In 2001, DreamWorks and HBO Films released one of the most critically acclaimed miniseries. Band of Brothers follows a group of well-trained Army Paratroopers as they go from grueling training to being thrust into the hell that is World War II. The story chronicles the unique bond of the brave men of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
Spielberg proved his ability to faithfully capture the intensities and personalities of World War II in his 1998 blockbuster, Saving Private Ryan. This time around, Spielberg took the executive producer’s chair.
Although many people are familiar with this amazing piece of film, there are a few facts about the classic miniseries that even the most die-hard fans don’t know.
The actors went through a tough, 10-week boot camp
To get the actors to appear like real paratroopers, the producers turned to decorated Marine veteran Capt. Dale Dye to get the on-screen talent up-to-speed on World War II-era infantry tactics. Capt. Dye was on a mission to not only educate the talented cast on how to maneuver and communicate, but to expose the actors to the real exhaustion that paratroopers endured in combat.
This way, the actors would get an emotional understanding. When it was time to film a tough scene, they had their own personal references to draw from, making their reactions organic and realistic.
Since the miniseries covers multiple characters from different countries, the costume designers had to come up with 2,000 authentic German and American combat uniforms — including approximately 500 pairs of era-appropriate jump boots.
In order to get the details just right, the costume designers spent countless hours researching materials, manufacturing techniques, and design choices.
Tom Hanks watches as dozens of extras fall in line and head to the set
The massive production took a total of three years and cost over 0 million. The scenes were shot primarily on a 1,100 acre back lot located in Hatfield, England. 12 acres of land were continuously modified in order to work for 11 different on-screen locales.
“It’s about five things bigger than what we had on Saving Private Ryan,” executive producer Tom Hanks reported.
Nearly every fan of film has seen 1998’s Saving Private Ryan. Aside from the powerful performances from talented actors, the audience enjoyed incredibly lifelike explosions and gunshots. By the time the crew had finished filming the third episode of Band of Brothers, they’d already surpassed the number of explosions and squibs used in entirety of Saving Private Ryan.
While setting to film TheBattle of the Bulge,the production department constructed a massive forest inside an airport hangar. To make the scene feelrealistic, they neededvegetation. So,the production turned to the special effect department whobuilt nearly250 hollowed-out trees,made from fiberglass, hemp, and latex.
When a tree exploded on set, most of the debris fell on top of the actors,helping them deliver an authenticon-screen performance.
Paul Allen may have made a name for himself as the co-founder of Microsoft, but within the aviation community, the late entrepreneur was known for something different: owning some of the most incredible aircraft ever to hit the market. When Allen passed last October, he left behind a sizeable collection of vehicles that included two superyachts and a veritable air force worth of jets, helicopters, and specialized planes.
Now, it seems that portions of Allen’s estate are being liquidated, placing some of the rarest and most exotic platforms in the world on the market. Among these treasures is perhaps a one of a kind Cold War-era MiG-29 — a fourth-generation fighter built just before the fall of the Soviet Union that even saw operational use in Ukraine during the Soviet dissolution.
This MiG-29 is up for sale (in case you really want to impress your prom date).
Despite the number of headlines garnered by fifth-generation fighters like America’s F-35 and F-22, the vast majority of the combat operational fighters in the world remain squarely within the fourth generation. These jets, like the F-15, F-16, and Russia’s Su-35 are considered highly capable despite lacking the stealth and network capabilities that differentiate them from their successors, but in many ways outside of those qualifiers, fourth-generation platforms are more capable than even the high-cost F-35. And the MiG-29 in question is certainly no exception. In fact, it remains in use in the Russian (and a number of other) air forces to this day.
This particular MiG-29 was demilitarized by the Ukraine Air Force and put on the private market in 2005, where it began its long and treacherous journey to Allen’s collection here in the United States. By the time it arrived, the aircraft needed to be restored and reassembled, a task left to importer and military aviation aficionado John Sessions. Sessions not only restored this aircraft to its former glory, when he was finished, it was perhaps the single best example of a MiG-29 left in existence, along with a few uniquely American accents like changing the gauging and cockpit indicators to English.
With a top speed of 1,491 mph (around Mach 2.25) this MiG would leave even America’s premier F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the dust. In fact, this MiG would beat just about anything that isn’t an F-15 in a drag race, which is impressive for a combat aircraft, but even more so for a civilian jet with functioning ejection seats you could feasibly take to visit your mom in Orlando. In fact, at top speed, you could get there from New York in less than an hour.
The fighter is up for sale through the Mente Group, and according to the listing the entire airframe has only 570 operational hours on it, with only 60 of those hours taking place after the entire aircraft (including the engines) were completely overhauled. In other words, this jet may have been built in the late ’80s, but its cockpit still very much possesses that “new fighter” smell.
Because its been demilitarized, this MiG-29 lacks the machine gun and seven hardpoints used for mounting missiles or bombs, as well as the infrared search and track (IRST) ball it originally used for targeting, but as Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone points out, IRST systems from the MiG’s era never worked all that well anyway.
A fully loaded Bangladesh Air Force MiG-29 with six missiles and an external fuel tank.
(Bangladesh Air Force via WikiMedia Commons)
The MiG-29 likely won’t see use as an aggressor aircraft (used by the U.S. Air Force for mock combat training exercises) in large part because the U.S. military has already gotten their hands on a number of MiG-29s and most of its performance capabilities can be mirrored by other available platforms. That means this MiG likely won’t see use in military contractor circles, making it that much more promising as dad’s new grocery getter.
