This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar - We Are The Mighty
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This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar

Airman 1st Class John Lee Levitow was a loadmaster on an AC-47 — an aerial gunship and the predecessor to the AC-130 — that was pounding Viet Cong forces on the night of Feb. 24, 1969.


But then disaster struck.

The plane was dropping flares and firing in support of a U.S. base under attack, and one of the Viet Cong mortars firing on the base sent a round up that struck the AC-47 instead.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Airman 1st Class John L. Levitow’s Douglas AC-47D was struck by a mortar round on Feb. 24, 1969. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The mortar round detonated on impact, sending thousands of pieces of shrapnel through the plane and crew. Levitow was hit with 40 pieces of shrapnel, and the other six members of the crew didn’t fare much better.

But the worst piece of news was still coming. Levitow started to drag another injured crew member away from the door before he spotted an armed Mk-24 flare that was smoking and rolling around near stored ammo.

The flares operate on a timer set to anywhere between 5 and 30 seconds. Once armed, a crewmember would throw the flare out the door and it would parachute down. Magnesium in the flare would ignite a 4,000 degree Fahrenheit flame that illuminated the battlefield.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Airman 1st Class John L. Levitow saved the life of his crew and the plane they were flying in in 1969 by throwing an ignited flare out of the craft despite his serious injuries. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

But with the flare counting down to an ignition inside the aircraft, it would instead set off nearby ammo, burn a hole through the floor, and cook everything in the cabin, including the seven crewmembers aboard.

Levitow, despite his serious wound from the shrapnel, crawled his way to the 27-pound flare and attempted to grab it three times, but it kept escaping his hands. So he threw himself on it, clutched it to his body, and dragged it towards the door.

“I had the aircraft in a 30-degree bank, and how Levitow ever managed to get to the flare and throw it out, I’ll never know,” said pilot Maj. Kenneth Carpenter.

Somehow, Levitow got the flare to the door and out of the plane just before it ignited, saving everyone aboard. The pilot was able to limp the plane back to an emergency landing.

For Levitow, that was his 181st mission. He recovered from his wounds and completed another 20 combat missions before heading home and receiving his discharge paperwork in August 1969.

Less than a year later, he reported to the White House to receive the Medal of Honor from President Richard M. Nixon. He is the lowest-ranking member of the Air Force to ever receive the award.

An Air Force C-17 was named for him in 1998, “The Spirit of John L. Levitow.” He passed away in 2000.

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The Tiger used in ‘Fury’ was captured after being disabled by the most improbable shots

Out of nowhere, a shot cuts through the last Sherman tank in the column, blowing its turret off. The three remaining Shermans reverse from the road as another shot whizzes into the dirt, narrowly missing them. Backed into a wood line, the Shermans spot their ambusher – a German Tiger I tank. With no way out, the Shermans return fire and charge the Tiger. The shots from the Shermans bounce off of the Tiger’s 100mm frontal armor with no effect.


Undeterred, the Tiger fires an 88mm shell straight through the front of a second Sherman. Continuing their charge toward the Tiger, a third Sherman is hit, its turret blown off of its hull. The last surviving Sherman finally gets around the Tiger and traverses its gun to aim at the weaker armor at the rear of the tank. Only after taking two shots through its vulnerable engine compartment does the deadly Tiger grind to a halt. With their tank ablaze, the surviving German crew members abandon the Tiger and are cut down by Sherman’s hull-mounted .30-cal machine gun.

This scene from Sony Pictures’ “Fury” has been viewed by millions of people online. Produced with the help of The Tank Museum in Bovington, UK, the scene features the only operating Tiger I tank in the world today.

Officially called the Panzerkampfwagen VI, Tiger I, Sd.Kfz. 181, the Tiger tank was heavily armored and equipped with the deadly 88mm gun. Paired with a well-disciplined crew, the Tiger was a menace to the allied armies during WWII. However, it was prone to track failures and mechanical breakdowns. The Tiger’s operational range was also restricted by its high fuel consumption.

Built in February 1943, Tiger 131 was issued to the German 504th Heavy Tank Battalion and was shipped to Tunisia in March 1943 to reinforce the German defense of North Africa. As the allies prepared a major push toward Tunis, German forces launched a spoiling attack in April. On April 24, the British 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters, a line infantry regiment, took a location known as Point 174. The Germans immediately counter attacked with armor, including Tiger 131.

