Photo by Sgt. Christopher Stewart 7th Army Training Command
More than a million service members had an increase in their September mid-month pay because of the payroll tax deferral program set forth by President Trump. The presidential memorandum directs employers to stop withholding payroll tax until the end of the year to “support working Americans during these challenging times.”
While most civilian companies have declined to implement this directive, the federal government has given service members and civilian employees who make less than $4,000 biweekly or less than $104,000 annually no way to opt-out.
So how does this affect you and your family?
Six things military families might want to consider with the new payroll tax deferral
You will see a boost in pay – but there’s a BIG catch.
For those who are eligible, pay will go up 6.2 percent, which is the amount of payroll tax that is normally paid on wages. This raise in pay will continue through December 31, 2020.
The potential pitfall will come in the new year, between January and April 2021, which is when the taxes that are currently being deferred are slated to be paid back, possibly by taking out twice the normal payroll tax amount each pay period.
The payback will come at a particularly bad time, since most families struggle in the first few months of the new year, while holiday spending bills come due and they wait for their tax refunds.
Do you invest in the TSP, an IRA, or a 529? You may get a nasty surprise in January
While I am a big proponent of automatic investing through payroll deduction or bank transfer since it allows you to “set it and forget it,” this is one instance where a good savings habit could potentially trip you up.
But service members (and their bank accounts!) may be in for a shock if they have their “usual” contributions to the TSP and other investments withdrawn from their pay in January and then have the additional payroll tax deducted as well.
The annual pay raise may offset some of the pain, but it’s not confirmed yet
The proposed defense authorization bill would give service members a 3 percent pay increase in 2021, so this could help ease the pain of paying back extra payroll taxes next year. However, the final bill has not yet been passed by Congress.
Adjusting withholding doesn’t help.
There has been some talk on the internet about adjusting withholding taxes to somehow make up for the payroll tax. This is not a great solution, since the two taxes are not the same. If you increase your withholding, that’s going toward your future income tax bill, not payroll taxes, so it won’t offset January’s tax payback.
If you overpay in withholding tax, you will have to wait until you file income taxes to recoup it.
Save the extra, and save yourself some pain next January
The easiest way to make sure that repaying the deferred payroll tax isn’t a painful experience is to set the extra money aside. The DFAS website says that military members can estimate their payroll tax by taking their monthly base pay and multiplying it by .062 and repeating that process for the four months that the tax is deferred, September through December.
This money can then be saved in a separate, yet easily accessible account. Unfortunately, interest rates are currently very low, so you won’t earn very much interest in such a short time, but at least the money will be available early next year, when it’s due to be repaid.
Getting out? You still have to pay it back
Retired pay is not affected, since it is not earned wages. If a service member leaves the military before the taxes are repaid, they are still on the hook for repayment. Failure to repay these taxes in a timely manner may result in penalties and interest fees.
While it’s possible that service members won’t be required to repay the deferred tax, it’s best not to count on that: it would take action by Congress in order to do that. But if you’ve set aside the funds already, and it turns out that the amount is forgiven, then you will be well on your way to establishing an emergency fund or adding to your existing savings.
DFAS has a dedicated page on the Social Security Payroll Tax deferral. If military families have more questions or concerns, they should contact their installation financial readiness personnel or Military OneSource.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is not only the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the fourth-largest military in the world.
North Korea’s military is part of its foundation; Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of the so-called “Hermit Kingdom,” used his own military service — as a guerilla fighting against the Japanese occupation of Korea — to burnish his cult of personality, according to Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield’s book, “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.”
Military service is baked into the North Korean constitution; “National defense is the supreme duty and honor of citizens,” it says, and military service is generally compulsory. Kim has never served in the North Korean military but reportedly graduated near the top of his class at a prestigious military academy, a claim that experts and a former North Korean military member found highly suspect.
North Korea spends approximately 25% of its GDP on its military, including its nuclear program, spending .5 billion each year on its forces between 2004 and 2014. It boasts 1.1 million troops, about 5% of its population, according to CFR.
According to North Korean propaganda, the 35-year-old Kim Jong Un prepared to lead this massive force by attending Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang; experts said it was more likely that he had received some instruction from military trainers associated with this university.
Some propaganda accounts cited by Fifield say Kim, who reportedly started at the academy when he was 18, was such a natural at military strategy that he was soon training his instructors.
Kim’s ‘elite’ alma mater
Kim Il Sung Military University is a “military institution for educating elite military officers,” according to Bruce W. Bennett, senior defense analyst at The RAND Corporation. It was established in 1952, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, and is one of several military training schools.
“The students of this university are middle level officers such as majors and lieutenant colonels,” Bennett said, equating the university to institutions like the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
“It is the university that is a gateway to becoming a senior officer in the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Most of North Korean military generals studied in this university when they were mid-career,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.
An image of Pyongyang, with Kim Il Sung Military University outlined.
(North Korea Leadership Watch/Google Images)
Fifield’s book, and official North Korean propaganda, report that Kim studied here alongside his older brother, Kim Jong Chol.
“It was their mother’s idea to send them to the military academy, a way to bolster her sons’ claim to succession,” Fifield writes. Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol are the children of Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui, to whom he was not officially married. Kim Jong Il installed Ko Yong Hui and her sons in a home in his compound, ensuring they were well cared for.
Kim Jong Un reportedly entered the university in 2002, after his early education in Switzerland, and began studying “juche-oriented military leadership,” Fifield writes, referring to the North Korean concept of juche, or self-reliance. Juche is essential to the North Korean identity, although the country was economically dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse. China is now its most important economic relationship.
“I would expect that most of the training at Kim Il Sung Military University would be on military operations, military history, and political indoctrination,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.
“But a big part of the curriculum is likely also competition between the personnel to see how they deal with each other physically and mentally, which leads to forming bonds of friendship critical as officers are promoted.”
‘A natural at military strategy’
While Kim Jong Un never served in the KPA, North Korea Leadership Watch (NKLW) contends that it’s likely some students are able to enter Kim Il Sung Military University without any prior service, straight out of high school.
NKLW describes Kim Il Sung Military University as modeled on Soviet military academies; while there might be classes on North Korean military history, the structure and academics of Kim Il Sung Military University find their closest analogs in the Soviet system.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.
According to North Korean official state media, Fifield writes, Kim Jong Un was “such a natural at military strategy that he was instructing the instructors rather than learning from them.”
He graduated on Dec. 24, 2006, Fifield writes, “with honors,” after writing a final dissertation on “A Simulation for the Improvement of Accuracy in the Operational Map by the Global Positioning System (GPS).”
