This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair - We Are The Mighty
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This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair

You might think that legendary fighter planes like the F4U Corsair and P-51 Mustang saw their last action in the Korean War.


It seems like a reasonable assumption – but it’d be dead wrong.

Believe it or not, the last combat those planes saw came around the time that F-4 Phantoms and MiG-21s were fighting for air superiority over North Vietnam, and Israeli Mirages and Neshers took on the air forces of Egypt, Syria, and other Arab countries.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Ranker.com

In 1969, El Salvador and Honduras went to war. It lasted about 100 hours, and started less than three weeks after the end of a contentious qualifying series for the 1970 World Cup.

Dubbed the “Soccer War,” the fighting left nearly 3,200 people dead, both military and civilian.

Notable was that it was the last combat action that some legendary planes would see. The war started when El Salvador began its attacks — a makeshift affair with passenger planes being modified to carry bombs for the first strikes. El Salvadoran troops followed the strikes and pushed into Honduras.

Honduras at the time had 19 F4U Corsairs in its inventory, along with 6 AT-6 Texan attack planes. El Salvador had 11 P-51D Mustangs in service, plus some that upgraded Cavalier Mustangs. They had 25 F4U/FG-1 Corsairs in service as well.

During the fighting, Honduran Corsairs downed a P-51 and two Corsairs, gained air superiority over the battlefield, and began pushing the invaders back. Anti-aircraft fire claimed two more Salvadoran Mustangs, while two P-51s were lost in a mid-air collision.

Two Salvadoran Corsairs were also shot down by ground fire.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Photo: US Navy

When all was said and done, the Organization of American States intervened to arrange for a cease-fire. The war ended with a status quo ante bellum. Today, both Air Forces operate A-37B Dragonfly attack planes (15 for El Salvador, 10 for Honduras), but Honduras also has nine F-5E Tiger II fighters. Honduras and El Salvador took over a decade to sign a formal peace treaty, but the underlying tensions remain in that region.

While the disputes that lead to the Soccer War have not been resolved, the Soccer War did give some legends one last chance to serve.

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Pentagon to pursue bonuses mistakenly paid to Guardsmen

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook updates reporters about the California National Guard bonus repayments at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., Jan. 3, 2017.


The Pentagon announced yesterday that they had met Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s deadline of January 1 to set up a streamlined system to recover bonuses they had accidentally paid to thousands of California National Guardsmen several years ago.

Late last year, Carter ordered the suspension of efforts to recover the funds from soldiers until a system could be set up to fairly recover the bonuses.

Peter Levine, acting as the undersecretary for personnel and readiness, headed up the team to develop the recovery system. Levine spoke to reporters during the press conference, admitting that, though some of the Guardsmen might have made mistakes, “sometimes the service does” as well.

Levine said he had worked with the National Guard Bureau, the Army Audit Agency, the Army Review Boards Agency, and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) to develop the system, and that part of that system involved screening each case to determine if there was even enough information to pursue a resolution.

Cases that are determined to have enough information will go before the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, and Guardsmen will have an opportunity to make their cases then.

There are currently about 17,500 cases up for review which have been separated into two categories.

Also read: Gary Johnson speaks out on California Guard repayment scandal

The first category consists of roughly 1,400 cases where the Guard has determined that recoupment should happen, and they have been referred to DFAS for collection of those funds.

Levine said that he expected to see half of those debts forgiven.

For the remaining approximately 16,000 cases, Levin anticipated about 15,000 not meeting the criteria for pursuit.

The other thousand cases, according to Levine, will go through the same process as the 1,400 currently referred to DFAS.

In all, he said, he expects “fewer than 1,000” of the cases to go before the Board of Correction of Military Records.

Levine believes that the Board of Correction of Military Records will be able to hear all of the cases by July — the deadline set by Carter.

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Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of profiles of incredible female veterans that WATM will be presenting in concert with Women’s History Month.


This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Kayla Williams (right) with unidentified female soldier next to an up-armored Humvee during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The title of Kayla Williams’ 2005 book, Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army uses an old marching cadence to seemingly thumb its nose at what some might consider the more antiquated ways of US Army culture, especially when it comes to women. Fifteen percent of the Army is female, but Williams would come to learn during the Iraq War, the only women in the Army the public knew well were Lynndie England and Jessica Lynch… and those were not the people Williams wanted representing women in the Army.

“When I came home from Iraq, I realized people can be ignorant about the role of women in combat,” Williams told me. “Some people asked if I was allowed to carry a gun, some asked if I was in the infantry, even though women still can’t be. I was acutely aware women’s roles were largely unknown to the general public and I wanted to give a nuanced perspective of what women experience in the current conflicts.”