During the counter attack, British tanks of the 142nd Regiment Royal Armoured Corps and 48th Royal Tank Regiment arrived to reinforce the Foresters. German and British tank shells streaked past each other as the two sides vied for control. During the exchange, Tiger 131 was hit by three 6-pounder solid shot shells from British Churchill tanks.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
A British Churchill Mk IV tank like the ones used at Point 174. (Credit: Imperial War Museum)

The first shot hit the Tiger’s barrel and ricocheted into its turret ring. The shell jammed the turret’s traverse, destroyed the radio, and wounded the driver and radio operator. The second shell disabled the gun’s elevation device when it hit the turret lifting lug. The third shot hit the loader’s hatch and deflected shrapnel fragments into the turret. Unable to aim their main gun and continue the fight, the crew of Tiger 131 abandoned their tank.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Tiger 131 with its damaged loader’s hatch. (Credit: Imperial War Museum)

After repelling the German counter attack, British forces discovered Tiger 131 on the battlefield and were surprised to find it intact and drivable—the first Tiger to be captured in such a state. Using parts from destroyed Tigers, British engineers repaired Tiger 131 to be inspected and evaluated. The tank was displayed in Tunis where it was shown to Prime Minister Winston Churchill and King George VI. In October 1943, Tiger 131 was sent to England and displayed around the country as a trophy to boost morale and fundraise before it was turned over to the School of Tank Technology. There, it was thoroughly inspected and assessed in order to aid future British tank design and evaluate its weaknesses to be exploited by allied troops on the front.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
King George VI inspects Tiger 131 in Tunis. (Credit: Imperial War Museum)

On September 25, 1951, Tiger 131 was transferred from the British Ministry of Supply to The Tank Museum in Bovington, UK, where it was put on display. In 1990, the tank was given a complete restoration by museum staff and the Army Base Repair Organisation, an executive agency of the UK’s Ministry of Defence. In 2003, Tiger 131 returned to the museum in a fully functional state, making it the only working Tiger tank in the world. After further work and a repainting in period colors, the restoration was completed in 2012.

Because of its rarity, Tiger 131 has been the subject of many books, toys, and models. As previously stated, the tank gained further fame after it was used in the 2014 film “Fury.” It has also been featured in the popular online tank game “World of Tanks.” The Tank Museum keeps Tiger 131 well-maintained, taking it out for a “Tiger Day” exhibition at least once a year for the public to see it in motion.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Tiger 131 on display. (Credit: The Tank Museum)

The Tiger tank inspired confidence in its crew and fear in its enemies. Today, Tiger 131 serves not as a weapon of war, but as a well-preserved piece of history for people to see and learn from. The stewards of this history at The Tank Museum take great pride in their work and hope to continue to share it with the world for many decades to come.

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These guys are pushing for World War III against Japan — with giant fighting robots

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar


Albert Einstein once said he doesn’t know “with what weapons World War III will be fought,” but he wasn’t around at a time when Americans were building giant robots to engage in hand-to-hand combat.

Roughly one year from now, a giant robot duel will be taking place between Japan and the USA — if the three-man team of Americans at MegaBots can raise enough money through their Kickstarter campaign. The campaign comes just over a month after Japan accepted a challenge from Team USA, which shot a hilarious video that got more than five million views.

Fortunately it won’t be a real-life World War III, but it will certainly be entertaining. As the team highlighted in their challenge video and elsewhere, the robots need some modifications to be able to fight — and upgrades to a 15-foot-tall, 12,000 pound robot don’t come cheap.

From the Kickstarter:

We are MegaBots, Inc. We challenged Japan to a giant robot duel, and they accepted… but demanded that the fight include hand-to-hand combat. We say BRING IT ON. We’ve assembled an incredible team of patriots to help us upgrade the Mk.II into the robot America deserves in the world’s first giant robot fight, but we need your support to help pay for those upgrades!

The MegaBots team was founded by Gui Cavalcanti, Matt Oehrlein, and Brinkley Warren, and it’s backed by many others, like Autodesk, a number of robotics engineers, and the creators of the television show BattleBots.

“We’re building the science fiction sports league of the future, one giant robot fight at a time,” said Gui Cavalcanti, CEO of MegaBots, in a statement.

You can check out the Kickstarter here

OR: Liam Neeson will play legendary Gen. Douglas MacArthur in a film about the Korean war

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6 ways being in the military prepared us for Fyre Festival

It’s not like anyone serving in the military could ever afford to go to anything like Fyre Festival. Limited leave, income, and service obligations just won’t allow for it.


And let’s be honest: not a lot of the independently wealthy enlist in the military.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Though some of them feel like they served in the military.

The Fyre Festival, which founders Ja Rule and Billy McFarland described as “a partnership over a mutual interest in technology, the ocean, and rap music,” made some astonishing promises, at an amazing price range of $1,000-125,000 per ticket.

