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

 

The French returned to Ivory Coast in 2011 to finish off president Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to concede his election loss . The French ousted Gbagbo and arrested him, then subdued mercenaries hired by the former president.

That same year, French forces intervened in Libya to recon the country and take out artillery and armor bound for dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s effort to fill the streets of Benghazi with “rivers of blood.” France also assisted with the imposition of NATO “no-fly zones,” giving Libyan rebels the air support needed to even the odds of the war against Qaddafi’s regime.

 

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round
Part of a group of six Palmaria heavy howitzers of the Gaddafi forces destroyed by French Rafale airplanes at the west-southern outskirts of Benghazi, Libya.

 

In 2012, an Islamist group in Mali called Ansar Dine backed Tuareg tribes and secular militia in declaring independence in the Northern area of the former colony of France. They quickly captured three of the country’s largest cities and imposed strict Sharia law. The power vacuum attracted insurgents and jihadists from other Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The Malian government fell in a coup led by Malian troops unhappy with the government’s handling of the crisis.

Once a civilian interim government was re-established in the capital of Bamako, Islamist militants began to push toward the country’s center, and the French sent in the marines. French airstrikes stopped the Islamist advance and French troops helped the Malians recapture the vital city of Konna. By the time the French and Malians reached Timbuktu, Islamist resistance faded to nil. The entire operation took six months.

 

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round
Islamist truck convoy hit by French airstrike near Gao in 2012. (Photo by Blake Stilwell)

 

Today, France leads a 3,000-strong counterterrorism force in Africa, spanning Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Chad. They are the sole Western, NATO country in Operation Barkhane, fighting Islamist presence in West Africa, fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda-linked militants throughout the region.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-16 fighter pilot left dangling from electricity line

An F-16 fighter pilot got stuck dangling from a live electricity line outside a rural French town after the jet crashed and they ejected from the plane.

The Belgian Air Force jet crashed into a field after grazing a house with its wing in Pluvigner, Brittany, at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 19, 2019, The Associated Press and Le Parisien report.

Both pilots ejected safely and are believed to be alive, The Belgian Air Force confirmed on Twitter, writing: “The pilots left the plane using their ejectable seats.”


Photos posted to social media show what appears to be a pilot hanging from an overhead electrical wire.

A National Police spokeswoman told the AP no injuries were reported among residents in the area. Police have set up a 500-meter security perimeter around the crash site.

The owner of the house damaged in the crash told Ouest-France: “We were in the garden. We heard a great boom and a sound of tearing metal. Moments later, a second explosion and another tearing of scrap metal.”

The F-16 was travelling from an air base in Florennes, near Namur, to the French naval air base at Lann-Bihoué, Morbihan, and was not armed, local officials told French media.

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

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The first US casualty of the Gulf War was a downed pilot

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Scott Speicher was flying his F/A-18 Hornet 100 miles west of Baghdad on Jan. 17, 1991. It was just minutes into the first night of Operation Desert Storm, the U.S.-led coalition’s offensive to expel the Iraqi Army from Kuwait. Speicher’s plane was shot down that night – but by what?

He was the first American combat casualty in the war.


Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

Speicher was listed as missing in action, presumed taken prisoner by the Iraqi Army, after being briefly listed as killed. The Pentagon didn’t actually know. The military didn’t even really know how Speicher’s Hornet had been taken down. The Navy’s initial conclusion was that Speicher was taken down by a land-based surface-to-air missile and maintained that throughout the next decade. But other American pilots operating in the area that night reported the presence of an Iraqi MiG-25.

That Foxbat’s pilot was Lt. Zuhair Dawoud, who managed to evade a large formation of attacking American planes, singling out Speicher’s Hornet and firing a R-40D missile that exploded directly beneath Speicher’s cockpit. With the plane shredded, Speicher bailed out as Dawoud turned to find another target. Speicher did not survive long.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round
3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines patrol the Haditha Triad in Iraq’s Anbar Province. It was the 3/3 Marines who found Speicher’s remains.

 

The pilots in the air that night knew Speicher was taken down by the MiG-25 Foxbat. His aircraft crashed 48 miles south of Qadessiya, where the wreckage remained. According to “War Is Boring,” the Hornet’s digital recorder was recovered from Iraq in 1995 and confirmed the missile hit. The CIA would not confirm Speicher’s death until 2001, and even then his body had still not been recovered.

Even after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, the U.S. military was not able to determine Speicher’s fate. Eventually, they found that he was never captured by the Iraqis but rather was buried by Bedouins who found his body after the shootdown. Marines occupying Anbar Province in 2008 found his remains and sent them back to the U.S. They were positively identified by his jawbone.

MIGHTY TRENDING

European court rules in favor of Russian opposition leader

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Russia violated opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s rights over numerous arrests and jailings, calling them “unlawful and arbitrary” and “politically motivated.”

The human rights court in Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 15, 2018, delivered its ruling, rejecting an appeal filed by Russia over a previous judgment favoring Navalny.

The court upheld its previous decision that found Navalny’s seven arrests and two instances of pretrial detentions by Russian authorities between 2012-14 violated his rights, “lacked a legitimate aim,” and “had not been necessary in a democratic society.”


He immediately hailed the decision, writing on Twitter, “Won. Fully. The government is crushed…Hooray!”

He also told reporters that the ruling was an example of “genuine justice” and was “very important not just for me but for other people all over Russia who are arrested every day.”

