There are Americans who are sick and tired of the United States playing “policeman to the world.” There’s good news and bad news for these people. The good news is that the U.S. isn’t actually the world’s policeman. The bad news is that they’re actually the world’s policeman, fire department, emergency medical technicians, doctors, nurses, and any other global-scale first responder analogy you can think of.
The U.S. military is basically the Avengers.
While the United States doesn’t respond to every trouble spot on the planet they sure respond to a lot of them. Of the 195 officially recognized countries in the world, the United States has military members deployed to 150. So if there is a trouble spot, there’s a very good chance that U.S. troops could go handle a large percentage of them. Luckily, Earth’s mightiest heroes are usually reserved for bigger problems, like keeping North Korea in check, punishing ISIS, and trying to bring food to hungry people.
But some of those countries are actually protected by the United States military, even if that protection isn’t specifically promised. For example, the U.S. military has long been considered a pillar of Saudi Arabia’s stability, because Saudi Arabia’s military can’t invade and win against a much-smaller neighbor, even when 20 other countries are helping them.
Seriously, the Salvation Army could have invaded Yemen and won by now.
But despite how terrible the Saudis are at things like strategy, tactics, and planning, they will never have to worry about being overcome by Iranian interference or military force because they have a substantial force they can rely on to protect their homefront: the United States military. And they aren’t alone.
Treaty obligations tie the U.S. to come to the defense of 67 different countries around the world, going well beyond the 29-member NATO alliance. The U.S. has bilateral defense agreements with six different countries, as well as every individual member of the Organization of American States and the ANZUS agreement.
While the United States is no longer required to defend New Zealand and West Germany doesn’t exist as West Germany anymore, the United States military still has a pretty big job on its hands. And even though relations with some of the members of the Organization of American States aren’t so hot with the U.S. right now, it’s still a way for Americans to find themselves fighting alongside the likes of Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela or helping defend countries with no military at all, like Costa Rica, Panama, or Haiti.
It might be worth noting that our Venezuelan allies have asked Russia to help with whatever it is they’re planning to do down there, rather than ask the United States. But along with Venezuela, the U.S. has promised to defend a full one-quarter of all the humans on the planet.
Boeing quietly unveiled the latest iteration of its troubled 737 Max aircraft on Nov. 22, 2019, even as the plane remains grounded globally after two deadly crashes.
At a low-key ceremony at its headquarters in Renton, Washington, attended mainly by employees, Boeing released the 737 Max 10, the largest version of the Max yet.
The Max 10 seats a maximum of 230 passengers, around 30 more than the Max 8, the aircraft model involved in the two crashes that killed a total of 346 people.
Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.
(Photo by Oleg V. Belyakov)
Rather than the usual fanfare and excitement surrounding the launch of a new plane model, Boeing barely publicized the launch of the Max 10, sending only a brief press statement with a single picture of the aircraft.
It used the statement to try to focus on safety, as questions continue about the recertification of the 737 Max and its eventual return to service.
“This team’s relentless focus on safety and quality shows the commitment we have to our airline customers and every person who flies on a Boeing airplane,” the statement said.
It remains unclear when the 737 Max will be allowed to fly again as the Federal Aviation Administration continues to assess changes made to MCAS, the software on the Max that has been blamed for both crashes.
It is expected to return at some point in 2020, but many airlines which fly the plane have removed it from their flight schedules until at least March next year.
The unveiling of the Max 10 comes alongside continued fears from workers in the aviation industry over whether the Max will be safe once it returns to service.
Earlier in November 2019, the head of the union representing American Airlines cabin crew implored Boeing to involve flight attendants in the process of re-certifying the 737 Max, saying that some crew are literally begging not to fly on the plane when it returns to service.
Days before, pilots for Southwest Airlines accused Boeing of “arrogance, ignorance, and greed” over the Max.
The launch of the new jet came at the end of a week when airlines put their faith strongly in the Airbus A321 XLR, a rival to the Max 10.
Airlines announced orders worth around .7 billion for the A321 XLR during the Dubai Airshow last week, with 40 of the planes ordered at the show.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Iran said it conducted a satellite launch but that the rocket failed to reach orbit.
