Brigadier General Chuck Yeager is best-known for being the first man to break the sound barrier. He was also a World War II ace and saw action in Vietnam as commanding officer of the 405th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying B-57s. But did you know that this aerial all-star also logged time in the MiG-15?
The MiG-15 in question was flown from North Korea to Seoul by No Kum-sok, a defector who, upon landing, learned that he was fulfilling a $100,000 bounty by delivering the plane into allied hands. The MiG-15 was quickly taken back to the United States and put through its paces.
The last moments of a MiG-15 — many of these planes met their end in MiG Alley.
Test pilots are known for getting in the cockpit of new, unproven vehicles and using their skills and adaptability to safely maneuver vessels through early flights. They’ve flown the X-15 into space and are responsible for putting the newest fighters, like the F-35, through their paces. But what’s just as important (and half as reported) is role they play in exploring the capabilities of foreign aircraft, like a MiG, Sukhoi, or some other international plane.
This is why the “Akutan Zero,” a Japanese plane that crashed on June 4, 1942 over Alaskan soil, was so important. It gave the US invaluable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of an enemy’s asset, informing the design of the F6F Hellcat.
This is the MiG-15 that was flown to South Korea by a North Korean defector.
The MiG-15 of the Korean War wasn’t quite as fearsome as the Zero was in World War II. In fact, the F-86 dominated it over “MiG Alley.” But finding out just how good – or bad – the MiG-15 really was still mattered. After all, American allies, like Taiwan, ended up facing the MiG-15 later in the 1950s (the Taiwanese planes ended up using the AIM-9 Sidewinder to deadly effect).
The MiG-15 still is in service with the North Korean Air Force, meaning Yeager’s half-a-century-old flight still informs us today.
Learn more about Yeager’s time flying the MiG-15 in the video below.
There are so many war movies out there to choose from, yet not many come from the perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was the Vietnam War.
Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into that politically charged time in American history, where the war efforts of our service members were either overlooked or disdained upon returning home, with Platoon.
With his unique perspective, Stone filmed one of the most iconic death scenes in cinema history — the dramatic end of Sgt. Elias.
But there are a few interesting things you probably didn’t know about Sgt. Elias’s onscreen death.
5. Dafoe was “self-contained” during the scene
The acclaimed actor was given a walkie-talkie and was instructed by Stone to run from point A to point B while avoiding all the explosions.
Besides that, he had no further communication with cast or crew during the scene.
4. It only took 3-4 takes
For anyone who understands the process of filmmaking, 3-4 “takes” is extremely few, especially for such a dynamic scene that turned out so strong. Oliver Stone set up several cameras to capture the drama of the moment that gives you chills.
3. Not all of the bombs exploded
As Dafoe dashed through the uneven terrain, he knew the locations of the squibs and the controlled detonations — some of which failed to explode, but the audience can’t tell.
2. Dafoe had the squib detonator in his hand — which he threw
If look closely at Dafoe’s left hand, you can see him carrying the squib detonator, which he used to set off the devices attached to his wardrobe. Since not all the squibs exploded as planned, Dafoe ended up throwing the detonator to the side during the take that made the final cut.
I do not see how a barbarous community and a civilized community can constitute one state. I think we must get rid of slavery, or we must get rid of freedom.
That’s Ralph Waldo Emerson, speaking out against escalating violence in America in the 1850s.
Following the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the settling of Kansas had devolved into open territorial warfare between anti-slavery “free staters” and pro-slavery “border ruffians.” Representatives were physically assaulting senators on the Senate floor. Average American civilians were perpetrating acts of savagery toward one another that fell short of “domestic terrorism” only because, 80 years into the American experiment, there wasn’t yet a national moral consensus definitive enough to terrorize.
But a reckoning was imminent. As Emerson foretold, the U.S. would have to reject slavery or allow the notion of freedom it so exalted to perish as a consequence.
John Brown stepped into the 1850s a man accustomed to both the opportunity and the volatility of American life. He’d lived in eight different towns across five different states, sired over 20 children with two wives, founded a post office, built a school and started at least three different tanneries. He’d made and lost fortunes, gone bankrupt, become an authority on wool production, and travelled overseas to London to do business.
He had, with the bluntest application of will, done whatever it took to drink the nectar of life and liberty that American democracy promised.
Brown believed in the core concept of America, if not the frustrating political mechanics of governing it. Brown loved America. But eventually he, and the radical forces he came to represent, could no longer tolerate the hypocrisy of living free in a society that countenanced slavery. His trajectory as an abolitionist militant began with this vow:
Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery!
Unlike notable abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, Brown distrusted politics. He rejected advocacy. He was animated by a righteous certainty that American slaves must take their freedom for themselves. Brown wanted to empower slaves in the bluntest way possible, with guns and an incitement to violence against their masters. Brown was the Civil War’s harbinger — come two years ahead of the horsemen.
