The North Koreans have been provoking the United States for as long as North Koreans have been praising Kim Il-Sung for being birthed from a shooting star.
In the 1960’s the Hermit Kingdom was at the height of its power, which mostly came from the Soviet Union, who both supplied it and protected it from U.S. “intervention.”
The election of U.S. President Richard Nixon changed how Communist nations interacted with the United States in geopolitical affairs. Nixon, a staunch anti-Communist Cold Warrior, was able to provoke the major Communist powers and them off of one another. His famous 1972 trip to China and the subsequent thaw in relations with the USSR are proof that Nixon’s “triangulation” theory had merit.
But in April 1969, mere months into the first Nixon Administration, Nixon’s internationalist savvy was still unproven. That’s when North Korea shot down an EC-121 spy plane over the Sea of Japan. Nixon was furious.
And Nixon could do a lot when he’s that angry. (Painting by Jason Heuser – SharpWriter on DeviantArt)
A July 2010 story on NPR featured remarks from Bruce Charles, an Air Force pilot based in Kunsan, South Korea at the time. He recalled being put on alert to carry out his part of the SIOP, the Single Integrated Operational Plan – the U.S. nuclear strike plan for war with the Communists.
Charles was put on alert to drop a 330-kiloton nuke on a North Korean airstrip.
Eventually, the order to stand down was given, and Charles returned to his regular duties. According to the official accounts, Nixon and his advisors mulled over how to respond. In the end, the President opted not to retaliate.
It’s worth speculating that Nixon would have wanted the Communists to believe he actually considered a nuclear strike. In the coming years, the President would even send nuclear-armed bombers toward the Soviet Union while spreading the rumor that he was so insane, he might really trigger World War III.
Of course, he wasn’t insane. And thanks to a 2000 book by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, we know he was just drunk. Not with power, but with booze.
George Carver, a CIA Vietnam specialist at the time of the EC-121 shootdown, is reported to have said that Nixon became “incensed” when he found out about the EC-121. The President got on the phone with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ordered plans for a tactical nuclear strike and recommendations for targets.
Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor for Nixon at the time, also got on the phone to the Joint Chiefs and got them to agree to stand down on that order until Nixon woke up sober the next morning.
During the Vietnam War, some Coast Guard pilots were given the chance to volunteer for service on the front lines, relieving the pressure on over-tasked Air Force pilots. Some of those Coast Guard pilots who volunteered would go on to dramatically rescue a downed Air Force pilot and were later awarded Silver Stars for their actions.
Pararescuemen leap out of a HH-3E during an exercise. The HH-3E, known as the “Jolly Green Giant,” was widely used in Vietnam.
In country, they were folded into flight crews, often with Air Force copilots, engineers, and pararescuemen. Their job was to pick up isolated personnel — usually downed aircrews — provide immediate medical care, and deliver them to field medical facilities.
A U.S. Air Force F-105G, similar to the one lost on July 1, 1968, leading to a dramatic rescue by U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard personnel under fire.
(U.S. Air Force)
On July 1, 1968, an F-105 Thunderchief with the callsign “Scotch 3” was hit over the Vietnamese peninsula and made for the gulf, but fell too fast and the pilot was forced to eject into a jungle canyon. Lt. Col. Jack Modica was knocked out by the impact of his landing, and woke up two hours later.
He reported his condition to the forward air controller, and the HH-3Es attempted to get to him. The first attempts were unsuccessful due to ground fire, so the Air Force sent in another HH-3E with ground attack aircraft suppressing enemy air defenses.
A Douglas A-1 Skyraider like the one shot down July 2, 1968, while trying to suppress ground fire in Vietnam.
(Clemens Vasters, CC BY 2.0)
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Lonnie Mixon flew the helicopter during these attempts, taking fire that damaged his fuel tank, a hydraulic line, and the electrical system. Shockingly, even after all that damage, he made one more attempt, but was again forced to break off due to anti-aircraft fire. This forced the pilot to spend the night in the jungle. Mixon later received the Silver Star for his brave attempts.
So, the rescue birds came back again in the morning, but it went even worse than the night before. One of the ground-attack aircraft, an A-1 Skyraider, was shot down, and the rescue chopper was forced back home after suffering heavy damage, including having an unexploded rocket lodged inside of it.
With this list of failures, dangers, and damage, the Air Force turned to Jolly 21 pilot U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Lance Eagan and asked him to fly in behind a B-52 bomber strike. Eagan and his Air Force crew accepted the mission and went to work.
An Air Force crew lowers a jungle penetrator from a HH-3E helicopter during an exercise.
(U.S. Air Force)
Again, ground fire opened up, striking the rescue bird, but Eagan was able to get through the flak intact and spotted smoke thrown by Modica. He found a nearby open patch to lower the PJ into the jungle to go grab Modica. The PJ found that Modica had a pelvic break.
