A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the United States had near-perfect intelligence photos of the entire Soviet Union. In the days before satellite imagery, the Air Force had to go out and get this kind of intel the old-fashioned way, using a camera and flying over the target. This was inherently dangerous, especially over a place like the Soviet Union. The only defense aerial reconnaissance pilots had in these early days was the U-2 spy plane, an aircraft that flew so high it was out of range of most surface-to-air missiles.

It wasn’t.


A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

American U-2 Pilot Francis Gary Powers in front of one of the infamous spy planes.

The CIA tasked pilot Francis Gary Powers for its 24th and most ambitious spy plane flyover yet. Rather than enter and exit through the same flight path, Powers would fly from high above Peshawar, Pakistan and on to Norway on a flight plan that would take him over possible nuclear missile and submarine sites in Tyuratam, Sverdlovsk, Kirov, Kotlas, Severodvinsk, and Murmansk.

Along the way, Powers faced intercept attempts from MiG-19 and Su-9 fighters, but of course, the U-2 was flying much too high for just any fighter to intercept. The fighters were even ordered to ram Powers if necessary. After flying over the Chelyabinsk-65 plutonium production facility, Powers’ U-2 came under heavy fire from S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missile batteries near Kosulino in the Ural Mountains. This is where the U-2 was brought down. Historical reports agree a missile from the S-75 exploded behind Powers’ plane and took it down. But one Russian pilot disagrees.

He was there, too, he says.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

Soviet Su-9 Fishpot fighters.

Soviet Air Force Captain Igor Mentyukov was flying an intercepting Su-9 “Fishpot” fighter in the skies over the Urals that day. Mentyukov says one Su-9 attempted to ram the U-2 but missed due to the differences in speed between the two aircraft. He also says the explosions from the S-75 missile battery would have completely annihilated Powers’ aircraft and that it couldn’t possibly have taken a hit at 70,000 feet and still been recreated on the ground. No, Mentyukov says it was the slipstream from his Su-9 that brought Powers down, causing the U-2 to break apart.

Powers was able to eject and, surviving the 70,000-foot fall, opted not to use the poison the CIA gave him to use in case of capture. Eventually, the U.S. was forced to acknowledge Powers and his mission. After spending nearly two years in a Soviet prison, he was traded for Soviet spy KGB Colonel William Fisher, who went by the alias Rudolf Abel.

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan

When we think of the largest tank battles in military history, we probably think of epic slugfests like the World War II Battle of Kursk between the Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany. More recently, we might look to the Battle of 73 Easting during the Gulf War.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile
An Iraqi Type 69 main battle tank burns after an attack by the 1st United Kingdom Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm.

The battles between India and Pakistan often get overlooked in the minds of even the most hardcore tank fans, but some of history’s most hardcore fighting happened between the two former British possessions. 

In fact, the two have been fighting ever since the British withdrew from India and Pakistan. The first war happened pretty much immediately, as the two countries squared off over who would control the areas of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947. The first war didn’t really settle anything, so they were back at it nearly 20 years later. 

Just before India launched a full-scale invasion of Kashmir in 1965, Pakistan sent thousands of soldiers into the area dressed as locals. The Indians found out somehow and retaliated with almost its entire army, which included more than 180 Centurion tanks, 340 Sherman tanks, and an estimated 700,000 infantry, not to mention its air forces. 

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile
The hull of an M4A1 Sherman tank destroyed in the Indo-Pakistani war.

Knowing the war lasted a little less than a month, one might think that India sent in an overwhelming force to push Pakistan out of Kashmir for good. They would be wrong. Pakistan was already prepared for the war their intended insurgency might cause. Both sides made significant gains in the first few weeks of fighting, aiming at different goals. 

A few days before a United Nations ceasefire forced an end to the fighting, the two sides met at Chawinda in the Punjab area of Pakistan. India was attempting to counter the Pakistani advance into Kashmir. The Indians sent an entire Corps into the area near Chawinda with an estimated 150,000 infantry and 260 tanks. Initially, the Indians annihilated an enemy infantry regiment and pushed the Pakistani forces back to Chawinda. 

Outnumbered by a margin of around ten to one, the Pakistanis dug in at Chawinda. With repeated losses to the Indians at Phillora and Asal Uttar in an attempt to divert the Indians away from Chawinda, things looked pretty bleak for the Pakistani defenders. 

But despite repeated Indian attacks on Chawinda, the Pakistanis held out long enough for reinforcements to arrive. When the Indian Army launched its major assault on Chawinda on September 18, 1965, the Pakistanis’ strength had grown to 132 tanks and 50,000 defenders. They were still outnumbered but they repelled the Indians.

In fact, the Indian attack was so unsuccessful, and they took such heavy losses trying it, that they were forced to withdraw from Chawinda and both sides stopped their offensive plans. When the United Nations-brokered ceasefire came, both India and Pakistan were so bloodied and bruised, the ceasefire was welcome news. 

Pakistan lost 60 tanks defending Chawinda, nearly half of its force there. India lost almost the same ratio of tanks, an estimated 100 or more. When all was said and done, the Battle of Chawinda was the largest tank on tank battle since the World War II Battle of Kursk. 

India withdrew from Chawinda on September 19, and the ceasefire went into effect on the 22nd. The 1965 war ended on September 23, probably to the relief of both sides. The war didn’t change much of anything, except ceding a little bit of Pakistani territory to India. Even that was returned just ten years later, when the Soviet Union mediated a peace agreement between the two in Tashkent.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

There’s about 10 millimeters of movement between you and potential traumatic brain injury

This article is sponsored by MIPS, pioneers in brain protection systems.

