Memphis Belle was the first Eighth Air Force bomber to complete 25 missions with her entire crew (Miguel Ortiz).
The idea of putting weapons on aircraft to strike ground targets is not a new one. Although the concept has culminated in the deadly AC-130 gunship today, it was employed to great effect in Vietnam with the AC-47 Dragon and ACH-47 Chinook gunships. During WWII, air forces even experimented with mounting tank cannons on planes. But what about modifying bombers into gunships to take on fighter planes? They tried that too.
Bombing campaigns against Nazi Germany were a critical part of the Allied war strategy. If Germany’s industrial capacity and infrastructure could be crippled, it would seriously impact the military’s ability to fight the war. However, the British RAF quickly learned that the Germans would not let these bombing raids fly through uncontested. German anti-air and fighter plane defenses were so deadly that the British switched exclusively to night bombing to protect their aircraft and crews.
While this meant that German defenses had a harder time shooting down the bombers, it also made it that much more difficult for the bombers to hit their targets. The accuracy and effectiveness of the RAF’s bombings dropped considerably at night. But, because the Allied fighter planes at the time did not have the range to escort the bombers all the way to Germany and back to England, this was seen as the only viable option. Enter America and the most American solution.
How do you protect a bomber formation from enemy fighters without your own fighter escort? Put more guns on your bombers. British aircraft like the Vickers Wellington medium bomber and Avro Lancaster heavy bomber were defended by a maximum of 8 and 10 .303-caliber Browning machine guns, respectively, and these were early variants. Later variants of these bombers both stripped two machine guns to save weight. On the other hand, American aircraft like the Consolidated B-24 Liberator medium bomber and Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber carried 10 and 13 .50-caliber Browning machine guns, respectively. With deadlier guns, and more of them, American bomber doctrine believed that fighter escorts would not be necessary.
Unfortunately, the increased firepower meant little to the German Luftwaffe who shot down American daytime bombing raids in much the same way they did British raids. Still, America insisted on bombing by day while the British bombed at night. Although long-range fighters like the P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang were in development to escort bombers over the entirety of their missions, a quick fix solution was needed. So what do you do if the guns you have aren’t enough? You add more guns of course.
In 1942, Lockheed’s Vega company converted a B-17F Flying Fortress into the YB-40 Flying Fortress. Living up to the name carried over from its forerunner, the new plane bristled with defensive armament. A second manned dorsal turret was added where the radio compartment was, the single .50-caliber waist-mounted machine guns were replaced with dual guns, and the bombardier’s equipment was replaced by a remotely-operated twin .50-caliber machine gun chin turret. With 16 guns, a bomb bay converted into an ammunition magazine, and additional armor plating, the YB-40 was designed to add extra protection to American bomber formations.
Although 13 YB-40s were ordered for operational testing, one was lost on delivery and crashed in Scotland. A gunship version of the B-24, called the XB-41 Liberator, was also ordered. It carried 14 .50-caliber machine guns and was intended to fly as a gunship in bomber formations, the same as the YB-40. However, testing at Eglin Field in Florida found flaws with the aircraft and the conversion of further B-24s into XB-41s was cancelled. These flaws included reduced speed and climb rates as a result of the extra weight. Unfortunately, these problems were also present on the YB-40s.
Still, the gunships are credited with a total of 48 sorties over Europe. They scored five confirmed kills on German fighters with another two probables claimed. Only one YB-40 was lost in combat. Overall though, the gunship concept proved to be relatively ineffective. Plus, with the operational introduction of the P-47 and P-51 Thunderbolt, the gunship bombers became obsolete. Although Consolidated continued to work on their XB-41 concept, the project was ultimately abandoned once the military lost interest.
However, some good did come from the YB-40 project. The remote chin turret in the bombardier’s position was carried over into some of the last production B-17Fs and became part of the standardized modification on the B-17G, the final production variant of the bomber.
The U.S. Army announced Friday the top five photos its photographers took in 2014, and the decision for which shot earned the top honor was left to the public on Facebook.
The process of selecting the best pictures “involved a yearlong photo search and compilation” by Army public affairs, according to the news release. The Army then put the images out to the public on Facebook where they counted up “likes” and “shares.”
With a Facebook “like” count of 2,600, this photo from Christopher Bodin of a 25-Black Hawk helicopter convoy is the best of 2014.
Coming in a close second with 2,300 Facebook “likes,” this shot from Sgt. 1st Class Abram Pinnington is a powerful reminder of the sacrifices soldiers made on Omaha Beach in World War II.
This shot that show’s CH-47F Chinook helicopters transporting Humvees, taken by Staff Sgt. Joel Salgado, garnered 1,300 Facebook “likes.”
This photo taken in October by Sgt. Mark Brejcha highlights soldiers training at the Leaders Reaction Course at Fort Hood. It received 1,200 Facebook “likes.”
The photo taken by Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire, which received 1,100 Facebook “likes,” depicts a somber milestone for the Army. It was taken in March 2014 at the funeral of Walter D. Ehlers, the last surviving recipient of the Medal of Honor during the D-Day invasion of World War II.
The House and Senate, in passing separate versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, haven’t yet agreed on the size of the next military pay raise, or how to reform health care or housing allowances, or whether to require all 18-year-old women to register with Selective Service to be part of a conscription pool in future major wars.
Ironing out these disparities, and many more consequential to military personnel, retirees and family members, will now fall to a House-Senate conference committee comprised of armed services committee members.
The committees’ professional staffs will negotiate many decisions in advance, on guidance from chairmen Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Max Thornberry (R-Texas), and senior Democrats Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) and Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.). But the principals will need to engage behind closed doors on larger and more controversial topics to produce a single bill that either avoids or challenges a threatened veto from President Obama.