Eagan was forced to lower the helicopter down into the trees, striking some of the high branches, to get the jungle penetrator as close to the pilot as possible, but the PJs still had to carry the injured man a short distance. As the crew began raising the men from the jungle floor, the Vietnamese sprang their trap.
Automatic weapons fire thundered into the helicopter, shattering the windscreen and penetrating the thin metal skin, but Eagan kept the bird steady until the hoist cleared the trees and the HH-3E was able to tear away low and fast.
The injured pilot was successfully delivered to a hospital, and the rescue crew was later decorated for their bravery. Eagan was awarded the Silver Star by the Air Force for his actions.
He and Mixon weren’t the only Coast Guard pilots to receive that award. Lt. Jack Rittichier had been shot down the month before during a rescue attempt, and he was awarded the Silver Star along with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.
The Coast Guard’s involvement in combat air rescue continued for another four years, ending in 1972.
Late Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, U.S. military officials identified the Army helicopter pilot who died on Aug. 20, 2018, as a result of wounds received in a crash in Iraq on Aug. 19, 2018 during an undisclosed operation. Official news releases report three additional wounded U.S. personnel have been evacuated to treatment facilities.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin, 34, from Spokane, Washington, died Aug. 20, in Baghdad as a result of injuries sustained when his helicopter crashed in Sinjar, Ninevah Province, according to a Department of Defense news release.
CW3 Galvin was assigned to Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment) as an MH-60M Blackhawk helicopter pilot. He was flying in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Galvin was originally from Phoenix, Arizona. He was 34 years old. Galvin was a combat veteran special operations pilot with nine deployments including two during Iraqi Freedom, three in Operation Enduring Freedom and four more during Operation Inherent Resolve. He was the recipient of the U.S. Army Air Medal (C device) and Air Medal (30LC) for heroism or meritorious achievement while flying in addition to numerous other awards.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin.
In an August 20, 2018 article on Newsweek.com about the fatal crash, journalist James LaPorta reported that, “It is unclear why the MH-60 Blackhawk went down, but U.S. military sources with knowledge of the crash said the helicopter was returning to base after conducting a partnered small-scale raid on Islamic State militants in an undisclosed region as part of ongoing counterterrorism operations.” LaPorta went on to write, “Ten U.S. military personnel were onboard the aircraft being flown by U.S. Army pilots from the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers.”
The region near Sinjar (Shingal), Iraq where the crash occurred had been active in supporting cross-border anti-ISIS operations into neighboring Syria for more than a month until U.S. troops were withdrawn from the area in the middle of July 2018 according to a report by Wladimir van Wilgenburg published in the regional Kurdistan 24 online news source. This is also the region where Iraqi Air Force F-16s have conducted their first airstrikes against insurgents during cross-border strikes into Syria.
The crash was reported to have occurred at approximately 10:00 PM local time (2200 hrs, GMT+3). Sunset in the region on Aug. 19, 2018, the date of the accident, occurred at 6:40 PM local time. Weather in the area was hot, 101 degrees Fahrenheit, with light winds and clear skies. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning told reporters that the crash was not caused by enemy fire.
(US Army photo)
Reports about the aircraft and the personnel on board may contradict official assertions that the U.S. role in the region is predominantly in an advisory capacity. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the “Night Stalkers”, is a highly-specialized combat aviation unit headquartered at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky that supports elite U.S. and coalition combat units like Army Special Forces, Naval Special Warfare (SEALs) and other special operations units.
The 160th SOAR, the “Night Stalkers”, are most famous for the raid to capture Osama bin Laden, Operation Neptune’s Spear, on May 1, 2011. During that raid, the unit flew a classified, low-observable variant of the Blackhawk helicopter that has since been popularly referred to in speculation as the “MH-X Stealth Black Hawk” or “Silent Hawk”. Images of part of the secret helicopter were seen around the world when one of them crashed inside Bin Laden’s compound during the raid, leaving the tail section visible. Books and media accounts suggest only two of the aircraft were ever produced.
With the third installment of the John Wick franchise continuing to see solid returns at the box office and a fourth installment already announced, it seems clear that the Keanu Reeves’ action vehicle is bringing something to the moviegoing audience that they’ve lacked in this era of high-budget blockbusters and CGI-infused epics. I’ve gone on record in the past saying that I believe the secret to Wick’s success is in its approach to violence; melding realism with whimsy in a uniquely American fashion and producing this nation’s first legitimate response to the Brit’s premiere assassin franchise, James Bond.
What makes Reeves’ Wick Bond-like where other successful American franchises have fallen short (culturally speaking) isn’t in its similarities to the spy-franchise, but rather in its willingness to depart so openly from it. While American heroes like Jason Bourne, Jack Ryan, and even Ethan Hunt seem to emulate Bond’s style and approach to varying degrees, Wick diverges from the expected and leans hard into a stylized alternate reality where firefights require grappling skills and the homeless man you gave your change to might actually be a trained assassin hiding his Rolex from your view.
Trained combatants masquerading as homeless men is a common urban legend that may have legitimate roots in some British SAS operations.