The reported launch, on Jan. 15, 2019, came amid growing warnings from the United States about Tehran’s rocket tests and accusations that they violate United Nations resolutions.
Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi told state TV that the rocket carrying the Payam (Message) satellite failed to reach the “necessary speed” in the third stage of launch.
He did not say what caused the failure but vowed that scientists would continue their research.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Iran over the launch, alleging that the “innocent satellite” was actually “the first stage of an intercontinental missile” Iran is developing in violation of international agreements.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(IsraelinUSA, CC BY 2.0)
Another Iranian satellite named Doosti (Friendship) was waiting to be launched, Azari-Jahromi tweeted after announcing the failed launch.
“We should not come up short or stop,” the minister wrote on Twitter. “It’s exactly in these circumstances that we Iranians are different than other people in spirit and bravery.”
Payam and Doosti were both intended to gather information on environmental change in Iran, President Hassan Rohani said in early January 2019.
Tehran is facing increasingly harsh warnings from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that Iran’s plans demonstrate the country’s defiance of a UN Security Council resolution. That resolution calls on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Iran insists the launches do not violate the resolution.
Washington and its allies worry the same satellite-launching technology could be used to develop nuclear-capable missiles.
China has landed on the far side of the moon, according to state media, in a giant step for humankind — and a step towards China’s desire to match the United States and Russia in space exploration. The unmanned Chang’e 4 probe reportedly touched down on the moon at 10:26 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2019, according to China Central Television.
The probe was launched by a Long March-3B carrier rocket on Dec. 8, 2018, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, and its sister relay satellite has been in orbit since May 2018.
China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that the Chang’e 4 probe entered a planned elliptical orbit some 9 miles from the surface on Dec. 30, 2018, in preparation for a soft landing on the the South Pole-Aitken basin.
The Chang’e 4 mission is to shed light on the dark side. This will include surveying terrain, mineral composition, and shallow lunar surface structure, along with other scientific observations, according to David.
The Chang’e 4 mission totes six kinds of scientific payloads, David says: “On the lander, it carries the Landing Camera (LCAM), the Terrain Camera (TCAM), and the Low Frequency Spectrometer (LFS). There are three kinds of payloads on the rover, the Panoramic Camera (PCAM), the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), and the Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS).”
China’s space ambitions
President Xi Jinping wants to make China a space powerhouse within the next decade. Conquering the moon’s mysteries has been an early and critical first goal of China’s ambitious space program.
The US made its own incredible firsts this week. On New Year’s Day 2019, NASA’s New Horizons probe flew past the most distant place ever explored by humankind — a frozen rock at the edge of the solar system.
Emptiness and gloom is pretty much the main theme at Pripyat, Ukraine, one of the largest ghost towns in the world.
Built as a small residential city for employees assigned to the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, it was suddenly abandoned en masse after Chernobyl’s Number 4 reactor experienced the worst nuclear meltdown in history in 1986, spreading deadly radiation across Ukraine and large chunks of Eastern Europe.
As a direct result of this accident, decrepit farmers fields and forest clearings are now home to some of the eeriest military hardware graveyards in the world, full of untouchable Soviet-era equipment.
In the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, the power plant spewed uncontrollable amounts of toxic chemicals into the air, fatally irradiating hundreds, if not thousands, of the Pripyat’s citizens. Over the course of a few days, the entire town was told to pack lightly and leave right away by military personnel deployed to the area to help with the response to the effects of the meltdown.
Within a week, Pripyat, a once-thriving planned city was deserted — save for scores of tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and heavy trucks brought in by the military to assist with the nuclear cleanup.
Thousands of tons worth of top-of-the-line military equipment were flown or driven into Pripyat, with hundreds of Ukrainian and Soviet troops to man the vehicles and gear. State-of-the-art remote-controlled fire suppression units, radiation monitors, cherry-pickers and more, were also brought in to tackle the horrifying situation that lay before Chernobyl and its neighboring towns.