There’s no amount of science that will protect you from a .50 cal round to the head. As of today, that’s a simple fact.

Here’s another simple fact: There have been over 350,000 documented cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among post-9/11 veterans as of 2017. Very, very few of those cases have been as extreme as a bullet to the brain (less than 7%). Over 45% of those injuries were the result of blunt force — either debris colliding with a helmet or the result of a fall — not a bullet.

Unfortunately, the helmets we put on our troops are not protecting them from these types of collisions as well as they could. Why? We have the technology and it’s ready for implementation today. Truly, it’s just a matter of understanding.

So, let’s fix that problem.


Here are the two most important words in understanding why we’re not protecting our brains in the right way: rotational movement.

Let’s illustrate this. First, imagine your skull is a snow globe — your cerebrospinal fluid is the water contained therein and your brain is the collection of floaty bits. Now, watch what happens when we bring that snow globe straight down onto a flat surface.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

Linear Movement — Well, about as linear as my imperfect, human brain could get it.

Not that interesting. Now, watch what happens when we give that same snow globe a light twist.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

Rotational Movement — Come on, baby. Do the twist.

Looks a little more like New Year’s at Times Square, right? But this isn’t a cause for celebration — it’s a cause of traumatic brain injury.

That first example is a demonstration of linear force. The amount of linear force a helmet can withstand is currently the primary standard to which the helmets we put on our troops are held up against — and, if you think about it, how often does a troop fall directly onto the top of their head? Not very often.

A much more likely scenario is that force comes at you from some sort of angle. Whether it’s a piece of concrete blasting toward you from an exploded building, getting ejected from your seat and into the roof of the Humvee after running over an IED, or even something as simple as tripping and eating a nasty fall. When your helmet comes in contact with something from an angle, rotational movement is sent from the shell of the helmet, through the protective layers of Kevlar and foam, through your skull, and what’s left is absorbed by the brain – the snow globe’s floating bits. Unfortunately, our brains aren’t very good at handling the shearing movement caused by rotation.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

A look at the effects of linear (left) and rotational (right) movement on the brain. The images above were generated using the FE Model, a computational model that represents the most critical parts of the human head. Learn more about the model here.

(MIPSProtection.com)

But technology exists today that is designed to diffuse some of that rotational force within the helmet before it reaches your most important organ — yes, we’re still talking about the brain.

Recently, I took the trek out to Sweden to meet the people dedicated to putting that technology in today’s helmets — they’re called MIPS, named after their technology: the Multi-directional Impact Protection System.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

As I walked into the building (the whole thing is shaped like a helmet, by the way), the passion for creating protective headwear was palpable. These people are doers — whether it’s mountain biking, skiing, motocross, or battling it out on the gridiron. They know that all good things come with an inherent level of risk, and they’re passionate about doing what they can to mitigate that risk; especially when something like a TBI can cause a lifetime of complications for both the afflicted and their loved ones.

There, I spoke with MIPS founders Dr. Hans von Holst and Dr. Peter Halldin. Between the two of them, they boast an impressive 60 years of experience in neuroscience and biomechanics — which they distilled down into an hour-long frenzy of science, analogy, and visuals. That one-hour lesson didn’t make me a neurosurgeon, but it certainly highlighted a fundamental problem in the way we evaluate (and later, equip troops with) head protection.

The current U.S. Army blunt impact test methodology is borrowed from the U.S. Department of Transportation Laboratory Test Procedure for Motorcycle Helmets. To break it down Barney-style, we test helmets by dropping them from various, set heights at various angles onto a flat surface and measuring the results of impact. These tests are designed to be repeatable and cost effective — the problem is, however, that all of these tests are very good at measuring linear impact — and if you think back to the snow globes, that impact isn’t always very eventful.

MIPS twists the formula here in a small but very important way. Instead of dropping a helmet onto a flat surface, they drop it on to an angle surface. This small adjustment to the test methodology allows them to analyze collisions more in-line with real world examples — ones that involve rotational motion.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

(MIPSProtection.com)

But enough about types of force — what does MIPS’ technology actually do to protect your brain? Well, the genius is in the simplicity, here — and it’s best described with visuals.

In short, MIPS is a low friction layer that sits between the inner side of the helmet and the comfort padding, custom fit to each helmet shape and size. That low friction layer lives somewhere between the helmet’s shell and your head and allows for a 10-15mm range of motion in any direction. This relatively tiny movement allows your head to move independently of your helmet, acting like a second layer of cerebrospinal fluid when it comes to protecting your brain in the crucial milliseconds of impact.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

(MIPSProtection.com)

This technology hasn’t been introduced into military helmets just yet, but it’s coming soon. In fact, right now, MIPS is partnering with a Swedish manufacturer, SAFE4U, to better equip special operators that need lightweight protection. The two companies worked together to create a helmet that is stable enough to work with attached NVGs, but still protects from oblique impacts.

Check out the brief video below to learn a little more about the multiple layers of protection involved:

https://vimeo.com/370108618

While the technology is sound (and proven to work), here’s the thing that really impressed me: When I finished talking with the team about their product, I asked them what they were looking to get out of the article you’re reading right now. They wanted just one thing: to educate. They want you, our readers, to know why you’re not getting your brain the protection it needs and what you can do to rectify that problem.

Yes, one way is to find yourself a helmet that’s equipped with MIPS’ technology (currently, you’ll find MIPS’ protection system in 448 different models of helmets), but it’s not the only way. Whatever you do, make sure that the helmets you use (when you have a choice) are equipped to deal with the dangers of rotational movement and protect your thinkin’ meat.