This departure from what we’ve come to expect could have been enough to make the Wick-flicks into a Matrix-like fantasy franchise, but it’s where and how these films choose to anchor themselves in reality that makes Wick’s fight scenes so jarring. Every time you start to think you’re watching another superhero movie, the Wick series brings you back to earth with a powerful thud, grounding its over-the-top violence in reality, even when the circumstances are anything but realistic.
One scene in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” perfectly captures this combination of gritty realism and seemingly surreal violence in a brief but dramatic fight between the titular Wick and one of the countless assassins he’s forced to dispatch along the path to redemption. As the two wrestle with one another, they fall into an indoor pool, creating separation and offering each an opportunity to level their weapons at one another.
About as effective as this.
(Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Levi Schultz)
With both Wick and his opponent still submerged under the water, the goon opens fire, releasing three rounds into the pool that, in any other film, would have hit Wick square in the chest. Instead, however, the rounds immediately begin to flutter off course, reacting to the dense water separating the two men in what is perhaps the most realistic example of water’s effect on traveling rounds I’ve ever seen depicted in film.
Wick then closes the distance between the two of them, pressing the muzzle of his weapon right into the neck of his opponent and firing, killing the bad guy and allowing Wick a precious moment to regroup.
John Wick Chapter 3 Underwater Gun Fight | John Wick Chapter 3
While movies may show bullets whizzing through the water (often with the hero dodging them as he swims away), the truth is, water is about 800 times denser than air and has a huge effect on the trajectory and energy of a round. As the bullet strikes the water, its kinetic energy immediately begins to dissipate against the resistance of the thicker medium, allowing that drag to send it fluttering off course, and usually, rendering the bullet near enough to inert to make it no threat to any nearby assassins.
“John Wick: Chapter 3” is the first movie I’ve ever seen so clearly demonstrate water’s effect on a bullet’s path without taking the time to handhold the audience to explain the physics behind it. Instead, Wick simply shows the action as it would unfold and moves on, respecting the viewer enough to assume that you’ll get it–even if it’s something you’ve never seen on screen before.
Fires weapon under water – with his own life on the line
As demonstrated by Mythbusters in an episode called “Bulletproof Water” that aired in July of 2005, just about anything you shoot at the water short of a .50 caliber round or a 12 gauge slug will disintegrate in less than three feet when fired into water. If you trust your math enough, you can even devise a rig that lets you shoot 5.56mm rounds at yourself like physicist Andreas Wahl did to prove the point, but I’m inclined to take Wick’s word for it on this one.
Five days after Hitler ate a bullet in his bunker in Berlin and two days before Germany would ultimately surrender, American and German troops were fighting together side by side in what has been dubbed World War II’s “strangest battle.”
It was the last days of the war on May 5, 1945 when French prisoners, Austrian resistance fighters, German soldiers, and American tankers all fought in defense of Itter Castle in Austria.
In 1943, the German military turned the small castle into a prison for “high value” prisoners, such as French prime ministers, generals, sports stars, and politicians. By May 4, 1945, with Germany and its military quickly collapsing, the commander of the prison and his guards abandoned their post.
The prisoners were now running the asylum, but they couldn’t just walk out the front door and enjoy their freedom. The Waffen SS, the fanatical paramilitary unit commanded by Heinrich Himmler, had plans to recapture the castle and execute all of the prisoners.
That’s when the prisoners enlisted the help of nearby American troops led by Capt. John ‘Jack’ Lee, local resistance fighters, and yes, even soldiers of the Wehrmacht to defend the castle through the night and early morning of May 5. The book “The Last Battle” by Stephen Harding tells the true tale of what happened next.
There are two primary heroes of this—as I must reiterate, entirely factual—story, both of them straight out of central casting. Jack Lee was the quintessential warrior: smart, aggressive, innovative—and, of course, a cigar-chewing, hard-drinking man who watched out for his troops and was willing to think way, way outside the box when the tactical situation demanded it, as it certainly did once the Waffen-SS started to assault the castle. The other was the much-decorated Wehrmacht officer Major Josef ‘Sepp’ Gangl, who died helping the Americans protect the VIPs. This is the first time that Gangl’s story has been told in English, though he is rightly honored in present-day Austria and Germany as a hero of the anti-Nazi resistance.
As the New York Journal of Books notes in its review of Harding’s work, Army Capt. Lee immediately assumed command of the fight for the castle over its leaders — Capt. Schrader and Maj. Gangl — and they fought against a force of 100 to 150 SS troops in a confusing battle, to say the least.
Over the six-hour battle, the SS managed to destroy the sole American tank of the vastly outnumbered defenders, and Allied ammunition ran extremely low. Fortunately, the Americans were able to call for reinforcements, and once they showed up the SS backed off, according to Donald Lateiner in his review.
Approximately 100 SS troops were taken prisoner, according to the BBC. The only friendly casualty of the battle was Maj. Gangl, who was shot by a sniper. The nearby town of Wörgl later named a street after him in his honor, while Capt. Lee received the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in the battle.
