A few World War II movies feature incredible scenes of troops — usually soldiers or Marines — fighting tooth and nail against an enemy until they’ve expended most of their ammo, all of their grenades, and are stuck in their final defensive position.
That’s when someone does something crazy and starts throwing mortar rounds at the oncoming onslaught. The huge bursts of shrapnel wipe out groups of the enemy forces, breaking up the attack and allowing the heroes to emerge victorious.
Skip ahead to 0:28 in this clip to see this happen:
But most mortar rounds in World War II could be thrown this way. It was just incredibly dangerous and rarely done.
While new proximity fuzes — those which detonate a specified distance from the surface — were developed during World War II, most mortar rounds carried impact fuzes that used the physical force of the mortar striking a rock or something to trigger the charge.
So weapon designers made fuzes that were very sensitive. To prevent the fuzes from exploding prematurely, designers incorporated impact fuzes with a two-step arming process. This meant a safety pin had to be removed followed by a sudden force such as the propellant exploding to fire the round from the tube.
For soldiers looking to use these mortar rounds as a grenade, they had to remove the safety pin and slam the tail of the mortar round against something solid to simulate the force of the weapon firing. After that, the round would explode from any sudden force applied to the fuze.
This method of triggering, combined with the greater explosive force of a mortar, made them way more deadly than grenades.
Most grenades work using a timer, meaning that a soldier throws it and hopes that the enemy can’t grab the weapon and throw it back before it detonates.
But a hand-thrown mortar round will usually explode as soon as it hits the ground or a solid object, making it nearly impossible to throw back.
At least two soldiers used this to their advantage in World War II. Technical Sgt. Beauford T. Anderson threw mortar rounds to drive off a Japanese attack on Okinawa, and Cpl. Charles E. Kelly used mortar ammunition during his final defense of a storehouse being overwhelmed by the Germans in Italy.
This procedure comes with high risks. A round that falls short of the intended throw will almost certainly go off, potentially killing friendly troops and the thrower, and a round that is dropped after arming could go off, killing the operators. Still, for a happy few, the risk was worth the reward.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
An MV-22 Osprey takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).
MARINETTE, Wis., (July 18, 2015) The littoral combat ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Little Rock (LCS 9) is launched into the Menominee River in Marinette, Wisc. after a christening ceremony at the Marinette Marine Corporation shipyard.
Lance Cpl. David Sellers, a refrigeration mechanic with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, embraces his wife with a kiss during the Command Element’s homecoming at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
I SAW You
A Marine with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines provides cover for fellow Marines moving between buildings during a military operations in urban terrain training event aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C.
SOUTHWEST, Asia – U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Zachary Claus and Lance Cpl. Luis Alvarez, avionics technicians with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron – 165 (VMM – 165), Special Purpose Marine Air – Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, take multimeter readings from the engine of an MV–22 Osprey.
Marines assigned to 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, and an Army instructor assigned to U.S. Army Alaska‘s Northern Warfare Training Center, conduct military alpine operations, at Black Rapids Training Site and Gulkana Glacier.
A soldier, assigned to the Georgia National Guard, fires a Mark 19 40-mm grenade machine gun from a Humvee during mounted weapons qualification, part of the unit’s annual training, at Fort Stewart, Ga., July 21, 2015.
The Thunderbirds Delta Formation flies over Niagara Falls, N.Y., July 20, 2015.
Five members of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation behind a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to McConnell Air Force Base, Kan, July 23, 2015. The Thunderbirds are the Air Force’s premier air demonstration team and perform at different events across the country every year.
Line handlers from the Coast Guard Cutter Spencer moor the Coast Guard Barque Eagle in Boston, Thursday, July 23, 2015. The Eagle was operated by the pre-World War II German navy and taken as a war reparation by the U.S., is now a training ship where cadets and officer candidates learn leadership and practical seamanship skills.
The Coast Guard Barque Eagle is in Boston Harbor, Thursday, July 23, 2015. The Eagle, operated by the pre-World War II German navy and taken as a war reparation by the U.S., is now a training ship where cadets and officer candidates learn leadership and practical seamanship skills.