This article is sponsored by MIPS, pioneers in brain protection systems.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why everyone feels better with a SuperCobra overhead

It’s an airframe that dates back to the Vietnam War, but it’s served for nearly 50 years and is still a comforting presence for those protected by its missiles, guns, and rockets: Meet the AH-1 SuperCobra.


A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

Pilots aboard an AH-1W SuperCobra helicopter fly into a forward arming and refueling point at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, May 6, 2014.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg)

The AH-1 Cobra was the first dedicated attack helicopter, though it was technically an interim solution, filling a gap in capabilities until the AH-56 could make it to the field. The AH-56, however, was never constructed, so the Army stuck with the AH-1.

The Marine Corps, meanwhile, was looking for an attack helicopter of their own, and they were interested in what the Army had to offer. There was one glaring problem, though: The Army AH-1 had only one engine. The Marine Corps wasn’t comfortable with this since their helicopters might have to fly dozens of miles across open ocean to reach beachheads. If you lose an engine six miles from the ship or the shore, you really want a second engine to close the gap.

And so the Marine Corps asked Bell helicopters for an AH-1 with two engines, thus creating the AH-1 SeaCobra, which later became the SuperCobra. It first went into service in 1971, which the math nerds will note is 47 years ago.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

An AH-1W SuperCobra, with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775, Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, performs a break turn after conducting a close air support mission in an exercise at Twentynine Palms, California, June 18, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

The reason the AH-1 SuperCobra has lasted so long — and the reason that it’s being replaced by the AH-1Z Viper, which is basically just an upgraded version — is that it’s very effective. The first Marine variant, the AH-1J SeaCobra, was originally fielded with a three-barrel 20mm cannon in 1969. But the Marines wanted more power and weapons, and they’ve upgraded the helicopter multiple times over the decades since.

Now, the AH-1W can carry everything from from TOW missiles and Hellfires, both of which are very good at killing enemy tanks. The AGM-114 Hellfire is a potent weapon, carrying an up to 20-pound warhead. It uses either a shaped charge warhead, tandem warhead, or a HEAT warhead. The tandem warhead is the most effective and is thought to be able to defeat all current tanks and armored vehicles.

The TOW, meanwhile, is heavier and has even more variants, but can also open up pretty much any armored threat in the world today.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 load a 2.75-inch rocket configured with Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II, a hydra 70 rocket motor and M282 High Explosive Incendiary Multipurpose Penetrator Warhead onto an AH-1Z Viper at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., March 29, 2018

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin/Released)

The helicopters can also fire rockets in support of the Marines on the ground, sending out Hydras against troop and vehicle concentrations. These rockets were historically unguided, but kits are now available when necessary. The rockets can carry fast-flying flechettes, small darts that shred enemy combatants, as well as explosive warheads, infrared flares, or smoke.

Zuni rockets, meanwhile, are technically an air-to-air or air-to-ground weapon, but since they’re unguided, the U.S. uses them pretty much only against the ground and ships nowadays. The rockets can carry warheads of almost 50 pounds, and can be sued to rip apart tanks, personnel, or pretty much any target that isn’t heavily fortified.

The rockets can also deploy chaff to throw off enemy radar-guided munitions.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

U.S. Marine Cpl. Michael Michehl, a line noncommissioned officer with Marine Wing Support Detachment 24, controls forward arming and refueling point operations during a field test for the Expeditionary Mobile Fuel Additization Capability system at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 18, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Adam Montera)

Finally, the SuperCobras can fire Stinger Missiles, a potent, short-range air defense missile that can send shrapnel flying through enemy helicopters and planes, shredding the engines, wings, or cockpits of the target.

All of this combines to make the SuperCobra a Marine’s deadly big brother in the sky. They can tackle slow-moving air threats, armor, and personnel, protecting Marines under attack from nearly anything, though the helicopters can be made vulnerable themselves by enemy air defenses or air interdiction.

Of course, that doesn’t stop the pilots from laying waste, even when the enemy has their own weapons in play. Marine Capt. John Patrick Giguere earned the Silver Star for flying his AH-1T, a TOW-equipped variant, over enemy air defenses while protecting a downed aircrew in Grenada.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

An AH-1W SuperCobra, attached to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, March 8, 2017.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Murray)

First Lt. Sydney Baker also earned a Silver Star. His came while flying an AH-1G supporting the insertion of Marines in Vietnam. Despite ground fire so fierce that it knocked out his communications gear and threatened to down the bird, he kept up a heavy volume of fire to protect Marines on the ground.

So, while their younger, sexier AH-64 Apache counterparts get all the love, the AH-1 SuperCobras and Vipers are out there saving Marines every day, so raise a glass for these old school infantrymen of the sky. They’ll be happy to save you if you’re ever in trouble.

popular

That time Marines in a firefight called customer service for help with an M-107

When you need help, there’s nothing embarrassing about asking for it. Especially when the pressure is on to get it right as soon as possible.


Rifles are no different. And if you have to call an arms manufacturer for a problem there, it’s probably a big deal.

That’s why Barrett Firearms Manufacturing provides service for its products long after they enter military service. Most notably, the beloved Barrett M-107 .50-caliber rifle.

Don Cook is a Marine Corps veteran who has been working at Barrett for 17 years. In an interview with National Geographic, he recalled the time he received an interesting call on the customer service line — a call from troops in an active firefight.

“It’s probably one of the biggest highlights in my life to be able to help a Marine unit in a firefight,” Cook told NatGeo.