The debacle proved to be a global embarrassment for the Soviet Union, still in control over Ukraine, and something needed to be done to make it go away quickly before further details of the accident made their way into Western newspapers.
Thousands of tons worth of top-of-the-line military equipment were flown or driven into Pripyat, with hundreds of Ukrainian and Soviet troops to man the vehicles and gear. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Cleanup and response crews were placed on rotating schedules to limit their exposure to radiation, though this proved in the long run to be poorly executed, leading to the deaths of many.
When removing helicopters and trucks from Pripyat and neighboring locales similarly affected by the meltdown, Geiger scans noted that every single truck brought into the disaster zone was severely radioactive. In effect, soldiers were operating inside cocoons of radioactivity, bombarding them with harmful cancer-causing radiation particles.
There was no other solution than to simply abandon these costly vehicles around Chernobyl rather than attempt to decontaminate and scrub them clean. Scores of tanks and trucks were left to rot in “mohyl’nyk” (Ukrainian burial grounds) after it was no longer feasible to safely operate them (the term “safely” being used very relatively and loosely here).
More equipment and military vehicles were brought in to assist with the post-meltdown cleanup, and more were similarly condemned and abandoned.
Helicopters, especially gargantuan Mil Mi-6 Hook transports, were listed among the worst cases of exposure, given that they were tasked with flying directly above the plant after the accident in order to release chemical solvents to eliminate fires burning beneath the plant’s blown-off roof. These helicopters were also abandoned at burial grounds, arranged among rows of dark green equipment.
Today, some of these armored trucks, tanks, helicopters, and even trains, still sit in the fields around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, which has since been enveloped in a sarcophagus to prevent further radiation leakage. The largest of these fields is known as the Rassokha Equipment Cemetery.
The general area, known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, is mostly off-limits to the public, though occasional tour groups are permitted to briefly enter the Zone for a quick peek before being ushered out. Visiting the abandoned vehicle graveyards is prohibited, however.
The Ukrainian government has invested considerable amounts of time and money into securing the Chernobyl plant, still in a low state of operation, and with disposing of the vehicle mohyl’nyk, full of unsalvageable gear. Over the past decade, teams of specialists have entered these fields to dismantle large sections of the graveyards and bury them on the spot, ensuring that the radiation they emit is fully contained.
Even still, the burial of every single piece of hardware will take years, thanks to the sheer numbers used in the wake of the accident. The few remaining war machines left untouched serve as silent reminders of the worst nuclear disaster in history, never to be used again.
A subcommittee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act would require the secretary of defense and military service secretaries to post reports of misconduct by generals and admirals, and those of equivalent civilian rank, so they are accessible to the public.
The House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel released its markup of the fiscal 2019 defense budget bill on April 25, 2018, one step in the complex process of the bill passing the House and Senate and becoming law.
The 121-page document contained language requiring all substantiated investigations of senior leader misconduct to be made public.
“This section would require the Secretary of Defense and the Secretaries of the military departments to publish, on a public website, redacted reports of substantiated investigations of misconduct in which the subject of the investigation was an officer in the grade of O-7 and above, including officers who have been selected for promotion to O-7, or a civilian member of the Senior Executive Service,” the section reads.
Currently, such investigations can be requested through the Freedom of Information Act, but are not automatically made public if they are not requested.
The prevalence and severity of misconduct among the senior ranks has been a common topic of conversation on Capitol Hill in recent months.
At a February 2018 hearing of the personnel subcommittee, ranking member Jackie Speier, D-California, complained that there appeared to be “different spanks for different ranks,” meaning that top brass seemed to get lighter punishments for their misdeeds.
(Photo by Daniel Chee)
She highlighted five specific cases in which military generals had been found guilty of serious misconduct. In three, the violations came to light outside the military only because a journalist inquired or a FOIA request was filed.
“As you will see, these senior leaders committed serious crimes and rule violations, yet received only light administrative, not judicial, punishments,” Speier said. “Most got no public scrutiny until journalists inquired about their cases.”
A handful of new allegations has spurred additional criticism.
While it’s not clear if any of the allegations against him were substantiated in military investigations, the case highlights the lack of public information about wrongdoing at the highest ranks.