Let’s face it, the military has a lot of rules and regulations that they expect everyone to follow to the letter. For the most part, service members abide by the guidelines their commands set for them, though there are some that push the boundaries any chance they get.
Even the most squared away troop has violated a military statute at one time or another because many of them are bull sh*t less important to the mission than others.
Check out our list of regulations that service members violate every day.
1. Hands in pockets
As crazy as it sounds, having your hands stuffed inside your warm pockets on a cold day isn’t allowed; it’s the military way — but we still do it.
A consensual adult relationship between officers and enlisted members totally violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but it’s a lot of fun to brag about after you get out.
Sleeping with someone who isn’t your spouse is just a d*ck move. But just because it’s not cool doesn’t mean it never happens.
4. Wearing white socks
Although they’re more comfortable than wearing black socks with combat boots, don’t let the higher-ups see you sporting the out-of-reg look.
Most service members prefer the term “hardcore training” — but for those enduring the tough discipline, it’s seen it as a negative thing.
The Quantico Marine Corps Band Performed at Times Square with more than 1,000 high school student for the Band of Prde Tribute Concert on November 10, 2014. The bands drew crowds of people who stood by, rendered salutes, took photos and video recorded lasting memories.
The Marine Corps is one of the most prestigious branches of the U.S. military. They have earned honors and recognition through many important and dangerous missions. Yet, one would not readily associate a career as a professional musician and the Marine uniform. One would be wrong.
The Marine Band is the oldest professional musical organization in the United States. They have played at every single United States presidential inauguration since 1801 when Thomas Jefferson personally asked them to perform at his. They have also performed at many official ceremonies and events at the White House throughout the years. Due to their special connection with the POTUS, the Marine Band is known as the “President’s Own.”
However, that connection comes with an obligation for exacting musical standards. The Marine Band plays hundreds of occasions, all around the world. Every single one of these performances must be flawless, to meet the standard of excellence expected from the entirety of the Marine Corps.
The search for perfection starts at auditions. Candidates are not required to have any specific level of education. However, a lot of them have at least a college degree. Due to the number and variety of performances given by the Marine Band, candidates must be very versatile to be able to play in a wide range of music styles, such as orchestra, marching band, jazz group, ceremonial, rock band, etc. The auditions have three steps: prepared material, theoretical knowledge of music and finally, sight-reading, which counts for half of the final. These auditions are blind, to avoid any bias.
In addition to musical skills, candidates are also expected to meet high mental, moral and fitness standards, as is expected of any Marine. Finally, they must pass an extensive background check. Their proximity to the White House requires them to obtain a Secret security clearance. The Marine Band is a very exclusive club as, out of approximately 180,000 Marines, only 600 of them are musicians.
Training and education
Once a candidate is selected, he or she must sign a four-year contract with the U.S. Marine Corps. However, their duty is exclusive to the Band. They cannot be transferred to any other unit. They must also undergo six months of extra schooling at the School of Music in Virginia Beach. In these six months, the musicians will have to complete the equivalent of an associate degree. It is not for the faint of heart.
It might be surprising for musicians to be also asked to go through boot camp. However, it allows for reinforcement of the concepts of discipline, synchronicity and leadership. It teaches them to have pride in their uniform and the Corps. Marines are warriors first and foremost and musicians are basically trained Marines.
Depending on their specialty and the available positions, musicians can be sent to eight different bases around the continental United States. This includes Hawaii and Japan. Like all programs in the Marine Corps, the Marine Band only selects the very best to wear their uniform and perform their duties.
Life in the band
However, the musicians who succeed in joining the band can make a comfortable living from their music, to travel the world, to play on stage in front of heads of state and large crowds, and to serve in an honored Corps that will give them lifelong friends, moral values and a great sense of accomplishment. There are very few musicians who can boast such opportunities and experiences.
With over 700 performances around the world every year, including about 200 of those at the White House, the Marine Corps Band is really a musician’s dream come true.
Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Sarah Luna/Released
Secretary of Defense James Mattis can only raise troop numbers in Afghanistan by approximately 3,900 before having to further consult the the White House, a memo obtained July 6 by The Wall Street Journal revealed.