After the failure of his famous raid on the federal armory in Harper’s Ferry–where his small force had been put down by a detachment of U.S. Marines led by Robert E. Lee–after the slaves of West Virginia had failed to rise up with him, Brown was captured and sentenced to die a traitor’s death. But before he did, he made this final statement:
I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.
Pundits like to bat around the phrase “the price of freedom” as if the blood of innocents was ever the currency that human progress accepts. But pundits aren’t the authors of humanity’s rise, heroes are. Innocent blood may be spilled in the course of human struggle, but progress is purchased by the blood of the willing.
There are mainly two types of missiles being pursued in this race: hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs) and hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs). Both are being pursued by a number of nations, but China, Russia, and the US are leading the way.
Two types of weapons
HCMs are essentially faster cruise missiles and HGVs are basically replacements for conventional re-entry vehicles that are put on ICBMs.
Of the two, HGVs are the easiest to make, since they only have to overcome one of the three obstacles — material science.
HGVs are put on top of ICBMs. When they reach a maximum altitude, they separate from the missile and glide on top of the atmosphere to their target — in this case, at hypersonic speeds.
Because of their hypersonic speeds, there may not even need to be any explosives on the weapons themselves, since the kinetic energy could be strong enough to cause damage in a limited area — although nowhere near the size of a nuclear blast.
What makes both weapons so threatening is the fact that they are maneuverable, meaning they can change direction at any moment and keep their intended target secret until the last few moments before impact.
Current missiles can be intercepted because their flight paths are determined by momentum and gravity. Most, if not all, anti-ballistic missile defenses, like THAAD and Aegis Ashore, require a projectile to make physical contact for a successful intercept or be close enough so that shrapnel from a proximity explosion could damage an incoming missile.
Because HCMs and HGVs are maneuverable and fly at such high speeds, interception of such missiles is almost impossible.
Dangerous potential results of hypersonic weapons
Widespread proliferation of this technology could have results that increase the risk of conflict and destabilization, especially when these weapons are armed with nuclear payloads.
According to a report on hypersonic weapons that was published by the RAND Corporation, governments may be so concerned with maintaining first-strike capability, since the response time for these weapons is so short, that they may take be forced to take risky actions.
These include devolving the command and control of the weapons to the military instead of the national leaders, wider disbursement of the weapons across the globe, a launch-on-warning posture, and a decision to strike first.
The RAND report shows that at least 23 countries are active in pursuing hypersonic technology for commercial or military use. Currently, the US, Russia, and China are leading the race.
The report suggests that widespread proliferation of hypersonic technology could lead to militaries around the world, particularly those that have tense relations with their neighbors, having capabilities that could be destabilizing.
The RAND Corporation suggests that this could also spur changes or amendments to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a voluntary agreement with 35 nations that aims to prevent the proliferation of missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.
RAND believes that the MTCR should include completed hypersonic delivery vehicles, scramjets, and other hypersonic components to the list of items that cannot be exported. At the very least, a trilateral agreement between the US, Russia, and China could be made to prevent hypersonic weapons from falling into dangerous hands.
RAND believes that hypersonic missiles will become operable on the battlefield in the next 10 years.
Obstacles preventing sustained hypersonic flight
Hypersonic technology allows cruise missiles and nuclear weapons to go as fast as Mach 5 or above — roughly 3,800 miles per hour, or 340 miles every six minutes.
Missiles and rockets have long been able to go hypersonic; space shuttles and ICBMs, for instance, both fly at hypersonic speeds, sometimes as high as Mach 20 or 24 (Mach 25 is the upper limit). However, they only do so for a short period of time.
Technology is now being developed that will allow sustained hypersonic flight, overcoming three different challenges: material science; aerodynamics and flight control; and propulsion.
The problem of material science is relatively straightforward. Because the missile will be flying at such high speed, materials with high melting points are needed so they can absorb heat that would be gathered over a long period of time, so as to prevent the disintegration of the missile.
“You can think of it as flying into this blow torch,” Rich Moore, a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, said. “The faster a vehicle flies, the pressure and temperature rises exponentially.”
The problem of aerodynamics and flight control is somewhat related. In order to achieve hypersonic speeds, the body of the missile needs to be constructed so that air resistance is minimal. Furthermore, the shape of the missile must be structurally strong enough to prevent bending and flexing which would affect the flight performance.
“You’re under such high pressures, you are going so fast, that the body itself may not keep its shape all the time,” George Nacouzi, a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, told Business Insider in an interview.
Propulsion is probably the most complex challenge after material science. Once an object reaches Mach 5, traditional jet engines cannot generate enough power to maintain the speed or go faster. “It has been compared to lighting a match in a 2,000 mile an hour wind,” said Richard Speier, a political scientist at RAND.
Trying to keep the engine going is extremely complex.
“You have potential shockwaves, the combustion has to be just at the right rate, you have to have the right mixture of fuel and oxidizer,” Nacouzi said of the difficulties.