To achieve compromise, conferees will need to shed the political posturing routine in election years and make hard choices based on real budget ceilings. The House, for example, had refused to support another military pay raise cap in 2017 and deferred TRICARE fee increases to future generations of service members. Yet it only authorized funding for seven months of wartime operations next year in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Here are some of the tough decisions to be negotiated:
Pay Raise – The House bill supports a 2.1 percent January raise to match wage growth in the private sector. The Senate voted to cap the raise, for a fourth consecutive year, at 1.6 percent. A long-shot floor amendment from McCain to add $18 billion in defense spending authority, including several hundred million to support a larger pay raise, was defeated.
Basic Allowance for Housing – The Senate supports two substantial BAH “reforms.” It would dampen payments stateside to members, married or now, who share housing off base. It would cap payments to the lesser of what individuals actually pay to rent or the local BAH maximum for their rank and family status. House is silent on these. The White House opposes them.
TRICARE Reforms – The Senate embraces a portion of TRICARE fee increases that the administration proposed for working age retirees. It also incentivizes the fee system so patients pay less for services critical to maintaining their health and they pay more for incidental health services. Senate initiatives also emphasize improving access and quality of care.
The House rejects almost all higher fees and co-pays intended to drive patients, particularly retirees, back into managed care and military facilities. Both bills would narrow TRICARE options down to managed care and a preferred provider organization. But the House would require all current TRICARE Standard users to enroll annually to help better manage costs and resources. The House, however, would subject only new entrants to the military on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to higher TRICARE enrollment fees.
Female Draft Registration – Without debate on the topic, the Senate voted to require all women attaining the age of 18 on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to register with Selective Service. The House voted to strike similar language from its own defense authorization bill, leaving the issue to be fought behind closed doors of the conference committee.
The two defense policy bills, HR 4909 and S 2943, are aligned on some other important, even surprising benefit changes. These include:
Commissary Reform — The Senate approved the same sweeping changes endorsed by the House to modernize commissary operations. They include a pilot program to replace the cost-plus-five-percent pricing formula with variable pricing across local markets. Both chambers also endorse allowing the Defense Commissary Agency to offer its own brand products to generate more profits and enhance patron savings, and to convert commissaries to non-appropriated fund activities like exchanges.
DeCA is to calculate and set a baseline level of savings that patrons now enjoy and maintain it. Meanwhile, a new Defense Resale Business Optimization Board will be formed to oversee the reforms including the streamlining of commissary and exchange operations to gain efficiencies.
The Senate rejected McCain’s push to privatize up to five base grocery stores for two years to test whether a commercial grocer could operate base stores at a profit and still offer deep discount. McCain hopes privatization over time ends the need for DeCA with its $1.4 billion annual appropriation. Defense officials estimate the approved reforms will cut commissary funding by about $400 million a year over their first fives years.
Meanwhile, DoD last week gave Congress a promised report on prospects for making commissaries and exchanges “budget neutral” or self-sustaining. It concludes that budget neutrality is unattainable without gutting the benefit. This helped to weakened support for a privatization test.
Ending Former Spouse Windfalls — Another issue the House and Senate agree on is modifying how the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act calculates retirement pay for sharing as marital property in divorce settlements. Current law allows courts to divide final retired pay, even if it was bolstered more years served and promotions gained after divorce. Congress agrees this creates a windfall for ex-spouses that should be eliminated, but only for divorce finalized after the bill becomes law.
The former spouse law (Sec. 1408, 10 U.S.C.) will be changed so retired pay to be divided is based on a member’s rank and years of service at time of divorce, plus cumulative military pay raises up through retirement.
This is the first substantive change to the USFSPA in at least a decade. It surprised the former spouse support group EX-POSE, which calls it unfair to future ex-spouses who might sacrifice their own careers to raise children or to accommodate the frequent moves that are part of service life.
ABA Therapy Rates Restored – Both bills direct the Department of Defense to restore higher TRICARE reimbursement rates paid through last March for applied behavioral analysis therapy for children with autism. The change is to take effect when the bill is signed. Though appreciative of the rollback, family advocates worry that months more of delay could see more ABA therapists decide to drop or to refuse to accept more military children.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team performs during halftime at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., Dec. 14, 2016. The routine was part of the Washington Wizards’ Air Force night, where the team took on the Charlotte Hornets.
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor passes over the Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., flightline during a morning training mission Dec. 14, 2016. Six Air Force installations contributed air and ground support assets to the 2016 Checkered Flag 17-1 and Combat Archer 17-3 large scale aerial total force integration exercise.
1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division Soldiers carry a simulated casualty to the casualty collection point during a training rotation at the National Training Center/Fort Irwin.
A U.S. Soldier with Scout Platoon 2D Battalion (Airborne) 503D Infantry “The Rock” repels down a steep ravine during a German Mountain Warfare Training in Seinsbach Gorge, Mittenwald, Germany, Dec. 8, 2016.
YOKOSUKA, Japan (Dec. 20, 2016) Sailors assigned to the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), deliver gifts to Shakai Fukushi Kotobuki childcare center during a community relations project. Twenty-five Ronald Reagan Sailors and multiple Sailors’ family members travelled to the center in Yokohama to interact with the children and celebrate the holiday season. Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 19, 2016) An AV-8B Harrier from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU) launches off the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp is deployed as part of the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, which is offloading the 22nd MEU after completing a six-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations.
GULF OF ADEN (Dec. 17, 2016) U.S. Marines assigned to the 2nd Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (11th MEU), position their rigid-hull inflatable boat to conduct a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) mission as part of Exercise Alligator Dagger, Dec. 17. The unilateral exercise provides an opportunity for the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 11th MEU to train in amphibious operations within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. The 11th MEU is currently supporting U.S. 5th Fleet’s mission to promote and maintain stability and security in the region.