But a former member of the North Korean military who now lives in the US and is familiar with the Kim family said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un actually attended Kim Il Sung Military University, at least not in the traditional sense.
“According to North Korean propaganda, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University, but I couldn’t find any of his classmates or Army mates. If he really attended that university, somebody should know that he attended,” the former military member said.
“If Kim Jong Un actually attended that college, he has pictures, he has a record, and he has friends. But [none] of the North Korean elite could find his picture and his friends. I think it’s a kind of propaganda,” the former military member said, noting that the North Korean propaganda department would have exploited any evidence of Kim Jong Un having attended the university to build up his cult of personality.
Rather than actually physically attending classes, there were “probably private instructors visiting his house to give him a lecture,” the former military member said.
“Kim Il Sung Military University is a more closed university, the students are military officers, not civilians, so they can keep the secret that Kim Jong Un didn’t actually attend.”
Kim would have been unique in attending the military school named for his grandfather; “I don’t think most of the Kim family become military officers — they avoid becoming military officers,” the former military member said.
“They have a good life […] they don’t need to go [in] the military to risk their lives.”
In order to qualify for a school like Kim Il Sung Military University, potential recruits must have, “superior service records, excellent physical condition and trusted political reliability” and have “a flawless family background, be popular among fellow soldiers, and receive the approval of their commanding and political officers,” according to Joseph Bermudez’s book “Shield of the Great Leader: The Armed Forces of North Korea.”
NKLW contends that Kim probably had private tutoring for at least a few years, and that he was likely a very good student, exhausting teachers with his questions. The academics on military operations are thought to be rigorous, even if it’s unlikely Kim also participated in the physical and professional competitions that other students must face.
In whatever capacity he studied with the university’s instructors, it influenced his relationship with the North Korean military today, in particular the aggressive missile testing North Korea undertook under the third Kim leader.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
We’ve all heard of Rudy Reyes, the Recon Marine, martial artist, and actor who famously played himself in the HBO miniseries, Generation Kill, but few people really know what Rudy has been up to these days. Hell, we didn’t know either until we asked Rudy to sit down and chat.
The only problem? Rudy doesn’t sit. He’s always on the move. Always.
As a former Marine and Green Beret myself, I should’ve known what I was getting into when I asked Rudy for an interview. I’m sitting in my office waiting for the 47-year old Marine to arrive from Mongolia (yep, you read that right). After knowing Rudy for years, I can tell you there is one thing I should be doing right now: stretching.
I first met Rudy in a NYC restaurant back in 2010, just a few weeks after I had left the Marine Corps myself. I was in that awkward, post-military transition phase where the opportunity for a new life seemed so real, but I still had no idea what to do with myself after three tours to Iraq. That’s when I ran into Rudy. He was waiting tables at a Thai restaurant in Brooklyn, trying to pick up some extra cash between auditions. I can tell you with 100% accuracy, Rudy is a horrible waiter, but that didn’t stop him from giving the task his complete focus and energy. He only knows one speed: fast.
In fact, the Recon Marine and veteran of some of Iraq’s most gruesome battles moved around the restaurant like he was clearing a room. Maybe it was the newly grown “veteran” beard on my face or just the post-military emptiness that all warriors feel, but Rudy stopped when he saw me and asked me, “hey brother, are you a vet?” When I answered,”yes” and mentioned that I was just a few weeks out, Rudy invited me to join him for a workout the next day. See, that’s the kinda guy Rudy has always been. He knew me for less than a minute before welcoming me into his world.
Nearly a decade later, I am excited to see my friend again, especially now, because he’s literally traveled the globe to come up to my office. Besides his warrior spirit, there is one thing that I’ve always loved about Rudy: He knows how to make an entrance. He’s just walked in wearing a sleeveless WWII blouse while carrying a kettlebell and tactical boombox.
So let’s get this interview started…
Photo Courtesy of Rudy Reyes
Brother and leader of Marines, welcome back to We Are The Mighty. What the hell are you wearing?
RR:Hey brother, good to see you. Aww yeah, you love this jacket. My buddy who worked on ‘The Pacific’ hooked me up. It’s what the hard chargers wore when they stormed Iwo Jima.
And what about the sleeves?
RR: Didn’t need them. [Rudy’s now doing pull-ups in the office]
Dude, it’s been a decade since ‘Generation Kill,’ and you still look like you’re on the teams. How the hell do you find time to get in the gym?
Ok, well, I have no excuse not to work out today. What were you doing in Mongolia?
RR: Aww, oh my gosh bro, it was amazing. I’m part of the Spartan Race Agoge Krypteia. I am one of the leaders of these 60-hour endurance races all across the globe. Just like the Spartans of Greece, we train people to be the strongest and [most] mentally tough citizens on earth.
(Photo Courtesy of Rudy Reyes)
RR: It’s the land of Genghis Khan. We took a group of Agoge athletes through a training program just like the amazing warriors of the steppe. There was wrestling, archery, and shapeshifting.
RR: Oh yeah, the Shaman [priest], covers his face so you can’t see it, but it’s real. He changes into different animals to help the athletes remove the evil spirits from their lives. It’s amazing how this cleansing will move you towards peak performance.
Wow, this just got interesting. You really think that fighting spirits is part of fitness?
RR: I don’t just think it, brother. I know it. I’ve been cleansing my own demons for years as I move toward being my best self. I’ve learned to dive into my dreams and explore the world as if I was awake. I’m an oneironaut.
(Photo Courtesy of Rudy Reyes)
RR: Oneironaut. I’m able to travel into my dreams, and once I am awake, I draw what I saw so that I can learn about the future or the past. It’s like being on a reconnaissance mission again. I have to get close to the enemy around me so that I can learn how to defeat them.
What have you learned from these dream missions?
RR: The enemy can come in many forms both internal and external. I have to fight things like self-doubt and depression as well as evil spirits that put barriers in our path to success. I’ve grown to be a better warrior, athlete, and father as an oneironaut. I recently dreamed about my son and I traveling to a beautiful waterfall.
(Photo Courtesy of Rudy Reyes)
Can you teach me how to do this?
RR: Yes, of course.
Sh*t! He said yes, change the subject before we actually start fighting spirits.
It sounds like you’ve had a helluva year thus far, what does 2019 look like for you?
RR: Brother, I am so blessed. I’ve spent the years since I first met you focused on the things I love and believe in, and now it’s paying off. I get to be the warrior I am on camera with the Spartan Agoge and travel the world. I also have my non-profit, Force Blue, where we pair special operations veterans and underwater conservationists to save the planet’s coral reefs. We were just awarded a grant from the State of Florida to rescue and restore the coral reef off of Miami and the keys.