He picked up the phone and heard what was happening in the background. Without being able to see the weapon, he was able to diagnose the problem.

The Marines bent the ears of the weapon’s lower receiver up during the previous night’s maintenance. When they saw action the next day, the rifle wouldn’t fire every time they pulled the trigger.

Cook told them they needed to bend the ears back down. Given the lack of tools and time, he suggested the Marines use the bottom of the carrier as leverage to bend the ears back and get the weapon firing again.

Within 30 seconds, the Marines had their rifle back in action. They thanked Cook for his help and got back in the fight.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Discovery’s ‘Deadliest Catch’ features Coast Guard’s search for survivors

Capt. Wild Bill Wichrowski’s year started tragically.

A Navy veteran, Wichrowski is one of the captains on “Deadliest Catch,” a Discovery Channel series about Alaska’s crab industry. He was close friends with two of the five men who died when the Scandies Rose, a 130-foot crab boat, went down in icy, turbulent conditions in the Gulf of Alaska on New Year’s Eve. Two crew members survived.


The Coast Guard’s 20-hour search for survivors will be featured on “Deadliest Catch” at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Eastern time).

“It’s hard to drum all this up again, really,” Wichrowski said. “You lose friends. You lose family. And the part that sticks is that any time, it could be you.”

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski is in the wheelhouse at the helm of the Summer Bay.

The episode of the long-running reality series follows the Coast Guard’s role from the time it received a distress call until the search, which covered 1,400 square miles, was suspended.

Although Wichrowski was not in contact directly with the Coast Guard during that time, he followed the rescue mission’s progress closely.

“They’re our lifeline,” Wichrowski said. “Some of the stuff they do with the helicopters and the C-130s and the ships and the hard-bottom inflatables [boats] is truly amazing. The Coast Guard’s our last chance for survival when we’re having trouble.”

The investigation into the Scandies Rose disaster is ongoing and could last “many months,” said Scott McCann, the Coast Guard’s public affairs officer for the 17th District.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski stands proudly on deck of his boat.

Wichrowski’s own ties to the military began early.

His father, Charles Thomas Wichrowski, was a drill instructor at Parris Island in South Carolina during the Korean War. The youngest of three brothers, Wichrowski said he did not always appreciate his strict upbringing in Pennsylvania.

“I probably didn’t really like [my father] that much at the time, but he was training me to be a leader from Day One,” Wichrowski said. “In his eyes, there was only one place to be, and that was in charge.”

Wichrowski’s tour in the Navy happened almost by accident.

Before he wrecked his father’s new car on homecoming night, he had planned to go to school and study business administration. The cost of the repairs, along with other financial constraints in his family, prompted Wichrowski to enlist in 1975.

Armed with a love of the ocean, he headed West. He served as an electrician’s mate at naval stations in California, Idaho and Washington State.

Wichrowski enjoyed the camaraderie and travel in the military and proved to be invaluable in stressful situations. He recalled one time a typhoon in Taiwan knocked out a generator. Wichrowski ran to the other end of the tossed ship on a wall, hurdling people along the way, to work on it.

On another occasion in San Diego, Wichrowski was about to go on liberty when a transformer caught fire. He was not on duty, but he restored the power anyway, then left suddenly to meet his girlfriend before other potential issues arose.

“When I got back, the XO [executive officer] on the bridge, he had seen the whole thing,” Wichrowski said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to get my butt reamed.’ But he said he was pretty amazed about how quickly I reacted.”

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

Wichrowski said the bonds of boat crews are similar to those in the military. Photo courtesy of Discovery.

Wichrowski, who served for four years, said what he learned in the Navy resonates today.

“It’s the whole reason why I’m successful,” he said.

The bonds formed among boat crews are not unlike those developed in the military. That’s why the sinking of the Scandies Rose hit Wichrowski hard. He knew the boat’s captain, Gary Cobban Jr., and engineer, Art Gacanias, well, but thankfully the loss of life was not worse.

Landon Cheney, Wichrowski’s No. 2 man on the Summer Bay, used to work on the Scandies Rose and considered returning before it sank.

“I’m pretty certain that if he was on board, he wouldn’t have made it,” Wichrowski said.

As painful as the loss of the Scandies Rose remains, Wichrowski intends to watch Tuesday night.

“I hope to,” he said. “… It should never be forgotten, but it’s still tough to review over and over.”

Visit Deadliest Catch on Discovery for information on upcoming episodes.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY HISTORY

How the ‘Warrior Pope’ led armies in vicious combat

Catholics know the Pope as God’s representative on Earth. Most other people know him as a generally fine world leader who usually wears unique and cool hats. But, from 1503 to 1513, the papal chair was sat by Pope Julius II, the “Warrior Pope,” who was known to be a shrewd politician and skilled conqueror.


Pope Julius II began life in 1443 as Giuliano della Rovere, a member of a poor noble family. His uncle had enough money to fund his way up the Catholic ranks and, eventually, became Pope Sixtus IV in 1471. Della Rovere was soon made a cardinal and continued to maneuver for his own gain.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

Pope Sixtus IV, uncle of future Pope Julius II, The Warrior Pope

(Painting by Melozzo da Forlì)

In 1474, della Rovere went to war in Umbria, a Papal State. He led 3,500 infantry in initial fighting and captured a town on his way to Citta di Castello, where the leading rebel against Rome lived. Della Rovere had lost control of some of his men on the way to the town and his siege weapons were having little effect on the city walls. Della Rovere was forced to request reinforcements from Rome.

Once his reinforcements arrived, della Rovere was at the head of 2,000 infantrymen and 28 cavalry squadrons.