As part of the ruling, the court ordered Russia to pay Navalny about 64,000 euros in compensation, costs, and expenses and said its decision was final and binding.

Moscow did not immediately comment on the court’s ruling.

Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics, attended the hearing, along with his brother Oleg, and posted a photograph of the two of them at the ECHR on Instragram.

Russia’s Constitutional Court has previously ruled that officials can ignore judgments by the ECHR if they are found to contravene the Russian Constitution.

Russia has lost a number of high-profile cases in Strasbourg and been ordered to pay out hefty compensation in scores of politically embarrassing cases.

Navalny was originally prevented from boarding a flight out of Moscow on Nov. 13, 2018, to attend the hearing.

The Federal Bailiffs Service (FSSP) said he was barred from leaving due to what it said was debt he owed Kirovles, a state timber company at the center of a politically charged criminal case in which he has now been convicted twice.

The FSSP later said the fine was paid and that restrictions on Navalny’s travel abroad had been lifted.

He said he would sue the FSSP over what he called “illegal activities” and demand compensation for the 29,542 rubles (6) in financial losses he said he and his lawyer sustained due to the FSSP’s decision to bar him from leaving.

The ECHR ruling was on an appeal filed by Russia over a court decision in February 2017 that ruled in favor of Navalny, but Russia filed an appeal to challenge the decision.

Navalny, 42, has organized large street protests on several occasions since 2011 and has published a series of reports alleging corruption in Putin’s circle.

He has repeatedly been jailed for periods ranging from 10 days to a few weeks, usually for alleged infractions of laws governing public demonstrations.

Navalny had spent nearly 200 days in jail since 2011, including 140 days since the start of his attempt to challenge Putin in the March 2018 presidential election, his spokeswoman has said.

Electoral authorities barred Navalny from the ballot, citing convictions in two financial-crimes cases he and his supporters contend were Kremlin-orchestrated efforts to punish him for his opposition activity and for the reports alleging corruption.

Navalny was convicted in 2013 of stealing money from Kirovles and was sentenced to five years in prison. But the sentence was later suspended, sparing him from serving time in prison.

In 2016, the ECHR ruled that the Kirovles trial was unfair and that the two men had been convicted of actions “indistinguishable from regular commercial activity.”

The Russian Supreme Court then threw out the 2013 convictions and ordered a new trial.

In February 2017, the lower court again convicted the two men and handed down the same suspended prison sentence.

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

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That time the Navy considered flying Harriers off Iowa-class battleships

When you look at the Iowa-class battleships, in a way, you are looking at the ultimate in a surface combat platform. They are huge – about 45,000 tons — they carry nine 16-inch guns and have an array of other weapons, too, from Tomahawk cruise missiles to Phalanx close-in weapon systems.


Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

Looking at them, could you imagine diluting that surface-combat firepower for some Harriers? Well, the U.S. Navy did.

According to the 13th Edition of “The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet,” the Navy kicked around the idea of turning the Iowa and her three sisters into a combination battleship-carrier. The after turret would be removed, and the space would be turned into a flight deck. WarisBoring.com noted that the plan called for as many as 20 AV-8B Harriers to be carried on the ship.

There was also a consideration for adding vertical launch systems for Tomahawks and Standard surface-to-air missiles.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round
USS Wisconsin fires her main battery during Desert Storm. (US Navy photo)

It wasn’t as if the battleships hadn’t operated planes before, as in World War II the battleships operated floatplanes – usually for gunfire spotting. The Iowas kept their planes in an on-board hanger in the aft section of the ship.

That section was later used to land helicopters when they were in service during the 1980s. The New Jersey even operated a UCAV, the QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter, while blasting Viet Cong and North Vietnamese positions during her one deployment in the Vietnam War.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round
Photo by Cpl. Garry J. Welch/U.S. Marine Corps

That said, the project never went forward. One big reason was at the end of the Cold War, the Iowa-class ships were quick to go on the chopping block — even as the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin provided outstanding fire support to the Marines during Operation Desert Storm.

Another can be ascribed to history. Late in World War II, Japan was desperate for carriers. And when they tried to convert the battleships Ise and Hyuga to carrier, the effort wasn’t successful.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round
HIJMS Ise – a failed battleship/carrier hybrid. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

It is open to debate whether 20 Harriers would have been a fair trade for a third of an Iowa’s 16-inch firepower. What isn’t open for debate is that the Iowa-class fast battleship has never truly been replaced a quarter-century after their decommissioning.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force may train enlisted pilots for the first time in 75 years

Eugene Taylor remembers how eager enlisted airmen like him were to fly.

Taylor, who enlisted in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam, first worked as an avionics technician. Nearly a decade later, Taylor, a tech sergeant, became a T-37 and T-38 flight simulator instructor with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He became so adept that he was occasionally given the chance to fly the T-38, with permission from the pilot, during stateside flights.


It has been decades since enlisted airmen had the chance to sit in the cockpit. But as the Air Force faces the greatest pilot shortages since its inception, service leaders are contemplating a return to a model that includes enlisted pilots. A Rand Corp. study, set to be completed this month, is exploring the feasibility of bringing back a warrant officer corps for that purpose. And another, separate Air Force study is examining, in part, whether enlisted pilots could benefit from new high-tech training that leverages artificial intelligence and simulation.