Following subcommittee markups, the NDAA must pass a full committee markup, be reconciled with the Senate version of the bill, and approved by both houses before it can go to the president to be signed into law.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
In 1947, British officer Yahya Khan offered his colleague 1,000 rupees for his spiffy red motorcycle. His colleague, Sam Manekshaw, agreed. But before Khan could pay, he was off to what was going to become Pakistan. The British split its Indian colony, and things on the subcontinent have been pretty tense ever since. To top it all off, Yahya Khan didn’t pay for the motorbike.
But he would, even if it took almost 25 years.
Manekshaw (middle) whose mustache game was top notch.
The Partition of India was much more than the splitting of the British Raj into two independent states. It was a catastrophic split that tore apart the country and created millions of refugees, cost millions of lives, and split the armed forces of the country in two, all based on religion. Violence erupted almost immediately between the two groups on such a large scale that much of it has never been forgotten or forgiven. Animosity continued between both sides for decades, and the two have fought war after war because of the myriad issues left unaddressed.
By 1970, Sam Manekshaw was a Field Marshal, the Chief of Staff of India’s Army, and war hero known to the people as “Sam the Brave.” Yahya Khan was a General who fought for Pakistan against India in 1947 and again in 1965. Now he was the president of Pakistan who had taken power using the Pakistani military. East Pakistani refugees were flooding into India because Yahya would not accept the most recent elections, and India’s President, Indira Gandhi, told Manekshaw she wanted Pakistan split into two by force, creating the new country of Bangladesh. Gandhi gave him free rein to do it however he could.
Khan would be deposed and die under house arrest after being stripped of his honors during the rest of the decade.
In Pakistan, the ever-present tensions with India were ready to boil over once again. But the Pakistanis didn’t send the Army to India; they sent it into East Pakistan – where the Pakistanis immediately began slaughtering Bengalis in East Pakistan. By 1971 Bengalis in Pakistan declared independence from Pakistan in response. India immediately supported the new country, first vocally, then though training the Bangladeshis, and next with air support. Finally, in 1971, Manekshaw was ready. He had spent much of the year readying and positioning Indian armor, infantry, and air units. On Dec. 3, 1971, he struck.
The Pakistani Navy’s fuel reserves were destroyed. The Indian Air Force hit Pakistan with almost 6,000 sorties in the next two weeks, destroying much of Pakistan’s Air Force on the ground as the Indian Army advanced, capturing some 15,000 square kilometers. Within two weeks, Pakistan folded like a card table. All Pakistani forces in East Pakistan surrendered to India, the genocide ended, and Bangladesh was born.
After the surrender agreement was signed, Manekshaw was said to have remarked:
“Yahya never paid me the 1,000 rupees for my motorbike, but now he has paid with half his country.”
The littoral combat ship was intended to carry out a wide variety of missions for the United States Navy in the 21st century. From mine-countermeasures to coastal anti-submarine warfare to combating small and fast enemy surface craft, these vessels are intended to fight and win. But how well would they fare against perhaps the epitome of the small fast surface craft in World War II?
The PT boat was built in very large numbers by the United States during World War II. While its most famous exploits were in the Philippines in late 1941 and early 1942, particularly the evacuation of General Douglas MacArthur, these boats saw action in all theaters of the war. There were two primary versions of the PT boat: The Higgins and the Elco.
These boats had slight variations in a number of sub-classes, but their main armament was four 21-inch torpedoes. In addition to the powerful torpedoes, the PT boats also packed two twin .50-caliber mounts. Other guns, ranging from additional .50-caliber machine guns to a variety of automatic cannons ranging from 20mm Oerlikons to the 37mm guns used on the P-39 Airacobra, to 40mm Bofors also found their way onto PT boats – and the acquisitions may not have been entirely… official.
USS Freedom (LCS 1) is one of the lead ships of the two classes of littoral combat ship in service at present.