Williams was an Army signals intelligence linguist, specializing in intercept and direction finding. She enlisted in 2000 because she wanted to learn another language. The language the Army chose would dramatically affect the way she looked at her career.

“I got Arabic as opposed to Korean or Chinese,” Williams says. “I was at the Defense Language Institute on 9/11 and it was clear to us then the world had changed.” In 2003, Williams was part of the initial invasion of Iraq with the 101st Airborne Air Assault. Though her primary function was signals intelligence, she found there was a huge need for Arabic translation on the ground. Beyond any of her expectations she found herself doing foot patrols with the Army infantry.

“This was the very early days of the war,” she recalls. “The Iraqi people were still hopeful they would see a better future in the aftermath of the down fall of the regime. I was making a difference in the lives of those Iraqis and in the lives of my fellow soldiers.”

Williams’ work took her all over the American area of responsibility in Iraq.  She worked her way North to Mosul, Sinjar, and Tal Afar, and spent a great deal of time on the Syrian border.

“In my experience,” she says, “everyone has to prove themselves in a new unit, male or female. Everyone is going to test you. It’s inevitable. In the combat arms units I was attached to, how they treated me depended on how well I did my job. When they saw me translating for them, they could see I could help them. And when commanders treated me with respect, the troops would too.”

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Williams getting promoted in Iraq.

Though far from a support structure, Kayla Williams remembers those first days in the Northern areas of Iraq as relatively peaceful.  By the time her deployment was over, however, the situation had completely changed. They had electricity and running water in their camp, but now the insurgency had taken root.

“When we drove back to Kuwait at the end of my tour we had to do it at night in a blackout drive.”

Despite personal feelings about the war, Williams approached every mission to the best of her ability. She knew her skill as a translator could be the most necessary help to the war, and thus the troops. She thought at the time though we went to war for the wrong reasons, maybe we still did a good thing. Now, with a Master’s degree in International Affairs with a focus on the Middle East from American University, her observations are more grounded in fact than feeling.

“Maybe in a generation or two the Middle East will be better off,” she says. “But who knows? Who predicted the rise of ISIS? I’m not sure that anyone can predict the long term. It’s the polite way of saying I hope we didn’t fuck it up too bad.”

Williams sees the roles of women in the Armed Forces as a necessary one, especially given cultural sensitivities in predominantly Muslim countries. To her, being able to assign women to combat units will give field commanders better command and control capability without sacrificing readiness or discipline.

“The decision to lift the exclusion policy for women in combat was a validation and vindication of the more than 280,000 women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Williams says. “The former Secretary of Defense made the decision with the unanimous support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Now commanders will be able to train like they fight and function better as a military by putting the right people in the right jobs.”

Williams’ second book, Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War is the story of her return home, her husband’s struggle with traumatic brain injury (TBI) from an IED attack during his own time in Iraq, and how they struggled to overcome; it was published in 2014.

Now: Female Vet Says ‘They’ll Have To Pry My Uniform Out Of My Hands’

And: This Female Vet Is One Of History’s Most Decorated Combat Photographers

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Congress and the Air Force are in a tiff over who will manage a space war

The Air Force is mired in a political war on multiple fronts. on one side, it’s fighting new legislation to create a “Space Corps,” on the other, it’s feuding with other service branches over who will take the lead on space operations.


House lawmakers advanced a proposal in late June to hand the Air Force’s current responsibilities outside of Earth’s atmosphere over to a newly-created Corps. The Corps would serve as a unified authority over satellites and spacecraft under U.S. Strategic Command.

The legislation would establish a new U.S. Space Command and make the new chief of the Space Corps the eighth member of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
A remote block change antenna designated as POGO-Charlie, operated by Detachment 1, 23rd Space Operations Squadron at Thule Air Base, Greenland July 26, 2016. Detachment 1 provides vital support to Schriever and the Air Force Satellite Control Network, providing telemetry, tracking and command technologies. (Courtesy Photo)

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson opposes a Space Corps on grounds it would make the military “more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart and cost more money.” The Navy is also opposed to a Space Corps, but only because they want to take a lead role in space operations, arguing they could resemble operations at sea.

The inter-service feud over future space operations has experts thinking about whether or not any branch of the U.S. military is prepared to lead in that theater.

“The challenge here is that neither service is 100 percent ready to fight a true war in space,” Harry J. Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “While the Air Force and Navy have assets that certainly have applications towards space, waging war in what is still technically a new and challenging domain is asking a lot.”