The result of trying to overcome this problem is a scramjet, an uncluttered, air-breathing engine that uses oxygen from the atmosphere as the oxidizer for combustion. Though scramjets are currently in a testing phase, they have already reached hypersonic speeds.
Dr. Nacouzi believes that out of those three problems, flight control may be the easiest to overcome.
The AH-64 Apache has become a legendary helicopter — proving to be more than a capable replacement for the AH-1 Cobras in United States Army service, but this gunship almost didn’t see the light of day.
Back in the late 1960s, the Cobra was seen as just a stopgap. The Army ran a competition for an Advanced Aerial Fire Support System and, ultimately, selected Lockheed’s entry, designating it the AH-56 Cheyenne and ordering ten prototypes.
The Cheyenne was not a conventional helicopter. It had a top rotor and a tail rotor, but it also added a pusher propeller. This gave it a top speed of 245 miles per hour, according to MilitaryFactory.com. By comparison, the AH-64 has a top speed of just under 189 miles per hour. The Cheyenne had a single 30mm cannon and could carry BGM-71 TOW missiles, 2.75-inch rockets, and external fuel tanks.
So, why didn’t the Cheyenne become a staple? First, a fatal crash and numerous delays marred the project. Additionally, the Army’s Cheyenne was seen as a violation of the Key West Agreement, causing further friction. Plans to buy 600 Cheyennes were quickly scaled down to 375 as costs climbed.
Ultimately, the Army scrapped the Cheyenne when the Air Force began the A-X project, which eventually lead to fielding the A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support plane. The Cheyenne was officially cancelled on August 9th, 1972. Eight days later, the Army began the Advanced Attack Helicopter program, which eventually produced the AH-64 Apache.
The Cheyenne hasn’t failed entirely, though. Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider prototype looks like a more advanced version of the Cheyenne. In a real sense, the Cheyenne was almost five decades ahead of its time.
The last place anyone would expect to watch the Blue fight the Gray in Civil War combat is the fields of Western Europe. After all, they have centuries full of historical battles of their own to re-enact for the delight of families, students, and amateur historians alike. Yet, Civil War re-enactors bring those historical battles to life again and again.
Hundreds of re-enactors come from Poland, Italy, France, and Canada to take part in the spectacle. Like any good re-enactor in the United States, the actors are sure to keep all of their clothing, gear, and weapons in good shape – and to make sure they’re historically authentic (as authentic as they can be, fighting the American Civil War in Europe). After all, no one wants to be known as a “Farb” around these dedicated troopers.
After all, re-enactors are a dedicated group. The more historically accurate they are in movement, fighting, and dress, the more enjoyment everyone gets from the actor recreating the event. Onlookers learn more about history as well.
Union troops advance on a Confederate position.
The Europeans who are enthusiastic about the battles are no less dedicated than any American re-enactor. They’ve been to the U.S., they’ve visited the battle sites, they’ve seen the uniforms up close. Many of these soldiers have every detail accurate, right down to the last button.
In the recreation in the video above, the 1864 Battle of Bethesda Church, the Europeans are recreating a real European battalion, recruited from immigrants to the United States. But the battle they’re recreating isn’t the only one they do year after year. Every year they come to recreate a different battle, often from a different year of the war. The battles last for days, and the field commanders often determine the outcomes.
Unlike in the actual Civil War, however, these days end with beer and sausages shared between the two groups.
Sure, you may have been in the military for years and you may have worked hard for your rank. But it may surprise you to learn that you will always be outranked by at least one of these animals, who have earned military rank, medals, and awards. And these aren’t just cuddly mascots — some of them have seen combat action!
Here are the most impressive and high-ranking military animals of all time:
1. Nils Olav
Nils Olav, a penguin, is colonel-in-chief and official mascot of Norway’s Royal Guard. In 2008, he was knighted — yes, knighted — by King Harald V. The original penguin named Nils Olav first served in 1972, and was named in honor of two great Norwegians: Nils Egelien and King Olav V. This high-ranking mascot lives in the Edinburgh Zoo, in quarters befitting his rank.
2. King Neptune
King Neptune the pig was originally just Parker Neptune. He received a promotion to King (that’s a rank, right?) during World War II when he was sold to an Illinois Navy recruiter. Although the pig was originally intended to be served at dinner, the Navy instead made him a star by promoting him to King and sending him on tour to sell war bonds. He wore a crown and a blue Navy blanket, and would stand on stage as his parts were “auctioned off” to the highest bidders. Ultimately, King Neptune helped raise over million for the Navy!
When he died in 1950, he received a Navy funeral with full military honors.
3. Sergeant Major Fosco
Sergeant Major Fosco was one of the first military working dogs to complete an airborne jump while being held by his handler. Military working dogs are traditionally awarded one rank higher than that of their handler, as a reminder that the handler must always treat their animal with respect. Because Sgt. Major Fosco’s handler was a 1st Sgt., this dog bears the rank of someone who has already served a full, 20-year career!
Perhaps in dog years, that’s about right.