(Photo by U.S. Navy)
Now, the littoral combat ships also come in two varieties: The Freedom-class monohull design and the Independence-class trimaran design. Their standard armament consists of a 57mm main gun, a number of .50-caliber machine guns, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, and two MH-60 helicopters. Modules can add other weapons, including 30mm Bushmaster II chain guns, surface-launched AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and even the Harpoon or Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile as heavier anti-ship missiles.
This was one of 45 PT boats at the Battle of Surigao Strait in October 1944.
(Photo by U.S. Navy)
Looking at just the paper, you’d think that the littoral combat ship has an easy time blowing away a PT boat. In a one on one fight, you’re correct. But the whole point of the PT boat wasn’t to just have one PT boat – it was to have a couple dozen attacking at once. The classic example of this was the Battle of Surigao Strait, part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, in October 1944. According to Volume XII of Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, “Leyte,” the Japanese force heading up Surigao Strait was facing 45 PT boats.
A Mk 13 torpedo is launched from a PT boat. Now imagine that over a hundred have been launched at your force.
(Photo by U.S. Navy)
Never mind the fact that those PT boats were backed by six older battleships, four heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and 28 destroyers, the sheer number of PT boats had an effect against a force of two Japanese battleships, one heavy cruiser, and two light cruisers. Incidentally, only one Japanese destroyer survived that battle.
USS Independence’s helicopters and onboard weapons would help it put up a good fight, but sheer numbers could overwhelm this vessel.
(Photo by U.S. Navy)
The same situation would apply in a PT boat versus littoral combat ship fight. The littoral combat ship’s MH-60 helicopters would use AGM-114 Hellfires to pick off some of the PT boats, but eventually the numbers would tell. What could make things worse for the littoral combat ship is if those PT boats were modified to fire modern 21-inch torpedoes. Such a hack is not out of the question: North Korea was able to graft a modern anti-ship torpedo onto a very low-end minisub and sink a South Korean corvette.
Some kids dress up as cute animals for Halloween, some dress up as pretty princesses… and some dress up as Ellen Ripley from the 1986 thriller Aliens. To pay homage to James Cameron’s sci-fi series — and perhaps to pass some movie wisdom onto the next generation — one dad created a costume to beat all costumes for him and his daughter.
It’s a real-life replica of the power loader that Ellen wears in the movie to destroy the Queen. And this dad definitely took the “real-life” thing to a new level when he built the highlight of the whole get-up: the fully-functioning forklift feature for his daughter to sit in, complete with retractable supports.
Unsurprisingly, Reddit, along with everyone else on the internet, is going crazy over it. And we have so many questions. What is it made of? How on earth did he manage to build this monstrosity? And isn’t it heavy?!
But how this dad created the realistic robot costume might not be all that different from how the original one came into existence. In 2016, 30 years after Aliens was made, director James Cameron revealed the process of building the power loader.
“We were literally down on the floor, cutting out big pieces of foam core,” he explained, “We hung it on a pipe frame and we had a guy stand there and put his hands down into the elbows of the arms and lift them.”
While the details of this dad’s robot suit are unclear, one thing is for sure: Any parent who not only builds a costume this cool but also carries it (and his daughter) around all night trick-or-treating deserves more than one award. And a couple pieces of her Halloween candy, too.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Chappy poses in front of an F-4 Phantom II during the Vietnam War. (Photo from the United States Air Force)
Airmen and 80s movie buffs are likely to be familiar with the 1986 cult classic Iron Eagle. Sometimes called the “Top Gun of the Air Force,” Iron Eagle did not have the big budget, box office success or star power that its Naval-based counterpart did (although the soundtrack did have its fair share of great songs). However, the film did feature Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. (of An Officer and a Gentleman fame) as Colonel Charles “Chappy” Sinclair, the wise Vietnam Veteran fighter pilot who gave Top Gun‘s Jester a run for his money. Chappy serves as a mentor to the main character, teenager Doug Masters played by Jason Gedrick, and guides him throughout the film.