The military uses satellites for a variety of tasks from navigation to spying and missile defense. Threats against satellites have largely been an afterthought in today’s asymmetric wars against technologically-lacking terror cells, according to a report published in August by the U.S. National Academies.

Satellites are vulnerable to weapons rival military powers, like Russia or China, are developing, according to Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command. China destroyed one of its own satellites in 2007, and likely tested a ground-based missile launch system to destroy orbiting objects in 2013.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Artist rendering of an experimental U.S. military space plane. (Photo from DARPA)

“We must remember, if war were ever to break out with a near-peer competitors like Russia or China, U.S. military forces would be fighting in all domains — land, air, sea, space and cyberspace,” Kazianis said. “Winning in one domain will have consequences and pressure for the other services.”

Some experts think creating an entirely new military bureaucracy could be expensive and add to the current confusion.

“What would make the most sense is for the Navy and Air Force to work together and avoid inter-service rivalry on this important issue,” Kazianis said.

This wouldn’t be the first time branches of the military competed brutally for access to space. During the Cold War space race with the Soviet Union, the U.S. armed services competed among themselves to develop advanced rockets. This inter-service rivalry led to some early confusion and duplication, according to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Though some argue a Space Corps could oversee U.S. grand strategy in space, selecting one of the current military branches to lead space operations could be counterproductive.

“We need a service that understands that its core mission is to provide such services to all of our armed forces, to be able to deny them to any adversary, and to protect all American space assets, whether military or civilian,” Dr. Robert Zubrin, a scientist who has written about space warfare and developed NASA’s mission plan to visit Mars, told TheDCNF.

“I don’t see any of the three current armed services being able to comprehensively grasp and prioritize that mission. An officer rises to the top in the Army, Navy or Air Force by leading troops, ships or aircraft into battle. They do not do so by developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy to seize and retain space supremacy,” Zubrin said.

The Air Force and Navy adopted a joint “AirSea Battle” concept doctrine in 2010, renamed Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC) in 2015.

“Ultimately, we need to get out of the mindset of ‘this is my turf’ and think about fighting the wars of the future with a multi-domain mindset,” Kazianis said. “This is why the military must push forward on things like AirSea Battle’s successor, JAM-GC. This is the only way to win the wars of the future.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘Kitten Marine’ of the Korean War passed away at age 90

Frank Praytor, the U.S. Marine photographed nursing a kitten during the Korean War, recently passed away at the age of 90.


In the heat of the Korean War, Sgt. Frank Praytor was a combat correspondent in the 1st Marine Division. He had previously got into journalism in 1947 with the Birmingham News and, eventually, the Alabama bureau of the International News Service. In 1950, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and soon found himself in Korea.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair

He was a well-respected and highly successful journalist for Stars and Stripes. His many accomplishments include reporting firsthand accounts of PoW exchanges, the truce-signing at Panmunjom — which brought the ceasefire on the Korean War, and photographing a Navy corpsman treating a wounded Marine on the battlefield — which won an award from Photography Magazine.

All of this pales in comparison to the stardom he received when he was photographed by a fellow combat cameraman, Staff Sgt. Martin Riley, tenderly caring for a kitten in the middle of a battlefield. Praytor adopted two baby kittens after their mother was killed. The kitten in the photograph was named Miss Hap because, “she was born at the wrong time and wrong place.” He nursed them both back to full health, feeding them meat from his rations, and they served as the unofficial mascots of the Marine press office in Korea.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Praytor is the second to the left. Miss Hap is probably gnawing at something. (Image via Stars and Stripes, 1953)

Riley sent the photo to the Associated Press as a sign of the “goodwill” the Marine Corps represents. Time passed and he snapped his previously mentioned award-winning photo. Soon after, he was brought on court-martial charges for releasing a war photo without the consent of superior officers. When he was called into the commander’s office, he had accepted his fate — then the commander ripped up the condemning papers.

The photograph of him and Miss Hap was picked up by over 1,700 newspapers across the United States. He had become a celebrity back home. A handsome Marine caring for a two-week-old kitten brought favorable eyes upon the Marine Corps from all across the United States. Hundreds of letters were sent, addressed to “Kitten Marine, Korea.” “I got letters from girls all over the country who wanted to marry me,” Praytor told the U.S. Naval Institute in a 2009 interview.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Marines still take care of cats, if any girls are still interested. (Image via Reddit)

He was reassigned to Tokyo and had to leave Miss Hap with a fellow Marine, Cpl. Conrad Fisher. During his visit to report on the truce at Panmunjom, he visited Fisher, who was still taking care of Miss Hap. Fisher was happy to bring her back home stateside. Praytor would continue his life as a freelance journalist well into his 80s.