With these moves, the Air Force is inching just a few steps closer to someday getting enlisted airmen back in the cockpit, on a formal basis, for the first time since World War II.

“We have enlisted airmen in our Guard and reserve component who have private pilot’s licenses and fly for the airlines. So it’s not a matter of can they do it, or hav[ing] the smarts or the capability, it’s just a matter of us, as an Air Force, deciding that that’s a route that we want to take,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Military.com sat down with the service’s top enlisted leader in February 2018, to talk about enlisted aviators and reinstituting the warrant officer program.

“It’s something we walked away from years ago, and I won’t say that we haven’t been willing to relook at [it],” Wright said, of having enlisted pilots. “It’s nothing that we can’t overcome.”

Creating a Cadre

Wright noted there may be a few bumps in the road before an enlisted cadre could be instituted.

The main challenge would be to structure an appropriate career development path for the airmen, answering questions regarding when and how they would promote and when they would rotate to a new squadron. Wright said thus far officers “naturally float” to a flight commander or squadron commander from base to base, according to a system that has been in place for decades, but questioned whether the same system would work for enlisted pilots.

Additionally, the service would have to study whether enlisted airmen should be granted the right to employ weapons from an aircraft.

“Whether it’s manned or unmanned, if there’s an enlisted airman that’s going to be flying and employing weapons, it requires certain authorities we would have to get by,” Wright said.

For example, enlisted airmen are currently only authorized to be remotely piloted aircraft pilots on the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, a surveillance-only platform.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round
One of Eugene Taylor’s trainees at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, straps into a flight simulator, circa 1978-79.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

“That’s just part of our age-old doctrine, that the employment of weapons, that the authority and responsibility lies with officers,” he said.

Reinstituting the warrant officer program could also help leaders decide on acceptable policies that would “determine if it makes us a more lethal and ready fighting force,” Wright said.

“What this is about is not just aviation or flying — it’s about maintaining the technical expertise,” Wright said. “In some cases, having warrant officers will allow us retain that talent and keep those folks doing what they love.”

The Air Force in the past has commissioned studies to look into bringing back warrant officers, with another study from RAND, a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, on the way.

“The Air Force is partnering with RAND for a study on the feasibility of warrant officers and we are projecting a completion by the end of March 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com.

February 2018, the Air Force began a separate study on whether it could benefit from someday allowing enlisted pilots.

Air Education and Training Command said the study, called the pilot training next initiative, explores how pilots can learn and train faster “by using existing and emerging technologies that can decrease the time and cost of training,” but with the same depth of understanding to produce quality pilots.

That includes using virtual reality simulation and A.I. to get airmen in an aircraft faster, with the potential of expanding the streamlined training.

The study is expected to conclude in August, in hopes of advancing all 20 students in the program: 15 officers and five enlisted airmen.

Foundation of Skills

Taylor, the Vietnam-era airman, served in the 341X1 career field for T-37 and T-38 trainers, which would quickly disappear once the Air Force reasoned enlisted personnel were needed elsewhere.

Once airmen were taught scenarios in a classroom, they would go to him to practice the maneuvers in the simulator.

“I was one of those people as an enlisted instructor, and it was the best job I ever had,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Military.com.

Through months of simulation tech school paired with his past experience working on planes, Taylor had gained the skills he needed to know the aircraft. Taylor’s instructor career field, however, dissolved only a year later, and he moved back into avionics at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. But he remembers his “flight time” and experience with the T-37 and T-38 fondly.

“As a master avionics superintendent, I did get to fly in the back seat of the [T-38] aircraft six times to perform aircraft maintenance at off-station sites,” he said. “I told the pilot that I was a flight simulator instructor pilot at Vance. And when I flew, the pilot would say, ‘You know how to fly this, you do it.’ So, I would,” Taylor said.

Taylor recalled flying the aircraft from Columbus to MacDill Air Force Base,Florida.

“I [then] repaired another T-38 from our base and flew the aircraft back to Columbus. The pilot made the takeoff and landing on both legs of the flight, but I did all radio calls, and navigation,” he said.

Taylor would fly similar routes twice more with the same pilot.

“So yes, enlisted people can definitely perform the job,” he said.

According to a 1992 paper for the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, the 341X1 and 341X2 career fields, born out of very early service ideals that enlisted members should work side-by-side with officer pilots, were Analog and Digital Trainer Specialists. The fields were part of the larger Aircrew Training Devices 34XXX specialty.

“The contributions of the enlisted men and women in the training devices career field were great,” noted the paper, written by Air Force student Senior Master Sgt. G. A. Werhs of the Senior Noncomissioned Officer Academy. “From its very beginning in 1939 until its end in the late 80s, [the 34XXX] was [an] entirely enlisted career field. All maintenance and operations were performed by highly skilled personnel. Every aircraft in the Air Force inventory had a simulator associated with it and enlisted members were there to operate and maintain it.

“[H]ow many people realize that for nearly 50 years those pilots received much of the initial training on the ground from enlisted soldiers and airmen[?]” Werhs asked.

Taylor suggested the career field closed because the service didn’t want enlisted troops to get to that next level: flying among officers. The service, he said, also had an abundance of pilots at the time.

“The Vietnam War had wound down, so they had more pilots than the Air Force needed,” Taylor said. “By taking away the enlisted instructors, it let them use the pilots that were qualified to fly the T-38 instead of kicking them out of the service.”

But there are many who believe that enlisted airmen, in some capacity, deserve the chance to once again get up in the air.