The memo casts further light on President Donald Trump’s June 2017 decision to allow Mattis to set troop levels in Afghanistan. The decision follows months of deliberations by the White House on the Trump administration’s path forward in Afghanistan.
Mattis is reportedly mulling sending his maximum allotted number of 4,000 more troops, but has publicly insisted that any troop increases will be paired with a broader political strategy to force reconciliation with the Taliban movement, saying “we’re not looking at a purely military strategy.” Reconciliation would entail the Taliban dropping their armed insurrection against the Afghan government and joining the political process.
“We’re talking now about putting what we call NATO air support, down at the brigade level, so when they are in contact, the high ground is now going to be owned by the Afghans. It’s a fundamental change to how we bring our … real superiority in terms of air support to help them. In other words, we’re not talking about putting our troops on the front line,” Mattis explained in mid-June regarding forthcoming changes to the Afghan review.
Both CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel and US Forces Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson have said that they need a few thousand more troops to more effectively train, advise, and assist the Afghan forces. Nicholson indicated before Congress that more troops would allow him to deploy troops closer to the front lines, and embed advisors at lower levels of the chain of command within the Afghan forces.
Mattis is expected to bring his final proposal for the way forward in Afghanistan in mid-July. In the meantime, the US effort in Afghanistan is not going well. The Afghan National Security Forces are beset by corruption and suffering devastating losses, and it is unclear what additional advisors can realistically do to turn the army into an autonomous fighting force.
The US Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction noted in late April that the security force’s casualties continue to be “shockingly high.” The report highlighted that 807 Afghan troops were killed in just the first six weeks of 2017, and that nearly 35 percent of the force chooses not to re-enlist each year.
TNT’s “The Last Ship” was a surprise hit last year, earning the loyalty of civilians and service members alike with a mix of great characters, intriguing plots, and technical accuracy. The last element, of course, is the one that always seems to trip up the military crowd because Hollywood is notorious for taking creative license with technical details and plot lines in the pursuit of “entertainment.” And while “The Last Ship” is no “Das Boot,” the series does pride itself on accuracy.
To whatever degree TNT’s “The Last Ship” is able to “get it right” real Navy-wise, veteran actor Eric Dane, who plays Commander Tom Chandler, the commanding officer of the USS Nathan James (DDG 151), credits the close working relationship between the show’s writers and the Navy officials in LA and at the Pentagon who are charged with making sure the sea service is well and accurately represented.
“There is no tension between the two camps,” Dane said from the podium in the Pentagon’s press briefing room. “If the Navy doesn’t like something we change it.”
That sort of cooperation is unusual if not unprecedented. Hollywood is motivated by commercial success, the thing that keeps the lights on around Century City and Burbank. The Department of Defense has other goals in mind.
“We judge the efforts we’ll support by two main criteria,” said Phil Strub, DoD’s director of entertainment media. “Whether they’ll paint the U.S. military in a fair light, and whether they’ll help recruiting.”
The tension between those two motivations historically has been an issue in that Hollywood has a tendency to find technical accuracy superfluous and boring and the Pentagon finds Hollywood’s fictions insulting. However in recent months that tension has seemed to mitigate in the face of commercial success like that of “American Sniper,” a movie that prides itself on accuracy and, more so, presenting military service in a more honest, apolitical, light.
“The goal of ‘The Last Ship’ is to show what the Navy does each and every day,” Dane said. “It’s my honor to go to the set and put on my blue digi-cams and play Commander Tom Chandler.”
Dane also allowed that – even in an era of computer-generated imagery – “The Last Ship” needs the U.S. Navy to succeed. “We need a real destroyer,” he said.
Beyond the hardware there are myriad details to nail down. “I thought the medical world had a lot of acronyms and jargon,” Dane said, referring to his popular role as Dr. Mark ‘McSteamy’ Sloan in the hit TV show ‘Grey’s Anatomy. “The military has a lot more.”
“The Last Ship” has been popular enough to earn a second season, which is scheduled to air on TNT in June.
Dane’s recent visit to the Pentagon was to thank the DoD public affairs officials for their work that has informed the show’s success. He was also there to announce that he is throwing his celebrity weight behind the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), the national organization for all of those grieving the loss of a fallen service member.