(Photo Courtesy of @ianastburyofficial)
Wait, what? The state of Florida is paying you guys to dive coral reefs?
RR: Hahaha [Rudy’s laugh is now visibly causing all my coworkers to look in our direction]. Pretty much, brother. Florida’s reef is the 3rd largest in the world and one of the most threatened. The coral is both a wall and source of life. By getting in the water and restoring the coral, we are protecting the coastline from tidal erosion and protecting the fishing industry. We call it Project PROTECT.
Dude, that’s awesome. You’re rocking it. I see the same passion in you now that you had back when we first met in NY. What’s your secret?
RR: Positive mental attitude, my brother. We are our best when we believe in ourselves. That’s where I start each day and try to land each night. Positivity is contagious just like an insurgency.
You know I like that.
RR: Semper Fi.
Semper Fi, brother. [Rudy is now doing more pull-ups]
Apollo 11 Command Module pilot Michael Collins died Wednesday. He was one of 24 American astronauts who flew to the moon between 1968 and 1972. Collins was occasionally referred to as “the loneliest man in history” because while Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin descended to the lunar surface, he stayed in orbit around the moon in the Apollo command module, more isolated and alone in those few hours than any person on earth had ever been in history.
Though 24 American astronauts have orbited the moon — and three have made two trips there — only 12 have walked on its surface. Of that dozen, four remain alive today.
Neil Armstrong became the first human being to walk on the moon July 20, 1969. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” he famously said upon stepping down onto the moon’s surface. But before his 17-year career as an astronaut with NASA, Armstrong served as a combat naval aviator, flying 78 missions in the Korean War. He even had to bail out of his F-9F Panther jet after it became disabled on a low bombing run in August 1951. Fortunately, he was rescued. He flew 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters, and gliders, throughout his career. Armstrong died Aug. 25, 2012, at age 82.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin
Born in the same year as fellow-moonwalker Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the second person to walk on the moon while on the Apollo 11 mission. The pair spent 21 hours on the moon and collected 46 pounds of moon rocks. Like Armstrong, Aldrin flew combat missions in the Korean War with the Air Force. He flew 66 combat missions in his F-86 Sabre, shot down two MiG-15s, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Three years before walking on the moon, Aldrin made history by performing the world’s first successful spacewalk, or extravehicular activity (EVA), and took the first “space selfie.” In recent years, Aldrin has been known not to put up with moon landing conspiracies. When a denier confronted Aldrin in 2002, Aldrin punched the man in the face.
Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr.
Conrad retired from the US Navy as a captain in 1973 after 20 years of service, 11 of which were with NASA’s space program. The young officer became a naval aviator in 1953 following his graduation from Princeton University and was a flight instructor at the Test Pilot School, among other locations. As an astronaut, he set the space endurance record and put the US in the lead for man-hours in space following his flight with Gemini 5 in August 1965. He also helped set a world altitude record and served as commander on Apollo 12, which completed the second lunar landing Nov. 19, 1969. He flew his final mission with the Skylab II, the first US Space Station.
Conrad died July 8, 1999, at age 69 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
Bean had three accomplished careers: He was a naval aviator, an astronaut, and an artist. On Nov. 19, 1969, Bean and Charles Conrad completed the second lunar landing, and Bean became the fourth human to walk on the moon. During his two moonwalks, he helped conduct several surface experiments and installed the first nuclear-powered generation station to put a power source on the moon. The pair used a robotic Surveyor spacecraft and collected 75 pounds of moon rocks and soil to study back on Earth. Bean later served aboard Skylab II, the first US Space Station, where he said, “Going outside a spaceship in earth orbit is scarier than walking on the moon.”
“I was fortunate to be the first artist with the opportunity to be in the center of the action to capture what I saw and felt, and bring it back to earth to share with generations to come,” Bean later said regarding his post-astronaut life as an artist. “It is my dream that on the wings of my paintbrush many people will see what I saw and feel what I felt, walking on another world some 240,000 miles from my studio here on planet earth.”
Alan Shepard is every golfer’s favorite astronaut. The first American in space and the oldest astronaut to walk on the moon at age 47, Shepard also became the first human to hit a golf ball on the moon. It was during the Apollo 14 mission, the third manned lunar landing, when Shepard and Edgar Mitchell landed Feb. 5, 1971, and completed two moonwalks.
The astronaut, who started his career aboard a ship during World War II and later became a test pilot, hit three golf balls in four shots on the moon. In his spacesuit and with one hand, Shepard got “more dirt than ball” on his first shot, sliced the second, retrieved it for a third shot, and then sent the final golf ball “miles and miles and miles” on his fourth shot. That statement isn’t entirely hyperbole — because of the moon’s low gravity and lack of atmosphere, the ball could have traveled up to a mile, more than four times the average professional drive. Shepard died July 21, 1998, at age 74.
Edgar D. Mitchell
While Shepard is remembered for his golf skills on the moon, Edgar D. Mitchell is remembered for his quick thinking that saved Apollo 14 from disaster. When the lunar module encountered two failures, he had to manually punch 80 lines of code into a computer so they wouldn’t have a hard landing on the moon. The former naval aviator was the sixth human being to walk on the moon. He and Shepard set mission records at the time for the longest distance traveled on the moon, largest payload returned from the lunar surface, and longest stay (33 hours). They were also the first to transmit color TV from the moon. In his later years, Mitchell voiced his unusual opinions about extraterrestrial life and UFOs. He died on Feb. 4, 2016, at age 85.
David R. Scott
Of the 12 men who walked on the moon, David R. Scott is one of the four still living. He flew in space three times, piloted the command module on Apollo 9 for the first docking of the command module and lunar module, and made history during the Apollo 15 mission by driving the lunar rover on the moon for the first time. He also survived a terrifying spin aboard Gemini 8 with Neil Armstrong in March 1966. They were attempting to dock the Atlas Agena target vehicle to complete the world’s first linkup between two spacecraft in orbit when they started to tumble.
“We have serious problems here,” Scott said. “We’re tumbling end over end. We’re disengaged from the Agena.” They were spinning so fast their vision blurred when the craft reached one revolution per second. Armstrong used almost 75% of the reentry maneuvering propellant to stop the spin and was ordered to return to Earth.