The festival was supposed to be a luxury getaway weekend full of music with concerts in a remote Bahamas setting, full of five-star dining and whatever else the absurdly rich do. What happened when the private jets dropped off their passengers was less festival, more “Lord of the Flies.”

Here are a few ways the military would have prepared these people to get along before Piggy did and civilization went with him.

1. You know better than to volunteer to spend days on an abandoned beach.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Not sure what they’re complaining about so far.

Those dome tents look pretty comfy, reflecting the light like that. A lot nicer than the military’s waterproof tarp tent that sleeps 12 and keeps in all the body odor and humid air you could possibly want.

2. Those pigs are food.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
For at least a platoon. Ever see Black Hawk Down?

Sure, they’re adorable. And probably protected. But when the chow hall is only handing out cheese sandwiches and lettuce, there’s bound to be a negligent discharge sooner or later.

3. You know food could always be a lot worse.

America’s super-rich are probably not used to having to rough it for a long weekend. Why would they be? If I could afford a $2,000 concert ticket, I would probably be a wifi-enabled cyborg. So it’s not really a surprise that the biggest food complaint appeared to be the fact that their “five-star dining” turned out to be a cheese sandwich.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Look at that salad though.

It looks pretty rough, sure, but have you ever been to a tent city midnight meal? Midrats aboard a carrier?

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
That corn tho.

Sure, airmen get meat, but can you name that meat? No? enjoy your cheese sandwich.

4. You know which leaders to trust but more importantly, which to avoid.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar

While Ja Rule should have been a red flag to most of us, doing some basic research would have revealed that Fyre Festival co-founder Billy McFarland appears unable to open a McDonald’s franchise, let alone a multi-million dollar music festival on a deserted island. These buyers were begging for death.

5. The lawsuit pretty much describes life in the Marine Corps infantry.

The line “dangerously under-equipped and posed a serious danger to anyone in attendance” is used in $100 million class-action lawsuit against the Festival.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar

Except the Marines are still successful and usually have a plan to get back home.

6. You’re used to leadership passing the blame for failures.

Poor objectives? Terrible leadership? Lack of clear goals? Welcome to the suck. Again: Ja Rule as the unit leader should have been a red flag – but you’re on that island no matter what, so embrace it. No one is going to willing own up to it. And even if they do, the communication will be clear as mud.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Luckily no one high up in our Chain of Command uses Twitter to communicate, right?

“I truly apologize as this is not my fault… but i’m taking responsibility” pretty much says everything you need to know.

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10 best opening sequences from the glory days of military TV shows

During the halcyon days of broadcast television – before streaming media and DVRs existed – there were a host of military-themed shows on the airwaves. As much as the quality of the episodes (in some cases even more so) these programs were known for their openings and the associated theme songs. Here are 10 of the most classic:


MCCALE’S NAVY (1962-1966)

Forget JFK’s story from his time in the Pacific. Everything America knew about the history of PT boats came from “McCale’s Navy.” The show also showed that skippers could be cool and that POWs should be treated well; in fact, the Japanese prisoner “Fuji” was one of the gang. They even trusted him enough to make him their cook.

COMBAT (1962-1967)

“Combat” lasted five seasons before American attitudes toward the purity of war were tainted by the realities of the Vietnam Conflict that came blasting into living rooms via the nightly news. “Combat” set a serious tone with this opening with epic orchestration and a narrator who’s basically screaming at the viewers.

GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C. (1964-1969)

“Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.” was actually a spin-off of “The Andy Griffith Show” and introduced the public to two concepts that remain true today: DIs are likeable guys underneath their gruff exteriors and (surprise!) the Marine Corps is populated by a goofball or two.

BRANDED (1965-1966)

The drama of the opening theme of “Branded” was by-far the best part of this show. Watching Chuck Connors weather the dishonor of having his rank ripped from his shoulders, his sword broken in two, and the front gate closed behind him after he was shoved through it was heavy stuff.

F TROOP (1965-1967)

Manifest Destiny made into a sitcom. “F Troop” was a comedic take on life in the U.S. Calvary across the western frontier where Indian arrows went through head gear and nothing else.

HOGAN’S HEROES (1965-1971)

Not unlike what “F Troop” did to the reputation of Native Americans, “Hogan’s Heroes” showed the country that the Nazis weren’t inhuman tyrants but rather lovable idiots or clueless buffoons.

THE RAT PATROL (1966-1968)

This opening segment was all about the visual of U.S. Army jeeps going airborne over sand dunes without the guys holding onto the .50 cals in the back flying out or breaking their backs. “The Rat Patrol” was the show that introduced the nation to special ops and the idea that two light vehicles could take on (if not defeat) a column of Panzers.