Rooted in History

Before the Air Force became a breakout service independent of the Army, enlisted pilots were known as “flying sergeants,” receiving a promotion to staff sergeant once they completed pilot training.

Enlisted pilots, in one form or another, date back to 1912. But it wasn’t until 1941, when Congress passed the the Air Corps Act of 1926 and Public Law 99, that enlisted troops were able to receive qualified training.

“We never thought about whether we wanted to be an enlisted pilot or an officer pilot,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Wenglar, a former enlisted pilot. “We just wanted to be pilots, and we would gladly have stayed privates forever just to have the chance to fly,” Wenglar said in a 2003 service release.

Wenglar, who served overseas during World War II, holds the distinction of “achieving the highest rank of any former enlisted pilot,” according to the Air Force. He died in 2011.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round
Will Stafford stands third from left in this 1977 photo.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

During World War II, whoever was in the cockpit got grandfathered in and could remain flying. But in 1942, the passage of the Flight Officer Act meant new enlisted recruits no longer got the chance to fly.

The act, Public Law 658, replaced the program’s sergeant pilot rank with the warrant officer rank.

When the Air Force was created in 1947 out of the Army Air Forces, it would bring more than 1,000 legacy warrant officers in. The service stopped the program in 1959, the same year it created the senior and chief master sergeant ranks. The last warrant officer would retire from active duty in 1980.

With more than 3,000 enlisted sergeant pilots throughout the service’s history, 11 of them would become generals and 17 would become flying aces, according to information from the Air Force. More than 150 enlisted pilots would be killed in action.

“Our careers as enlisted pilots made us better men and gave us opportunities later in the civilian world that we never would have been offered,” Wenglar said in 2003.

New Focus on Warrant Officers

“If the Air Force is so very concerned about the pilot shortage, they should consider warrant officers in … the transport pilot, flight engineer, boom operator and drone pilot fields,” said Will Stafford, a former staff sergeant with similar maintenance, tech and simulator experiences as Taylor.

While in the Air Force in the 1970s and 80s, Stafford, outside of his military duties, would fly smaller aircraft such as Cessna 310s, Beechcraft Model 18s and some Douglas DC-3s. On his own, he would eventually become qualified “on 25 different makes and models of fixed-wing aircraft,” he told Military.com.

“If the [Air Force] wants their veteran airmen and airwomen to return, then they had better look at how it has squandered the talent, training and dedication that many of us had, and make some serious changes, beginning with the restart of the warrant officer corps,” Stafford said, referencing the Air Force’s initiative to bring back retirees into staff-rated positions to balance out the ongoing pilot shortage.

“This is cost-effective, and many professional fully-rated civilian pilots who have military experience would have no problem,” he said.

Stafford has tried, unsuccessfully, to start a White House petition on Whitehouse.org to get the administration’s attention about reinstituting the warrant officer corps. He has even tried to petition the Air Force directly by writing to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who Stafford got the chance to meet and work with when Schwartz was just a captain.

Schwartz told Stafford it just wasn’t in the Air Force’s plans.

Key Decisions Ahead

Wright says the new RAND study may give him and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein fresh perspectives.

“We have to be smart about this, right?” Wright said. “This can’t just be, ‘Oh, this is nice to have.’ We have to know exactly what we’re buying [into] and we have a plan to implement it.”

Wright said cost-benefit analysis would play into the decision.

“I’m looking to learn, and the boss [Goldfein] is looking to learn, again, that simple question: Will this make us a more lethal force? Will it make us more efficient?” Wright said.

“There is a chance through the RAND study and through some of our internal studies that the evidence reveals and the analysis reveals that warrant officers won’t move the needle that much,” he said.

While Wright said it’s hard to say when enlisted pilots or a warrant officer program may come back into the Air Force’s ranks, he believes the feat can be achieved in roughly five to 10 years.

“I think it would help would shortages in career fields, I think it would help with retention, I think it would help with career development.

“Now there’s nothing that says that, within our current system we can’t do that same thing. But if you’re asking me what the obvious benefits are,” he said, ” … I think it’s a good thing.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

This defensive guard became a soldier after winning a Super Bowl

On Feb. 6, 2011, you could find Daryn Colledge celebrating alongside his teammates.

His team, the Green Bay Packers, had just defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25, winning Super Bowl XLV. It was his final season with the Packers.

The offensive guard has since become a different kind of guard.

In March 2016, after nine seasons in the NFL (with the Packers, Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins), Colledge enlisted in the Army National Guard.


He found that being a soldier would afford him the hands-on, active, team environment he was used to … and craved.

Now, you can find him on the back of a HH-60M Blackhawk Helicopter assisting combat medical specialists in transporting patients to safety.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

Spc. Daryn Colledge, a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, assigned to 1st Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment (Attack Reconnaissance Battalion), Task Force Panther, of the Idaho National Guard, assigned to 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), awaits take off for a training flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan July 28, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. Steven E. Lopez)

Spc. Daryn Colledge, a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, assigned to 1st Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment (Attack Reconnaissance Battalion), Task Force Panther, of the Idaho National Guard, volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. He serves as part of a medical evacuation crew — a mission that goes into harm’s way to save complete strangers when called upon, while on an airframe with no weapon systems.

“I wanted this mission, because I believe in this mission,” said Colledge. “I wanted to be a part of the mission that might get those unfortunate injured ones back home, help save lives and help bring some of them back to their families.”