James B. Irwin
James B. Irwin retired a year after exploring the moon on the Apollo 15 mission in July 1971 and founded an evangelical religious organization called the High Flight Foundation. He said his experience on the moon inspired him to devote the rest of his life to “spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.” He even quoted a Psalms passage to Mission Control in Houston: “I’ll look unto the hills from whence cometh my help,” Irwin said, according to The New York Times, “but, of course, we get quite a bit from Houston, too.”
The Air Force colonel and David Scott became the eighth and seventh American astronauts to walk on the moon, respectively. Irwin’s moonwalk was his only space mission. Irwin died from a heart attack Aug. 8, 1991, at age 61.
John W. Young
“It would be hard to overstate the impact that John Young had on human space flight,” Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa, also a former astronaut, said. “Beyond his well-known and groundbreaking six missions through three programs, he worked tirelessly for decades to understand and mitigate the risks that NASA astronauts face. He had our backs.”
Young landed on the moon with the Apollo 16 mission and is the only person to have gone into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle programs. After serving in the US Navy as a fighter pilot, he joined NASA in 1962. He drove 16 miles in a lunar rover through the moon’s highlands and spent three nights on the lunar surface. He retired in 2004 after 42 years with NASA and had acquired more than 80 major honors and awards, including an induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988. On Jan. 5, 2018, Young died at 87 after suffering complications from pneumonia.
Charles M. Duke Jr.
“As an American, it was my honor to serve my country by going aboard Apollo 16 and becoming the 10th man to walk on the lunar surface,” Charles Duke said. Gen. Duke received his commission to the US Air Force and earned his pilot’s wings in 1958. He served both as a fighter-interceptor pilot and as a test pilot during his time in the US military before being selected by NASA in 1966 to join the astronaut program. Duke served in five different Apollo missions to the moon, and since his retirement in 1975, he has toured worldwide, giving keynote and motivational speeches.
Eugene Cernan was a captain in the Navy, serving for 20 years (13 of which were with NASA) and flying three historic missions as a pilot of Gemini 9, the lunar module pilot of Apollo 10, and the commander of Apollo 17. Cernan flew to the moon twice and held the distinction of being the second American to walk in space and the last man to leave his footprints on the lunar surface.
“I keep telling Neil Armstrong that we painted that white line in the sky all the way to the Moon down to 47,000 feet so he wouldn’t get lost, and all he had to do was land,” Cernan famously joked in an interview with NASA in 2007. “Made it sort of easy for him.”
Cernan, sometimes referred to as “the last man on the moon,” died Jan. 16, 2017, at age 82.
Harrison H. Schmitt
Harrison Schmitt joined the US Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Branch in 1964, leading the development of early lunar field geological methods for NASA. A year later, he was selected to become a scientist-astronaut and earned his T-38 jet pilot wings with the Air Force in 1966 and his H-13 helicopter wings with the Navy in 1967. Schmitt became the last of 12 men to have stepped on the moon while he was on the Apollo 17 mission, NASA’s final moon-landing mission. He is the only scientist to have walked on the moon.
The Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne is one of the greatest what-ifs in helicopter history. This unique chopper was arguably decades ahead of its time, reaching an incredible top speed of 245 miles per hour. Although it never made it past the prototype stages, the Cheyenne’s potential was obvious from the beginning.
The Cheyenne was originally intended to replace the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter, which entered service in the 1960s. Unfortunately, the project’s development was marred by multiple technical delays and a fatal crash during testing. The original planned production run was then cut from 600 to 375. Despite the fact that this futuristic helicopter packed a powerful punch — provided by a 30mm cannon and the BGM-71 TOW missile — it was cancelled.
From behind, you can see the push-rotor that gave the Cheyenne its impressive performance.
But the Cheyenne didn’t just have powerful weapons. The Cheyenne was also intended to carry an array of sophisticated sensors, including a laser rangefinder, infra-red systems, and night vision capabilities. Its navigation suite was also extensive, including a terrain-following radar, Doppler radar, and an inertial navigation system. The helicopter was capable of flying at high speed at altitudes as low as fifteen feet.
In essence, the Cheyenne, which had a maximum range of 629 miles, was more than just a killer of enemy tanks, it could also fulfill reconnaissance roles deep behind enemy lines. The Cheyenne could not only attack targets itself, but could also direct attacks from other Army assets, like artillery batteries.
The AH-56 Cheyenne had impressive performance, sensors, and firepower.
While the Cheyenne never saw front-line service, its cancellation did lead to the funding and production of the universally loved A-10 Thunderbolt, as well as the competition that eventually produced the AH-64 Apache. Furthermore, the push-rotor that was the signature of this advanced recon/attack helicopter made a comeback on the S-97 Raider.
Learn more about the incredible capabilities of the Cheyenne in the video below.
Museums aren’t just buildings constructed to hold relics of a bygone era so that bored school kids can sleepily shuffle around them. They’re rich representations of lives once lived; they’re a way to reflect on those who came before us so that we can learn the history of the men and women who shaped the world we all live in today.
This is what the National Museum of the United States Army, currently under construction at Fort Belvoir, VA, will offer once it’s opened to the public in 2020. As a living museum, it will encompass the full military history of the United States Army, from its humble beginnings as ragtag colonial militiamen in 1636 to the elite fighting force it is today — all to inspire the soldiers of tomorrow.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say the kid’s learning center probably won’t include a “shark attack” as the very first attraction.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Casey Holley)
The construction of an Army museum has been a long time coming. Before ground was broken in September, 2016, the Army was the only branch of the Department of Defense without a standing national museum. It’s got a lofty price-tag of 0 million, but it’s actually paid for mostly through donors. Over 700,000 individuals and many corporations have given to museum.
The 84-acre site, where the installation’s golf course used to be, sits just thirty minutes from Arlington National Cemetery and will be open to the public. The 185,000 square-foot exterior of the building is already completed, but the interior is still under construction. The museum also has four of largest artifacts in place as the building needed to be constructed around them. It also has the potential to hold countless other artifacts, documents, and images, along with many pieces of artwork made by soldiers and veterans, or for the soldiers and veterans, on display.
Along with the historical exhibits will house the “Experiential Learning Center” for the kids. The area surrounding the museum will include an amphitheater, memorial garden, parade ground, and a trail to give the patrons a taste of life in the Army in both a fun and informative way.
This is amazing for many different reasons. First and foremost, it’s something that everyone should learn about. Every generation of soldier will have their own dedicated area of the museum and through a vast collection of artifacts, you’ll be able to see the evolution of our country’s defenders. Over 30 million men and women have served, and through the museum, all of them, across the nearly 250 years of history, will be represented on some manner.