4. Staff Sergeant Reckless
Staff Sergeant Reckless was a Marine pack horse during the Korean War. She was purchased in Korea and carried supplies and ammunition for the Marines of 5/1 Recoilless Rifle Platoon. During one battle, she made 51 solo (unguided) trips to resupply the lines and bring wounded men to safety. During her time in service, she received a battlefield promotion to sergeant, two Purple Hearts, and a Good Conduct Medal. She was the first horse known to have participated in an amphibious landing. After the war, Reckless was brought back to America and promoted to staff sergeant. A metal statue in her honor was recently unveiled at Camp Pendleton.
5. Sergeant Chesty XIV
Sgt. Chesty XIV, named after the most highly-decorated Marine, Chesty Puller, is the current official mascot of the Marine Corps. He has his own dog-sized National Defense medal.
He also has sergeant responsibilities, like training the junior Marines in his charge. Private Chesty XV is the official Marine Corps mascot apprentice. I wonder if he causes as much trouble for his sergeant as the average private does on any given weekend?
6. Sergeant Major Jiggs
Sergeant Major Jiggs was the original Marine Corps bulldog mascot. His owner was the famous Maj. General Smedley Butler — one of the only Marines to earn two Medals of Honor. Jiggs began his career in 1922 as a private and advanced through the ranks to reach E-9. If you already have two medals of honor, you can probably give your dog any rank you want, right?
7. Lance Corporal Billy Windsor
Lance Corporal Billy Windsor the Goat is a salaried member of the British Army in the Royal Welsh Regiment. The position includes membership in the Corporal’s mess and the right to be saluted by subordinates. However, the goat was demoted to fusilier in 2006 after an unfortunate head-butting incident against a drummer in the 1st Battalion.
8. Sinbad, the Chief Dog
Sinbad, the Chief Dog, was an enlisted member of the U.S. Coast Guard for 11 years and saw combat during World War II. He served on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter George W. Campbell. His handler originally intended to give the dog to his girlfriend as a gift, but soon discovered she wouldn’t be able to keep him. The only way to keep him on board was to enlist him, so Sinbad’s pawprint was stamped onto his own unique set of enlistment papers, and he became an official member of the crew.
9. Master Sergeant Big Deuce VI
Master Sergeant Big Deuce VI, the Army’s official donkey mascot, retired after 20 years of service. The Army has long used the donkey as a mascot because it’s a reminder of how the beasts of burden have long moved Army supplies, such as howitzers and ammunition. The 2-2nd FA Battalion “Mule Soldiers” out of Fort Sill, OK, have had a mascot named Big Deuce since 1950. During his 20-year career, Master Sgt. Big Deuce VI received several promotions, but his handlers report that he was demoted twice and received several Article 15s for attempting to go AWOL and for assaulting a commissioned officer in his change of command.
10. Corporal Short Round V
Corporal Short Round V is the Army’s goat mascot, who accompanies their donkey mascot Big Deuce at official events. He recently retired, and was replaced by Private Short Round VI, who had her enlistment ceremony at Fort Sill in 2018.
11. Sgt. 1st Class Boe and Sgt. 1st Budge
Sgt. 1st Class Boe and Sgt. 1st Class Budge were the first trained therapy dogs to be deployed to Iraq in 2007. Budge eventually contracted cancer and passed away in 2010. A memorial service was held for him at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Boe was reassigned to Fort Benning, Georgia.
12. Master Sergeant Maverick
Master Sergeant Maverick is a trained therapy dog who works with America’s VetDogs. Since 2009, he has been assigned to the Traumatic Brain Injury clinic at Eisenhauer Army Medical Center.
13. Sergeant Stubby
Sergeant Stubby the dog was adopted by soldiers of the 102nd Infantry Regiment and smuggled to France during WWI. He was trained to raise his paw in salute, which secured his place as the regimental mascot. Stubby helped his unit in the trenches by sniffing out poison gas attacks and warning of incoming artillery. He once helped capture and imprison a German spy, for which he received a medal for heroism.
Where the Marine Corps has its Toys for Tots, the Army can count on its elderly retirees – at least one of them, anyway. As of Christmas, 2019, Army veteran Jim Annis turned 80 years old. For the past 50 Christmas seasons, the former soldier spent months creating hundreds of wooden toys for children who otherwise might not have anything to open on Christmas morning. When the Salvation Army comes through for these families, Annis comes rolling along right behind them.
Annis spends hundreds of dollars from his own pocket every year to make wooden toys for needy children. The one-man Santa’s Workshop spends much of his free time throughout the year crafting and painting these toys in preparation for Christmastime. By the time he’s ready to donate the pieces to the Salvation Army, Annis has created as many as 300 toys, finished and ready to hand out to the little ones.
In case you’re bad at math, creating 300 toys per year for the past 50 years, makes for about 15,000 toys total. But for Annis, it’s not about the money. He was one of those needy children during his childhood. He came from a working family with five children to take care for.
Jim Annis, a one-man Santa’s Workshop.