Dane knows how it feels to lose a family member to military service. When he was seven his father was killed while serving in the Navy.
“I lost my military dad at a very young age,” Dane said. “Dealing with that loss has been a very big part of my life.”
“TAPS has been blessed with an effective network over the years, including the voices of Hollywood,” director and founder Bonnie Carroll said. “We’re very happy to be connected with Eric Dane who takes his role as Commander Tom Chandler very seriously. He portrays the Navy in the absolute best light.”
“Bonnie has been there for over 13 years,” said Rene Carbone Bardorf, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Community and Public Outreach. “When the funerals for the fallen are over and life stands still for the survivors TAPS has been very effective in giving them a sense of purpose and helping them make it though. Eric’s involvement is a great example of that. We are all a part of one military family, that one percent.”
Both Carroll and Dane admitted they haven’t quite figured out what form the actor’s support of TAPS will take, but if his impact with the crowd in the Pentagon’s briefing room was any indication, it will be effective whatever it is.
The awards that decorate a troop’s dress uniform have meaning. If a troop does something extraordinary, there are plenty of awards they might earn, depending on the specific heroics. There are medals for more mundane actions, as well. If they serve at a specific location, like going overseas or even to Antarctica, in support of a military campaign, they’re likely to earn a medal. Enlisting at a certain time during conflict adds the National Defense Service Medal to your ribbons rack. However, there’s one award that sticks out as ridiculous — the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal (MOVSM).
All that’s required by this medal is that a troop (active duty, reserve, or national guard) performs a substantial volunteer service to the local community. The idea behind establishing the award in 1993 was to incentivize troops to do great deeds that would reflect highly on military service. In reality, it’s often seen as just another box to check.
We’re not disparaging charitable action, especially when it shines a good light on military service, but here’s why the award itself is silly.
5. The Humanitarian Service Medal already exists
The Humanitarian Service Medal is given to troops who participate in acts like disaster relief or the evacuation of refugees from a hostile area. The difference between this medal and the MOVSM is that this one is earned while on duty.
The HSM goes to the troops who were sent, let’s say, to New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The MOVSM, however, might go to the troop who helped put together a few potluck dinners. Both are the reward for doing a good deed but, according to the military, both nearly as prestigious as the other…
…which leads troops to not care about helping. (Image via GIPHY)
4. The criteria for earning one is vague
Every other award has clean-cut requirements. Have you been to this location or not? How does this act of heroism compare to other selfless acts? Were you able to be a good troop for three years or at least not get caught? This medal is an exception.
If a troop spends every weekend for a decade helping train the Boy Scouts, that’s a Volunteer Service Medal. If a troop says, “yeah, I got time. I can help you with that.” That act might be just as worthy, according to the nebulous criteria.
3. Standards range from impossible to non-existent
Many units see this award as ridiculous and put unreasonable restrictions on it. According to Army Regulation 600-8-22, to earn the MOVSM, one must exceed 3 years and/or 500 hours of service. Many times, a unit will ask for a proof-of-hours sheet that highlights how each of those hours was spent.
On the other side of the coin, the only definitive requirement — as outlined by the DoD — is that the good deed has tangible results and is not a single act. Many troops can tell you that they’ve earned this act simply by preparing and then attending a charity event. Boom. Instant award. Meanwhile, the Soldier who became his son’s Scout Leader has two years, 11 months, and three weeks to go to earn the same accolade.
Chances are that it’ll still get denied. (Image via GIPHY)
2. There’s no citation
The Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal is still a service medal. The award gets put in and, if it’s approved, the troop receives it. A commendation medal, on the other hand, is reflective of a specific, heroic action.
Technically speaking, there doesn’t need to be a formation and award ceremony for a MOVSM. The troop should just add it to their record and move on.
No need to waste everyone’s time with a BS award. (Image via GIPHY)
1. You can do the paperwork yourself and not need proof
By now, you’re probably already thinking about this point. If all that’s required is an hours sheet, how can you make sure a troop actually did what they claim? You can’t, really.