Many things influenced Colledge’s decision to join the Idaho National Guard, such as his family’s military past and a brother who currently serves.

Colledge stated that the National Guard provided the opportunities he sought after while serving. His passion for aviation drove him to choose to become a blackhawk helicopter repairer.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

Spc. Daryn Colledge, a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, assigned to 1st Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment (Attack Reconnaissance Battalion), Task Force Panther, of the Idaho National Guard, assigned to 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), prepares for a training flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan July 28, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. Steven E. Lopez)

“Joining the Army National Guard was a two part choice,” said Colledge. “First, I wanted to remain in Boise, Idaho, and second as a private pilot in my civilian life, I wanted to continue to fly in my Army career.”

After multiple flights and several qualification tests, he later became a blackhawk crew chief; a job with more responsibilities yet filled with excitement and new opportunities for Colledge.

“I could have gone the Army pilot route, but the crew chief side is too interesting for me,” said Colledge. “Crew chiefs have the chance to wear so many hats; mechanic, door gunner, assistant to the medics, conduct hoist operations and sling load operations. The constant change is a great challenge and keeps you working and honing your skills.”

As a blackhawk crew chief, Colledge was presented with the opportunity to join a medical evacuation crew while on a deployment to Afghanistan.

“His desire to serve was clear,” said Capt. Robert Rose, Company G, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, Forward Support Medical Platoon Leader MEDEVAC Detachment Officer in Charge. “His intent was never to seek glory through our mission, but rather to be in a position to help others.”

Colledge joined the MEDEVAC crew and rapidly became someone to emulate because of the teamwork and motivation he brought along with him.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

U.S. Army Spc. Daryn Colledge, 168th Aviation Regiment UH-60 (Blackhawk) Helicopter repair student, practices routine maintenance during class at Fort Eustis, Va., July 28, 2016.

(Photo by Derek Seifert)

“One of things that comes naturally to Colledge is his ability to motivate and inspire others,” said 1st Lt. Morgan Hill, Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation Battalion (MEDEVAC) / Detachment Commander. “He’s a team player and thrives on working toward a common purpose.”

Colledge not only performed his duties as a crew chief, but also was able to lead his crewmates by example. As a former professional athlete, Colledge brought the insight of how to maintain optimal physical readiness, which is one of the most important aspects of being a soldier.

“One of his most notable accomplishments, besides his great work as a crew chief, was building a workout program that others in the unit could participate in as a group,” said Hill. “He was able to motivate his peers and superiors alike to stay physically fit and healthy throughout the deployment, even in austere environments, which was huge for maintaining unit morale.”

Colledge emphasized the fact that teamwork in the Army versus teamwork in sports actually tends to have many similarities, especially when it comes to being deployed.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

After nine seasons in the NFL, you can Spc. Daryn Colledge of the Idaho National Guard on the back of a HH-60M Hospital Helicopter assisting combat medical specialists in transporting patients to safety.

(Idaho Army National Guard)

“The close proximity to each other, the bond built over a common goal, the joint struggles, working through things as a team,” said Colledge. “You create a bond, a relationship that you do not share with those who were not there. Those bonds can last a lifetime.”

Although Colledge established himself to be a proficient soldier, crew chief and teammate, at the beginning there might have been some challenges in leading an individual with his unique background.

“Spc. Colledge doesn’t hide his previous career, but he also doesn’t flaunt it,” said Rose. “He is much more humble than I initially imagined when I heard that I would be leading a Super Bowl winning former NFL player.”

“Ultimately, I was more concerned with the fact that he was a competent crew chief who was willing to learn and contribute to the team as a whole,” said Hill. “He never made anything about himself at any time and he always put the unit and its soldiers first.”

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

After nine seasons in the NFL, you can Spc. Daryn Colledge of the Idaho National Guard on the back of a HH-60M Hospital Helicopter assisting combat medical specialists in transporting patients to safety.


From Super Bowl champion to flying in the skies of Afghanistan, Colledge’s journey is a unique experience that some would ponder on the “why,” not having the need to volunteer years of your life to serve your country.

“Selfless service defines who Colledge is, he did not need to enlist,” said Hill. “He chose to serve for no other reason than to serve and give back.”

“Outside of deployment, to help and support the city and state that supported me through my days in college has been a special opportunity for me,” said Colledge. “I would have not been able to pay for college on my own and the chance to give back and serve that same community means the world to me.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

A conversation with ‘Midway’ director

Here’s a short list of items on Roland Emmerich’s bookshelf: a bronze Chewbacca bust; props from Godzilla and Stargate; and copies of Frank Hebert’s Dune, Lewis Alsamari’s Out of Iraq, and Seth Grahame-Smith’s The Big Book of Porn.

I was invited to his sophisticated (and exceptionally nerdy) office space to talk about the director’s latest film, Midway, which chronicles the Pacific Theater during World War II beginning with the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor through the Battle of Midway — the pivotal turning point for Allied forces.

What followed was a conversation with a man who knows more about WW2 naval and aerial warfare than most and used his passion to create a film that honors the heroes in the Pacific.


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Midway begins with the Japanese attacks against Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, continues to the Doolittle Raid against the Japanese mainland in April 1942, the Battle of Coral Sea the next month, and finally the decisive Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.