Infantry squad leaders assigned to School of Infantry West, Detachment Hawaii, provide security during the Advanced Infantry Course aboard Kahuku Training Area, September 21, 2016.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alder clears ice from the deck of the cutter as the ship transits through Lake Superior Dec. 14, 2016. The Alder and other Great Lakes Coast Guard cutters commenced Operation Taconite, the Coast Guard’s largest domestic ice-breaking operation, encompassing Lake Superior, the St. Mary’s River, the Straits of Mackinac and Lake Michigan, Dec. 19, 2016.
Capt. Malcolm McLellan, deputy commander of Sector Houston-Galveston, presides over the swearing in of new Coast Guard recruits during the halftime event at the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 23, 2016. The Navy Midshipmen played the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at the Amon G. Carter Stadium.
The Army’s newest Medal of Honor recipient will be retired Capt. Florent “Flo” Groberg from the 4th Infantry Division. President Obama will drape the medal around his neck in a White House ceremony on November 12.
Groberg was leading a personal security detail on Aug. 8, 2012 when he spotted a suicide bomber in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Groberg rushed the bomber and threw him to the ground, limiting the effects of the blast. Still, four soldiers were killed in the attack when the bomber released the dead man’s trigger he was using.
Another suicide bomber hiding nearby was surprised by the explosion enough that he triggered his own bomb prematurely, which saved more lives thanks to Groberg’s actions.
Groberg survived but was severely wounded. On Sep. 21, 2015, he was called by the president and told he would be receiving the Medal of Honor.
Groberg tells the story in his own words in the video below. Read more here.
People who love military documentaries can never seem to get enough of them. But there are only so many good ones out there.
There’s a reason every new history or military channel on TV turns into “The World War II Channel” for the first two years of their existence. Military history documentaries are awesome. We found six cool docs for the motivated viewer to watch on Veterans Day when the History Channel repeats its programming every eight hours.
And the cool thing is, you don’t have to have that pricey cable subscription to watch them. All these can be found on Snagfilms.com, which presents them completely free of charge.
The President and Magic Johnson celebrate 11/11/11 with world’s first NCAA game on an active aircraft carrier. Filmmaker Steven C. Barber and his entertainment company Vanilla Fire Productions were granted permission to shoot a documentary on the Veterans Day event The Carrier Classic held on 11/11/11 in San Diego, California. Barber funded this documentary and had full access to the Morale Foundation founders and participants in order to show this amazing event and the outstanding work and dedication the Morale Foundation has done with the U.S. military.
Kelsey Grammer narrates this amazing story of the young men and women of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (once known as JPAC) that embed themselves in beyond rugged and brutal conditions in order to bring our fallen service members home. The Battle of Tarawa finally has some closure after 69 years. US remains were flown back in a C-130 with a C-17 transfer back to Honolulu. DPMAA Team members are the unsung heroes that until now have been unrecognized and have worked in the shadows. That is about to change.
Narrated by four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris, “Return to Tarawa” follows the journey of World War II veteran Leon Cooper. Cooper — a U.S. Navy landing craft officer who in 1943 fought in the bloody battle — returns to the site in 2008 to investigate disturbing reports about the current state of the fabled “Red Beach.”
National Geographic presents “Arlington: Field of Honor,”a portrait of one of America’s most sacred places. Once little more than a potter’s field, Arlington National Cemetery has become a national shrine and treasury of American history. Now, discover how this revered site came to be, and how it serves as the final resting place for both the famous and obscure, from John F. Kennedy to the Unknown Soldier.
One thousand miles from anywhere lay a lonely outpost of coral and sea called Midway. It was here in 1942 where the U.S. and Japan fought one of the greatest naval battles of World War II and changed the course of history. And it is here again where Titanic discoverer Dr. Robert Ballard now leads a team of experts and four World War II veterans on the voyage of their lives. They’re on a race against time to do the impossible: find at least one of the five downed aircraft carriers. Join them as they pay their final respects to their fallen comrades.
“Honor Flight” is a heartwarming documentary about four living World War II veterans and a Midwestern community coming together to give them the trip of a lifetime. Volunteers race against the clock to ﬂy thousands of WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the memorial constructed for them in 2005, nearly 60 years after the war. The trips are called “Honor Flights” and for the veterans, who are in their late 80s and early 90s, it’s often the first time they’ve been thanked and the last trip of their lives. As the Honor Flight trip unfolds, Orville, Julian, Joe, Harvey and others share their stories and wisdom. While the program is meant to give something back to these humble heroes, the goodness they embody and their appreciation for life transforms everyone they meet.
Narrator: Every year, the United States Postal Service takes and delivers 142 billion mailed items. If it needs to go from point A to point B anywhere in the US, the post office can do it. It survived the Civil War, two world wars, the Great Depression, and the upheaval brought by the internet and email.
But it’s currently more than 0 billion in debt, and it’s telling Congress it will run out of cash by September and needs a billion infusion. How did this happen?
The US Postal Service has been delivering mail since before the Declaration of Independence was even signed. In 1775, Benjamin Franklin was appointed postmaster general, and it was Franklin who handled the distribution of letters from Congress to its armies during the Revolutionary War. President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, which authorized Congress to create the US Postal Service. This established routes and made it illegal to open anyone’s mail.
Clip: What matter if it took two weeks to go from New York to Atlanta, over a month to St. Louis? If the letter from Uncle Ben arrived a day or so later, nobody fussed.
Narrator: In 1823, it started using waterways to deliver mail, then began using railroads. 1847 saw the first issued stamps. And then the famed Pony Express debuted in 1860. In 1896, it began delivering to some rural addresses, meaning residents no longer had to go to the town post office to get their mail. By 1923, all houses were required to have a mail slot. And in 1963, zip codes made their debut.
Clip: What a system! As you can plainly see, just five little numbers, quick as can be.
Narrator: But what really transformed the post office into what we know today? That happened a few years later.
Clip: The post office stands to be swamped, overwhelmed, drowned in a sea of mail. Where do we go from here?