Necessity is the mother of invention, but combat forces troops to get creative. When your life is on the line, you do whatever it takes to get the job done. Over the years, troops have found some surprising applications on the battlefield for simple everyday items. Here are some of the best.
1. Super Glue
Yes, the stuff that you use to fix broken pottery and then get all over your fingers had a military use. In fact, it was a live saving application. While developing a plastic gunsight and an aircraft canopy in the 1940s and 1950s, Harry Coover invented a new super strong and quick-drying adhesive. Realizing the potential medical application of his new invention, he submitted it to the FDA for approval. Although it was disapproved for use on human tissue because it caused skin irritation, the military sent Super Glue to the Vietnam. Applied with a spray bottle, medics would use Super Glue to close open wounds and stop bleeding in the field. This gave many troops the valuable time needed to be MEDEVACed to a field hospital for proper treatment. Later, Super Glue’s formula was reworked to be used specifically on human tissue.
2. Grease pencil
The grease pencil has plenty of uses in the military. Its ability to write on glass make it ideal for air traffic controllers, especially on aircraft carriers. However, the pilots of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment used the grease pencil as a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem. When the OH-6 Cayuse was adapted into the MH-6 Little Bird for Special Operations use, the Army added two M134 7.62x51mm mini-guns and two 2.75-inch rocket pods to the helicopter. However, the pilots had no way of aiming their weapons. To create a reference, they would fly a few practice gun runs to see exactly where their fire was landing in relation to their windscreen. Afterwards, they would mark the spot with a little “X” in grease pencil and use it as a gun sight. Despite its crudity, the grease pencil gun sight worked remarkably well. Sgt. Raleigh Cash, a member of Task Force Ranger during the Battle of Mogadishu remembers the accuracy of the Little Birds. “These guys hit exactly where you told them to,” Cash recalled, “using nothing but a little X on the windscreen.”
Thanks to Band of Brothers and Jurassic World, most people are probably familiar with this one. The cricket, or clicker, was originally designed in the 1920s as a timekeeping device for orchestra and band leaders. The simplicity of the clicking metal device meant that it was soon adopted as a children’s toy. However, during Operation Overlord, the cricket served a much more serious role than music or playtime. On D-Day, the 101st Airborne challenge and password was “flash-thunder”. If a paratrooper came across an unknown individual in the dark, they would whisper “flash” just loud enough for the person to hear. If they responded with “thunder”, it was another paratrooper and all was good. Otherwise, it was assumed that they were a German. The Screaming Eagles also used a nonverbal challenge and password. Using their crickets, paratroopers would make one click as a challenge. The appropriate response to identify yourself as a fellow trooper was two clicks with your own cricket. The simple cricket has also been used to train animals and has become iconic thanks to its depiction on screen.
4. Silly String
A favorite of children and vandals alike, the aerosol plastic string in a can found its way to the battlefield during the war in Iraq. Especially in the early days of the war, U.S. troops were heavily impeded by IEDs. Enemy fighters would rig up crude explosives with simple tripwires that made house-to-house fighting extremely difficult and dangerous. Adapting to this threat, troops discovered that Silly String could be used to identify tripwires that were otherwise invisible to the naked eye. The plastic stream can be shot 10 to 12 feet across a room and is light enough to not set off any potential triggers. If the string falls to the ground, no tripwires. If the string hangs in the air, you know there’s something there. Upon hearing about this application from her son, one Army mom organized a drive to send 80,000 cans of the stuff to Iraq in 2007.
It was a huge morale boost for the battle-weary soldiers living at Patrol Base Murray the morning they got a visit from the Army’s top general. They couldn’t have imagined that anyone of that importance would come to their dusty, dangerous slice of the combat zone.
It felt good, but less than an hour after he and his entourage went wheels up, five of their fellow soldiers would be dead, the victims of a cunning sniper who sucked them into his web with ruthlessly primitive tactics.
The first victim was Spc. William Edwards. On a patrol outside the wire during the four-star general’s visit, he cautiously popped his Bradley’s driver hatch open three-quarters of the way to peer outside, and was shot high on his back squarely between the shoulders.
“It was a great sniper shot,” then-Lt. Col. Ken Adgie, commander of 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry, said of the clean hit, which Edwards’ platoon immediately knew had come from a three-story house about 200 meters away.
As the medics and docs in the aid station worked to save Edwards’ life, the rest of his buddies from Bravo Company, 2nd Platoon went into reaction mode and headed straight for the house to find the sniper.
The battalion, part of the 3rd Infantry Division, was on mission in the region of Arab Jabour about six miles southeast of the Baghdad, a lush agrarian area where magnificent houses that once belonged to the ruling Sunni elite grace the banks of the Tigris River.
It was now teeming with al-Qaeda operatives and their hired help. The troops called it “IED Alley” — aptly named as the division’s tally of men lost after a year in combat was more than 150, mostly to buried bombs. But the sniper threat was a constant.