There is some question about whether it was della Rovere’s force or political pressure that led to the capitulation of forces at Citta di Castello. Either way, della Rovere was able to head home a conquering hero.

After the death of Pope Sixtus IV, della Rovere was forced to work outside of Rome while rivals took the papal seat. But, in 1503, a resurgent della Rovere used bribes and political pressures to see himself voted into the Papacy. He adopted the name Pope Julius II.

As pope, Julius fought multiple battles — an unheard of activity for a pope, though his uncle, Pope Sixtus IV, was rumored to have considered it at one point.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

The city of Mirandola was relatively weak compared to other targets of the Warrior Pope, which is why the drawn-out siege was so disappointing.

(Image by unknown artist, suspected to be Lorenzo Penni)

His first battles were against Venice, which held lands taken from the Papal States. This led to a 1508 alliance with France, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire, known as the League of Cambrai. Once the Venetians were sufficiently beaten and cowed, Julius II actually flipped his alliances and joined the Holy League, which worked to push French troops out of Italy in 1512.

It was during this campaign that, in 1511, he took to the battlefield and performed actions that offended observers.

The pope had himself carried to the front where his troops were fighting at Mirandola, a town in northern Italy. He routinely cursed his generals and made jokes at their expense, personally directed military operations, and reviewed the assembled troops. When the city continued to hold out, he ordered that they be threatened with pillage (ignoring the protests of his generals and advisers).

But he impressed his troops once again when he came under repeated cannon attack but remained at the front. The first cannonball struck his headquarters, so the Pope moved to his personal quarters. When those were also hit, he returned to his headquarters and ordered that the damage be repaired while he waited.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

Pope Julius II, the Warrior Pope, at the Siege of Mirandola

(Painting by Raffaello Tancredi)

When Mirandola finally fell, he ordered money be extorted from the citizens and disbursed among his troops and that all French soldiers found in the city be executed on the spot.

Luckily for the already deeply offended faithful in his camps, there were no French soldiers to be found in the city.

But the Pope’s conquests created their own problems. Angry French and Venetian forces and their allies soon re-took his conquered lands and even reportedly melted down a statue of him, used the metal to create a cannon, and then mockingly named it after him.

For these consequences, Julius II blamed one of his nephews, the Duke of Urbino, while praising a cardinal who had led forces in the same battles.

As the scapegoated Duke was leaving a tongue-lashing from the Pope and the cardinal was heading to the papal apartments to receive praise, the two men passed each other in the street. The duke leaped from his horse and savagely beat the cardinal before allowing his attendants to murder him.

Julius II was able to form a new alliance with Spain and England that eventually expelled the French, but allowed the Spanish to take hold of much of the same territory. Julius II was forming a new alliance against the Spanish when he died in 1513.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China wants to block other countries from energy exploration

China is preparing to lock down potential oil and gas assets in the resource-rich, but hotly contested South China Sea by effectively banning exploration by countries from outside the region.

The Nikkei Asian Review reports that China, as part of a longer-term strategy that seeks to divide its South East Asian neighbors on the issue, has embedded the proposal in part of a long-awaited code of conduct for the contested waters.

Beijing’s proposal, which is helping drag out tense negotiations over the code with southeast Asian nations, is a likely deterrent targeting US oil interests from securing access to the seas claimed by a host of nearby Asian powers.

China hopes its talks with southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea will bear fruit in about three years, visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in Singapore on Nov. 13, 2018.


Xinhua reports that Li said in a speech at the 44th Singapore Lecture, titled “Pursuing Open and Integrated Development for Shared Prosperity (“在开放融通中共创共享繁荣”) that China reckons it would like to draw a line under talks on the COC by 2021.

According to a report in the Nikkei on Nov. 11, 2018, people close to the COC negotiations said China inserted the oil exploration ban into a working document proposal in August 2018.

With officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including US vice president Mike Pence gathering this week in Singapore, calls have grown for the language’s removal, suggesting the ban is at odds with standard international maritime laws.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Codie Collins)

The South China Sea is a critical commercial gateway for the world’s merchant shipping, and consequently an important economic and strategic flashpoint in the Indo-Pacific.

Moreover it is the growing focus of several complex territorial disputes that have been the cause of conflict and angst.

China, as it continues to develop its energy technologies and oil extraction infrastructure has in all likelihood inserted the latest sticking point language knowing full well that any delay suits its long-game strategy.

Knowing that a bloc of ASEAN members can and will not accept the proposal, secures China more time ahead of a finalized code of conduct while Beijing’s power in the South China Sea grows and its influence among sympathetic ASEAN nations grows.

ASEAN members are already split when it comes to making space for China and on its role in the region, particularly the South China Sea.

Cambodia and Laos have in recent years fallen further and further under Beijing’s dynamic influence as China has invested heavily in supporting public works that secure the regimes in Phnom Penh and Vientiane.

Meanwhile, firebrand Filipino President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, has enjoyed his role as a regional disrupter, at once isolating the US while hedging on Beijing.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

Filipino President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte.

Duterte has embraced the confusion apparent in ASEAN waters as leverage for Manila, leaving a fractured bloc at the table with US and Chinese negotiators ahead of the East Asia Summit in Singapore.

The South China Sea comprises a stretch of roughly 1.4 million square miles of Pacific Ocean encompassing an area from the strategically critical passage though Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan, spanning west of the Philippines, north of Indonesia, and east of Vietnam.

Countries as diverse and numerous as Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and, of course, China are all connected to the South China Seas, which goes some way to explain the waters’ inherent dangers to regional security.