Annis gets wooden scraps for free from homeowners and pays only for the tools of production and the acrylic paint for the toys. His costs run about id=”listicle-2641673298″,000 but his return on investment is the smiles of young kids who will get a toy for Christmas this year. Kids can get an array of cool, handmade toys, from fire trucks and dolls to piggy banks. Jim Annis will also make special gifts for American veterans and their loved ones.
“I have to sort of feel right in here,” Annis told North Carolina’s Spectrum News. “That’s the joy I know I’m giving some of the kids, I’m giving them something that I didn’t have a whole lot at Christmas time.”
If you want to donate to materials to this vet’s Christmastime cause, you can call Jim Annis at 919-842-5445.
America’s technology advantage has always been part of its successes on the battlefield. Military research offices and DARPA spend every minute of every day trying to make sure the U.S. stays at the front of the technological arms race.
But, if it weren’t for Britain, America may have lost that arms race a few times. During World War II Britain handed over many of its most advanced technologies in the hopes that American companies would produce more copies of them to use against Hitler. After the war, the British have tossed over a few more bones like ceramic armor for tanks.
Here are 5 military technologies that America relies on that were designed “across the pond”:
1. Proximity fuses
Proximity fuses use doppler radar or other sensors to determine when a weapon is a certain distance from either its target or the surface. The weapon then blows up. It makes artillery and tank shells more effective against infantry and allows for more sophisticated weapons for anti-tank, anti-aircraft, and anti-ship missions.
Lockheed Martin pitched the first jet aircraft to the military before Pearl Harbor, but the Army rejected it. Lockheed Martin kept working on their version of the design, but America still got its first jet-powered fighter from Britain. General H. H. Arnold, head of the U.S. Army Air Forces was touring facilities in Britain when he was shown the Brits’ first jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor, which was undergoing its final tests.
A single copy of the cavity magnetron, a device that can create short microwaves, was sent to MIT in 1940 after it was delivered by British scientists on the Tizard mission. Overnight, this changed America’s understanding of radar. U.S. researchers had run into a dead end because they couldn’t find a way to produce short-enough energy waves.
The magnetron was the breakthrough they had been searching for, and MIT built the Radiation Laboratory to study the device and build new radar systems with the design. The new radar systems allowed planes to hunt down German submarines in the Atlantic, saving Allied convoys and allowing the U.S. to deliver men and equipment to the European theater.
4. Nuclear technology
That’s right. America’s most powerful weapons were made with Britain’s help. Nuclear fission was discovered in 1939 and scientists in both Britain and America recognized the possibility of a uranium bomb. But American scientists working before and during the war initially thought that isolating the necessary isotopes would either be impossible or impossibly expensive.
When the Army was deciding how the XM-1 tank would protect itself from Soviet anti-tank missiles and rounds, the British offered the U.S. their Chobham armor, a sandwich of steel and other metals that disrupt the movement of a projectile attempting to punch through it.
A modified version of Chobham armor was selected for what would become the M1 Abrams main battle tank. Chobham armor was also used in the British Challenger tank. Both armies got to prove the wisdom of ceramic armor in Desert Storm when Abrams and Challenger tanks were able to shrug off dozens of hits from RPGs and Iraqi tank guns.
Soon after America set off its largest-ever nuclear blast on Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, one of the scientists behind the weapon’s design aimed for something even bigger: a 10,000-megaton blast that would’ve been 670,000 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, so large it would’ve destroyed a continent and poisoned the earth.
But even while working on the atomic bomb during World War II, Teller and a few others were urging for a much larger “super bomb” than the first atomic weapons. They believed that, while the atomic bombs were aiming for about 10-15 kilotons of power, weapons that would boom at 10-15 megatons were possible.
Teller, on the other hand, wanted to think bigger.
The Castle Bravo test was the largest nuclear blast ever created by the U.S.
(U.S. Federal Government)
He proposed linking together multiple thermonuclear devices to create larger blasts. Slight permutations on this idea led to the U.S. CASTLE Bravo test with a 15-megaton yield—the largest America ever set off, and the Tsar Bomba display by Russia—the largest nuclear blast ever created by man at 50-megatons.
But at the Castle test series in 1954, while Teller and Ulam’s overall concept of thermonuclear devices was being proven over and over, the only individual bomb actually designed by Teller himself was a dud. It went off at only 110-kilotons, a tiny fraction of power compared to every other weapon tested in the series.
And Teller had a lot riding on success. The U.S. had split its nuclear efforts into two labs, adding Livermore National Laboratory to Los Alamos where the original atomic bombs had been created. Teller was one of the founders of Livermore, and his friends were helping run it. There were rumors that the government might stop funding Livermore efforts, effectively killing it.
So Teller went to the next meeting with the General Advisory Committee, where the nuclear scientists proposed new lines of effort and weapon designs, with two proposed ways forward for Livermore. He wanted the laboratory to look into tactical nuclear weapon designs on one hand, and to create a 10,000-megaton nuclear weapon on the other hand.