STAR TREK (1966-1969)

For all of its allegory and social commentary, at its heart “Star Trek” was a show about military life on deployment. The opening remains among TV’s best with Capt. Kirk’s monologue, the Enterprise fly-by, and the soaring (albeit wordless) vocals.

M.A.S.H. (1972-1983)

Set during the Korean War, “M*A*S*H” was derived from Robert Altman’s 1970 black comedy of the same name and the theme song was an instrumental version of “Suicide is Painless” from the movie. The show’s finale was the most watched broadcast of any show ever until Super Bowl XLIV.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNblF1PkSwo

THE A TEAM (1983-1987)

“Punished for a crime they did not commit.” Oh, the injustice of it all. “The A Team” was known for gunfights, explosions, and car crashes that netted ZERO casualties. It’s also the show that made Mr. T into a household name.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The horrifying way Iran used kids to clear mines

The only good mines are one that are cleared — or better yet, never used in the first place. Today mines are generally seen as relics of bygone eras, deadly weapons that remain dangerous long after the war is fought. Forgotten minefields all over the world kill civilians by the score – more than 8,600 in 2016 alone. Many of those killed by mines are children.

Many who join armed forces around the world do so with the idea that they can keep their children and families – along with the children and families of their fellow countrymen – safe from the imminent dangers of impending war. When faced with an existential threat, countries will go to horrifying lengths to defend themselves. Apparently, using children to clear mines isn’t off-limits.

 

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
This isn’t World War I, it’s the 1980s. No one told Saddam or Khomeini.

Such was the case in the early 1980s, the nascent years of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran fought a brutal war against Iraq since 1980, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein smelled blood in the disorganized post-Revolution Iran and attempted to seize its access to the Persian Gulf by force.

The Iran-Iraq War was particularly brutal, even as far as warfare in the Middle East is concerned. The war was defined by eight years of stalemates and failed offensives, indiscriminate ballistic missile attacks — often using chemical weapons — and insane asymmetrical warfare.

Insane symmetrical warfare is a very clean term for the tactics Iran used to level the playing field of the Western-backed, technologically superior Iraqis. Iran recently purged its professional military of those loyal to the deposed Shah and was by no means ready to fight a war with a series of Revolutionary militias. The Ayatollah Khomeini was no military commander. He saw a success in war in terms of casualties inflicted on the enemy versus the number his forces took, a World War I-era approach to warfare.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
They also dug trenches. A lot of trenches.

 

To Khomeini, as long as the math worked and his fighters were sufficiently motivated by religious fanaticism and revolutionary spirit, he could push all the way to Baghdad. So he enlisted large numbers of civilians with little or no military training to execute his plans. This entrenched incompetence included the field command leadership who most often sent men to die in droves using human wave attacks, another World War I relic. The horror doesn’t stop there.

The New York Times’ Terence Smith, writing about Iran in 1984, described the use of child soldiers by Iran to clear minefields. Young boys, aged 12-17 years, wore red headbands with the words ‘Sar Allah’ in Farsi (Warriors of God) and small metal keys that the Ayatollah declared were their tickets to Paradise if they were martyred in their mission. Many were sent into battle against Iraqi tanks without any protection and bound by ropes to prevent desertion.

They were the first wave, making the way for Iranian tanks by clearing barbed wire and minefields with their bodies.

 

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Iranian child soldiers marching off to fight Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War.

 

These children weren’t the only human wave attackers, but they certainly were the most notable – and effective. In the same interview, Smith notes the Iranian commanders are unapologetic. Iraq has many tanks and a lot of support. Iran has very few. What Iran had is exactly what the Ayatollah predicted, a large population filled with religious fervor.

The total number of casualties inflicted on Iran and Iraq throughout the war isn’t clearly known, but what is known is a number ranging anywhere between 500,000 to one million killed and wounded in the eight-year slugfest.

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Pentagon identifies Navy SEAL killed in Fleet Week parachute accident

A Navy SEAL who fell to his death when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River has been identified as a 27-year-old Colorado man.


The accident that killed Remington J. Peters occurred Sunday at Liberty State Park, a large New Jersey park across from Manhattan where people catch ferries to see the Statue of Liberty.

Peters, whose identity was revealed late Monday, was a member of an elite Navy parachute team called the Leap Frogs. He was a role model who will be “painfully missed,” his family said in a statement released by the U.S. Navy.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“He was an angel on earth and role model to all,” the statement said. “We couldn’t have been more proud of him. He lived life to the fullest and taught us to do the same.”