It’ll also give veterans a place to take their kids of grandkids and say, “this is where we fought. This is why we fought. And this is how we did it.”
The museum seems to be striking the perfect balance between being light enough to keep children entertained while also being perfectly honoring all who have served in the Army.
Thanks to George Aldrich and his team of NASA sniffers, astronauts can breathe a little bit easier. Aldrich is a chemical specialist or “chief sniffer” at the White Sands Test Facility’s Molecular Desorption and Analysis Laboratory in New Mexico. His job is to smell items before they can be flown in the space shuttle.
Aldrich explained that smells change in space and that once astronauts are up there, they’re stuck with whatever smells are onboard with them. In space, astronauts aren’t able to open the window for extra ventilation, Aldrich said. He also said that it is important not to introduce substances that will change the delicate balance of the climate of the International Space Station and the space shuttle.
More than being merely unpleasant, smells in space can indicate a health threat. Even objects that give off no odor can emit dangerous chemicals by a process called off-gassing. If an object’s off-gassing has toxic effects, it can be a matter of life and death.
“Smell is brought out by confined spaces and heat,” said Aldrich, “yet astronauts have no way of escaping a smell if it becomes pervasive. If that smell comes from dangerous compounds, it’s a serious health threat.”
It is Aldrich’s job to use his sense of smell to ensure the olfactory comfort, as well as the safety, of astronauts on orbit.
When he was just 18 years old, Aldrich began working at White Sand’s fire department and was asked to be on the department’s Odor Panel. Aldrich explained that one of the requirements to get a job as a sniffer is a lack of any allergies or respiratory problems. “If you have a lot of allergies, your nasal passages are already irritated and cannot be used,” he said.
NASA calibrates and certifies its sniffers’ noses every four months using a “10-bottle test” in which seven of the bottles have odors and three of them are blanks. The seven scents must be categorized as musky, floral, ethereal, camphoraceous, minty, pungent or putrid.
According to the NASAexplores Web site, Aldrich’s team tests nearly all items that astronauts would encounter during their flight — including fabric, toothpaste, circuit boards, makeup and even the ink on their checklists.
First, the items are tested for toxicity. They are placed into individually sealed containers and then into an oven, which is heated to 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) for three days to speed up the off-gassing process. The gases are then extracted and tested to determine whether they are toxic or carcinogenic. If the gases are deemed safe, the items then undergo odor testing.
Aldrich and four other team members smell the items and rank them on a scale of zero to four, ranging from non-detectable (zero), to barely detectable, easily detectable, objectionable and offensive (four). Aldrich refers to level four as “get-me-out-of-here.” Because the sense of smell can vary from person to person, sniffers give each object its own ratings, from which an average is obtained. If an item rates more than a 2.4 on the scale, it fails the test and is not allowed on the flight. Some items that have failed are camera film, felt-tipped markers, mascara and certain types of stuffed animals. Aldrich has done 765 of these “smell missions” to date.
NASA could use dogs or “electronic noses” for this testing, but as Aldrich pointed out, the Agency would rather use human sniffers because they serve as a screening test for the also-human astronauts. The human testers can more accurately identify smells that will offend the human crewmembers than an electronic nose could.
As a result of his career, Aldrich has had some uncommon opportunities. He has served as a judge four times at the Odor-Eaters Rotten Sneaker Competition. He has also appeared on television a number of times, including appearances on two game shows.
While others may chuckle at his unusual occupation, Aldrich said he believes in its value.
“I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think it was important,” he said.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
In what’s believed to be a first, Air Force Recruiting Service’s top recruiter received an incentive flight with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds as a congratulations for all of his hard work.
Master Sgt. Gervacio Maldonado, a former Health Professions recruiter and now flight chief with the 318th Recruiting Squadron, was surprised and ecstatic when he learned winning the 2018 Maj. Gen. A.J. Stewart Top AFRS Recruiter award would take him even higher.
“I was blown away,” Maldonado said after hearing about the opportunity to fly. “The news stopped me in my tracks.”
The flight, with Thunderbird pilot #8, Maj. Jason Markzon, was a first for Maldonado in any fighter aircraft.
“I’d always wanted to fly in a fighter aircraft, however I never thought it would come to fruition,” Maldonado said. “I was so pumped to fly with the Thunderbirds.”
According to his supervisor, Maldonado is more than deserving of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds flew Master Sgt. Gervacio Maldonado, Top Recruiter in the Air Force for 2018, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, May 11, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Cory W. Bush)
“His selection for this flight is an honor for all recruiters and airmen,” said Senior Master Sgt. Aaron Akridge, 318th RCS Production superintendent. “I’m honored to see the Thunderbirds bestow this opportunity to a hardworking airman such as Gervacio Maldonado.”
The top recruiter said he appreciates the opportunity of being the face of the Air Force at many local events where the Air Force doesn’t normally have a presence.
“Anyone selected for recruiting duty during the Developmental Special Duty process should embrace the opportunity,” Maldonado said. “Whether it is representing the Air Force at your local fairs or on larger stages, like the NBA All-Star game or the Super Bowl, you will have plenty of chances to enjoy these unique experiences.”
He recalls attending his first NFL game — an opportunity he had because of his recruiting duties. “I was on the 50-yard line! It was awesome.”
His production superintendent also shared many interesting things he has learned about the top performer since they began working together.
The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds flew Master Sgt. Gervacio Maldonado, Top Recruiter in the Air Force for 2018, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, May 11, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Cory W. Bush)
“He’s an entrepreneur and a thrill seeker,” Akridge said. “He’s built a successful lodging business as well as conducted freediving all around the world, most recently in the Fiji Islands. But the most important aspect I’ve learned about him is his genuine passion to help others. He is a true wingman; always there to listen or help when and if needed.”
According to Akridge, when Maldonado was a firefighter, he directly responded to over 360 fire, rescue and medical calls, and he still volunteers as a firefighter in his off-duty time. Also, being a recruiter is a natural fit for Maldonado’s entrepreneurial spirit after spending the first part of his career as a weapons specialist.
“Being a recruiter is very business-like,” Maldonado said. “It lets you operate your very own Air Force franchise. You will have quite a bit of autonomy to conduct the business as you see fit—you will not find that in many career fields within the Air Force.”
Maldonado continually reminds himself it’s all about the opportunities. Most recruiters focus solely on the goal and not the experience, he said.