A 10,000 megaton weapon, by my estimation, would be powerful enough to set all of New England on fire. Or most of California. Or all of the UK and Ireland. Or all of France. Or all of Germany. Or both North and South Korea. And so on.
But that only accounts for the immediate overpressure wave and fireball. The lethal nuclear fallout would have immediately lethal levels of radiation across multiple countries, and likely would have poisoned the earth. We would show you what this looks like on NUKEMAP, but Wellerstein programmed it to “only” work with blasts up to 100 megatons, the largest bomb ever constructed. Teller’s weapon would have been 100 times as powerful.
The NUKEMAP application shows the damage from a 100-megaton blast on Moscow. The orange and yellow ovals going northeast are the fallout from the blast. While this may look safe for America, Teller’s proposed design would’ve been 100 times larger.
(NUKEMAP screenshot. Application by Alex Wellerstein)
When Teller went to the GAC with this proposal, they quickly threw cold water on it. What would be the point of such a weapon? It would be impossible to use the weapon without killing millions of civilians. Even if the bomb were dropped in the heart of the Soviet Union, it would poison vast swaths of Western Europe and potentially the U.S.
The GAC did endorse Livermore’s work on tactical nuclear weapons, and Teller eventually moved on to other passions. But the weapon is theoretically possible. But hopefully, no one can assemble a team sufficiently smart enough to design and manufacture the weapon that’s also stupid enough to build it.
After all, we already have nuclear arsenals large enough to destroy the world a few times over. Do we really need a single bomb that can do it?
(H/T to The Pentagon’s Brain, a book by Annie Jacobson where the author first learned about Teller’s proposal.)
US subs remain far better than their Chinese counterparts, but in a conflict, numbers, and geography may help China mitigate some of the US and its partners’ advantages.
Naval modernization is part of Beijing’s “growing emphasis on the maritime domain,” the US Defense Department said in its annual report on Chinese military power.
As operational demands on China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy have increased, subs have become a high priority — and one that could counter the US Navy’s mastery of the sea.
The force currently numbers 56 subs — four nuclear-powered missile subs, five nuclear-powered attack subs, and 47 diesel-powered attack subs — and is likely grow to between 69 and 78 subs by 2020, according to the Pentagon.
China has built 10 nuclear-powered subs over the past 15 years. Its four operational Jin-class missile boats “represent China’s first credible, seabased nuclear deterrent,” the Pentagon report said.
In most likely conflict scenarios, however, those nuclear-powered subs would have limited utility, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Budgetary and Strategic Assessments.
“They’re relatively loud, pretty easy to track, and don’t really have significant capability other than they can launch land-attack cruise missiles, and they don’t have very many of those,” Clark said. “They’re more of a kind of threat the Chinese might use to maybe do an attack on a … more distant target like Guam or Hawaii.”
The locations and composition of major Chinese naval units, according to the Pentagon.
(US Defense Department)
Conventionally powered subs are the “more important part of their submarine force,” Clark said, particularly ones that can launch anti-ship missiles and those that use air-independent propulsion, or AIP, which allows nonnuclear subs to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen, replacing or augmenting diesel-electric systems.
Since the mid-1990s, China has built 13 Song-class diesel-electric attack subs and bought 12 Russian-made Kilo-class subs — eight of which can fire anti-ship cruise missiles.
Kilos are conventional diesel subs, which means they need to surface periodically.
“Even with that, they’re a good, sturdy, reliable submarine that carries long-range anti-ship missiles,” Clark said. On a shorter operation where a Kilo-class sub “can avoid snorkeling, it could … sneak up on you with a long-range attack, so that’s a concern for the US.”
China has also built 17 Yuan-class diesel-electric, air-independent-powered attack subs over the past two decades, a total expected to rise to 20 by 2020, according to the Pentagon.
Then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus leaves the Chinese Yuan-class submarine Hai Jun Chang in Ningbo, November 29, 2012.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Sam Shavers)
“The Yuan AIP submarine is very good,” said Clark, a former US Navy submarine officer and strategist.
“For the duration of a deployment that it might normally take, which is two or three weeks, where it can stay on its AIP plant and never have to come up and snorkel, they’re very good,” Clark added. “That’s a big concern, I think, for US and Japanese policymakers.”
Yuan-class boats can threaten surface forces with both torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.
For US anti-submarine-warfare practitioners in the western Pacific, Clark said, “it’s the Yuan they generally point to as being their target of concern, because it does offer this ability to attack US ships and [is] hard to track and there may be few opportunities to engage it.”
Despite concerns China’s current diesel-electric subs inspire, they have liabilities.
A Chinese Yuan-class attack submarine.
(Congressional Research Service)
As quiet as they are, they are still not as quiet as a US nuclear-powered submarine operating in its quietest mode. They don’t have the same endurance as US subs and need to surface periodically. China’s sub crews also lack the depth of experience of their American counterparts.
“Chinese submarines are not … as good as the US submarines, by far,” Clark said.