Narrator: In 1967, the postmaster general testified before Congress that the post office was in “a race with catastrophe.” There were all sorts of backlogs, and sorting-room floors were bursting with unsorted mail. Combined with a postal worker strike in March of 1970, led to the Postal Reorganization Act and established the United States Postal Service as we know it today.
Clip: The Post Office Department is leading the search for better ways to process and dispatch mail in the shortest time possible.
Narrator: The act eliminated the post office from the president’s cabinet and made the post office its own federal agency. It was set up more like a corporation than a government agency and had an official monopoly on the delivery of letter mail in the US. It also set up the elimination of the post office’s direct government subsidies, which were completely phased out in 1982. The post office has been operating without any taxpayer money since.
Competition from UPS and FedEx made the post office innovate on its offerings, like introducing express mail. But since its most lucrative service was first-class mail, the USPS didn’t have to worry too much about competing with other companies. In fact, the post office has partnered with both companies in the past, like when it signed a deal in 2000 that contracted its air delivery of first-class, priority, and express mail to FedEx.
So, basically, the USPS was fine. First-class mail volume peaked in 2001 at 103.6 billion pieces of mail. It operated at a loss in the first couple years of the 21st century, but by 2003, it was back to operating at a profit. In fact, from 2003 through 2006, USPS recorded a total .3 billion profit. That all changed at the end of 2006.
Clip: HR 6407, a bill to reform the postal laws of the United States.
Narrator: Enter the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which was passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush. Up until this point, the post office added to and removed from its retiree pension and healthcare accounts on an ongoing basis, putting money in as needed, based on its current retirees. This model is similar to the way many other companies and corporations fund their own healthcare pensions. This act changed all that.
It required the post office to calculate all of its retiree pension and healthcare costs for the next 75 years, including for people it hadn’t even hired yet, and put away enough over the next 10 years to cover them. To put this in perspective, that’d be like you only working from age 18 to 28 and then expecting to live on that income until you were 103 years old.
The timing for this was not ideal, either. Email, texting, and online payments had begun to chip away at the post office’s main business, first-class mail, which had slowly been declining since its 2001 peak. But even that decline wouldn’t put the post office in the negative.
If not for the 75-year pension and healthcare obligation, the USPS would have reported operating profits for the last six years. Once the bill was enacted, USPS had to contribute about .6 billion a year for people who had not yet retired, in addition to the normal amount for current retirees. In 2006, prior to the new bill, this was id=”listicle-2646188290″.6 billion for those who were already retired. In 2007, USPS had to put away 625% more, about billion, to cover both current and future retirees. This gave the post office an annual loss of more than billion for the year.
Additionally, the new bill restricted the post office’s ability to set prices. First-class mail, marketing mail, and other products the post office does not have a large competition for were all tied to the consumer price index, meaning it couldn’t increase rates for those products above the rate of inflation. This has caused various problems, like in 2009, when prices couldn’t be raised at all on those products, because there was no inflation.
The rule has created an environment where packages are the post office’s only profitable area. By 2010, the post office’s overall debt, which was just over billion in 2006, had climbed to billion. It sounded the alarm to Congress multiple times and was also the subject of a 2018 Trump administration report saying the pension obligation should be restructured. But nothing changed. In its most recent annual report, the post office said it had incurred almost billion in losses from 2007 to 2019. It couldn’t afford to make any payments into the fund from 2012 to 2016 and now owes about billion related to its future pension and health benefit obligations.
Which brings us to today. As with many other industries, the coronavirus has taken its toll on the post office. First-class and marketing mail have plummeted, and the post office expects a billion decline in revenue. The postmaster general has told Congress she expects the USPS to be completely out of cash by September. This would make it unable to pay its employees and could quickly cause disaster in mail delivery across the country, especially in rural areas not serviced by UPS and FedEx. So, can it be saved?
The post office is now asking Congress for a billion cash infusion along with a billion loan. The initial bailout bill Congress passed in March provided billion for the post office, far less than the billion the organization was seeking in the bill. However, President Trump threatened to veto any bill that bailed out the post office, so the bill was changed before signing to a billion loan, 13% of the billion it had originally asked for and another billion to add to its debt.
And then, in early May, Trump appointed Louis DeJoy the new postmaster general, and he will take the reins of the organization on June 15. Unlike the last three postmaster generals, DeJoy is not a career employee; he is a large GOP donor and the former CEO of a logistics company. Democrats and ethics watchdogs see the appointment as purely political, not just because of Trump’s desire to reshape the post office, but also because millions of Americans may be forced to vote by mail this year, which means the future of the post office is likely to become a political issue this spring and summer, especially if its cash flow starts running dry.
And those at risk? The 497,000 Americans who rely on the USPS for their jobs, and the 329 million Americans who rely on it for paying bills, medication, and everything else the USPS delivers through rain, sleet, snow, and even pandemics.
Landing on an aircraft carrier is one of the most difficult tasks any aviator can face. A 1991 Los Angeles Times article quoted one Desert Storm veteran as saying that the stress really came “when I got back to the ship and started landing on the carrier in the dark,” rather than when he was being shot at by Iraqi SAMs.
How can that stress be eased? This is an eternal question – mostly because there are lots of variables. One carrier landing could be in daylight with clear skies and a calm sea. The next could be in the middle of a thunderstorm in pitch black darkness. A pilot has to keep all of that in mind, not to mention the fact that the carrier itself is moving.
Boeing, though, has been working on some new software for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the EA-18G Growlers to make this most difficult and stressful of tasks a little less so. It’s called the Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies. The acronym appropriately spells “MAGIC CARPET.”
This system handles calculating the many variables pilots making a carrier landing have to deal with, allowing the pilot to make simpler adjustments as the plane heads in for a landing.
Boeing put out a video about MAGIC CARPET. Take a look at the future of carrier landings!
In May 1962, four soldiers walked into a makeshift communications outpost outfitted with maps, food, medicine, and a chemical toilet. For the next 72 hours, the men would attempt to operate as a normal communications team while cameras rolled. Oh, and three of them were high on a powerful hallucinogenic drug.