The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds flew Master Sgt. Gervacio Maldonado, Top Recruiter in the Air Force for 2018, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, May 11, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Cory W. Bush)
“As a recruiter you are the face of the Air Force, the gatekeeper,” he continued. “You are a beacon of opportunity and will be sitting in the most opportune position to mentor and directly change lives. Just like any job there are challenges, but again, it is what you make of it. Stay positive and know that all your efforts are undoubtedly contributing to the betterment of people and the future of the Air Force.”
Those efforts are what got Maldonado his flight with the Thunderbirds, something he described as breathtaking.
“I still can’t believe people get paid to do this job,” he said. “They told me as I was preparing for the flight to be ready for the ride of a lifetime — and that’s pretty accurate!”
He praised the demonstration team members for their very high standard of professionalism and attention to detail.
“As a recruiter, my focus is on customer service and they provided that in very detail — from beginning to end,” he said.
Both Akridge and Maldonado agree they hope the tradition of flying the top recruiter with the Thunderbirds continues every year since the aerial demonstration team is an extension of professional Air Force recruiters.
The nuclear-powered submarine. Ultra-advanced stealth bombers and fighters. These all represent the most lethal weapons in the U.S. military’s mighty arsenal — and they might soon all be close to obsolete
Well, at least if certain technological trends bear fruit, according to a number of think-tank reports, research studies, and in-depth essays that have been published over the last year.
America’s Carriers vs. China’s Missiles: Who Wins?
And while it might not all come to pass, or at least not right away and certainly not all at once, the trend lines are clear: America’s military, if it wants to retain its unrivaled dominance on the battlefields of the future, will need to do a great deal of soul searching and investment to <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/pay-attention-america-russia-upgrading-its-military-15094" title=" maintain its edge over nations like Russia” target=”_blank”>maintain its edge over nations like Russia, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/pentagon-lays-out-challenge-posed-by-chinas-growing-military-might-1402005458" title=" China” target=”_blank”>China, and many others in the years to come.
The aircraft carrier, a symbol of American naval and overall power projection capabilities, <a href="http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2016/02/stop-the-navy-aircraft-carrier-plan-000036-000036" title=" seems under the most threat of being rendered a relic of the past” target=”_blank”>seems under the most threat of being rendered a relic of the past. Almost every week, a new report casts a dark shadow on the future of this important U.S. military asset.
The newly developed DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile.
Take, for example, the recent report released by the Center for New American Security (CNAS) smartly titled, “Red Alert: The Growing Threat to U.S. Aircraft Carriers.” <a href="http://www.cnas.org/SaylerKelley" title=" Author Kelley Sayler” target=”_blank”>Author Kelley Sayler, an associate fellow at CNAS, argues that “the short, medium, and long-range threats to the carrier–including SAMs and other anti-access/area denial capabilities (A2/AD), in which China is investing heavily” will create a situation where American carriers “will not be able to act with impunity in the event of future conflict.” As Sayler explains in great detail in her report, carriers”will face a dense and growing threat across their full range of operations as A2/AD systems continue to proliferate. Operating the carrier in the face of increasingly lethal and precise munitions will thus require the United States to expose a multibillion-dollar asset to high levels of risk in the event of a conflict. Indeed, under such circumstances, an adversary with A2/AD capabilities would likely launch <a href="http://thediplomat.com/2013/02/missile-defenses-real-enemy-math/" title=" a saturation attack” target=”_blank”>a saturation attack against the carrier from a variety of platforms and directions. Such an attack would be difficult — if not impossible — to defend against.”
And as Slater points out, <a href="http://www.cnas.org/files/documents/publications/CNAS%20Carrier_Hendrix_FINAL.pdf" title=" China is increasingly able to target U.S. carriers at range (and well past the ability of their carrier strike aircraft to safely attack from out of range” target=”_blank”>China is increasingly able to target U.S. carriers at range (and well past the ability of their carrier strike aircraft to safely attack from out of range):
“China appears intent upon increasing its ASBM [anti-ship ballistic missile] capabilities further and, at a recent military parade commemorating the end of World War II, revealed that it may have an ASBM variant of a substantially longer-range missile — <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/chinas-2500-mile-range-carrier-killer-missile-nuclear-threat-14669" title="the DF-26” target=”_blank”>the DF-26. As with the DF-21D, estimates of the capabilities of the DF-26 vary widely; however, it is thought to have a range of 1,620 to 2,160 nm and to have both conventional and nuclear warheads. If accurate and operational, this system would give China the ability to strike targets within the second island chain – including those in and around the U.S. territory of Guam – as well as those throughout the entirety of the Bay of Bengal. In the event of a wider conflict, these systems could also reach targets throughout much, if not all, of the Arabian Sea.”
As for America’s nuclear-powered submarine force, the threats to its continued dominance in undersea warfare seem a little more further off, but nonetheless, something that must be planned for.
Once again, the Washington-based think-tank universe provides us some important clues concerning the challenges ahead. <a href="http://csbaonline.org/publications/2015/01/undersea-warfare/" title=" In a report by the always smart Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments” target=”_blank”>In a report by the always smart Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), as well as in a follow on piece in this publication partly excerpted below, CSBA Senior Fellow Bryan Clark <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/are-submarines-about-become-obsolete-12253" title=" lays out the challenge to America’s submarine force” target=”_blank”>lays out the challenge to America’s submarine force:
“Since the Cold War, submarines, particularly quiet American ones, have been considered largely immune to adversary A2/AD capabilities. But the ability of submarines to hide through quieting alone will decrease as each successive decibel of noise reduction becomes more expensive and as new detection methods mature that rely on phenomena other than sounds emanating from a submarine. These techniques include lower frequency active sonar and non-acoustic methods that detect submarine wakes or (at short ranges) bounce laser or light-emitting diode (LED) light off a submarine hull. The physics behind most of these alternative techniques has been known for decades, but was not exploited because computer processors were too slow to run the detailed models needed to see small changes in the environment caused by a quiet submarine. Today, ‘big data’ processing enables advanced navies to run sophisticated oceanographic models in real time to exploit these detection techniques. As they become more prevalent, they could make some coastal areas too hazardous for manned submarines.”
From there the problem gets worse. Clark’s CSBA report sees even more problems ahead:
“New sensors and related improvements to torpedo seekers could enable completely new approaches to finding and attacking submarines. Most significantly, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces could shift away from today’s skill and labor-intensive tactics that result from the short detection range of sensors that are precise enough to support ASW engagements. This limitation requires ASW ships and aircraft to methodically search a wide area for a submarine, then track it until they can get within weapons range for an attack. New sensor and seeker capabilities could instead enable a “fire and forget” approach in which ASW forces detect a submarine at long range and apply computer processing to obtain enough precision for an attack using long-range missiles with torpedo warheads. This kind of attack may not sink the submarine, but would likely compel it to at least evade, breaking its initiative and making it more detectable.”