Emmerich became fascinated with the (insane) dive bombing tactics conducted by Allied pilots in the Pacific Theater and knew how important it was to convey the challenges the pilots faced. After studying WW2 footage, he knew he had to get those attacks right on film.

“It could not look like visual effects. That was the biggest challenge — but of course it couldn’t be practical,” Emmerich shared, the implication obvious: it isn’t exactly easy to blow up a bunch of WW2 battleships or aircraft carriers. His standards were high: any shots that didn’t work for him were cut.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

A group photo of the American dive bomber pilots of VB-6 from Enterprise, three of whom fatally damaged Akagi. Best is sitting in the center of the front row. The other two who attacked Akagi with Best were Edwin J. Kroeger (standing, eighth from the left) and Frederick T. Weber (standing, sixth from the right).

In his Director’s Commentary, Emmerich points out moments where he had to walk the fine line between accuracy and entertainment. Richard “Dick” Best was the dive bomber pilot who was able to sink the Akagi aircraft carrier against terrible odds and at great danger to himself.

“We had problems depicting the dive bombing. We tried to shoot it practically but we struggled because the pilot wasn’t diving steep enough. I asked if he could go steeper and he said if he dove any steeper then he could die,” which Emmerich acknowledged was a fair point. “And then you realize…oh my god, these [World War II pilots] were daredevils! Nobody flies like those guys anymore.”

I am so honored to share with you all that Midway is now on Digital. Be sure to grab yourself a copy today!pic.twitter.com/ysCvON4ZEK

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“We didn’t want to just show the Japanese as the bad guys. The men fighting the war weren’t responsible for the decision to start the war,” Emmerich said. His uncle was a German pilot in the European Theater, so he knows all too well the wounds carried over on both sides of World War II. It was important that he depict the humanity and honor of the men who lost their lives in the conflict.

I couldn’t tear myself away from his audio commentary that comes with the Blu-Ray package: his World War II knowledge, his artistic choices, and his respect for the military community were so clear.

Though known for his doomsday themes (think 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and even Independence Day), Emmerich considers himself an optimist. His films, though huge in scope and destruction, concentrate on people — the heroes who endure, the lone voices that cry out against ignorance, the people who fight to protect each other.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

4K UHD / BLU-RAY/ DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich
  • “Getting It Right: The Making ofMidway” Featurette
  • “The Men of Midway” Featurette
  • “Roland Emmerich: Manon a Mission” Featurette
  • “Turning Point: The Legacy ofMidway” Featurette
  • “Joe Rochefort: Breaking the Japanese Code” Featurette
  • “We Met at Midway: Two Survivors Remember” Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer
Midway is available now on Digital and on 4K Ultra HD , Blu-ray, and DVD from Lionsgate.
MIGHTY CULTURE

Cockpit video shows a Russian fighter running up on a US B-52 bomber

The Russian Defense Ministry released a video shot from the cockpit of a Su-27 fighter as it raced after a US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress heavy, long-range bomber.

Russian fighters were twice scrambled to intercept US bombers approaching the Russian border around the Black and Baltic seas, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement, according to Russian media.

Three B-52 bombers from the US Air Force’s 5th Bomb Wing flew from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Eastern Europe in an unusual flight.


The US Air Force released its own statement on recent activities, explaining that “strategic bomber missions enhance the readiness and training necessary to respond to any potential crisis or challenge across the globe.”


#Видео Стратегические бомбардировщики B-52H ВВС США были замечены накануне у государственной границы …

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The US and Russia frequently intercept one another’s bombers in Eastern Europe and over the Pacific.

In May 2019, Russian Tu-95 long-range bombers entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) twice in two days. The US scrambled F-22 stealth fighters and intercepted them. Afterward, the US touted its ability to deter and defeat threats.

Two months earlier, it was the Russians intercepting US B-52 bombers flying over the Baltic Sea during a short-term deployment to Europe. Russia accused the US of unnecessarily fanning tensions.

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

Articles

This cursed Soviet submarine nearly caused a nuclear disaster in the Atlantic Ocean

An old sailor’s myth claims that any ship which fails to break a bottle of champagne during its christening ceremony is cursed forever.


This seemed to be exactly the case with the Soviet ballistic missile submarine K-19, later nicknamed “Hiroshima” by its crew after an accident in 1961 which almost resulted in a nuclear accident which would have rivaled the size and effect of Chernobyl, years later.

If it was any consolation to the horrified sailors who witnessed the champagne bottle bounce intact off the K-19’s stern during its induction ceremony, the sub was already thought to be cursed thanks to the deaths of a number of shipyard workers involved in its construction. Upon its acceptance to the Soviet Navy, its 35-year old captain, Nikolai Zateyev called the ship unfit for service, noting that the USSR’s rush to catch up to American submarine advances had caused the country to cut corners in designing its new vessels.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round
K-19 underway in the Atlantic, as seen from a US Navy helicopter. (Photo from US Navy)

Regardless, the K-19 entered into active service and set sail on its maiden voyage in 1961, operating in the North Atlantic below the shipping lanes that crisscrossed the Atlantic. On the 4th of July — while millions of families made their way to parks to barbecue and watch fireworks in the United States — the K-19’s powerplant experienced a leak in its cooling system while the vessel was submerged southeast of Greenland.

In a matter of minutes, the situation worsened when the ship’s twin reactors began heating up uncontrollably.