Troops who make a habit of volunteering, time and time again, over the course of three years are clearly not doing it for a single award worth five promotion points. They genuinely care. The guy who put on a couple of community potlucks doesn’t care about the volunteer service — they’re in it for the pat on the back.
Without a uniform standard on how to earn one, the award means almost nothing.
You don’t need to confess. Just know if you lied to get one, you suck. (Image via GIPHY)
Ever since the F-35 Lighting II program started experiencing cost overruns – a nice way of saying it was hemorrhaging cash – much has been made of its excessive cost in both time and money. But the F-35 is hardly the most expensive Pentagon weapons system in the history of the Big Green Machine, it’s just that the F-35 is the first one to get the scrutiny that an internet-gifted public can give a Pentagon weapons program.
With the B-21 Raider bomber coming into production soon, it might be a good idea to look back and see the most expensive airframes ever created by the U.S. Air Force. For reference, although the development of the F-35 topped $1.5 trillion, the cost per plane is a relatively minuscule $115 million.
The only caveat to this list are the Presidential planes, commonly referred to as Air Force One. Each of those cost $600 million apiece and would sit at number two on this list, but since they’re a specialty item with only two models in service I opted to make room for others.
Northrop Grumman’s tactical airborne early warning airframe has been in service since the Navy of the 1960s. An upgraded version, the Advanced Hawkeye, flies with the same mission but upgraded avionics, comms, and sensors. This advanced version comes with an advanced price tag, 2 million apiece.
The Kestrel is the only helicopter on this list and is actually no longer in service. At 1 million apiece, it was intended to replace the Marines’ Marine One helicopter for moving the President around (among other missions), but the cost of developing it ballooned out of control quickly and the program was canceled. The models were all sold to Canada for spare parts.
This anti-submarine aircraft is just ten years old and comes with the capability to support early warning systems and surface warfare as well. It can even defend itself in air combat when necessary. All those bells and whistles come at a price though – 6 million.
C-17 Globemaster III
The Globemaster III is Boeing’s air cargo masterpiece. At almost 25 years old, there is no more reliable and maintenance friendly airframe in the Air Force that is also capable of the kind of heavy lifting the U.S. military asks of it. Over the course of its life, a single C-17 will run upwards of 8 million.
Second only in technological advancement to its younger sibling, the F-35, the F-22 Raptor still manages to edge the Lightning II out in many areas, including price tag. At 0 million per aircraft, its radar cross section is that of a steel marble. The F-22 didn’t really need to go out of production (some will even argue the U.S. should restart the program), it’s just that the F-35 is a more versatile, fifth-generation fighter.
At the time of its production, it was estimated to cost 7 million apiece, which would already have made it the most expensive aircraft ever built. But tacking on its much-needed upgrades and refits less than a decade later puts the per unit cost of a B-2 bomber at a whopping .1 billion each.
The Battle of Belleau Wood holds an important place in Marine Corps lore – alongside Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Hue City and Fallujah. During that battle, a brigade of Marines was part of a two-division American force that helped turn back a German assault involving elements of five divisions.
But how would a modern Marine brigade handle that battle?
The Marine Expeditionary Brigade of today is an immensely powerful force, with a reinforced regiment of Marine infantry, a Marine air group, and loads of combat support elements. This is usually a total of 14,500 Marines all-included. Don’t forget – every Marine is a rifleman, but the ones who do other jobs will really leave a mark on the Germans.
How will the gear of the MEB stack up to those of the Germans? Well, in terms of the infantry rifle, there are two very different animals. The Marines will use the M16A4, firing a 5.56mm NATO round that has an effective range of 550 meters. The Germans have the famous Gewehr 98, with a range of 500 meters. More importantly, the M16A4 is a select-fire assault rifle, while the Gewehr 98 is a bolt-action rifle.
In other words, the individual Marine has the individual German outgunned. Furthermore, with optics, the Marines are going to have much more accuracy in addition to a much higher rate of fire.
For the Germans, it gets worse when one looks at other gear the modern Marine brigade has available. In a given fire team, there are two M16A4s, a M249 SAW or M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, and a M16A4 with a M203 grenade launcher. The MG08 may have an edge over the M240 that a Marine company might bring into the fight, but where the Germans will really get chewed up is when they try to attack a MEB’s 18 M2 heavy machine guns and 18 Mk 19 automatic grenade launchers.