It reads like a reality TV show, but it was an actual experiment conducted by U.S. Army researcher John Ketchum. An Army colonel who retired in 1976, Ketchum spent most of his career researching potential chemical weapons, primarily weapons made from drugs like LSD and PCP.
Ketchum wanted to test the effects of another drug called 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, or BZ. BZ was originally developed as an ulcer drug but was scrapped when it started causing hallucinations and mental distress. Army tests indicated BZ would lower a soldier’s ability to perform simple tasks like an obstacle course. In 1962, the Army was ready to see how it would affect operations.
That May, they allowed Ketchum to create the fake outpost and drug the volunteers. The experiment began on a Friday morning and continued for 72 hours.
During these 72 hours, the men responded according to the quantity of the drug they had received.
The leader of the group, identified only as L in Ketchum’s book, was given a placebo and spent most of his first 36 hours keeping the soldier who received the highest dose from hurting himself.
H and C, two soldiers who received low doses of the drug, spent the first day trying to get it out of their system with opposing methods. H began doing pushups repeatedly, while C went to sleep. Neither approach seemed to accelerate recovery and it took both men 24 hours to recover. Despite their recovery, neither H or C would help L much with their military tasks. But, they did help supervise Pfc. Ronald Zadrozny, an Army intelligence soldier who got the largest dose.
Zadrozny received a delirium-inducing dose of BZ. Within two hours of his arrival, he needed the assistance of L to stand up, and he would push people away who tried to help. He said he didn’t want to be treated like a little kid, according to Ketchum.
The Army wasn’t content just leaving the men in the room. The team had missions, primarily compiling information radioed and called into the outpost, before they needed to relay information to a fake rear headquarters. L would handle nearly all of these tasks while H and C read or slept. Zadrozny, once he could stand and walk around, spent most of his weekend staring into camera lenses whenever they were exposed or attempting to leave the locked area.
He would pace the walls of the outpost, checking for exits. Then he would grab his hat and jacket, put them on, tell the rest of the men goodbye, and attempt to leave through the door. Every time he found it locked, he would get confused and try the handle for minutes. He attempted escape through the medicine cabinet until H pulled him away. Finally, he’d begin another repetition, starting by putting on his hat and jacket and saying goodbye to everyone.
In his book, Ketchum wrote that it was only after hours of this process that Zadrozny finally put it together. He tried the door a final time and turned to the room, telling the rest of the subjects, “We’re trapped!” H then looked up from a magazine and told the room, “He’s getting better.”
The whole time Zadrozny was trying to find a way out, the one sober member of the team was getting engrossed in a game against the research team. The researchers had scripted the radio calls the drugged soldiers would receive, but they ran out of script and had to start improvising. Signal soldiers assigned to the researchers came up with a plot involving a chemical train that was going to be ambushed and crafted a nonsense code for it using poker terms like “The Dealer.” L spent the latter half of the exercise trying to figure out what “Full House” meant and who “The Dealer” was as a fictional train came barreled towards its death.
Eventually, the drugs wore off and the 72-hour experiment ended. The team was released back to the barracks and left with some truly odd stories of the Cold War.
Ketchum would go on to test BZ in an open air environment, but the weapons were never deployed in combat. As further tests showed, maintaining effective concentrations of the gas in a real world scenario proved difficult and military opinion eventually swung away from the use of drugs as weapons.
Although America’s space shuttle was not the budget-friendly platform it was intended to be, the program was so successful that the Soviet Union decided to build their own. Unbeknownst to most, they actually did, and it even flew in space.
On April 12, 1981, NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia roared to life for the first time. As the shuttle’s three powerful main engines ignited, they burned a swimming pool’s worth of fuel every 25 seconds, thrusting the 4.4 million pound shuttle into the sky with an astonishing 37 million horsepower. In just eight and a half minutes, the shuttle would expend all of the fuel in its massive orange fuel tank and burn through its two solid-fuel rocket thrusters.
If you were to start an 80’s sitcom just as the Columbia launched that day, the space shuttle would go from zero to 17,500 miles per hour before the first commercial break.
The success of Columbia’s first mission was an exciting time for the United States, but on the other side of the globe, it left Moscow in a sour mood. The Soviets had been watching America’s space shuttle program mature, thanks to America’s more media-friendly approach to space travel. In fact, by Columbia’s first launch, the Soviets had already begun development on their own space shuttle–one that bore a striking resemblance to NASA’s new crown jewel.
Using the Cold War as rocket fuel
The American space shuttle program had roots that reached all the way back to the Apollo era, but the concept itself wasn’t presented to the public until 1972. Two years later, as NASA’s efforts were beginning to take shape, a secret meeting was held in the Kremlin between the head of the Soviet Union’s Military-Industrial Commission, Vladimir Smirnov, and the Soviet leader at the time, Leonid Brezhnev.
While the Americans had always done a good job of dressing their space efforts up as nothing more than the pursuit of science and national pride, the military applications of such a vehicle were clear. America’s space shuttle would allow for the launch of bigger, more complex spy satellites, allow crews to fly into orbit to conduct maintenance or repairs, and, most importantly, allow for the vessel itself to be re-used–theoretically driving down the price of orbital operations. Among the Soviets, there was also the fear that this new spacecraft could be used as some sort of orbital bomber.
“Such a vehicle is like an aircraft. It is capable, through a side maneuver, of changing its orbit in such a way that it would find itself at the right moment right over Moscow, possibly with dangerous cargo,” Smirnov explained in the meeting.
Just as defense officials in the United States may have over-estimated (or intentionally inflated) the threat posed by the Soviet Union’s various military and technological programs, Smirnov and his supporters knew that it was in their best interest to really sell the idea that the American shuttle posed a serious threat to Soviet interests.