Also Read: 7 tales of heroism for cat people sick of all the military dog stories

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This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly

He’s piloted an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter gunship in combat, but Marine Capt. Kyle Lobpries is still chasing that next adrenaline rush.


On Memorial Day, wearing a high-performance Jedei II wingsuit, Lobpries stepped off an airplane at 36,215 feet over northern California. For more than eight minutes, he flew like a bird.

He floated to Earth before his parachute deployed at 3,003 feet and carried him onto a field nearly 19 miles away and nearly set a distance record for wingsuit flight.

Thrilling enough? Yes and no.

Next month, Lobpries will compete in speed skydiving. Goal? Maximum velocity.

Don’t people, like objects, descend at 120 mph?

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Photo courtesy Kyle Lobpries Facebook

Generally, yes, but freefall speed increases by reducing friction. Tuck yourself in from the belly or spread-eagle position and fall head-first, for example, and a skydiver could reach 180 mph, according to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the World Air Sports Federation. Get into a tight, lean position – think slender torpedo – and a skydiver could hit 300 mph or more.

That’s Lobpries’ goal.

So far, he’s hit 297 mph in training. At such speeds, the 33-year-old is flying nearly twice that of his own helicopter. Straight down.

“It’s pretty scary,” he admitted. “When you go that fast, everything is vibrating and shaking and kind of blurry.”

Next month, he’ll compete in speed skydiving at the FAI World Parachuting Championship in Chicago, Sept. 10-21. Speed diving is the newest recognized discipline by FAI, which will crown champion whoever tallies the “fastest speed possible over a given distance.”

Last year, the top speed over a 1-kilometer descent was 317.5 mph, according to SkyDive magazine.

(Speed skydiving shouldn’t be confused with the recent jump by skydiver Luke Aikins, who leapt from 25,000 sans parachute into a big net and the Guinness Book of World Records for highest skydive without a parachute. And it’s not the same speed record adventure-skydiver Felix Baumgartner got when he reached 833.9 mph and broke the speed of sound falling 127,000 feet to Earth in 2012, still the highest skydive.)

As a kid in Texas, Lobpries saw wingsuiters on TV and thought, that’s cool. He made his first jump, a tandem ride, as a 19-year-old college freshman and since has amassed various parachute ratings and qualifications and some medals, even as his military flight career took off. He got the requisite 200 jumps before jumping with his first wingsuit, in 2010.

“I remember my heart beating very fast. I was very nervous,” he recalled of that jump from 12,500 feet.

It’s been his great passion ever since and between overseas deployments. “I think this is the more truer way to fly, to actually use your arms to support yourself in the air,” he said.

Wingsuiting to a layperson seems like a complex feat of science and physics. With his grounding in aviation and aeronautics, Lobpries pores over jump and flight data and calculations. He’s working on designing the most efficient and fast wingsuit design.

Lobpries lives near San Diego and is the Marine Corps liaison officer with Tactical Air Control Squadron 12 at San Diego Naval Base. It’s a non-flying billet. Outside of work, chances are good he’s in the air or somewhere maybe riding his Ducati 1199 Panigale S.

Every one of his jumps requires a lot of thought and study to ensure safety and solid performance. Lobpries spent months planning and preparing for the May wingsuit flight near Davis, California. He slimmed down to 172 pounds, building strength and stamina through a clean diet and strength conditioning that include core exercises and yoga, despite nagging lower-body injuries from a 2014 bad landing. His May 28 training jump, at 30,000 feet, went well.

Two days later, Lobpries and several skydivers boarded the Cessna, sucking on oxygen before they parachuted from 30,000 feet. Lobpries stayed behind when they jumped. “My plan was to go as high as possible,” he said.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Courtesy Kyle Lobpries Facebook

Lobpries had FAA clearance, a GoPro camera, three GPS devices and a potential world record in mind as the Cessna climbed to 36,215 feet. (That’s cruising altitude for a commercial jet.) Frost covered the windows as the Cessna pushed beyond its ceiling limits. “It was definitely rocking and rolling up there,” he said.

With heaters tucked into his gloves and breathing apparatus on his face, Lobpries stepped off into thin, -62 degrees Fahrenheit air. “I had trouble breathing. I couldn’t exhale,” he recalled, but he managed to clear a frozen exhale valve. He listened to audible altimeter readings and focused on his micro movements. “I just continuously thought about body positioning,” he said.