China’s subs have made excursions into the Indian Ocean and done anti-piracy operations in waters off East Africa, but they mostly operate around the first island chain, which refers to major islands west of the East Asian mainland and encompasses the East and South China Seas.
Chinese subs also venture into the Philippine Sea, where they could strike at US ships, Clark said.
Much of the first island chain is within range of Chinese land-based planes and missiles, which are linchpins in Beijing’s anti-access/area denial strategy. It’s in that area where the US and its partners could see their advantages thwarted.
The approximate boundaries of the first and second island chains in the western Pacific.
(US Defense Department)
“Now the Chinese have the advantage of numbers, because they have a large number of submarines that can operate, and they’ve only got a small area in which they need to conduct operations,” Clark said.
China could “flood the zone” with subs good enough to “maybe overwhelm US and Japanese [anti-submarine warfare] capabilities.”
The anti-submarine-warfare capabilities of the US and its partners may also be constrained.
US subs would likely be tasked with a range of missions, like land attacks or surveillance, rather than focusing on attacking Chinese subs, leaving much of the submarine-hunting to surface and air forces — exposing them to Chinese planes and missiles.
“The stuff we use for ASW is the stuff that’s most vulnerable to the Chinese anti-access approach, and you’re doing it close proximity to China, so you could get stuck and not be able to engage their submarines before they get out,” Clark said.
Crew members demonstrate a P-8A Poseidon for Malaysian defense forces chief Gen. Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, April 21, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jay M. Chu)
Numbers and location also give China a potential edge in a “gray-zone” conflict, or a confrontation that stops short of open combat, for which US Navy leadership has said the service needs to prepare.
China’s subs present “a challenge [US officials] see as, ‘What if we get into one of these gray-zone confrontations with China, and China decides to start sortieing their submarines through the first island chain and get them out to open ocean a little bit so they’re harder to contain,'” Clark said.
“If we’re in a gray-zone situation, we can’t just shoot them, and we don’t necessarily have the capacity to track all of them, so now you’ve got these unlocated Yuans roaming around the Philippine Sea, then you may end up with a situation where if you decide to try to escalate, you’ve got worry about these Yuans and their ability to launch cruise missiles at your ships,” Clark added.
“As the home team, essentially, China’s got the ability to control the tempo and the intensity,” he said.
The US and its partners have already encountered such tactics.
Beijing often deploys its coast guard to enforce its expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea (which an international court has rejected) and has built artificial islands containing military outposts to bolster its position.
When those coast guard ships encounter US Navy ships, China points to the US as the aggressor.
In the waters off the Chinese coast and around those man-made islands, “they do a lot of that because they’re on their home turf and protected by their land-based missiles and sensors,” Clark said. “Because of that, they can sort of ramp [the intensity] up and ramp it down … as they desire.”
The circumstances of a potential conflict may give Chinese subs an edge, but it won’t change their technical capability, the shortcomings of which may be revealed in a protracted fight.
“Can the Chinese submarines — like the Yuans that have limited time on their AIP plants — can they do something before they start to run out of propellant, oxygen, and start having to snorkel?” Clark said.
“So there’s a little bit of a time dimension to it,” he added. “If the US and Japan can wait out the Chinese, then their Yuans have to start snorkeling or pulling into port … that might make them more vulnerable.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Whether you’re on a small FOB — let’s face it, most airmen won’t be here — or a military base, Afghanistan deployments can either be the most boring or a little bit exciting, depending on how you play your cards. Okay, fine — it’s going to be a little boring no matter what.
Yes, deployments are most often filled with binge-watching TV on time off or working out multiple times a day, but these are some tips that can make time in the sandbox a little more exciting.
That is, if you can get away with them and not get an Article 15 or court-martial.
4. Alcohol in mouthwash bottles.
Everyone knows that drinking while deployed is against general orders — meaning this you could get in heaps of trouble if you’re dumb and get sh*t-faced. Tip: Don’t be dumb.
It’s easy to get alcohol into Afghanistan if you utilize everyday items to smuggle it in and send it through regular mail. Just don’t go around swigging out of the mouthwash bottle or else someone is going to figure out what’s up.
And if you’re going to share, make sure the ones you share with don’t f*ck it up by opening their mouths to supervisors.
3. Befriend a loadmaster.
Okay, okay — this might only work if you have access to a loadmaster or if you work near the flightline, but networking saves the day in dire times.
Make friends with a loadmaster — or heck, even a pilot — and they’ll willingly bring you back anything you want from wherever they go, probably for a price. Obviously, you’ll pay the price of whatever they bring back, but you might find yourself owing them a favor later (No, not that kind of favor, sicko. Just be willing to help them when they need it).
2. Hang with the foreign military.
Any chance you can spend time with military personnel from different countries, do it. New Zealand is particularly delightful because they can drink on deployment and their accents are easy on the ears (ladies).