The cause of the parachute malfunction that killed Peters is under investigation.

Peters was among four parachutists who drifted down from two helicopters. The Navy said he was pulled from the water by the U.S. Coast Guard. His parachute landed in a parking lot.

The Navy Region Mid-Atlantic commander, Rear Adm. Jack Scorby, asked for prayers “for the Navy SEAL community.”

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This Gatling gun fires up to 6,000 F-Us per minute … and we love it

The Dillon Aero M134D minigun is the world’s ultimate gatling gun, firing upwards of 6,000 rounds per-minute. And the awesome weapon can be carried on everything from small helicopters to fixed wing planes to the backs of infantrymen.


The 7.62mm minigun got its start in Vietnam where the Army adopted it for vehicle and infantry use while the Air Force bought it for its first-generation “Spooky” gunships. The infantry version of the weapon requires a tripod and large batteries and was rarely deployed.

But the vehicle-mounted versions of the weapon were a hit. The AC-47 carried three of the miniguns on its left side and would fly through the skies of Vietnam at night, dropping flares to illuminate enemies attacking U.S. forces and then wasting them with the three miniguns. It was later nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon” because of the way its tracers lit up the night.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Night attack of a U.S. Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship over the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Team 21 compound at Pleiku in May 1969. This time lapse photo shows the tracer round trajectories. (Photo: U.S. Army Spec. 5 Thomas A. Zangla)

The Air Force eventually turned to a larger plane and larger guns for aerial gunships, leading to the AC-130 variants still flying today. But the M134 saw expanded deployments as the Navy began mounting them on ships and boats and the Army expanded the weapon onto more helicopters and vehicles.

But the original M134s were prone to jamming, so Dillon Aero went back to the drawing board and eventually rolled out the M134D, a more reliable version of the weapon.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
(GIF: YouTube/Discovery UK)

Today, it continues to be deployed across the world on everything from modified SUVs to helicopters. The M134D has even shown up in recent video of Rangers deployed to Syria. The special operators have Strykers outfitted with the minigun.

The Navy Special Warfare Combatant Craft crews rely heavily on the weapon when conducting riverine operations and landing SEALs. The high rate of fire allows them to quickly subdue a riverbank or to suppress an enemy chasing Navy SEALs during a pick up.

See the awesome weapon in action in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqDCCTCYTNI
Video: YouTube/American Heroes Channel
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Before ‘Barney Fife,’ Don Knotts was a ventriloquist in the military

You most likely know him as Barney Fife of the Andy Griffith Show, but that wasn’t Don Knotts’ only claim to fame. The actor is also noted for his stint on Three’s Company and several movies, such as The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and The Incredible Mr. Limpet. For his efforts, he was awarded multiple Emmys and earned titles like one of the best TV stars of all time from TV Guide itself. 

But before he made himself a household name, before he was telling jokes to the masses, Don Knotts got his start in the entertainment industry, not through acting. But as a ventriloquist in the U.S. military. 

During World War II, soldiers could join a variety show in which they traveled around to entertain soldiers. The show was called Stars and Gripes, where he performed with the dummy, Danny “Hooch” Matador. Knotts was assigned to the 6817th Special Services Batallion in the Army. 

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Performing his comedy show with dummy, Danny. Public domain

While still in high school, Knotts honed his comedian skills and began practicing as a ventriloquist, working shows at school and church events in his native Morgantown, West Virginia. After graduating, he tried his hand at professional comedy in New York City, but was unsuccessful and returned to his home state. 

He was drafted to the Army in 1943 where he was assigned to a special services unit created for solider entertainment. He traveled around various posts across the west Pacific Islands where he performed a comedy act with Danny.

Supposedly, Knotts disliked the dummy, and his hatred for it only grew with each show. He’s said to have thrown Danny overboard after performing on a military ship. He did so after receiving compliments from older comedians, who reassured him he didn’t need the dummy in his act to be successful. Additionally, Knotts had tired of the dummy act but was still asked to perform it by showrunners. Another account says he left Danny on the beach after a show and then reported him to high-ups as missing in action, likely the only doll to ever be MIA. 

Knotts finished his military stint after nearly three years. He was discharged in January 1946 as a Technician Grade 5 (Corporal). While serving, he was awarded a WWII Victory Medal, the Philippine Liberation Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (including four bronze service stars), the American Campaign Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Army Marksman Badge, complete with an M1 Carbine. 

Don Knotts as Barney Fife in The Andy Griffith Show. Wikimedia Commons.