If something wasn’t done to solve the cooling issue immediately, a nuclear meltdown would have followed, causing untold amounts of radiation to spew over the North Atlantic, and almost certainly travel over into Western Europe or even parts of Canada and the United States.

Zateyev ordered his crew to devise a “jury-rigged” cooling system, using scrounged-up parts and components of the submarine to re-route water into tubes around the reactors. In the meanwhile, members of the crew volunteered to go into the reactor spaces to attempt to fix the system, receiving fatal doses of radiation almost instantaneously.

None of the ship’s engineering crew would survive, and many more died from radiation poisoning in the years after the near-meltdown. Many of these sailors were later buried in lead coffins, quietly and away from the public eye.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round
K-19 in distress after a crippling fire in the years following its near nuclear disaster. (Photo Soviet Navy)

According to David Miller in his book “Submarine Disasters,” a distress signal emitted from the K-19 was soon picked up by nearby American warships, whose crew offered to assist the stricken sub and her complement. However, Zateyev, worried about losing his ship to the United States — then the enemy during the height of the Cold War — decided instead to sail towards a nearby Soviet diesel submarine. That linkup allowed the K-19’s crew to offload safely.

In the aftermath of the near-catastrophe, the Soviet Navy sought to downplay the nature of the incident, forcing the crew of the K-19’s 1961 cruise to swear an oath of secrecy; violations would result in a lengthy stay at a gulag.

Nevertheless, a number were still decorated for bravery and their role in preventing what could have been an unmitigated disaster. Zateyev went on to serve in the Soviet Navy for another 25 years, passing away eventually from lung disease. The official report on the condition of the sick sailors stated that they were suffering from a form of mental illness.

That, however, wasn’t the end of K-19’s story. Now widely known throughout the Soviet Navy as “Hiroshima,” the ship was repaired and reentered into active duty.

In 1969, a collision with an American submarine disfigured Hiroshima, ending its patrol prematurely. In the 1970s, the submarine suffered a series of fires that killed 30 sailors and wounded scores more. The K-19 was clearly, by this point, living up to its curse.

The oath inflicted upon the 1961 cruise sailors was lifted after the fall of the Soviet Union, and what was once a closely-guarded secret was told to the world. In 2006, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev made public the courageousness of the crew in a letter to the Nobel Prize committee, nominating the survivors for a Nobel Peace Prize.

K-19 was finally retired from service in 1991 having been active for nearly 30 years, and accumulating hundreds of thousands of miles transiting through the world’s oceans. Instead of preserving the ship as a monument to the men who served aboard her, and had a hand in saving millions from nuclear poisoning, the Russian government elected to dismantle and dispose of the vessel, finally ridding its navy of the cursed ship.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Coast Guard made the first-ever helicopter carrier

Believe it or not, some of the greatest pioneers in the use of military helicopters were Coast Guardsmen. These early breakthroughs took place during World War II when the Navy was too busy expanding traditional carrier operations to focus on rotary wing, and the Army had largely sequestered helicopters to an air commando group. The Coast Guard, meanwhile, was working on what would be the first-ever helicopter carrier.


Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

USCGC Governor Cobb underway after its conversion into a helicopter carrier.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

Obviously, we’re talking about a ship that carries helicopters, not an aircraft carrier that flies like a helicopter. The Avengers aren’t real (yet).

The potential advantages of helicopters in military operations were clear to many of the military leaders who witnessed demonstrations in the early 1940s. Igor Sikorsky had made the first practical helicopter flight in 1939, and the value of an aircraft that could hover over an enemy submarine or take off and land in windy or stormy weather was obvious.

But the first helicopters were not really up to the most demanding missions. For starters, they simply didn’t have the power to carry heavy ordnance. And it would take years to build up a cadre of pilots to plan operations, conduct staff work, and actually fly the missions.

The Army was officially given lead on testing helicopters and developing them for wartime use, but they were predominantly interested in using it for reconnaissance with a secondary interest in rescuing personnel in areas where liaison planes couldn’t reach.

So, the Coast Guard, which wanted to develop the helicopter for rescues at sea and for their own portion of the anti-submarine fight, saw a potential opening. They could pursue the maritime uses of helicopters if they could just get a sign off from the Navy and some money and/or helicopters.

The commandant of the Coast Guard, Vice Adm. Russell R. Waesche, officially approved Coast Guard helicopter development in June 1942. In February 1943, he convinced Chief of Naval Operations Navy Adm. Ernest King to direct that the Coast Guard had the lead on maritime helicopter development. Suddenly, almost every U.S. Navy helicopter was controlled by the Coast Guard.

A joint Navy-Coast Guard board began looking into the possibilities with a focus on anti-submarine warfare per King’s wishes. They eventually settled on adapting helicopters to detect submarines, using their limited carrying capacity for sensors instead of depth charges or a large crew. They envisioned helicopters that operated from merchant ships and protected convoys across the Atlantic and Pacific.

The first sea trials of the helicopter took place just months later with an Army-owned HNS-1 operating from the tanker Bunker Hill. It went well, and the U.S. Coast Guard and Great Britain planned to convert one ship each to a helicopter carrier.

The Coast Guard quickly overhauled the steam-powered passenger ship named Governor Cobb into CGC Governor Cobb, the first helicopter carrier. The Coast Guard added armor, a flight deck, 10 guns of various calibers, and depth charges. Work was completed in May 1943, and the first detachment of pilots was trained and certified that July.