Iron Eagle movie poster. (Credit to TriStar Pictures)
As a mentor, Chappy shares his knowledge and experience, gained in the unforgiving skies above Vietnam, with teenage Masters. An accomplished fighter pilot, Chappy helps Masters to acquire intelligence, create a rescue plan and steal two F-16 fighter jets to attack the fictional Middle Eastern country of Bilya where Masters’ father is being held. While these fictional feats are impressive, they pale in comparison to the accomplishments of the real-life Chappy.
Daniel “Chappy” James, Jr. was born on February 20, 1920 in Pensacola, FL. He graduated Tuskegee University in 1942 and received his pilot wings and commission as a 2nd LT at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Alabama on July 28, 1943. He remained at Tuskegee to train pilots for the all-black 99th Pursuit Squadron. Having completed training in the P-40 Warhawk fighter, Chappy trained on the B-25 Mitchell bomber and was stationed in Kentucky and Ohio until the end of the war.
Chappy first saw action during the Korean War. In 1949, he went to the Philippines as a flight leader in the 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter Wing at Clark Field. In July of the next year, he left for Korea where he also flew with the 44th and 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons in P-51 Mustang and F-80 Shooting Star fighters. During the war, Chappy flew a total of 101 combat missions.
Chappy poses with his P-51 Mustang in Korea. (Photo from the United States Air Force)
After the war, Chappy continued his Air Force career, holding commands and serving at a number of bases. In 1954, while stationed at Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts, Chappy was given the “Young Man of the Year” award by the Massachusetts Junior Chamber of Commerce for his outstanding community relations efforts. In June 1957, he graduated from the Air Command and Staff College.
After serving on staffs, and later as assistant director and director of operations for a number of wings, Chappy went to Thailand in 1966 to support combat missions in Vietnam. He became the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing vice commander under triple (then double) ace Col. Robin Olds. Flying from Ubon Air Base in Thailand, the two men created a strong and effective tactical command, earning them the nickname “Blackman and Robin.” In total, Chappy flew 78 combat missions into North Vietnam during the war.
Following his service in Vietnam, Chappy became the commander of the 7272nd Fighter Training Wing at Wheelus Air Base in the Libyan Arab Republic. Following the coup by radical Libyan military officers, including Muammar Gaddafi, the U.S. announced plans to close Wheelus Air Base. Wanting to see how far he could push the Americans, Gaddafi sent a column of armored half-tracks through the base housing area at full speed. Unamused by the stunt, Chappy closed the base gates and confronted Gaddafi. During their confrontation, Gaddafi kept his hand on the pistol in his hip holster. “I told him to move his hand away,” Chappy recalled having had his own .45 strapped to his hip. The future Libyan dictator complied. “If he had pulled that gun, his hand would have never cleared the holster.”
Chappy’s Air Force career saw him serve as principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, vice commander of the Military Airlift Command, commander in chief of NORAD/ADCOM, and special assistant to the Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force. Chappy retired in 1978 as a four-star general, the first African-American to achieve the rank.
General Daniel “Chappy” James, Jr. Command Photo. (Photo from the United States Air Force)
The next time you watch Iron Eagle, remember General Daniel “Chappy” James, Jr., the trailblazing African-American pilot who served in three wars, stared down Gaddafi, and dared to see just how far he could go.
Few soldiers are as legendary as Finland’s Simo Häyhä. Known as the deadliest sniper in history, Häyhä served for just under 100 days during the 1939-1940 Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union.
In that short time, he is credited with killing over 500 men.
At long range Häyhä was lethal; his M28/30 sniper rifle (the Finnish version of Russia’s legendary Mosin-Nagant) accounted for half his estimated 500-542 kills. At close quarters, he was equally deadly with his Suomi KP-31 sub-machine gun, with some 250 Soviets falling victim to it. Not surprisingly, Soviet troops soon assigned Häyhä an appropriately sinister nickname: White Death.
Häyhä’s transformation into history’s most accomplished sniper traces back to 1925, when at twenty years old he served his mandatory year in Finland’s Army and afterward joined Finland’s volunteer militia known as the White Guard. Häyhä’s time with the militia sharpened what were already remarkable shooting abilities; a farmer and hunter, he was a natural marksman who regularly collected trophies at local shooting competitions.