After his stint in the Army, Knotts married and returned to New York City. He called on show business connections he had made in the Special Services unit to gain frequent gigs, including comedy shows and guest appearances on radio shows where he played characters. One of his best-known roles is Windy Wales on the radio Western show, Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders. 

His big break came a few years later, with a regular role on the long-running soap opera, Search for Tomorrow. In 1956 he made it back to comedy, appearing in a variety show led by Steve Allen, where he worked until the show’s end in 1960. 

A statue in Knotts’ hometown in West Virginia. Wikimedia Commons.

Knotts took on two notable military acting roles in his early career, playing various roles in No Time for Sergeants, in the Broadway and film versions, the latter was his first on-screen performance with Andy Griffith. The duo starred together on The Andy Griffith Show for five seasons, before Knotts left to pursue his film career.

A statue honoring Knotts’ achievements was unveiled in his hometown of Morganville in 2016, 10 years after he passed away from pneumonia and lung cancer. He was 81 years old.

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America’s first fighter jet was designed before Pearl Harbor — but the Army rejected it

The Lockheed L-133 was thought to be capable of flying at least 620 mph and moving even faster when it kicked in its afterburners. Members of the development team thought it might even be capable of supersonic flight.


Shockingly, the L-133 wasn’t an aircraft design from the 1950s, but from 1938.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Photo: Youtube

Lockheed pitched the L-133 to the Army Air Force in 1940, but the generals were focused on long-range bombers. The people at Lockheed who designed the L-133 would go on to be the major players in Lockheed’s famed Skunk Works. They took many of their ideas from the L-133 and incorporated them into new designs for more than 20 years.

When the Germans began developing jet fighters, the U.S. decided they needed one. They went to Lockheed in 1944 and asked for a new fighter within 160 days. Using the lessons from the L-133, Lockheed created the F-80 with a couple days to spare. The F-80 was the first American fighter with jet engines to reach production.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Photo: US Air Force

Next the F-104 Starfighter was first flown in 1954. It incorporated the afterburners and “boundary layer control,” a method of increasing control of planes with short wings, that were originally destined for the L-133.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Photo: US Air Force

The SR-71 Blackbird flew in 1964 and was the first American aircraft to have wings blended into the body for stealth, a design element the L-133 called for in 1940.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Photo: US Air Force

To learn more, check out the documentary below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3viiJ4g5G8

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The Air Force wants to shoot bad guys with laser guns

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar


The Air Force plans to be able to incinerate targets such as incoming missiles with laser weapons mounted on C-17s by 2023 as part of a directed energy developmental effort, service official said.

The High Energy Laser, or HEL, is being tested by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. Ground tests are slated for later this year as part of a plan to precede air-launched laser weapons firing evaluations, Mica Endsley, Air Force Chief Scientist, told Military .com in an interview.

The first ever ground test of the weapon is slated to take place at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., said Othana Zuch, an Air Force spokeswoman.

Service officials are working on a solid-state laser guidance mechanism and focus so the weapon can stay on track on a particular target.

“We’re working on maturing a lot of those kinds of technologies,” Endsley said. “We will be transitioning into airborne platforms to get them ready to go into a program of record by 2023.”

Endsley added that the Air Force plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.

The Air Force is interested in firing the weapon from sub-sonic, transonic, and supersonic platforms, Zuch added.

Aircraft-launched laser weapons could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses including air-to-air combat, close-air-support, counter-UAS, counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, Air Force official said.

“The application will be things like being able to defeat an incoming missile for example, so that as opposed to a kinetic kill that would blow up that weapon the laser will basically melt through the metal and electronics using these non-kinetic techniques,” Endsley added.

The first airborne tests are expected to take place by 2021, Zuch added.

The developmental efforts are focused in increasing the power, precision and guidance of existing laser weapon applications, Endsley added.

“We want to put those capabilities in to a system that will move from something like 10 kilowatts up to 100 kilowatts — up to greater power.  We will work on things like guidance, control and precision,” she said.

Energy to fire aircraft lasers is engineered to come from on-board jet fuel to potentially enable thousands of shots, Endsley added.

“The real advantage is it would have a much more extended magazine. Today’s have five, six, seven missiles. With a directed energy weapon you could have thousands of shots with a gallon of gasoline – a gallon of jet fuel,” she said.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the Air Force has tried to mount a laser to an aircraft. The service tried to design an aircraft with a laser in the nose cone for missile defense purposes with a different style laser.

The Airborne Laser program featured a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser. It was tested in the nose cone of a Boeing 747–400 Freighter. Air Force officials say they are now benefiting from the technological efforts of  its previous ABL program.