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Frank A. Erickson stands beside an HNS-1 Hoverfly and his co-pilot Lt. Walter Bolton sits within.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

The early tests showed that the HNS-1 helicopters were under-powered for rough weather and anti-submarine operations, but were exceedingly valuable in rescue operations. This was proven in January 1944 when a destroyer exploded between New Jersey and New York. Severe weather grounded fixed-wing aircraft, but Coast Guard pilot Lt. Cmdr. Frank A. Erickson took off in an HNS-1s.

He strapped two cases of plasma to the helicopter and took off in winds up to 25 knots and sleet, flew between tall buildings to the hospital and dropped off the goods in just 14 minutes. Because the only suitable pick-up point was surrounded by large trees, Erickson had to fly backward in the high winds to get back into the air.

According to a Coast Guard history:

“Weather conditions were such that this flight could not have been made by any other type of aircraft,” Erickson stated. He added that the flight was “routine for the helicopter.”
The New York Times lauded the historic flight stating:
It was indeed routine for the strange rotary-winded machine which Igor Sikorsky has brought to practical flight, but it shows in striking fashion how the helicopter can make use of tiny landing areas in conditions of visibility which make other types of flying impossible….Nothing can dim the future of a machine which can take in its stride weather conditions such as those which prevailed in New York on Monday.

Still, it was clear by the end of 1944 that a capable anti-submarine helicopter would not make it into the fight in time for World War II, so the Navy slashed its order for 210 helicopters down to 36, just enough to satisfy patrol tasks and the Coast Guard’s early rescue requirements.

This made the helicopter carrier Governor Cobb surplus to requirements. It was decommissioned in January 1946. The helicopter wouldn’t see serious deployment with the Navy’s fleet until Sikorsky sent civilian pilots in 1947 to a Navy fleet exercise and successfully rescued four downed pilots in four events.

But the experiment proved that the helicopters could operate from conventional carriers, no need for a dedicated ship. Today, helicopters can fly from ships as small as destroyers and serve in roles from search and rescue to anti-submarine and anti-air to cargo transportation.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why the next season of ‘The Punisher’ will be bittersweet

If there is one comic book character who embodies the military veteran spirit, it has got to be Marvel’s Frank Castle, also known as The Punisher. While there have been several movie and television adaptations, the one that most faithfully portrays the Frank Castle we know from the comic books is Netflix’s The Punisher, starring Jon Bernthal.

Bernthal’s Castle first made an appearance in the second season of Daredevil, and his graveyard monologue solidified his role in the hearts of fans. The first season of his solo series was everything fans of the comics could have hoped for. The next season, which is to be released on January 18, is also highly anticipated, but a dark cloud looms: This may be the finale.

Don’t despair; the pieces are lining up to make this the greatest thing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet.


Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

Deadpool can jokingly play with the PG-13 rating by breaking the fourth wall. The Punisher on the other hand…

(20th Century Fox)

In October, Netflix cancelled Iron Fist. Not even a week later, Luke Cage was also cancelled. A month after Daredevil’s season three premiered, it, too, was given the short end of the stick. Put two and two together and you can reasonably expect The Punisher and Jessica Jones to eventually get the ax as well, but not before their upcoming seasons are released in 2019.

Both Iron Fist and Luke Cage ended on bizarre cliffhangers. You can tell the cancellations probably came as a shock to the show-runners. Daredevil, on the other hand, had enough of a heads up to carefully and properly wrap up the story threads of each character. The Punisher — which wrapped filming in mid-August — hopefully had the same kind of foresight.

The current rumor is that each character will appear in later Marvel properties after the contractual two-year “cooling-off” period is over. If they do come over, they’ll be utilized in the already-established, PG-13 Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that’s great; it’d be amazing to see Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin face off against Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. We could even see Mike Colter’s Luke Cage join the New Avengers alongside Wolverine and Dr. Strange.

But those future appearances will adhere to PG-13 restrictions. If you saw Once Upon a Deadpool, the edited-down, more family-friendly version of Deadpool 2 made entirely to keep the Regenerating Degenerate just the way he is in his R-rated films while remaining compliant with Disney, then you know there are creative ways to make this work.

But trying to fit The Punisher, a man known more for his penchant for violence than a tendency to break the fourth wall, into a PG-13 rating may not work quite as well.

There is a silver lining here. The series is afforded something rarely seen in television series: closure. Season 2 can go all out because there’s no season 3 for which to save some energy. They’re not going to get renewed. They can wrap up characters or kill off important ones to better fit the narrative.

We may even get the story that’s always been teased in the comics: his ending. Punisher fans know Castle won’t settle down in some suburban home, but can he keep living the life of a vigilante? He never really managed to keep an ever-growing rogue’s gallery of villains because he kills them all — just to have another secure a place on his sh*tlist. What happens when this well dries up? What is a Punisher without anyone left to punish?

Details about the next season are sparse. Ben Barnes is reprising his role as Billy Russo, who completed his transformation into the villain Jigsaw in Season 1, and Josh Stewart is playing John Pilgrim, who may end up being the villain from the PunisherMAX comic series, Mennonite.

Since the burden of a serialized third season is lifted, the show-runner, Steve Lightfoot, said in an interview that his focus was to make the best season possible and to keep characters true to their comic-book counterparts. And as a huge comic book fan and a veteran, that’s all I’m asking for.

Check out the season two trailer below.

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