The presumed sniper house was on a ribbon of land between a one-lane hardball road and the river less than a mile south of Patrol Base Murray, and 2nd Platoon had surrounded it within 15 minutes of the incident with Edwards.
Four soldiers – Sgt. Scott Kirkpatrick, Spc. Justin Penrod, Sgt. Andrew Lancaster and Staff Sgt. William Scates – went into the house to clear it. They entered through the back door.
“There was a trip wire deep in the house at the end of the hallway going into the living room. A pressure sensitive wire, something under the carpet,” Adgie said.
Unbeknownst to the soldiers, the house was booby trapped with as many as four 155 mm artillery rounds enhanced with homemade explosives and when the first soldier stepped on the trigger, it tripped a circuit and detonated the charge, blowing everyone up in a fiery explosion.
The soldiers were killed, a heavy toll that raised to five the number of soldiers the battalion lost that day, all within 30 minutes.
“The explosion was huge,” Adgie said. “Structurally the house stood, but it caught fire then burned for six hours. We had to wait for it to go out and the Navy EOD guys to go in and make sure it was safe before we could get one of the bodies out.”
Early that evening, with the scope of the tragedy barely having sunk in yet, the company commander and platoon leader went back to the house with an interpreter and climbed an inside stairway to the third floor to see if they could find a clue about the sniper.
On the wall, in Arabic, was a hateful taunt from the sniper himself, a message that read, roughly, “This is where the sniper got your guys.”
But the sniper was long gone and had left nothing behind but the note.
Infuriated by the deadly “gotcha” they had found, the unit’s human intelligence collection team went to work immediately, plying every source in every corner of their battle space to find out who the sniper was.
One of their best resources was a small team of Iraqis the battalion called their “Bird Dogs,” three men – former insurgents – who lived with the unit at Patrol Base Murray and ran a cell phone operation to reach out to a network of sympathetic friends in Arab Jabour.
The sniper, it turns out, was already famous in the Al Qaeda-friendly area for his highly successful and prominent ambush and a short 48 hours later, the U.S. soldiers, with the help of the Bird Dogs, had a name and a description.
He was Mohamed Uthman, a 5-foot, 2-inch tall foot soldier for Al Qaeda who had a reputation for being a murderous criminal. And, no surprise, he was already known as a “high value target” on a list the Americans had of their most wanted.
“Word on the street was, this is the guy who did it, and he kept on working after that. He was a cold blooded killer and he killed more Iraqis than he did Americans,” Adgie said.
The mean little sniper eluded capture for months, until one night when he made the decision to go out and kill people with the wrong insurgent mortar team.
It was December 11, 2007, four months to the day he had snuffed out the lives of the five soldiers, and Adgie cleared an Air Force F-16 hot to drop a bomb on the mortar team, unaware that Uthman was one of the teammates.
They found out after a site exploitation team identified one of the dead as the diminutive sniper.
“When Adgie lost those soldiers in that house borne IED, I flew in and we were on our knees praying and crying like babies,” said then-Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of 3rd ID. “We learned, but we learned the hard way. If something looked like it might be rigged with explosives, we just blew it up. I wasn’t going to allow my kids to go in there again because we’d already lost four.”
The tiny killer was gone, but insurgent snipers continued to bedevil the troops, said Lynch, who recalled the death of a soldier in an Abrams M1A1 tank, who, like Edwards in the Bradley, opened his hatch while the tank was on the move and was shot by a sniper from a range they estimated at about 1,000 meters.
“He’s a thinking, adaptive enemy,” Lynch said. “They watched our movements and based on their training they could pace their engagement on the rate of movement of the vehicle.”
Lynch pointed out that the division’s brigade and battalion commanders under his command had all been to Iraq at least once before and had come to know the value of having well trained and equipped sniper teams.
In Arab Jabour the sniper teams were used consistently to overwatch IED hot spots and other things like long range cameras placed on elevated platforms. The cameras provided overwatch as well, but the snipers came into play and could shoot from concealed locations if anyone messed with those cameras.
“There’s clearly a continuing role for our snipers. They found their niche on the battlefield,” Lynch said.
Gina Cavallaro is the author of Sniper: American Single-Shot Warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This incredible story was brought to you by Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions which are set to release the military thriller “The Wall” May 12. The movie, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena, is a harrowing story pitting the infamous insurgent sniper known as “Juba” against an American sharpshooter who uses an unsteady wall for protection as he tries to rescue his wounded comrade.
In January, a report from Inside Defense broke the news that the US Navy’s F-35 variant, the most expensive in the Joint Strike Fighter family, had an issue with the nose gear that made takeoffs untenably rough and the aircraft unsuited for carrier launches.
The Navy’s F-35C has a history of problems with its development as it attempts to master the tricky art of catapult launches from aircraft carriers, but the nose-gear issue could set back the F-35C into the 2020s if an innovative solution is not found quickly.