However, Defense Secretary Robert Gates killed the program in 2009 when he said it was unaffordable and questioned if it would ever be feasible.

“The ABL program has significant affordability and technology problems, and the program’s proposed operational role is highly questionable,” he said in 2009 when he announced the end of DoD funding for the program.

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Meet the Army’s new stealthy hydrogen fuel cell vehicle

In a tactical situation, the last thing a Soldier wants to do is give away his position to the enemy.


The ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle promises to provide that important element of stealth, said Kevin Centeck. team lead, Non-Primary Power Systems, U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center at the 2017 Washington Auto Show here Thursday.

The ZH2 is basically a modified Chevy Colorado, fitted with a hydrogen fuel cell and electric drive, he said. It was put together fairly quickly, from May to September, and will be tested by Soldiers in field conditions later this year.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
General Motor’s ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle | Image via TARDEC

Charley Freese, executive director of General Motor’s Global Fuel Cell Activities, explained the ZH2 is stealthy because its drive system does not produce smoke, noise, odor or thermal signature. GM developed the vehicle and the associated technologies.

Related: Army picks Sig Sauer to replace M9 service pistol

The vehicle provides a number of other advantages for Soldiers:

  • The ZH2 produces high torque and comes equipped with 37-inch tires that enable it to negotiate rough and steep terrain.
  • The hydrogen fuel cell can produce two gallons per hour of potable water.
  • When the vehicle isn’t moving, it can generate 25 kilowatts of continuous power or 50 kW of peak power. There are 120 and 240-volt outlets located in the trunk.
  • The vehicle is equipped with a winch on the front bumper.

Dr. Paul D. Rogers, director of TARDEC, said the Army got a good deal in testing this vehicle, leveraging some $2.2 billion in GM research money spent in fuel cell research over the last several decades. The Army is always eager to leverage innovation in new technology, he added.

While GM developed the technology and produced the demonstrator, the Army’s role will be to test and evaluate the vehicle in real-world field conditions over the next near.

How it works

Electricity drives the vehicle, Centeck said. But the electricity doesn’t come from storage batteries like those found in electric cars today. Instead, the electricity is generated from highly compressed hydrogen that is stored in the vehicle by an electrochemical reaction.

As one of the two elements that make water (the other being oxygen), there’s plenty of hydrogen in the world. But hydrogen isn’t exactly free, Centeck pointed out. It takes a lot of electricity to separate the strong bond between hydrogen and oxygen.

That electricity could come from the grid or it could come from renewables like wind or solar, Centeck said.

Existing fuels like gasoline, propane, and natural gas can also be used to extract hydrogen, he said. The Army and GM are comparing the costs and benefits for each approach and haven’t yet settled on which approach to use.

Christopher Colquitt, GM’s project manager for the ZH2, said that the cost of producing hydrogen isn’t the only complicating factor; another is the lack of hydrogen fueling stations.

Most gas stations aren’t equipped with hydrogen pumps, Colquitt pointed out, but California and some other places in the world are in the process of building those fueling stations. For field testing purposes, the Army plans to store the hydrogen fuel in an ISO container.

Another cost involves the hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system itself. Fuel cell stacks under the hood convert hydrogen and air into useable electricity. They are composed of stacks of plates and membranes coated with platinum.

In the ZH2 demonstrator, there are about 80 grams of platinum, costing thousands of dollars, he said. But within the last few months, GM developers have managed to whittle that amount of platinum down to just 10 grams needed to produce a working vehicle, he said.

The modern-day gas and diesel combustion engine took a century to refine. Now, GM is attempting to do that similar refining with hydrogen fuel cells in just a matter of months, he said. It’s a huge undertaking.

By refining the design, Colquitt explained, he means lowering cost and providing durability, reliability and high performance. Refining doesn’t just mean using less platinum, he explained. A lot of other science went into the project, including the design of advanced pumps, sensors, compressors that work with the fuel cell technology.

Colquitt said the ZH2’s performance is impressive for such a rapidly-produced vehicle. For instance, the fuel cell produces 80 to 90 kilowatts of power and, when a buffer battery is added, nearly 130 kilowatts. The vehicle also instantly produces 236 foot-pounds of torque through the motor to the transfer case.

The range on one fill-up is about 150 miles, since this is a demonstrator, he said. If GM were actually fielding these vehicles, the range would be much greater.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Image via TARDEC

Not ready for consumers

Colquitt said hydrogen fuel cell technology hasn’t yet yielded vehicles for consumers, but GM is working on doing just that in the near future, depending on a number of factors, mainly the availability of fueling stations.