As the Germans break themselves on the Marine defenses, the Marine counter-attack will be devastating. M777 Howitzers will fire Copperhead and Excalibur guided projectiles to guarantee hits on German strong points. Marine M224 60mm mortars and M252 81mm mortars will add to the bombardment, and can also lay smoke.
Furthermore, Marine brigades will attack at night. The Germans do not have night-vision goggles or even IR viewers. The Marines do. The Marines will also be able to use AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicles, LAV-25 light armored vehicles, and M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks to provide direct support. The BGM-71 TOW and FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles the brigade have will also help decimate German fortifications.
We’re not even touching what the air component of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade, three squadrons of AV-8B+ Harriers and two of F/A-18s, plus assorted helicopters, would be capable of doing. Let’s just say that Joint Direct Attack Munitions on fortifications and cluster bombs on infantry in the open would be a decisive advantage for the MEB.
The Battle of Belleau Wood lasted for 26 days in June 1918 — nearly a month of vicious combat that left 1,811 Americans dead. A modern Marine brigade would likely win this battle in about 26 hours, and they’d suffer far fewer casualties doing so.
Bring it in, take a knee, drink some water. You need to read this before you start popping that little can and getting a pinch — there’s a recall on Copenhagen, Skoal and Husky, which sucks, we know, but might save you some additional mouth pain.
It’s one thing to mix MRE instant coffee or Rip It powder in with your dip. But potentially mixing shrapnel in is quite another.
Since four to five times as many military members use smokeless tobacco as their civilian counterparts (and given an average DoD expenditure of more than $1.6 billion per year on tobacco-related medical care), we reckon this is a warning that oughta get out there.
The recall comes from the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., a subsidiary of Altria Group Inc. It’s a voluntary recall, applying to all products coming out of its Franklin Park facility in Illinois. Among them are a number of the company’s most popular products, including Cope Long Cut Straight (overseas military only), Skoal Long Cut Wintergreen (overseas military only) and about three dozen other flavors.
According to Altria…
“USSTC initiated the recall after receiving eight consumer complaints of foreign metal objects, including sharp metal objects, found in select cans. In each case, the object was visible to the consumer and there have been no reports of consumer injury. Complaints have been received from consumers in Indiana, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Ohio.”
The FDA is apparently aware of the complaints and the voluntary recall and is investigating.
Chances are if you’ve ever served, you’ve either used “smokeless tobacco” — i.e. snuff — or worked alongside or deployed with someone who has. Its use is ubiquitous, in both line and support units. The Millenium Cohort Study of 2012 made the relationship between combat and smokeless tobacco use very clear.
Overall, troops who were deployed but did not see combat were almost one-third more likely to take up a smokeless tobacco habit than their non-deployed counterparts. Those odds were two-thirds to three-quarters higher for troops who were in combat or who deployed multiple times.
DoD wide tobacco use in the military has declined since an Iraq War high, but it’s still far higher than the general civilian population and continues despite numerous measures taken discourage or even forbid it. Such regs as AFI 40–102, SECNAV 5100.13E, Army Regulation 600-63, and numerous local regulations like the one below for gyrenes are in place, but their impact is fairly anemic.
(5) Use of smokeless tobacco is prohibited during briefings, meetings, classes, formations, inspections, and while on watch. (6) The expectoration of smokeless tobacco waste is confined to heads within government buildings aboard this installation. The expectoration of smokeless tobacco waste within or from government vehicles is not permitted.
The reasons for that are many, and doubtless require little articulation here…stress relief, boredom, a boost to stay awake during long hours and night operations are the most often cited.
As long as assorted chumps are shooting at us in faraway places, that’s not likely to change either.
PARIS — U.S. allies are happy to have the A-10 Warthog attack aircraft back in Europe to counter a resurgent Russia, airmen here at the Paris Air Show said.
The Defense Department brought the Cold War-era tank busters stateside in 2013 as part of a consolidation of bases and equipment in Europe. But it sent them back to the continent as part of a theater security package earlier this year — including countries in the former Soviet bloc — in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and support for pro-Russian separatists.