It’s quite a minefield.

The major contested island and reef formations throughout the seas are the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, Pratas, the Natuna Islands, and Scarborough Shoal.

The islands are mostly uninhabited and have never been home to or laid claim by an indigenous population, making the issue of historical sovereignty a tricky one to resolve —China for example likes to say it has historical roots to the region established sometime back in the 15th century.

But their are many other aggravating maritime and territorial factors in this increasingly dangerous part of the world.

As ASEAN’s economic intensity has continued to build under the shade of China’s decades-long economic boom, so has the waterway become a critical channel for a growing percentage of global commercial merchant shipping.

China itself still depends heavily on access through the Malacca Straits to satiate its appetite for energy and resources.

Nearby Japan and South Korea, both net importers, also depend enormously on free access to the South China Sea for unhindered shipments of fuel, resources and raw materials for both import and export.

On top of that, these are oceans rich and unregulated when it comes to natural resources. Nations like Vietnam and China furiously compete through fleets of private fishing vessels organizedwith state backing in a rush to exploit fishing grounds in dire need of governance.

Yet, the source of the most intense friction is the widely held belief that the South China Seas are home to abundant, as yet undiscovered oil and gas reserves.

China and ASEAN have been discussing changes to a 2002 declaration on the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea that would give the rules legal force.

As it stands, the declaration has proved wholly unable to stop Chinese island-building in the waters.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

The Spratly Islands, where China has been reclaiming land and building strategic assets, 2016

(Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/CSIS)

South China Sea nations including China, Vietnam and the Philippines seek opportunities to develop the plentiful reserves of energy that the sea is thought to hold.

But with the notable exception of China, backed by its heaving state-owned behemoths, like Sinopec and CNOOC these countries independently lack well-developed oil industries.

Which is where the US enters the frame.

Beijing has obvious and probably well founded concerns that the US will seek to engage and then use joint oil development projects with ASEAN countries to build a legitimate commercial toehold and thus a greater presence in the sea.

The Nikkei Review noted that the South China Sea’s lack of clear maritime boundaries makes it a difficult place to ban oil exploration by outside countries, according to a specialist in international law.

As part of the code of conduct, China has also proposed barring outside countries from taking part in joint military exercises with ASEAN countries in the South China Sea.

ASEAN members including Singapore have not agreed to this provision, creating another obstacle to concluding the negotiations.

ASEAN is moving to strengthen ties with China, as shown by October’s first-ever joint military exercises. At the same time, the Southeast Asian bloc plans to hold naval exercises with the US as early as 2019.

Meanwhile, this week Chinese president Xi Jinping will travel to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea to meet with the leaders of the eight Pacific islands that recognise China diplomatically and welcome Chinese investment.

Beijing warned no country should try to obstruct its “friendship and cooperation” with Pacific nations that have already received over billion in Chinese investment.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

You can make it through Navy SEAL training if you can do this

The sand invades every crevice and fold in your skin and clothing like a kind of unfinished cement mixture hellbent on rubbing your exposed patches of water-softened skin until they chafe and bleed. Just when the bright southern California sunshine dries you out, and you feel that blessed warmth that you remember so well from before you started Navy SEAL training, the BUD/S instructors once again order you into the surf zone like maniacal dads gleefully throwing their children into a pool for the first time. Learn to swim, or die.

“This will make you hard, gents,” they growl, tongues firmly in cheeks. They know they are making a bad pun while also telling us that all of this, in effect, is for our own good. We do it grim-faced and resigned to another onslaught of sandy wetness because we want to make it through the training. And the training is designed to figure out which of us will not quit, even when our physical selves want nothing more than warmth, blessed dryness, and physical comfort.


A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, San Diego, Calif. (Jan. 31, 2003) – As an instructor monitors a training evolution, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDS) Class 244 receives instructions on their next exercise as they lay in the surf. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class John DeCoursey.)

Some will eventually give in to the effect of this relentless physical tribulation. Those that make it through do so because they find their way to that state of consciousness in which the brain overrides the assault on the body, and that all-powerful and mysterious mass of grey matter residing inside our skulls takes over and drives the machine of blood and bone known as our bodies forward in a state of semi-autonomy. That is the mental state one must achieve to make it through the training; that state in which the primeval mind overcomes the objections and weaknesses of the fragile body.

Three of my blood relatives made it through BUD/S before me. One made it through after me. Five of us in total. Each of us set out not knowing if we had that ability to put mind over body. We hoped we did. We suspected we did, since we had the same genetic make-up as those who had come before us. We each knew that if our father, brother, and cousin could do it, we could do it too. Still, you never really know until you do it. Until you face it.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

SEAL candidates for basic underwater demolition cover themselves in sand during surf passage on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell)

The physical preparation is important — critical, even. You have to reach a certain level of physical preparedness to allow your body to complete that journey. That is a necessary condition to making it through, but not a sufficient condition. The physical preparation alone will not guarantee you success. The mindset is the thing. You have to get your mind to that place in which quitting is an impossibility.

Sure, you might fail or be ejected from the training for some performance inadequacy. That happens even to the most physically prepared of us. I saw it happen in my own class on multiple occasions. But you have to get to the state of mind in which they will have to kill you or fail you to stop you from making it. Never quit. Never contemplate quitting. Never allow that thought to worm its way into your head. Once it does, all is lost.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh/Released)

That is the one piece of advice I give, and have given, to all those who have asked over the years about making it through BUD/S: just tell yourself you will never quit. Tell yourself that you will prepare the best you can by swimming, running in boots and pants in the sand, doing thousands of push-ups and pull-ups and flutter kicks, and practicing all of the breath holding.