“They began to use the shuttle to frighten Leonid Illyich Brezhnev and they explained to him that damned shuttle could zoom down on Moscow at any minute, bomb it to smithereens and fly away,” a Russian journalist wrote in 1991, just before the Soviet Union fell.
“Brezhnev understood, yes, of course, an alternative weapon is necessary.”
The Cold War was ripe with this sort of military one-upmanship, both as a means to gain a military advantage, and as a public means of validating each nation’s respective economic models. Every American success the Soviets couldn’t match was seen as a defacto argument in favor of capitalism by leaders in Moscow.
In effect, admitting that they couldn’t build their own shuttle would mean acknowledging that the Soviet system was falling short of the scientific, engineering, and material capabilities of America’s government model. This ideological conflict was the very bedrock of the Cold War, and just ten years before the Soviet Union would collapse under the weight of its own failure, things were already beginning to look bleak. The Soviet Union needed a win, and Smirnov was able to convince Brezhnev that a Soviet space shuttle could be just that.
The Soviet’s secret Space Shuttle program begins
By early 1976, the Communist Party’s Central Committee and the Soviet Council of Ministers gave their approval to move forward with plans to develop a new shuttle. Heading up the secret effort was Col. General Alexander Maksimov, a military official tasked with managing the Soviet’s existing military space programs. Two scientists, V. P. Glushko and Gleb Lozino-Lozinskiy, were also tasked with leading the effort, but among those involved, there was no doubt that the new shuttle program, dubbed “Buran,” would be a distinctly military endeavor.
“It is no secret to anyone in our sector … that the Energia-Buran system was ordered from us by the military,” said Yuri Semenov, developer of the Energia booster program. “It was said at meetings on various levels that American shuttles, even on the first revolution, could perform a lateral maneuver and turn to be over Moscow, possibly with dangerous cargo. Parity is needed, we needed the same type of rocket-space system.”
Initially, the Soviets considered restarting a previous space-plane program called “Spiral.” Development had ended on the small space-plane concept more than a decade prior, however, and Soviet officials noted that the intended use of “Spiral” wouldn’t offer anything close to the capability offered by America’s forthcoming shuttles.
Stealing the Space Shuttle
With the Americans making steady progress on their own space shuttle program by the late 1970s, the Soviet leadership recognized how far behind they were. If they were going to keep pace with NASA, they would need to find a way to expedite the design process without backtracking to their canceled Spiral program. While the decision to scrap Spiral was made based on its limited capability, many within the Soviet Union were frustrated by the seemingly schizophrenic approach to developing orbital platforms.
“The Spiral was a very good project but it was another mistake for our government. They said Americans didn’t have a space shuttle [back then] and we shouldn’t either and it was destroyed. Then, after you made your space shuttle, immediately they demanded a space shuttle. … It was very crazy of our government.”
-Georgi Grechko, Soviet Cosmonaut
Despite the frustrations of those involved and the Soviet Union’s impending collapse, at the time, the Soviet space program remained among the best in the world. Its scientist and engineers had racked up victory after victory in the first rounds of the Cold War’s space race, putting the first satellite, animal, and man into orbit before the Americans. NASA may have thrown a knockout punch with the moon landing in 1969, but the Soviets were far from down for the count. If America could design a space shuttle, it was entirely plausible that the Soviets could too. The only question was: Could they do it fast enough to keep pace with NASA?
Without help, the answer seemed to be a resounding no, but the Soviets were no strangers to reverse engineering American technology. For instance, in the late 1950s, the Soviets got their hands on one of America’s highly capable air-to-air missiles, the AIM-9 Sidewinder, through a deal brokered with China (and one pilot’s incredibly good luck). The Soviets were able to glean a great deal of information about missile technology from the single missile they acquired and rapidly put Soviet variants of the missile into production. A space shuttle, however, would certainly be a lot tougher to steal… but as it turned out, they wouldn’t have to.
America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, was a civilian agency that was clearly delineated from America’s military. While this separation may have been more about aesthetics than function (nearly every space effort had military implications), NASA did not treat its shuttle program like it was the development of a weapon system at all. As a result, documentation and even plans for the shuttle were all considered unclassified–and readily available to the public. In fact, much of the material the Soviet Union needed was hosted on commercial databases, making the effort to gather these documents one of the first (if not the first) case of digital espionage.
“Documents acquired dealt with airframe designs (including the computer programs on design analysis), materials, flight computer systems, and propulsion systems. This information allowed Soviet military industries to save years of scientific research and testing time as well as millions of rubles as they developed their own very similar space shuttle vehicle.”
-The 1985 CIA analysis on “Soviet Acquisition of Militarily Significant Western Technology”
With all the technical information they needed, construction on the Buran began in 1980, and within just four years, the Soviets were able to unveil their strikingly familiar-looking space shuttle. Despite the clear aesthetic resemblance, however, the Buran did depart from the American design in a number of important ways.
First and foremost, rather than housing the shuttle’s main engines within the spacecraft itself, the Soviets chose to simply attach their shuttle to their super-heavy lift Energia rocket. It was also designed and built to operate autonomously, making it capable of completing orbital missions without a crew on board. Perhaps the most significant departures from the American shuttle were the four jet engines mounted on the rear of the aircraft that would offer the vehicle powered flight. However, despite there being images of these jet engines on the Buran, they were not present as the spacecraft prepared for its first orbital flight.
On November 15, 1988, seven and a half years after the Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, the Buran launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soviet space shuttle did not have a crew on board, which may have been seen as an appropriate precaution. Less than 20 years earlier, three cosmonauts died after their Soyuz 11 spacecraft depressurized in space. Four years prior to that, cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was killed in the first-ever launch of the Soyuz spacecraft. While crew safety was likely a consideration, by 1988, the Soviet Union was already amid political turmoil. Killing another crew in a space launch would not have helped the situation.