Lobpries jumped with no specific landing zone in mind. “I asked the pilot to drop me off 18 miles north of the drop zone, and I would fly south as far as I could,” he said. A straight path gave him the best shot to maintain the proper glide slope. A slight tailwind took him over farmland, a small town and “one guy that waved” as he flew over. An FAI judge tracked the 8:27 flight and took the GPS devices for verification.

If FAI-verified, Lobpries thinks it’s the longest distance and highest duration wingsuit jump to date. “I want to set a bar,” Lobpries said, “and if someone breaks it, that’s fine.”

“The draw is just the goal. Just like somebody wanting to run a marathon … or become a lawyer,” he said.

He hopes his record “will inspire people to accomplish” their goal. He’s recently taken up BASE jumping. But for now, he’s focused on Chicago and reaching 300 mph and, perhaps eventually, a speed skydiving record.

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This Medal of Honor recipient was a convicted deserter

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Photo: US Army Al Chang


Future colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Lewis Lee Millett joined the U.S. Army in the summer of 1938 but was really bummed when he learned the U.S. hadn’t gotten around to fighting the Germans yet.

So in 1941 he deserted and ran to Canada — a country with an army almost two years into its Nazi-killing campaign.

Millett went through basic training with the Canadians and learned their methods of bayonet fighting (That will be important later). He was shipped to London and manned an anti-aircraft gun during the London Blitz, but he switched back over to the U.S. Army when America entered the war.

After shipping to Africa, he saved a group of soldiers by jumping into a burning, ammunition-filled halftrack and driving it away from an Allied position. The Army awarded him the Silver Star. Millett followed this up by exposing himself to a German plane strafing Allied troops and shooting it down with machine guns mounted on another halftrack.

Unfortunately for then-Sgt. Millett, this was when the paperwork for his desertion found him. His unit was ordered three times to court-martial him before they actually did it. The commander hit Millett with a $52 fine, then made him a second lieutenant only a few weeks later with a battlefield commission.

He continued to serve after the war ended and was a captain in the Korean War where he earned both a Medal of Honor and a Distinguished Service Cross, each for a daring bayonet charge.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Photo: Youtube

On Feb. 4, 1951, a platoon leader in Millett’s unit, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, was injured during a bayonet charge up a hill. Millett led a rescue effort to get the man while under fire, saving the young lieutenant. Millett was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.

Three days later, Millett was leading a company attack when the 1st Platoon was pinned down by machine gun and anti-tank fire. Millett ordered 3rd Platoon forward and led it and 1st Platoon up the hill with fixed bayonets. His Medal of Honor citation describes what happens next.

In the fierce charge Captain Millett bayoneted two enemy soldiers and boldly continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement. Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill. His dauntless leadership and personal courage so inspired his men that they stormed into the hostile position and used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder. During this fierce onslaught Captain Millett was wounded by grenade fragments but refused evacuation until the objective was taken and firmly secured.

Millett stayed in the Army but was sent home to receive his Medal of Honor. He had never attended an Army school as an officer, so the military sent him to the Infantry Officer Advanced Course and then Ranger School at Fort Benning.

He went on to serve in Vietnam where he once volunteered to be a hostage. Fighters who had been drafted by the Viet Cong wanted to leave the war but were afraid to attend negotiations because they could be ambushed and arrested. Millett volunteered himself as collateral and the Vietnamese fighters negotiated their surrender safely.

Col. Millett left the Army in 1973 because he believed the military had simply quit in Vietnam. He continued to work with veterans until his death in 2009 in a veteran’s hospital.

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F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it

Since 2001, Lockheed Martin and US military planners have been putting together the F-35, a new aircraft that promises to revolutionize aerial combat so thoroughly as to leave it unrecognizable to the general public.


Detractors of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have long criticized the program as taking too long and costing too much, though overruns commonly occur when developing massive, first-in-class projects like the F-35.

Related: This is how the F-35 is being tested against Russian and Chinese air defenses

But perhaps the most damning criticism of the F-35 came from a 2015 assessment that F-16s, first fielded in the 1970s, had handily defeated a group of F-35s in mock dogfight tests.

According to Lt. Col. David “Chip” Berke, the only US Marine to fly both the F-22 and the F-35, the public has a lot of learning to do when assessing a jet’s capability in warfare.

“The whole concept of dogfighting is so misunderstood and taken out of context,” Berke said in an interview with Business Insider. “We need to do a better job teaching the public how to assess a jet’s capability in warfare.”

“There is some idea that when we talk about dogfighting it’s one airplane’s ability to get another airplane’s 6 and shoot it with a gun … That hasn’t happened with American planes in maybe 40 years,” Berke said.