Once you reach that threshold of preparedness, you must then fortify your mind. Obsess over making it. Find your inner demon. Harness it, and hold on tight and ride that supernatural force straight through to the end. The human brain and the power it wields is a force of nature. You have to channel that power — all of it — to propel you forward to the end.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony W. Walker)

It will end, after all. At some point, you know that about 20 out of 100 of you will be left standing at graduation. They will have thrown everything they have at you to get you to quit. They will make it their mission to break you. It is up to you to stand fast and repel that assault. If I can do it, then you can do it too.

Good luck.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The impressive Cheyenne attack helicopter was way ahead of its time

The Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne is one of the greatest what-ifs in helicopter history. This unique chopper was arguably decades ahead of its time, reaching an incredible top speed of 245 miles per hour. Although it never made it past the prototype stages, the Cheyenne’s potential was obvious from the beginning.


The Cheyenne was originally intended to replace the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter, which entered service in the 1960s. Unfortunately, the project’s development was marred by multiple technical delays and a fatal crash during testing. The original planned production run was then cut from 600 to 375. Despite the fact that this futuristic helicopter packed a powerful punch — provided by a 30mm cannon and the BGM-71 TOW missile — it was cancelled.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

From behind, you can see the push-rotor that gave the Cheyenne its impressive performance.

(US Army)

But the Cheyenne didn’t just have powerful weapons. The Cheyenne was also intended to carry an array of sophisticated sensors, including a laser rangefinder, infra-red systems, and night vision capabilities. Its navigation suite was also extensive, including a terrain-following radar, Doppler radar, and an inertial navigation system. The helicopter was capable of flying at high speed at altitudes as low as fifteen feet.

In essence, the Cheyenne, which had a maximum range of 629 miles, was more than just a killer of enemy tanks, it could also fulfill reconnaissance roles deep behind enemy lines. The Cheyenne could not only attack targets itself, but could also direct attacks from other Army assets, like artillery batteries.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

The AH-56 Cheyenne had impressive performance, sensors, and firepower.

(US Army)

While the Cheyenne never saw front-line service, its cancellation did lead to the funding and production of the universally loved A-10 Thunderbolt, as well as the competition that eventually produced the AH-64 Apache. Furthermore, the push-rotor that was the signature of this advanced recon/attack helicopter made a comeback on the S-97 Raider.

Learn more about the incredible capabilities of the Cheyenne in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebH4Vz7IVB8

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the 7 uniformed services of the United States

The seeds of America’s sixth branch of the military were sown yesterday, for better or for worse, as President Trump’s creation of the Space Force elicited many different responses. Those responses ranged anywhere between confusion and surprise. The Russians understandably expressed alarm at the idea of a U.S. military presence in space, whereas civilians in the United States were slightly confused – isn’t there an agency that already does what a Space Force would do?

The answer is yes and no – but that’s a post for another time.

Many currently serving in the military or part of the veteran community felt equal parts excitement and curiosity about the Space Force’s way forward. After all, it’s something that was kicked around for months before any official announcement, which prompted ideas from current servicemembers about uniforms, rank names, and whether there would be a Space Shuttle Door Gunner.

Mulling over the organizational culture of a service that doesn’t exist yet is a good time to remind everyone the U.S. has a number of uniformed services that are oft-overlooked.


A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

The U.S. Military has a great reputation among veterans.

1-5. The military branches

Since the Space Force exists only in our hearts and minds and not yet in uniforms, the existing five branches of the military make up the first five notches on this list. If you’re reading We Are The Mighty (or… if you’ve heard of things like “history”), you’ve probably heard of the Armed Forces of the United States: U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force.

With the exception of the Coast Guard, which is directed by the Department of Homeland Security during times of peace, the big four are directed by the U.S. Department of Defense. For more information about the history, culture, and people in these branches, check out literally any page on this website.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, Surgeon General of the United States.

6. United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

This uniformed division of the Public Health Service creates the beautiful utopia of a branch that doesn’t have enlisted people. Because it doesn’t. It consists only of commissioned officers and has zero enlisted ranks – but they do have warrant officers. While the PHS are labeled noncombatants, they can be lent to the Armed Services and they wear Navy or Coast Guard uniforms and hold Navy or Coast Guard ranks.

The Public Health Service has its own set of awards and decorations, a marching song, ready reserve, and probably deploys more than most of the Air Force. Its mission is to deliver public health and disease prevention expertise at home and abroad as well as to disaster areas and areas affected by U.S. military operations. Members of the Commissioned Corps enjoy (for the most part) the same veterans benefits as those who served in the Armed Forces.

The U.S. PHS falls under the Department of Health and Human Services and its top officer is the Surgeon General, which is why they’re always wearing a uniform.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

NOAA Corps pilots. Considering risk vs. reward, you 100 percent joined the wrong branch.

7. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps

Or simply called the “NOAA Corps,” as it falls under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The NOAA Corps also has no enlisted or warrant ranks and is comprised entirely of commissioned officers. It is also the smallest of all the uniformed services, with just 321 officers, 16 ships, and 10 aircraft, compared to the PHSCC’s 6,000 officers.

They serve alongside DoD, Merchant Marine, NASA, State Department, and other official agencies to support defense requirements and offer expertise on anything from meteorology to geology to oceanography and much, much more. The Corps is a rapid response force, shuttling experts where they need to be in quick succession while supporting peacetime research. They can be incorporated into the Armed Forces during times of war, and so wear Navy and Coast Guard uniforms and rank, by order of the President of the United States.