The Buran first reached low earth orbit on the back of its massive Energia rocket. From there, it boosted itself into a slightly higher orbit before circling the planet twice and beginning reentry. Without its jet engines, the Soviet space shuttle would have to glide back to its runway at the Baikonur Cosmodrome just like the American shuttle. Unlike the American shuttle, however, the Buran had no pilot on board to manage the descent.
In a resounding success for the ship’s autonomous systems, the Buran touched down shortly after reentry, making what some called a “flawless” runway landing. In fact, upon closer inspection, the Buran’s heat shielding seemed to have faired even better than America’s first shuttle launch. With new data to work with, the Soviets began preparing for another launch that would never come.
Three years after the Buran’s first and only successful flight, the government of the Soviet Union collapsed, and with it, any hope of ever putting the Soviet space shuttle Buran back into orbit.
The life expectancy of a known jihadi fighting the U.S. and its allies is not very long. If they aren’t killed as Iraqis retake towns and cities, then they are likely to be killed or captured in night raids conducted by special forces or in a drone strike.
ISIS leaders are in the crosshairs more than any other bad guy group these days. Here’s a list of leaders that coalition attacks have helped shuffle off this mortal coil:
1. Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali (aka “Haji al-Mutazz,” aka Ned Price)
This righthand man to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in August 2015. The IS deputy was the top weapons procurer and logistician for the terror group. His death sparked off a number of internal reprisals against those the terror group suspected of leaking important information to Western intelligence.
2. Omar al-Shishani (aka “Omar the Chechen”)
Of all the ISIS leaders killed in action, he’s the most ISIS. He was widely considered to be the terror group’s minister of war. He was killed as a result of an American airstrike in March 2016, near the Syrian border city of Shadadi. He survived the initial strike, but later died of his wounds. It’s not known why they called him “the Chechen,” because he is from Georgia.
Shishani also headed the terror group’s main prison in Raqqa, Syria. The U.S. State Department once offered $5 million for information leading to the capture of Shishani. Shishani was also called “Abu Meat” by detractors, because he had a reputation of staying in the rear with the gear while ordering others into battle.
3. Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli (aka “Hajji Imam”)
In a March effort to capture this senior IS commander, U.S. special operators originally planned to disable his vehicle from the air, land a helicopter, and then take him into custody. Instead, they lit up the vehicle, killing al-Qaduli. He was the group’s top financier.
4. Fathi ben Awn ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi (aka “Abu Sayyaf”)
British SAS and American Delta Force elements raided the house of Abu Sayyaf, ISIS’ chief oil minister and a high-ranking commander in Deir-ez-Zor, Syria. Abu Sayyaf was shot twice in the chest as he went for a weapon. His wife, called Umm Sayyaf by the Daily Mail, claimed to be a Yazidi sex slave. (Sayyaf and his wife ran ISIS’ sex slave network.) His actual Yazidi sex slave was freed by the operators. His wife was captured.
5. Tariq al-Harzi
Also known as the “Emir of Suicide Bombers” he was killed in June 2015 by coalition airstrikes in Syria. He was another logistics expert for ISIS, managing the movement of men and materiel between Iraq and Syria and the support and recruiting for ISIS operations in North Africa.
6. Junaid Hussein
A British citizen, Hussein was the critical operative in the Garland, Texas cartoon contest attack in 2015 and an effective ISIS recruiter. He was killed in Raqqa, Syria by a coalition airstrike. Raqqa is supposed to be a safe haven for the fighters. He was hit by a missile fired from a drone. Hussein was central to the plot of attacking the homes of U.S. service members after ISIS hackers posted their home addresses.
7. “Abu Maryam”
Called an ISIS enforcer and senior leader of their extortion network, Maryam was killed in a December 2015 airstrike. Since extortion is one of the top ways ISIS raises money, the death of Maryam was likely a blow to that revenue stream. He was killed in an air strike near the Iraqi city of Tal Afar.
8. Muwaffaq Mustafa Mohammed al-Karmoush (aka “Abu Salah”)
As part of the apparent effort to disrupt the group’s fundraising and ability to use those funds, the U.S. also hit ISIS’ chief accountant. Abu Sarah (Abu is not his real first name. “Abu” means “father of” in Arabic, and is often used as a nickname) was responsible for paying fighters’ salaries in Northern Iraq, where they are fighting a mixture of Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi Army, and Shia militias backed by Iranian Quds Force operators.
9. Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi (aka “Abu Nabil”)
Abu Nabil was killed in an F-15 strike in the Libyan coastal city of Derna. He was an Iraqi who one fought for al-Qaeda but turned to spearheading ISIS operations in Libya. He was the first ISIS leader killed by Western strikes in Libya. His December 2015 death hampered the terror group’s ability to recruit and establish bases in Libya.
10. Sleiman Daoud al-Afari
Afari is unique on this list because he was the only one captured, interrogated, and handed over to the Iraqi government, instead of being outright killed. Afari was ISIS chief chemical weapons engineers. He learned the trade under the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He told officials about ISIS efforts to develop everything from mustard gas to Sarin nerve gas.
11. Mohammed Emwazi (aka “Jihadi John”)
Emwazi was a significant ISIS operative because of his command of English led him to be the voice of the terror group’s propaganda efforts. Jihadi John was killed in a drone strike in Raqqa, Syria. Starting in August 2014, he appeared in ISIS beheading videos and was a celebrity in the group. He played no important spiritual or military role.
12. Abu Rahman al-Tunisi
An IS executive officer who coordinated the movement of arms, money, people, and information. Hitting al-Tunisi likely significantly disrupted ISIS’ command and control capabilities.
13. Charaffe al-Mouadan
Central to the ISIS attacks in Paris in November 2015, Moudan was killed in an airstrike in Syria the following December.
14. Fayez al-Shaalaan (aka “Abu Fawz”)
Shaalaan was the ISIS leader in the Arsal region of Syria, near neighboring Lebanon. In the northern areas of Lebanon, fighting between ISIS and the al-Qaeda allied Nusra Front fighter spills into Lebanese territory. The Lebanese Army routinely engages these fighters.