“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years — we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” said Berke, referring to the 1986 film in which US Navy pilots take on Russian-made MiGs.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Lockheed Martin photo

But planes don’t fight like that anymore, and comparing different planes’ statistics on paper and trying to calculate or simulate which plane can get behind the other is “kind of an arcane way of looking at it,” Berke said.

Unlike older planes immortalized in films, the F-35 doesn’t need to face its adversary to destroy it. The F-35 can fire “off boresight,” virtually eliminating the need to jockey for position behind an enemy.

The F-35 can take out a plane miles beyond visual range. It can pass targeting information to another platform, like a drone or a US Navy destroyer, and down a target without even firing a shot.

While US Air Force pilots do train for classic, World War II-era dogfights, and while the F-35 holds its own and can maneuver just as well as fourth-generation planes, dogfights just aren’t that important anymore.

Berke said dogfighting would teach pilots “great skill sets” but conflict within visual range “doesn’t always mean a turning fight within 100 feet of the other guy maneuvering for each other’s 6 o’clock.” Berke also made an important distinction that conflicts within visual range do not always become dogfights.

Also, “within visual range” is a tricky term.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
An F-35 Lightning II from Eglin AFB flies with an F-16 Fighting Falcon from Luke AFB at the Luke Airshow. Lockheed Martin photo.

“You could not see a guy who’s a mile away, or you could see a guy at 15 miles if you got lucky,” Berke said, adding that with today’s all-aspect weapons systems, a plane can “be effective in a visual fight from offensive, defensive, and neutral positions.”

“We need to stop judging a fighter’s ability based on wing loading and Gs,” Berke said of analysts who prize specifications on paper over pilots’ insights.

Furthermore, Berke, who has several thousand flying hours in four different airplanes, both fourth and fifth generation, stressed that pilots train to negate or avoid conflicts within visual range — and he said no plane did that better than the F-35.

Even in the F-22 Raptor, the world’s most lethal combat plane in within-visual-range conflicts and beyond, Berke said he’d avoid a close-up fight.

“Just because I knew I could outmaneuver an enemy, my objective wouldn’t be to get in a turning fight and kill him,” Berke said.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Even in the world’s best fighter jet, nobody would choose a dogfight. US Air Force photo

Though it might be news to fans of “Top Gun” and the gritty, “Star Wars”-style air-to-air combat depicted in TV and films, the idea of a “dogfight” long ago faded from relevance in the world of aerial combat.

A newer, less sexy term has risen to take its place: situational awareness. And the F-35 has it in spades.

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Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors

Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day from the former Soviet Union on August 24 with a military parade through central Kiev.


Not only was Defense Secretary James Mattis in attendance, along with eight other foreign defense ministers, but about 230 troops from the US and seven other NATO countries also marched alongside Ukrainian soldiers.

It was the first time US soldiers ever participated in Ukraine’s Independence Day parade.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Oklahoma National Guard Soldiers from the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team march alongside Ukrainian troops and other NATO allies and partners during a parade in Kyiv, Ukraine on Aug. 24, 2017. Photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones.

“We are honored to be here marching alongside other countries showing our support in Ukraine,” 1st Sgt. Clifton Fulkerson said.

As US troops marched down the street, a wave of cheers and applause reportedly went through the crowd of Ukrainians on hand.

But not everyone was thrilled with NATO’s involvement.

“That kind of parade is not a celebration of independence, but rather a show of dependence on the US and NATO,” a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician, Vladimir Oleinik, told Russian media outlet Sputnik, which the Russian Embassy in Canada tweeted.

“In the reverse, it would be difficult to imagine Poroshenko coming to celebrate the 4th of July in Washington while Ukrainian troops marched in Washington.”

Two other Russian state owned media outlets, Russia Times and TASS, also uploaded videos headlining NATO’s involvement in the parade.

The Russian Embassy in Washington, DC did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Brig. Gen. Tony Aguto, commander for the 7th Army Training Command, reviews engineering plans for the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, Near Yavoriv, Ukraine, with IPSC Commander Ukrainian army Col. Igor Slisarchuk, ISPC commander (left). Photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones.

After the parade, Mattis met with Poroshenko to discuss the possibility of supplying Ukraine with defensive weapons, such as the Javelin.

“Have no doubt the United States also stands with Ukraine in all things,” Mattis told reporters while standing next to Poroshenko after they met. “We support you in the face of threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to international law and the international order writ large.”

“We do not, and we will not, accept Russia’s seizure of the Crimea. And despite Russia’s denials, we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe.”

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
KyivPost photo by Mikhail Palinchak. Defense Secretary James Mattis (left) and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

While he acknowledged that the US just recently approved giving Kiev $175 million worth of military equipment, he stopped short of saying whether the US would supply Kiev with $50 million worth of anti-tank missile systems.