“This is a very stiff airplane, even though the oscillations about the same magnitude as you would see in a Super Hornet. It beats the pilot up pretty good,” US Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told reporters at the McAleese/Credit Suisse defense conference earlier this month, US Naval Institute News reported.
F-35C pilots are “hurting after doing three or four of these [launches] and in some instances even banging his half-a-million-dollar helmet on the canopy,” Bogdan said. “That’s not good for the canopy or the helmet. So we knew we had an issue there.”
Testing at a land-based US Navy catapult system showed that instead of a costly and lengthy redesign of the F-35C’s nose section, some smaller adjustments may suffice.
Jeff Babione, the general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program, echoed that sentiment at the company’s office in the Washington, DC, area, telling reporters the company had worked on a few simple changes that seemed to yield results. Babione said Lockheed Martin changed the way the pilot straps in and their head and arm positions, as well as reduced the “holdback,” or stress on the plane, in the moments before launch.
“The initial indication is some of those techniques improved” the F-35C’s launches, Babione said. He conceded that the real testing would be done by the Navy aboard carriers “to see whether or not those changes were successful.”
The make-or-break tests of the launch will take place at sea later this year.
So check out these military myths that Hollywood has taught us to believe are true:
1. Michael Bay explosions
Michael Bay is widely known for his amazing camera moves and is hands down one of the best action directors out there. He has mastered the ability to move audiences through the battle space while providing them with an intense adrenaline rush…
…but he needs to work explosions because they look like fireworks.
Here’s a real man’s explosion:
Okay, so this one is a nuke explosion — but you get the point. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
2. Cleaning bathrooms with toothbrushes
After speaking to a few Annapolis graduates and other military veterans, no one can recall seeing a Midshipman cleaning the bathroom using a toothbrush. It could have happened a long time ago, but not in the last few decades.
3. Taking off on your own
War is very dangerous. Leaving your squad to go run down the enemy by yourself through a sea of maze-like structures for a little extra payback is highly improbable.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent decision to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement comes after repeated threats to pull out, but his decision to ditch the pact now could undermine the ability of the US and its partners to counter China’s ambitions in the region.
The VFA, signed in 1998, gives legal status to US troops in the Philippines. Duterte, a longtime critic of ties to the US, gave formal notice of withdrawal to the US this month, triggering a 180-day period before the exit is finalized.
Duterte believes the Philippines should be more militarily independent, a spokesman said, quoting the president as saying, “It’s about time we rely on ourselves.”
The decision is “chiefly the product of Duterte’s deep, decades-long anti-US sentiment,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat and a Southeast Asian security analyst, said in an email to Business Insider.
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has “found just about any excuse he can to make threats against the alliance, be it canceling exercises or separating from the United States,” Parameswaran added.
Duterte has spurned the US since he took office and bristled at US criticism of his human-rights record. Both the US and Duterte have high approval ratings among the Philippine public, however, while a large majority there have little or no confidence in China.
“It’s a competition. China’s competing,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, said Thursday at a US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on Capitol Hill.
“There’s very clear recognition that China is putting pressure and using every tool within its disposal to try to draw those countries” away from cooperation with the US, Sbragia said. “That’s a condition we’re taking head on. That’s very serious for us.”
“I don’t doubt China will relish the deterioration in the US-Philippine alliance,” Parameswaran said. “Beijing has long considered US alliances a relic of the Cold War and a manifestation of US efforts to contain its regional ambitions.”
The US and the Philippines, which the US ruled as a colony during the first half of the 20th century, have a decades-long diplomatic and military relationship.
That relationship and the benefit it offers the Philippine security establishment, as well as US popularity in the Philippines, are among the reasons why Manila may not follow through on withdrawal.
Philippine officials have also hinted that the notice of withdrawal is a starting point for negotiations over the VFA, which some have said are needed “to address matters of sovereignty.” Philippine politicians have also questioned Duterte’s authority to exit the agreement.
But the US shouldn’t assume that Duterte is bluffing or looking for leverage, said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“He has been anti-American his entire adult life and has been consistently saying he wants to sever the alliance and bring the Philippines into a strategic alignment with China,” Poling said in an email.
“That said, six months is a long time in politics. If Duterte walks this back, it won’t be because a plan to renegotiate with Washington plays out,” Poling added, “it’ll be because of internal pressure, possibly in response to whatever natural disaster, Chinese act of aggression, or terrorist act in Mindanao happens between now and then.”
The VFA allows US troops to operate on Philippine territory, including US Navy crews and Marine Corps units.
Ending the agreement would jeopardize the roughly 300 joint exercises the two countries conduct every year, complicating everything from port calls to the Mutual Defense Treaty, which commits the US to the Philippines’ defense in case of an attack. It would also be harder for the US to provide aid in response to natural disasters.
“It’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said this month.
Many naval activities will be unaffected because they can be carried out without entering Philippine territory, Poling said.
“But large-scale land and air exercises will be impossible, as they were from 1990-1999,” Poling added, referring to a period when Manila’s failure to renew a mutual basing agreement led to the withdrawal of US forces — including the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific.
Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., Philippine armed forces chief of staff, has said about half of all joint military engagements would be affected by the end the VFA, Poling noted.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said joint exercises with the US would continue during the 180-day period, including the multinational Balikatan exercise that has taken place in the Philippines every spring for 35 years.
Santos Jr. has downplayed the effects of withdrawal, saying it will make the Philippines “self-reliant” and that Manila would expand bilateral exercises it has with other in the region, including Australia and Japan.
But there are legal and logistical limits on the military activities those countries can undertake with the Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific.
The erosion of the US-Philippine military relationship raises the prospect of Beijing making moves like those it made in the South China Sea in the 1990s, when it occupied Mischief Reef — first with small wooden structures and then, a few months before the VFA went into force in 1999, with fort-like structures made of concrete.
In the years since, China has expanded and reinforced its presence in the South China Sea, building military structures on man-made islands there. Mischief Reef is now Beijing’s biggest outpost in the disputed waters.
“Beijing will work to make sure that a US loss is China’s gain” and build on inroads made with Duterte, Parameswaran said.
“These gains may include those that are not in the security realm, such as tightening economic ties or helping Duterte deliver on some of his domestic political goals,” Parameswaran added. “But they will nonetheless be consequential, because the broader objective is to move Duterte’s Philippines closer to China and away from the United States.”
A UK intelligence agency might have based part of a report on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction on a movie starring Nicolas Cage, according to a government report released Wednesday.
The report contends that Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war was based on “flawed intelligence and assessments” that were “not challenged” when they should have been. The 2.6-million word document, known as the Iraq Inquiry, or the “Chilcot report,” is the culmination of a huge investigation that former Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched in 2009.
One volume of the inquiry focuses on the UK’s evidence of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction. These intelligence assessments turned out to be false, as both the US and the UK discovered after the 2003 Iraq invasion turned up no such weapons.
The inquiry notes that two Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) assessments from September 2002 were called into question months later. Some within the intelligence agency, which is also known as MI6, began doubting the source of the information that was included in the assessments.
The intelligence reports stated that Iraq had “accelerated the production of chemical and biological agents.” Officials believed the source of this information was reputable.
But one of the reports mentioned glass containers that supposedly contained the chemical agents the Iraqi government was supposed to possess.
Here’s the relevant section from the Iraq Inquiry:
“In early October, questions were raised with SIS about the mention of glass containers in the 23 September 2002 report. It was pointed out that:
Glass containers were not typically used in chemical munitions; and that a popular movie (The Rock) had inaccurately depicted nerve agents being carried in glass beads or spheres.
Iraq had had difficulty in the 1980s obtaining a key precursor chemical for soman [a chemical agent].
“The questions about the use of glass containers for chemical agent and the similarity of the description to those portrayed in The Rock had been recognized by SIS. There were some precedents for the use of glass containers but the points would be pursued when further material became available.”
The movie the report refers to is the 1996 Michael Bay action thriller, “The Rock,” starring Nicholas Cage playing an FBI chemical-warfare expert. Sean Connery plays a former British spy who teams up with the FBI agent to prevent a deranged US general from launching a chemical-weapons attack on San Francisco.
The Iraq Inquiry goes on to state that intelligence officials were meant to do further reporting on the questionable intelligence contained in the September 2002 report.
By December, doubts emerged within SIS “about the reliability of the source and whether he had ‘made up all or part of'” his account.
Later that month, there were still “unresolved questions” about the source of the chemical-weapons intelligence. But the UK was under considerable pressure to produce evidence of these weapons.
Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary for the UK, was reportedly concerned about “what would happen without evidence of a clear material breach” of Iraq’s December 2002 declaration that it did not have weapons of mass destruction.
SIS eventually determined that their source was lying about the supposed chemical agents, but intelligence officials did not inform the prime minister’s office, according to the inquiry.
While chemical weapons are different from weapons of mass destruction, these intelligence reports still informed policy-makers’ opinions of the extent of Iraq’s weapons programs. And the evidence of these weapons programs was eventually used as a justification for going to war in Iraq.
David Manning, a former British diplomat, told former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in December 2002 that there was “impatience in the US Administration and pressure for early military action” in Iraq, according to the inquiry.
“There were concerns about the risks if the inspections found nothing,” the inquiry noted. UK and US officials also worried about “the difficulties of persuading the international community to act if there were a series of ‘low level and less clear-cut acts of obstruction’ rather than the discovery of chemical or biological agents or a nuclear program.”
The inquiry states that Manning told Blair: “We should work hard over the next couple of months to build our case.”
Blair reportedly said the UK would “continue to work on securing credible evidence” that then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein “was pursuing [weapons of mass destruction] programs.”
A former Russian official whose background matches descriptions of a high-level CIA spy hurriedly extracted from Russia has been living openly outside Washington, DC, under his own name.
According to documents from a 2017 real-estate purchase reviewed by Insider, Oleg Smolenkov bought a house in the DC area in 2018 for $925,000.