When the Winter War broke out on November 30, 1939, Häyhä was nearly 34 years old. By the war’s end on March 13, 1940, he would become a legend. While most snipers used telescopic sights, Häyhä did without. Using a scope forced a sniper to lift their head a few inches higher than ordinary sights, making them an easier target for enemy snipers. Telescopic sights were also vulnerable to extreme cold. Häyhä’s solution was simple: Even in the poor light of a Finnish winter, he would rely on iron sights and the naked eye.
As the Soviets soon realized, the dim lighting didn’t affect his aim.
Finnish Army documents (as cited on Wikipedia) reveal just how deadly Häyhä was as a soldier. The war began on November 30, 1939. According to these documents, Häyhä had racked up his first 138 kills by December 22–only 22 days for 138 kills. The entry for January 26, 1940 ups his count to 199, an extra 61 in 35 days. By February 17, he was up to 219. In the 18 days after that, Häyhä killed another 40 enemy soldiers.
These stats reflect his sniping kills. Häyhä was just as deadly up close. His sub-machine gun accounted for another 250 kills. By March of 1940, he’d racked up an astonishing 500+ kills. Yet on March 6, his military career came to a sudden and near-fatal end.
Häyhä was a primary target of the Red Army; Soviets were keen to eliminate this seemingly unstoppable soldier who had spread so much fear, injury, and death among their ranks.
They’d tried everything, pummeling Häyhä’s presumed locations with artillery fire. Soviets also employed counter-sniping, flooding an area with snipers whose primary mission was to kill the White Death.
On March 6, 1940, the Red Army nearly succeeded. A Soviet sniper spotted Häyhä and shot at him with an explosive bullet, striking him in his lower left jaw.
The shot should have killed him. Häyhä, though severely wounded, somehow survived. Found by Finnish troops, he was brought into a field hospital. He wasn’t a pretty sight. One of the soldiers who brought him in bluntly described his injuries, saying “half his face was missing”. But once again, Häyhä had beaten the odds: permanently disfigured, but alive nonetheless.
Häyhä was lucky. Only days after he was shot, the Winter War ended on March 13, 1940 — the same day Häyhä regained consciousness. Finland honored the soldier for his service. Starting as a private in 1925, he’d only made ‘Alikersantti’ (corporal) when the Winter War started. After it ended, Corporal Häyhä was commissioned, becoming a “Vanrikki” (second lieutenant) with multiple decorations. He would spend the next few years recovering from the shot to his head, but Häyhä would eventually regain his health.
After the war, he became a successful moose hunter and dog breeder. Against him, the moose stood no chance. Finland’s President Urho Kekkinen was also a keen hunter and Häyhä, once a nobody from the Finnish border country, became one of the President’s regular hunting partners.
Entering a veteran’s nursing home in Hamina in his old age, Häyhä spent his remaining years quietly. He died on April 1, 2002 aged 96, a national hero in his native Finland and a legend in military history. Asked how he’d been so successful he answered simply: “Practice.”
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.
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.
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.
America has some of the world’s most elite special operators and they get a lot of press. But on most of the missions that Special Forces, SEALs, and other top operators conduct, they bring a very special airman.
The Air Force combat controller moves forward with other special operators, swimming, diving, parachuting, and shooting with their brethren. But, they act as an air traffic controller and ground observer while doing so. They can also conduct missions with other Air Force special operators, seizing enemy airports and controlling air power for follow-on forces.
The Air Force combat controller moves forward with other special operators, swimming, diving, parachuting, and shooting with their brethren. But, they act as an air traffic controller and ground observer while doing so. They can also conduct missions with other Air Force special operators, seizing enemy airports and controlling air power for follow-on forces.
In his book “Kill Bin Laden,” former Delta Force commander Dalton Fury writes:
The initial training “pipeline” for an Air Force Special Tactics Squadron Combat Controller costs twice as much time and sweat as does the journey to become a Navy SEAL or Delta operator. Before their training is complete someone brainwashes these guys into thinking they can climb like Spiderman, swim like Tarzan, and fly like Superman — and then they have to prove they can, if they plan to graduate.