BONUS: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (maybe)
The “Caliph” of ISIS, the overall leader of the terror group was the target of an Iraqi airstrike. It’s unknown whether or not Baghdadi was killed in the October 2015 strike. (CNN reported the leader was taken away in a vehicle to an unknown location.)
An A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft sits on the flight line at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey | U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cory W. Bush
The Air Force is beginning to work on how fast, lethal, durable and capable a new “A-10”-like aircraft would need to be in order to provide U.S. military ground troops with effective close-air support for decades to come.
Senior service officials are now exploring “draft requirements” concepts – and evaluating the kind of avionics, engineering, weapons, armor and technical redundancy the aircraft would need, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.
Many of the core technical attributes and combat advantages of the A-10 will be preserved and expanded upon with the new effort, officials said.
The performance of the A-10 Warthog in the ongoing bombing campaign against ISIS, coupled with the Air Forces’ subsequent decision to delay the aircraft’s planned retirement – has led the service to begin the process of developing a new, longer-term A-10 type platform.
Following an announcement earlier this year from Pentagon leaders that the A-10 will not begin retiring but rather will serve until at least 2022, Air Force and DoD officials are now hoping to keep a close-air-support aircraft for many years beyond the previously projected timeframe.
Given the emerging global threat environment, it would make sense that the Air Force would seek to preserve an aircraft such as the A-10. While the aircraft has been extremely successful attacking ISIS targets such as fuel convoys and other assets, the A-10 is also the kind of plane that can carry and deliver a wide-ranging arsenal of bombs to include larger laser-guided and precision weapons.
This kind of firepower, coupled with its 30mm cannon, titantium armor plates and built-in redundancy for close-air-support, makes the A-10 a valuable platform for potential larger-scale mechanized, force-on-force type warfare as well. The A-10 has a unique and valuable niche role to perform in the widest possible range of combat scenarios to include counterinsurgency, supporting troops on the ground in close proximity and bringing firepower, protection and infantry support to a large-scale war.
Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior that the current approach involves a three-pronged effort; the Air Force may consider simply upgrading the existing fleet of A-10s in a substantial way in order to extend its service life, acquire an off-the-shelf existing aircraft or develop a new close air support platform through a developmental effort.
“We are developing that draft requirements document. We are staffing it around the Air Force now. When it’s ready, then we will compare that to what we have available, compare it to keeping the A-10, compare it to what it would take to replace it with another airplane, and we will work through that process,” Lt. Gen. James Holmes, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, recently told reporters.
Holmes went on to explain that the service was, broadly speaking, exploring ways to achieve, preserve and sustain “air superiority” in potential long-term, high-end combat engagements. He added that considerations about a close-air-support replacement aircraft figured prominently in the strategic calculus surrounding these issues.
As a result, the Air Force will be looking for the “optimal” type of close-air-support platform by weighing various considerations such as what the differences might be between existing aircraft and future developmental platforms.
Cost and affordability will also be a very large part of the equation when it comes to making determinations about an A-10 replacement, Holmes explained.
“The question is exactly where is the sweet spot as we talked about between what’s available now and what the optimum CAS replacement would be. We are working along that continuum to see exactly what the requirement is that we can afford and the numbers that we need to be able to do the mission,” Holmes added.
Several industry platforms, such as Raytheon’s T-X plane and the A-29 Embraer EMB Super Tucano aircraft, are among options being looked at as things which could potentially be configured for a close-air-support plane.
Holmes added that Congress expects the Air Force to operate about 1,900 A-10s or A-10-like close-air-support aircraft.
Having the requisite funds to support this would be of great value to the Air Force; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh recently told lawmakers that, despite the prior plan, the service did not want to retire the A-10.
Prior plans to retire the fleet of A-10s were purely budget driven, senior Air Force leaders have consistently said.
“I don’t want to retire it,” Welsh told a Congressional Committee in early March.
Air Force leaders had previously said that the emerging multi-role F-35 would be able to pick up the close-air-support mission. With its sensor technology, 25mm gun and maneuverability, there is little question about whether the F-35 could succeed with these kinds of missions. At the same time, there is also consensus that the A-10 provides an extremely unique set of battlefield attributes which need to be preserved for decades.
There are plenty of differences between America’s biggest companies but for some there is a common bond: CEOs with military backgrounds.
While it’s not a requirement that a company leader have time in uniform, a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research showed it certainly doesn’t hurt. CEOs with military backgrounds are fairly conservative with company financials and often outperform peers during stressful times, the paper found.
Unfortunately, the number of corporate CEOs with backgrounds in the military is shrinking, but here are 13 of the biggest names, along with what they did in the military.
1. Alex Gorsky
Currently: CEO of Johnson Johnson
Military experience: Graduated from West Point, then served six years in the U.S. Army and attained the rank of Captain. Ranger and Airborne qualified with service in Europe and Panama.
2. Lowell McAdam
Currently: CEO of Verizon
Military experience: Spent six years in the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps and attended Cornell on a Naval ROTC scholarship.
3. Bob Parsons
Currently: Founder and CEO of YAM Worldwide, Inc., and board member at GoDaddy, which he founded. He previously served as CEO of GoDaddy.
Military experience: Served as a U.S. Marine rifleman in Vietnam, where he was wounded by enemy fire while on patrol. He received the Combat Action Ribbon, Purple Heart, and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.
4. Fred Smith
Currently: Chairman, president, and CEO of FedEx Corporation
Military experience: Came up with the business model for Fedex will an undergrad at Yale, but took a break from school to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served two tours in Vietnam before he founded what would become FedEx in 1971.
5. Robert S. Morrison
Currently: Serves in board positions at Aon plc, 3M, and Illinois Tool Works Inc, among others. He previously served as the Vice Chairman at Pepsico, Inc., and the CEO of The Quaker Oats Company.