Besides the allure of alcohol and the accents, getting to know others from other countries just opens up new lines of communication, and meeting people kills time. You might also end up with some cool challenge-coin swag and squadron T-shirts by the end of deployment.
1. Last Resort: O’Doul’s at the BX and binge watch TV shows.
If you’re not daring enough to do any of the above for fear of a court-martial or an Article 15, stick with a couple of O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beers and watch movies on your laptop or smartphone. The Air Force Exchanges are notorious for selling almost anything you can get at a Walmart, so go wild, go crazy, and buy some fake beer.
It might sound boring and pointless, but at least there are no general orders being broken. So, airman, crack open that O’Doul’s and re-watch Dexter for the third time, because that might be as good as it’s going to get.
President Donald Trump’s relationship with Europe has been characterized by him attacking NATO for what he perceives as failures to meet the defense-spending goals alliance members have agreed to work toward.
At the end of July, prominent German political scientist Christian Hacke wrote an essay in Welt am Sonntag, one of the country’s largest Sunday newspapers, arguing Germany needed to respond to uncertainty about US commitment to defending European allies by developing its own nuclear capability.
“For the first time since 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany is no longer under the U.S.’s nuclear umbrella,” Hacke argued, according to Politico Europe.
“National defense on the basis of a nuclear deterrent must be given priority in light of new transatlantic uncertainties and potential confrontations,” Hacke said. Divergent interests among Germany’s neighbors made the prospect of a joint European response “illusory,” he added.
Hacke is not the first in Germany to suggest longstanding ties with the US have fundamentally changed.
In June, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Europeans “need a balanced partnership with the US … where we as Europeans act as a conscious counterweight when the US oversteps red lines.” Maas compared Trump’s “America First” policies to the policies of Russia and China.
While concern about Trump is very real, Germany is treaty-bound not to develop nuclear weapons, and discussions of doing so are seen as little more than talk.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas
(Sandro Halank, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0)
“Germany developing nuclear military capability, a nuclear weapon, a nuclear deterrent, will never be in the cards ever,” said Jim Townsend, an adjunct senior fellow in the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.
“Things nuclear are always hot in Germany,” said Townsend, who spent eight years as US deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy. “This is not something that’s going to change and all of a sudden the Germans are going to think seriously about developing a nuclear capability. That’s just not going to happen.”
Others in Germany were also dismissive.
Journalist and defense expert Christian Thiels described the discussion as “a totally phony debate” and referred to Hacke’s argument as a “very individual opinion.” The same question was discussed “by very few think-tankers media people one year ago,” he added, “to zero effect.”
Wolfgang Ischinger, head of the Munich Security Conference and a former German ambassador to the US, argued that Germany’s pursuit of nuclear weapons would set an undesirable precedent.
“If Germany was to relinquish its status as a non-nuclear power, what would prevent Turkey or Poland, for example, from following suit?” he wrote in a response to Hacke. “Germany as the gravedigger of the international non-proliferation regime? Who can want that?”
German plans to phase out nuclear energy likely preclude the development of nuclear weapons, Townsend said, and, as noted by Marcel Dirsus, a political scientist at the University of Kiel in Germany, politicians who can’t convince Germans to support spending 2% of GDP on defense are unlikely to win backing for nuclear weapons.
This is not the first round of this debate.
Not long after Trump’s election, European officials — including a German lawmaker who was foreign-policy spokesman for the governing party — suggested French and British nuclear arsenals could be repurposed to defend the rest of the continent under a joint command with common funding or defense doctrine.
In mid-2017, a review commissioned by Germany’s parliament found Berlin could legally finance another European country’s nuclear weapons in return for protection.
There have been suggestions that “what Europe should do is depend on the French, the French nuclear capability, and the Germans pay into that and thereby kind of fall under the French nuclear umbrella,” Townsend said.
“Well, that’s not going to happen either,” he added. “As cool as it sounds for a think-tank discussion, in reality the French would never do that.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has advocated closer defense cooperation between France and Germany, but Paris has in the past expressed reservations about ceding control of its nuclear weapons. (The UK’s plans to exit the EU complicate its role in any such plan.)
Townsend said the debate was unnecessary, given that its premise — the loss of US nuclear deterrence — was unfounded.
“Trump notwithstanding, the US nuclear guarantee is not going anywhere,” he said. “No matter where we might be domestically as we talk about Europe or as we talk about NATO, we’re not going. Our nuclear guarantee is going to be there.”
But Trump has changed the way Europe thinks about its defense. Some welcome discussion of Germany acquiring nuclear capability, even if they don’t support it.
Ulrich Speck, senior visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, said on Twitter that while he didn’t favor “Germany becoming a nuclear state,” he did believe “there is a debate looming with the many question marks over the US with Trump, and that it’s better to have the debate. Germany needs to think through nuclear deterrence.”
“It’s crucial for Germany and Europe that we have a strategic debate,” Ulrike Franke, an analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Politico Europe. “What Germany is slowly realizing is that the general structure of the European security system is not prepared for the future.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.