The Army is no stranger to the technology, he said. GM’s Equinox vehicles, powered by hydrogen fuel cells, are being used on several installations. The difference is that the ZH2 is the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to go tactical, he said.

The value of having the Army test the vehicle is that it will be driven off-road aggressively by Soldiers, who will provide their unvarnished feedback, Colquitt said. Besides collecting subjective feedback from the Soldiers, he said, the vehicle contains data loggers that will yield objective data as well.

Testers will put the vehicle through its paces this year at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Benning, Georgia; Quantico Marine Base, North Carolina; and, GM’s own Proving Grounds in Michigan.

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7 military-related websites you need to bookmark immediately

Current servicemembers and veterans are some of the most remarkable individuals representing the best of our country.


The beauty of the people who serve in the military is that they hail from all across the nation, have diverse backgrounds and interesting stories about their time in service. Many of these individuals are not just warriors, but they are also storytellers.

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar
Want to find leadership inspiration, stretch your mind around military strategy or just get a laugh? Then bookmark these vet-run websites and grow (blow) your mind! (Photo from U.S. Army)

For many military members, writing is a powerful tool. This generation’s men and women in uniform have a lot to share and writing about their service gives them the ability to discuss many subjects, display their knowledge and express ideas on current military affairs and strategies that can spark a dialogue.

Writing allows a space for people to illustrate unique perspectives and opinions on topics such as leadership, military books and history, movies and of course personal “war stories.”

Whether you are a young service member who just enlisted or a retired veteran, here are seven websites or blogs that you should definitely bookmark and follow on social media.

1. Angry Staff Officer

Writing under the persona “Angry Staff Officer,” the site’s author focuses on several topics in his blog.  From historical events and foreign policy to personal experiences and an examination of current Army doctrine, Angry Staff Officer’s writing is both fun and snarky — but ultimately insightful. Along with running his own site, Angry Staff Officer serves as a contributor to several other outlets, sharing his unique view on several themes. Visit his site and you’ll get a good look at what he’s all about, but his sense of humor really shines on Twitter, so make sure to follow him @pptsapper.

2. Bourbon and Battles

If you are looking for a site that offers lessons on life, current military affairs, history and of course reviews on great bourbon, then Bourbon and Battles is for you. Hosted by U.S. Army officer Johnathon Parker, Bourbon and Battles offers readers firsthand advice on writing, his life as a graduate student, military leadership, and offers new writers a platform to have their work featured. This site is perfect for new military writers to build their prosaic chops. You can also follow Bourbon Battles on Twitter @BourbonBattles and on Facebook.

3. From the Green Notebook

The ubiquitous military green notebook has become the stuff of legend. For Army Maj. Joe Byerly, it is also a source of inspiration for his personal blog called From the Green Notebook. The site serves as a means for the combat arms officer to share his perspective about his time in service and as a way to help develop young military leaders in the digital age.  The author dives into a variety of topics such as history, military leadership, and professional development that gives military personnel sound advice on how to to make it in the service. You can also follow him on Twitter @jbyerly81.

4. The Military Leader

Hosted by an Army Infantry officer, The Military Leader is a website that offers resources for both military and civilians to guide their development as leaders and help grow their organizations. From simple articles about helpful tips to help start conversations with subordinates to complex topics such as toxic leadership, the page offers great insight for people of all levels. Be sure to also follow the Military Leader on Twitter @mil_LEADER and on Facebook.

5. Military Writers Guild

A collective of writers lend their years of experience and expertise as a means to share ideas and start a dialogue. The purpose of the Military Writers Guild is to “advocate, collaborate and promote” the current crop of military thinkers. The site features writing and podcasts from brilliant military minds. The individuals who are a part of the Military Writers Guild are so smart, in high school they probably sat at the nerd table in the cafeteria. All kidding aside, this is a fantastic group of people writing about the national security space. You can also follow them on Twitter @MilWritersGuild.

6. War on the Rocks

War on the Rocks is medium for in-depth analysis, commentary, and content on geo-politics and national security. The page features articles and podcasts from a number of collaborators with years of expertise in warfare. If you want to put your thinking cap on and see where U.S. military strategy and organization should go in the next 10 or 20 years, sit back and get smarter.

7. Your Stories, Your Wall

Serving as the official blog if the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, this site features personal stories of those who served in the Vietnam conflict. The blog has great aspects of storytelling and compelling imagery that really conveys the hardships of the men and women who served as well as the family members who were affected by the death of a loved one in that war. Many of these stories on the blog are also centered on the Vietnam memorial itself. This site reminds all of us about the sacrifices of our Vietnam era servicememebrs. Check it out here: https://vvmf.wordpress.com/

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

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