“I prefer not to answer that right now,” Mattis said, adding that the proposal is under review.

Supplying Ukraine with anti-tank missiles and other defensive weapons has been a controversial proposition. Former President Obama did not support such a move, arguing that it would provoke Russia. France, Germany, and some analysts have expressed the same concerns.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Army photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division

Many Russian politicians and officials have also spoken out against the plan.

But Mattis appeared to slightly give away his own take. “Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you’re an aggressor,” he said at the press conference, “and clearly, Ukraine is not an aggressor, since it’s their own territory where the fighting is happening.”

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Welcoming home Vietnam War veterans 45 years later

In March of 1965, the first U.S. troops entered the jungle-filled country of Vietnam. This would begin America’s involvement in one of the most controversial wars in the nation’s history. While the service members were facing new dangers around every turn, the environment back home was growing increasingly hostile. As more of the population grew to protest the war, it became evident that the military members fighting in the jungles of Vietnam were quickly becoming public enemy number one.


By March of 1973, with the war coming to an end, demonstrations in the States began to die down. However, disillusionment with the war was as widespread as ever. The troops were withdrawing from Vietnam, but there was no warm welcome and appreciation waiting for them as they arrived home. The World War II era of celebration as troops returned to U.S. soil had passed, and the troops of the Vietnam era were met with nothing more than disdain, anger and protest.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair

These war veterans were thrown back into “normal” life without ceremony and with little to no assistance to help them adjust to life after war. This combined with the anger of the American people led many of these service members to turn to addiction and worse to cope with their inability to adjust back to civilian life. Others adjusted well enough, but went on to live their lives without the pride of their fellow veterans, always knowing deep down that their service was seen with disdain as opposed to gratitude. Even decades later, those who served in Vietnam were ignored or seen with the same contempt they were met with when they arrived home.

It wasn’t until 2007 when the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War was being observed that the movement to give Vietnam Veterans the acknowledgment they deserve truly took form. It was then that Congress authorized a program to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. However, it wasn’t until 2017 that Vietnam Veterans Day was officially established to be celebrated every year on March 29. This enactment states that the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War should be commemorated through 2025, thus ensuring that Vietnam Veterans Day will be observed at least through that time.

Along with establishing a specific day to acknowledge these veterans, there has been a movement across the country to give Vietnam Veterans the welcome home they never received 45 years ago. This movement encourages Americans to thank a Vietnam Veteran, shake their hand, and tell them, ‘Welcome home,’ when they meet them. Each of these veterans sacrificed something in those jungles many decades ago. Many sacrificed everything — while over there, or after they returned home. It is long overdue that those men are given the welcome home and the gratitude they deserve.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair

They didn’t choose to enter that war, or trek through those jungles. Many of them didn’t even choose to be in the military in the first place, their choice was taken away from them when they were drafted. However, they did their duty. They fought the war. And they faced contempt when they arrived home, living with it for decades since.

This Vietnam Veterans Day, and every day, take the time to thank a Vietnam Veteran. Take a moment to shake their hand, thank them for their service and welcome them home. It’s a small gesture, but to them it means more than anyone could possibly know. For them, 45 years later, they are finally gaining the acknowledgement and gratitude they should have received the day they stepped foot back on U.S. soil.

To each and every Vietnam Veteran: Welcome Home.

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The Navy just took delivery of the world’s most advanced aircraft carrier

The Navy just took delivery of the world’s most advanced aircraft carrier on Wednesday, the service said in a news release.


The future USS Gerald Ford (CVN-78) finished acceptance trials under the shipbuilder, Newport News Shipbuilding, on May 26. Soon after those trials, which tested and verified the ship’s basic motor functions, the Navy officially picked up the ship from the builder, representing the first newly-designed aircraft carrier for the service since 1975.

The Navy plans to officially commission the Ford into the fleet sometime this summer.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Photo from US Navy

The Ford is packed with plenty of new technology and upgrades, like a beefier nuclear power plant that can handle lasers and railguns. It also has a larger flight deck with an electromagnetic aircraft launch system, which can handle more wear and tear from launching jets off the deck than older steam-powered systems.

“Over the last several years, thousands of people have had a hand in delivering Ford to the Navy — designing, building and testing the Navy’s newest, most capable, most advanced warship,” Rear Adm. Brian Antonio, program executive officer for aircraft carriers, said in a statement. “Without a doubt, we would not be here without the hard work and dedication of those from the program office, our engineering teams and those who performed and oversaw construction of this incredible warship. It is because of them that Ford performed so well during acceptance trials, as noted by the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey.”