The NOAA Corps also gets VA benefits similar to those of the Armed Forces of the United States, including access to the Blended Retirement System, health and dental benefits, and access to the Exchange and Commissary system.

popular

This is how the Titanic was discovered on an unrelated top-secret mission

The RMS Titanic was billed as “unsinkable.” Many conflicting reasons have been proposed as to why but, nonetheless, they were proven wrong. When the RMS Titanic sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean, she took with her over 1,500 of her 2,224 estimated passengers and crew.

Countless expeditions were sent to go salvage the wreckage, but it wasn’t until 1985 when it was “suddenly” located. For many years, there was a shroud of mystery surrounding exactly how it was found. The truth was later declassified by the Department of the Navy. As it turns out, finding the Titanic was a complete accident on the part of U.S. Navy Commander Robert Ballard, who was searching for the wreckage of two Navy nuclear submarines.


A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile
A simple task, but it was far from what Robert Ballard wanted to do.
(U.S. Navy)

 

Ballard had served as an intelligence officer in the Army Reserves before commissioning into the active duty Navy two years later. While there, he served as a liaison between the Office of Naval Research and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

He spent many years of his life dedicated to the field of oceanography. Even before enlisting, he had been working on his own submersible, called Alvin, with the Woods Hole Institute. He’d continue designing submersibles and technologies until he finished his famous craft, the Argo. The Argo was equipped with high-tech sonar and cameras and had a detachable robot called Jason.

It was then that the U.S. Navy secretly got in touch with Ballard about finding the USS Thresher and the USS Scorpion in 1982. Both nuclear submarines had mysteriously sank at some point in the 1960s, but the U.S. government was never clear on what exactly happened.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile
Of course, discovering the Titanic was an historic moment, but the Scorpion and the Thresher could be leaking nuclear radiation…
(U.S. Navy)

 

The approximate locations of the submarines were known, but exactly how well the nuclear reactors were holding up after 20 years on the ocean’s floor was a mystery. They sent Ballard and his team to go find out. To cover their tracks, they said they were embarking on a regular expedition to search for the lost Titanic (which, despite the outcome, wasn’t the objective at the time).

The mission was to take four one-month-long expeditions — two months per lost submarine. Ballard asked if he’d ever get the chance to look for the Titanic while he was out there, a chance to fulfill his childhood dream. The Navy struck a bargain. They said that he could look for the sunken behemoth after he found the two subs, if time and funding permitted.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile
His theory about the ship splitting in two was also proven.
(NOAA)

 

He received his funding and set off with the French research ship Le Suroit. Ballard kept most of the crew in the dark, opting instead to stick with his cover story of searching for the Titanic. He’d personally go down in a submersible and check on the status of each nuclear reactor and their warheads. He had a rough idea where to look, but he followed debris trails on the relatively smooth ocean floor to get to each destination.

Once he finished checking on the USS Scorpion and USS Thresher, he had twelve days remaining. Between the two wrecks was a large debris field that littered the ocean floor. This was far from where many experts claimed the Titanic would be.

Just like the two submarines, Ballard believed that the Titanic imploded, leaving behind a massive trail of debris as it drifted to its final resting place. He used what he learned from the submarines and applied the same theory to the Titanic.

First he found the ship’s boiler, and then, eventually, the entirety of the hull.

He knew that his remaining time was short and a storm was quickly approaching, so he marked his exact location on the map and returned to the wreckage the following year. For a year, he didn’t tell a soul, for fear of others showing up and trying to remove artifacts from the ship. He eventually returned on July 12th, 1986, and made the first detailed study of the wreckage.

Ballard would later investigate the wreckages of the Bismarck, the RMS Lusitania, the USS Yorktown, John F. Kennedy’s PT-109, and many more. The story of the Titanic, of course, would later be turned into a film that won 11 Academy Awards — which conveniently left out the fact that the ship’s wreckage was actually discovered due to a top-secret government operation.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan

Picture yourself on a foot patrol in Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous countries in the world where the majority of the population hates the fact that you’re there.


Now, imagine you’re the “lead” of that foot patrol (typically the combat engineer who is looking for IEDs buried in the ground) and you spot a suspicious device ahead with a command wire sticking out of the dirt.

For most of us, it’s not a good idea to approach, especially if that wire trails off toward a nearby compound — it’s a freaking trap. But for troops serving in Afghanistan, it’s just another day at the office.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile
Counter-IED teams locate roadside bombs using Valon metal detectors. (Photo from Army.mil)

Although most IEDs are considered primitively built with limited resources, the grunts on the ground have a clever way of dealing with ’em: the combat scythe.

Related: This is what it was like fighting alongside Afghan troops

Famously known as an agricultural tool, ground pounders use them to conduct a “hands-on” inspection of a potential threat from up to 12-feet away. The operator will extend out the scythe and use its rounded tip to tug and drag out the device for an exam.

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile
A Marine and his trusty scythe will never run out of batteries. (USMC photo by Cpl. William J. Jackson)

By deploying his trusty scythe, a troop can safely determine if that bump in the ground is indeed an IED and call for a controlled detonation of the affected area. Of course, if it’s a false alarm, then that foot patrol proceeds onward without fear.

Not every IED can be figured out with a solid poking, though. If that IED is trickier than usual, the patrol will call upon the services of Explosive Ordnance Disposal to access and, typically, blow the sh*t out of the device.

On the bright side, controlled detonations are pretty epic to watch. They’re allied forces’ way of telling the bad guys ,”Not today, f*cker.”

That is all.

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