Being a combat controller takes a lot of brainpower and muscle. Here’s how the U.S. Air Force takes a bunch of talented young men and turns them into elite warriors.
This two-week course is also on Lackland, and it’s purpose is in the name. Students are physically screened and have to pass tests in seven events to move on. The events are: push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, 1.5-mile run, 500-meter swim, 4-mile ruck march, and an obstacle course.
“We need this two weeks just to make sure they’re the right guys to be combat controllers and they’re going to be successful in the pipeline,” says an Combat Control selection instructor in the Air Force video above.
Two weeks may seems like a short time for airmen to be screened and prepared for the rest of the combat controller pipeline, but the class is so tough that the Air Force has published a 26-week guide to help recruits physically prepare. The students will be tested on the seven physical tasks throughout the training pipeline with the standards becoming more rigorous at each testing (Page 12).
Immediately after the screening course, students may find themselves waiting for an open slot at the combat control operator course. They are tested weekly to ensure their performance on the seven physical tasks mentioned above don’t slip.
Combat Control Operator Course
This course lasts for just over 15 weeks at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. It focuses on recognizing and understanding different aircraft, air navigation aids, weather, and air traffic control procedures. It is the same course all other air traffic controllers in the Air Force attend.
Photo: US Army Ashley Cross
At Fort Benning, Ga., airmen go through the U.S. Army Airborne School. Here, they are taught how to safely conduct static-line parachute jumps from an airplane and infiltrate an enemy-held objective area.
Basic Survival School
To learn basic survival techniques for remote areas, future combat controllers spend more than two weeks at the Air Force Basic Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. By graduation, the airmen should be able to survive on their own regardless of climatic conditions or enemy situation. Survival training is important for combat controllers since they’ll be deployed to a variety of austere environments.
Combat Control School
In 13 weeks at Pope Army Air Field, North Carolina, students are taught small unit tactics, land navigation, communications, assault zones, demolitions, fire support, and field operations. It is at the end of this course that students become journeyman combat controllers and they are allowed to wear their iconic scarlet beret and combat controller team flash.
Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training
Though they are technically now combat controllers, airmen will then spend almost another year training in Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training at Hurlburt Field, Fla. AST is broken down into four phases: water, ground, employment, and full mission profile. By full mission profile, combat controllers should be able to do their full job in simulated combat. The training at Hurlburt Field allows combat controllers to infiltrate enemy territory through a variety of means. A combat controller going to work “involves jumping out of an airplane, or sliding out a helicopter down a fast rope, or riding some sort of all-terrain vehicle, or going on a mountain path on foot,” Air Force Maj. Charlie Hodges told CNN.
AST is challenging. “This is probably about the most realistic training you could get here back in the states to get you prepared for the real world,” Air Force 1st Lt. Charles Cunningham, a special operations weather officer said in an Air Force video. “They add a very serious element of realism and make it as intense as it can be.”
While in AST, combat controllers will depart Hurlburt Field to complete the following three schools.
Military Free Fall Parachutist School
Students will train at Fort Bragg, N.C., and then Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. Trainees learn free fall parachuting procedures over a five-week period by practicing in wind tunnels and in free fall. Students learn stability, aerial maneuvers, air sense, parachute opening procedures, and canopy control.
Students jump from up to 35,000 feet above sea level and may wait until below 6,000 feet above the ground to open their chute. One student in the video above calls it “the best school I’ve ever been to.”
Combat Divers School
At the U.S. Air Force Combat Divers School in Panama City, Fla., combat controllers learn to use SCUBA and closed-circuit diving equipment to infiltrate enemy held areas. The course is four weeks long.
Underwater Egress Training
Only a day long, this course teaches the controllers how to escape from a sinking aircraft. It is taught by the Navy at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla.
Graduation and assignment
Finally, after completion of the AST and the full mission profile, combat controllers are ready to head to a unit where they’ll receive continuous training from senior combat controllers and begin building combat experience on missions.
What? You thought they were done? To be able to augment Delta, Seal Team 6, and conduct missions on their own, combat controllers are never done training.