The planes have been a welcome sight during training exercises involving NATO forces in the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia and Romania, among other countries, according to crew members.
“It’s pretty amazing because that’s what this jet was designed for — Russian tanks — so it’s pretty wild that we’re helping them out for the original cause,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Marcus Nugent, a crew member who works on the aircraft’s avionics systems, said on Tuesday at the Paris Air Show, held at the historic Le Bourget airfield outside the city.
“They’re small countries, they’re small forces, so seeing us out there with them,” he added. “They love it just as much as we love it — maybe a little more — so it’s pretty awesome. The way Russia’s been acting — it keeps people at ease on both sides.”
Tech. Sgt. Teddy McCollough, an A-10 weapons maintainer with the 355th Air Force Maintenance Squadron, agreed. “They absolutely love our presence there,” he said. “You can feel how gracious they are for us being there.”
About 300 airmen and 12 A-10s with the 355th Fighter Wing in February departedDavis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona for Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany as part of a security theater package. The Air Force also deployed 12 F-15Es in March in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The units have traveled across Europe taking part in a wide range of exercises and working with NATO partners. U.S Air Forces in Europe Commander Gen. Frank Gorenc said Monday at the Paris Air Show that the additional airmen and aircraft have helped reassure our NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression.
A-10 pilots Capts. Joseph Morrin and Paul Wruck with the 354th Fighter Squadron said they have benefited from the time training with joint terminal air controllers from across NATO on calling in airstrikes.
“We get to do close air support training with our allies and get to see how they do business and show them how we do business, and all of us together as an overall CAS team get better,” Morrin said.
“I would say the biggest threat on my mind is what’s happening with Russia and the activities of Russia, and indeed that’s a big part of why I’m here in Europe and having those discussions,” she said. “It’s extremely worrisome on what’s going on in the Ukraine. We’ve seen the type of warfare, which someone dubbed it hybrid warfare, which is somewhat new. So I would put that at the top of my list.”
The A-10 is known as the pre-eminent close air support aircraft in the U.S. fleet with its low, slow-flying gunship’s snub-nose packed with a seven-barrel GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun that fires 30mm rounds designed to shred the armor on tanks, combat vehicles and other targets.
“I love this aircraft,” he said. “I love the gun system. It’s reliable. It has few hiccups. When it does, it’s usually minor. It holds a lot of rounds, 1,150 rounds — that’s a lot. It’s a beast.” He added, “When they go and fly day-to-day missions, they usually do shoot, do some target practice. I just make sure it’s clean, lubed up and ready to go.”
The Air Force has proposed retiring its fleet of almost 300 Warthogs by 2019 to save an estimated $4.2 billion a year and free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a stealthy multi-role fighter jet and the Pentagon’s most expensive acquisition program.
Congress rejected the service’s request to begin the process of divesting the A-10 this year and approved $337 million in funding to keep them in the inventory. While lawmakers did allow the Air Force to move up to three dozen of the planes to back-up status, they blocked the service from sending any to the bone yard in Arizona.
Morrin said his unit tries not to get caught up in the debate and the politics surrounding the issue.
“We let them do the debating and we keep flying,” he said.
Morrin explained that the A-10 pilot community is still not sure what the potential retirement of the A-10 would mean for their careers. A-10 pilots have not been told what aircraft they would fly next, but there is hope that many would fly the F-35, Morrin said.
“We might have to go back to flight training for a while. We just really don’t know,” Morrin said. “They haven’t told us because it’s not official yet. It’s sort of the expectation though that since the F-35 is the future that we’d go there and then take our CAS knowledge to the table and make sure that community is well versed in it.”
As the Air Force pushes to retire its fleet of A-10 attack aircraft, Boeing Co. doesn’t want the planes to waste away in the Arizona bone yard — it wants to sell them abroad.
The company has begun discussions with the service about potentially selling the Cold War-era gunship to U.S. allies, according to Chris Raymond, a vice president at the company.
“We need to see what they want to do first, and then we’d certainly want to try to help market some of those around the world, if they choose to want to do that,” he said.