Intelligence sources told Insider that such a situation — a former agent living under his own name — was less unusual than it might at first appear, partly because of precedent and the unique personality type of high-level sources.
Smolenkov was named in Russian media Sep. 10, 2019, as a possible identity of the extracted spy. Reuters and the BBC were among Western outlets to also report the name.
A spokesman for the Kremlin said Smolenkov had worked for the Russian state but reportedly dismissed reports that a high-level spy had been extracted as “pulp fiction.”
Smolenkov was named in the wake of reports by The New York Times and CNN that described an unnamed Russian official who worked for the CIA for decades before fleeing to the US in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.
The descriptions from Russia of Smolenkov’s work for the Kremlin, the timing of his disappearance in 2017, and his presence in the suburbs of Washington, DC, appear to match the reports.
Two former FBI officials told NBC News that they thought the man in Virginia was the intelligence asset.
That asset is reported to have supplied critical information that helped shape the US government’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The asset’s identity remains unconfirmed. Among assets in a similar position, however, the practice of living openly in a Western country under a real name would not be unusual, according to a former US Drug Enforcement Agency agent who regularly ran intelligence and drug-cartel sources.
“Not shocking at all to those of us who have been there,” said the former member of the DEA’s special-operations division, which handles high-level investigations and sources.
“A guy like Smolenkov spent decades working his way to the top of the Russian government and succeeded while also being an asset for the CIA,” the source said. He asked for anonymity to protect former sources and assets around the world.
“That level of political success at the same time he knew every day for decades he could be revealed and arrested usually requires a special level of ego and appetite for risk,” the source said.
“So it’s not shocking that the first reports said he turned down a chance in 2016 to escape before being convinced by the media coverage that he finally had to go in 2017. Getting him to give up that level of status inside his own homeland along with the status he secretly held with the CIA … it’s a powerful combination.”
Three other former intelligence agents contacted by Insider were less willing to talk about the story, which immediately grabbed the attention of the media and intelligence circles Sep. 9, 2019.
But all three noted that Russian intelligence assets tended to keep their identities intact after defection despite usual pleas from their handlers to adopt fake names and go into hiding.
All three noted that the Russian defectors Sergei Skripal and Alexander Litvinenko lived openly in the UK after fleeing Russia and continued to consult for intelligence services and private companies under their own names.
Footage of Sergei Skripal’s 2006 trial.
Both men were poisoned in cases where UK has blamed the Russian state.
Skripal and his daughter narrowly survived a nerve-agent poisoning in 2018, while Litvinenko died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with radioactive poison.
“It’s unlikely that someone with the level of ambition to rise that high in the Kremlin while working as an agent for the Americans would want to easily drop the social status that came with both sides of their double life,” the former DEA agent said.
“And it gets even harder to convince them they’re actually threatened and need to go into deep witness-protection programs if they have families that probably didn’t know they were working for another country on the side.
“Then you add that these are people rather used to risk and living off their wits and so ego plays a huge role.”
When asked how often high-level defectors refused to completely abandon their old life and identity, the former DEA agent said “far more often than people would think.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A former B-1 bomber pilot who now works as a commercial aviator for American Airlines has spoken out about his recent UFO encounter over the Arizona desert.
Blenus Green and his co-pilot were flying an American Airlines Airbus A321 over Arizona in February 2018, when they were told by Albuquerque-based air traffic controllers that a flight ahead of them had reported a flying object not on radar. The controllers asked him to radio them if he saw anything similar.
Shortly afterwards, Green saw an object, according to recordings of his conversations with the controllers.
“It’s American 1095. Yeah, something just passed over us,” Green said. “I don’t know what it was, but at least two-three thousand feet above us. Yeah, it passed right over the top of us.”
Green was recently interviewed about his experience by a local Texas TV station. “Albuquerque Center asked us if we could look and just be on the lookout and see if we see anything, and I’m like ‘okay,'” Green said.
“So, sure enough, I was looking out the windscreen because I wanted to see if it was there and yeah, I did. I saw it,” Green said.
Green said that the object “was very bright but it wasn’t so bright that you couldn’t look at it,” and that “it didn’t look anything like an airplane.”
He noticed that the object was bright in areas where the sun was not reflecting off the metal. “Normally, if you have an object and the sun is shining this way, the reflection would be on this side, but this was bright all the way around,” he said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Richardson)
“It was so bright that you really couldn’t make out what shape it was,” Green said.
With 20 years of flying experience, much of which was spent as a B-1 Lancer pilot in the US Air Force, Green said he wasn’t scared, but interested.
“I was just really fascinated by it. Just trying to figure out what it was because it was so out of the ordinary,” Green said.
Bob Tracey, the vice president of the company that owns the jet that first reported the object, said that his pilot also told him that the object was extremely bright after he was debriefed.
“Like you woke up in the morning and stared at a bright light,” Tracy said. “He said that it passed him at maybe a similar speed that an airliner would.”