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
Photo from US Navy

Besides being the most advanced ship ever built, it’s also the most expensive: The final tally to build it came just shy of $13 billion. Still, with it’s high-tech gear, the Navy expects to save about $4 billion on this ship over its lifetime since it has more automation and better systems.

Correction: A previous version of this article said the Ford was the first new carrier for the Navy since 1975. It is the first newly-designed carrier.

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US, Syrian allies repel attack by 30 suicide bombers

Coalition forces and partnered vetted Syrian opposition forces repelled an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria attack targeting a partnered military base in southern Syria yesterday, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported April 9.


This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
A fighter with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. (Photo from SDF via Facebook)

ISIS initiated the attack on the An Tanf garrison with a vehicle bomb and between 20 to 30 ISIS fighters followed with a ground assault and suicide vests, officials said.

Coalition and partnered forces defended against the ISIS attack with direct fire before destroying enemy assault vehicles and the remaining fighters with multiple coalition airstrikes, officials said.

In southern Syria, officials said, vetted Syrian opposition forces focus on conducting operations to clear ISIS from the Hamad Desert and have been instrumental in countering the ISIS threat in southern Syria and maintaining security along the Syria-Jordan border.

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That time the Coast Guard tried using pigeons for sea rescues

Back in the late 1970s and early 80s, the Coast Guard thought they had a better way to search for people lost in the ocean. They tested using pigeons affixed to the underside of helicopters.


Yes, like the pigeons in the park. And, yes, it did work. The birds performed about twice as well as their human counterparts at spotting “appropriate targets” on their first pass over an area.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
The pigeons performed amazingly at spotting debris in the ocean but were only trained on orange, yellow, and red objects. Photo: US Coast Guard archives

The pigeons involved in Project Sea Hunt, as the effort was known, were first sent to “basic training.” For obvious reasons, about the only thing pigeon basic shared with human basic was the name.

Pigeons were placed in training chambers with “peck keys” that released food when pressed. Once the pigeons got the hang of the keys, their training boxes would be faced toward Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, where a buoy with a radio-operated orange plate floated. Trainers would expose the orange plate and then reward the pigeon when it hit the keys, but wouldn’t feed the pigeons if the plate wasn’t exposed.

Over time, the target would be moved further away from the pigeons to train them to look further out to sea.

Once the pigeons passed basic training, the top graduates would proceed to advanced training where the pigeons were actually placed in chambers mounted beneath a helicopter and had to find orange, yellow, and red objects in the ocean. Each bird covered a 120-degree window, so a pod with three pigeons could see in 360 degrees.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
A pigeon is loaded into its pod during training in Project Sea Hunt. Photo: US Coast Guard archives

In testing on the helicopter, the pigeons spotted targets on the first pass 90 percent of the time. The human crewmembers were capable of finding the target on the first pass only 38 percent of the time. In a later test, when the humans knew they were trying to catch up to the pigeons, the humans scored a 50.

In passes where both humans and the pigeons spotted the target, the pigeon spotted it first 84 percent of the time. The pigeons were proving to be amazing day-time searchers.

There were a few drawbacks to the use of pigeons. First, the weight of the pigeons had to be carefully maintained. Pigeons at 80 percent of their “free food” weight were generally hungry enough to search the ocean for hours without losing focus. Dropping below that weight threatened the pigeons’ health but going above it would reduce their effectiveness.

And there was one tragedy in the program. A flight was sent to hunt for a missing boat and the helicopter stayed out too long. It ran out of fuel and conducted a forced landing at sea. The crew escaped with no injuries but they couldn’t get the pigeons out in time.

A second batch of pigeons was sent through training to both replace the lost pigeons and to increase the number of pigeons available for missions.

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair
The small bubble on the bottom of this helicopter contains three pigeons trained to spot life rafts. Photo: US Coast Guard archives

Overall, Project Sea Hunt was so successful that a 1981 audit of the program recommended that the pigeons serve at a Coast Guard air station on proper missions and that new pods be developed so that the birds could fly on newer helicopters. Federal budget cuts resulted in the program being shuttered instead.

Advances in technology have made the pigeons less necessary. Planes designed to hunt subs using magnets are much better at finding plane debris than pigeons ever were, and improved homing beacons for rafts and wrecks make the job of scanning miles of ocean less necessary.

Still, there’s a niche that pigeons could still fill better than almost any gadgets, that of looking for orange rafts and flotation devices in the open ocean.

(More photos and background on the program are available at the Coast Guard’s web page for Project Sea Hunt.)