Two F-22As in close trail formation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Ben Bloker)
Finally, we come to America’s growing fleet of stealth fighters and long-range bombers. It seems advances in new types of radars could provide the targeting information needed to take down some of Washington’s most advanced aircraft — and most expensive.
As National Interest Defense Editor, <a href="https://twitter.com/davemajumdar" title=" Dave Majumdar” target=”_blank”>Dave Majumdar, points out, “China appears to be building a new high-frequency radar on an artificial feature in the Spratly Islands that could allow Beijing to track even the stealthiest American warplanes, including the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and even the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit.” He explains, in greater detail, that:
“While the system is called a <a href="http://ece.wpi.edu/radarcourse/Radar%202010%20PDFs/Radar%202009%20A_7%20Radar%20Cross%20Section%201.pdf" title=" high-frequency (HF) radar—that’s bit of a misnomer. HF radars actually operate on low frequencies relative to the VHF, UHF, L, S, C, X” target=”_blank”>high-frequency (HF) radar—that’s bit of a misnomer. HF radars actually operate on low frequencies relative to the VHF, UHF, L, S, C, X and Ku bands, which are more typically used by military radars. These low frequencies have <a href="http://www.radartutorial.eu/01.basics/Rayleigh-%20versus%20Mie-Scattering.en.html" title=" waves that are several meters long” target=”_blank”>waves that are several meters long and, consequently, most stealth aircraft show up on HF radar. In order to defeat low frequency radar, a stealth aircraft has to eliminate features like fins, which is why the flying-wing shape is the best way available to avoid detection. That is because there is an <a href="http://news.usni.org/2014/04/21/stealth-vs-electronic-attack" title=" omnidirectional resonance” target=”_blank”>omnidirectional resonance effect that occurs when a feature on an aircraft — such as a tail-fin — is less than <a href="http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/revealed-can-chinas-radars-track-americas-stealth-f-22-15261" title=" eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. As a result, there is a step change in radar” target=”_blank”>eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. As a result, there is a step change in radar cross section once that threshold is exceeded. Since every stealth aircraft currently in America’s fleet exceeds that threshold — even the B-2 is not large enough to avoid most HF radars — every U.S. aircraft would show up on the Chinese radar. Indeed — all stealth aircraft will show up at some frequency.”
How Should America Respond?
So what is Washington doing about the threats listed above?
First off, when it comes to America’s carriers, it should be noted that no one really knows how deadly China’s anti-ship missiles, especially at long-ranges, would be in a real firefight. For example, can Beijing find a U.S. carrier in the massive Pacific Ocean? Can they defeat American missile defenses? And as for the case of the dangers poised to advanced submarines, at least as of now, such threats are more on the drawing board than a clear and present danger. As for the challenges posed to stealth, that seems a more realistic and present-day challenge U.S. officials will have to deal with. (<a href="http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/revealed-can-chinas-radars-track-americas-stealth-f-22-15261" title="They seem to be working on negating the challenge as we speak” target=”_blank”>They seem to be working on negating the challenge as we speak.)
However, there is a clear recognition in the Pentagon that America’s chief competitors, <a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/02/24/chinese-russian-subs-increasingly-worrying-the-pentagon/" title=" namely great power challengers like China and Russia” target=”_blank”>namely great power challengers like China and Russia, are catching up to many of the U.S. military’s chief abilities to project power <a href="http://breakingdefense.com/2015/09/russians-in-syria-building-a2ad-bubble-over-region-breedlove/" title=" or are quickly finding ways to negate such capabilities” target=”_blank”>or are quickly finding ways to negate such capabilities. While the Obama Administration’s recent budget request does smartly increase funding for research and development, I can’t help but wonder if such investments might be too little, too late. There is also the very real possibility that a new administration will have its own priorities, slowing down or possibly canceling any modernization efforts that could make a real difference. In fact, members on Capitol Hill seem to take such a possibility seriously. As <a href="https://joewilson.house.gov/" title=" Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)” target=”_blank”>Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee, recently explained,
“This budget request is a good step in tackling the modernization challenges of the Department. Activities like the Third Offset Strategy and the Long Range Research and Development Plan are important to charting a course that takes a strategic view of the security environment; however, I remain concerned that it is too little too late. As I see it, starting major initiatives at the end of an administration makes it difficult to ensure that these things will survive the new budgetary and policy priorities that will naturally arise with a new President. I hope I am wrong, since I support many of the things being proposed in this budget request, but only time will tell.”
Indeed, only time will tell.
(This article first appeared in February 2016 and is being reposted due to reader interest)
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The late-70s and 80s were a pure golden age for horror films. The once goofy genre had new life blown into it after the critical and financial success of such films like 1973’s The Exorcist and 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Audiences were terrified again when they sat comfortably in their seats eating popcorn. The 80s upped the ante even further with The Shining and The Evil Dead.
There were many great films released in this era but there were also plenty of flops, due in large part to filmmakers trying to recreate success without understanding what made the original so popular.
Then came the film that came to define both 80’s horror and action films: Predator.
(20th Century Fox)
On paper, Predator played like an action film. It starred both Carl Weathers and Arnold Schwarzenegger at the top of their game, directed by John McTiernan (who would go on to make Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October, and The 13th Warrior) and produced by Joel Silver (the man who produced nearly every great action film since The Warriors.)
But it wasn’t just an action film. Deep down, Predator was also a horror film.
Instead of the generic teenagers, the film followed the most elite commandos the world had ever seen. They were such hardened badasses that anything wanting to pick them off like flies would need to be that much more badass. The antagonistic killer wasn’t some mustache-twirling prick who’d spout off puns. The predator hunted down each and every one of the commandos (except the lead), which gave the film it’s terrifying core: the humans were being hunted they way we hunt animals.
The script was also worked on by the relatively unknown Shane Black. After scripts are written, they tend to go through plenty of rewrites and usually involve another writer to come in and “doctor” the script — like having a friend proofread it. Shane Black needed to know every little bit of the script down to the punctuation. For his work, he got to play Hawkins, the radio operator that is just brutally killed by the titular character.
Shane Black would get his big break following the success of Lethal Weapon (which was released three months earlier). He’d go on to make his directorial debut with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and solidify his Hollywood status with the astronomically successful Iron Man 3.
Now everything comes back full circle. The man who’s been at the heart of the Predator franchise from day one, who has beyond proven his ability as one hell of a writer and director, is now back to return it to its roots — as both an action and a horror film.
It was in August 1942 that Private 1st Class Edward Ahrens would cement his place in the halls of Marine bad*sses when he singlehandedly took on an entire group of Japanese soldiers who were trying to flank his unit.
Ahrens, a Marine assigned to Alpha Co. of the 1st Raider Battalion, was in the second assault wave hitting the beaches of Tulagi on Aug. 7, 1942. After pushing off the beach along with Charlie Co., Alpha set up a defensive line that night, according to War History Online.
Then the Japanese fiercely counter-attacked. Fortunately, Alpha Co. had Ahrens protecting its right flank.
“I came across a foxhole occupied by Private First Class Ahrens, a small man of about 140 pounds,” said Maj. Lew Walt, of what he saw the next morning. “He was slumped in one corner of the foxhole covered with blood from head to foot. In the foxhole with him were two dead Japs, a lieutenant and a sergeant. There were eleven more dead Japs on the ground in front of his position. In his hands he clutched the dead officer’s sword.”
Ahrens had successfully thwarted an enemy attack that would have opened a huge gap in the defensive line. As he lay dying, according to Walt, Ahrens whispered to him: “The idiot tried to come over me last night-I guess they didn’t know I was a Marine.”
“Private First Class Ahrens, with utter disregard for his own personal safety, single-handed engaged in hand-to-hand combat a group of the enemy attempting to infiltrate the rear of the battalion.
Although mortally wounded, he succeeded in killing the officer in command of the hostile unit and two other Japanese, thereby breaking up the attack. His great personal valor and indomitable fighting spirit were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the defense of his country.”
Fighter aircraft are designed and created for a lot of reasons. The F-22’s maneuverability and speed were designed to make the aircraft the world’s premier air superiority fighter. The A-10, by contrast, is relatively slow, but the flying tank packs a mighty punch to give American ground troops the close-air support they need on the battlefield. Other countries presumably develop their aircraft for similar purposes. The Russian P-42 Flanker fighter, however, was designed with one thing in mind – beating records.
American aircraft records, that is.
The P-42 in 1986.
The Sukhoi-27 “Flanker” (as it was called by NATO) was, to many aviation historians, the pinnacle of Soviet and Russian aviation engineering. It was created in the mid-to-late-1970s as a means of taking on the American F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Eagle fighters and all their various air combat roles. Their primary mission was to scramble and intercept heavy American bombers in the event of World War III. Of course, they never fulfilled that mission, but some Su-27s have seen active duty action in recent years, notably in Syria as part of the Russian Air Force mission there.
Su-27 Flankers, like the F-15, saw modification in different variations in order to fulfill the roles required of various aircraft in the Soviet arsenal. But one of those variants wasn’t to fill a military function at all; it was built for one reason: to beat American aviation records.
The Soviet P-42 was expected to set records for range and flight altitude, maximum airspeed, and rate of climb. From 1986 to 1990, the specially modified P-42 set 41 different world records, according to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the world’s governing body for air sports. They started by taking on the F-15 Eagle directly – with a “zoom climb” to 30,000 meters.
A zoom climb comes when an aircraft pilot pulls up, trading forward motion (kinetic energy) for upward motion (potential energy) and by applying thrusters, can actually achieve a higher climb rate than its maximum climb rate and a higher altitude than its maximum. Pilots will take off as fast as possible and fly close to the ground until they pull up at a nearly vertical angle, reaching cruising altitude as fast as possible. The Soviet P-42 was stripped-down and ready for this first part, generating so much energy for that initial burst of speed that it had to be chained to a tractor to prevent a “premature takeoff” on its own.
Its thrust-to-weight ratio meant that its brakes were unable to keep the plane in its starting position. Soviet engineers attached the plane to a towrope with a special lock. The towrope was attached to a specially outfitted and armored tractor that would be protected from the extreme heat of the plane’s afterburners. Detaching the towrope was automatically triggered by the start of the timers for all the P-42’s world records.
The F-15 “Streak Eagle” used to break world aviation records.
The Russians were targeting the altitude record set by USAF F-15 Strike Eagle in 1975. At an embarrassing rate (for the USSR, that is) American F-15 fighters smashed eight world aviation and speed records in just two weeks, records which stood for more than a decade. This apparently stuck to the Russians particularly hard, as the Soviet Air Force spent years preparing a plane specifically designed just to beat them back.
This modified Su-27 didn’t go supersonic during its zoom climbs. It didn’t have to. Without the weight of systems like avionics or armaments, the P-42 was able to easily subdue the records for the 3,000, 6,000 9,000, and 12,000 meter climbs, along with 23 other aviation and speed records.
Special ops have earned their prestige. There is no denying that these men are absolute badasses; relentless warriors with no room for quit.
SOF teams are often described as surgical tools for the Department of Defense to use when a less overt maneuver is required. Conversely, America’s infantry is used when the U.S. wants to figuratively and literally kick down the enemies’ front door and punch them in the face.
But I digress. Here’s how infantry and special operations teams are alike.
Special operations are known for being extremely fit — the reputation is well deserved. However, the military, in general, is expected to maintain a high level of fitness and the infantry holds their personnel to an exceptional standard.
2. Attending advanced training
Infantry units are trained to excel in the most austere environments. All units send their troops to advanced schools and, depending on their upcoming area of operations, soldiers and Marines will receive advanced, specialized training to expand the capabilities of the unit as a whole.
3. Showcasing tactical prowess in combat
Locate, close with, and destroy the enemy using fire and maneuver.
No matter your status, the tactics for room clearing, close-quarters combat, fire, and maneuver are all about mastering the basics. There is no shortage of expertise among the U.S. infantry who are winning America’s battles.
4. Utilizing inter-service augmentation
A major component of SOF’s arsenal comes from calling in accurate fire from Army/Marine artillery, Navy guns, and Air Force strikes.
Coincidentally, forward observers within infantry units possess the same radios and they use them for communicating with the artisans of mass destruction from all branches.
5. Possessing the ability to f*ck sh*t up
SOF surely kicks the enemy’s ass. Infantry does as well — with way more guys, munitions, and, when Congress allows it, they don’t leave until all enemies are either dead or have surrendered.
The mission is number one for everyone in the military, regardless of job. It’s the reason we are here.
Infantry, just like SOF, has cultivated a culture dedicated to defending America’s interests, the country itself, and, most importantly, its people. Regardless of how they do it, all servicemen and women understand the priority: doing the hard job that needs to be done.