There’s no price on the listing, but seeing as Sessions has stated in the past that it cost him at least million to restore the aircraft to its current white-glove condition and the fact that Allen’s purchase price has never been divulged, it’s safe to say that this Cold War fighter will probably set you back quite a bit more than most commuters on the market.
The thing veterans miss most about deployment life is the camaraderie. Your brothers- and sisters-in-arms become as much a family as those related by blood. While every troops’ mission is different, ranging from the operator-AF SpecOps guy to the admin clerk who’s doing their part, there will always be beautiful moments of shared downtime where everyone just chats.
These idle hangouts happen most often in the smoke pit — even if a troop doesn’t smoke — because it’s where everyone relaxes.
There’s only so much you can talk about with your buddies. Quickly, you’ll learn where they’re from, what they’re like, and if they prefer blondes, brunettes, or redheads. Basic questions like this might sound lame, but they can actually tell you a lot about a person — and take your mind off war.
These are the ones that always seem to be brought up in the smoke pit (we apologize to our mothers):
5. What are your plans after you get out?
The answers vary depending on how far along you are in your deployment. They start out reasonable: “Oh, I’m thinking about going to work at my dad’s butcher shop.” Eventually, however, they turn into: “I’m going to start a band that will rival Five Finger Death Punch!”
The bands never work out. And for some reason, it’s never the guy who brings a guitar (and knows how to play it) who comes up with the idea.
4. Who’s your favorite pop star to sing along to?
Even the most macho gym rat gets in on this conversation — and you get some weird results. Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, or Amy Winehouse are the usual go-to choices, but every now and then a Justin Bieber gets thrown in there by a brave soul.
Funny enough, you can actually find out more about your comrade if they’re cornered into picking just one. If they deny having one, they’re lying. If they complain, “Why just one?” you really get to mock them.
3. Marry, f*ck, kill.
For this game, you pick three celebrities and decide which one you would wed, bed, and want dead.
For some reason, troops will never pick challenging choices, like “Emma Watson, Emma Stone, or Emma Roberts” or “Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, or Chris Evans.” It’ll always be obvious choices that kill the game immediately.
2. Would you rather ___ or ___?
This one also takes a turn for the weird the further into the deployment you are. Someone comes up with an unrealistic scenario and you pick between two unpleasant things (or two awesome things).
They usually start out as basic as “no internet or no sex” and eventually become, “would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?”
I mean, the duck-sized horses seem like the easy option because you could just kick them aside, but they can definitely over-run you. (Image via Digital Trends)
1. “Not even for $1M?”
In this hypothetical situation, a troop is offered an absurd amount of money to perform certain “acts.” This can get very inventive and it is always deranged, but people will really commit some emotions to their answers.
It’s completely hypothetical, of course — the logistics alone wouldn’t make much sense, but it’s entertaining to make your friend squirm.
The U.S. Coast Guard doesn’t always get the respect it’s due, mostly because it’s the only branch that doesn’t always fall under the Department of Defense. But that technicality doesn’t mean the Coast Guard doesn’t have some cool stuff.
1. Open ocean ships
Despite their nickname of “Puddle Pirates,” the Coast Guard does have ships that can operate in the open ocean. The largest and most advanced are the National Security Cutters.
The Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSST) and Maritime Security Response Teams (MSRT) are both anti-terrorism organizations filled with the Coast Guard’s best and are intended for use near port facilities or along coastlines.
MSSTs primarily deploy to potential targets of terrorists in order to prevent or stop an attack while MSRTs primarily deploy to terrorist attacks and hostage situations in progress. Either can be deployed anywhere in the world.
3. The only operational heavy icebreaker in the U.S. inventory
The U.S. has only one heavy icebreaker in operation, the USCGC Polar Star. Polar Star was originally commissioned in 1976 and has 75,000 horsepower. The Coast Guard has another heavy icebreaker that it was forced to cannibalize for parts and an operational medium icebreaker.
President Barack Obama recently pledged to close the icebreaker gap between Russia and the United States. Russia currently has about 40 operational icebreakers including the world’s only nuclear-powered icebreakers.
Until recently, the Coast Guard also had a small fleet of HU-25s, jet aircraft used to chase drug smugglers and scan the surface of the water during search and rescue missions. The HU-25s were replaced with turboprop aircraft that are much slower but cheaper to operate.
The Wessel was captured after the German surrender in 1945 and the British won it as a spoil of war. An American officer convinced the British to trade it to the U.S. and the ship was renamed the Eagle. She has served as a training vessel and goodwill ambassador vessel ever since.
The Pentagon has announced that President Donald J. Trump will present the Medal of Honor to the family of Army Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins, an infantryman killed in action on June 1, 2007, when he wrenched a suicide bomber away from his troops and absorbed the blast with his body, saving his men. The presentation will take place on March 27.
Atkins had previously received the posthumous Distinguished Service Cross for his actions, but the award has been upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He was a member of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
His other awards include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal with four Bronze Service Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Valorous Unit Award with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Air Assault Badge.
During the morning of June 1, 2007, Atkins and his squad were conducting route security near Abu Samak, Iraq, when a squad member spotted two possible insurgents attempting to cross the route. One of the soldiers ordered the men to stop, and they complied but were acting erratically and seemingly preparing to flee.
Then-Sgt. Travis Atkins poses with battle buddies in Iraq, 2007.
(Photo courtesy of the Atkins family)
Atkins moved up in his vehicle and then dismounted with his medic to interdict and search the men. One of the men began resisting the search, and Atkins realized that the man was wearing a suicide vest. They wrestled for control of the detonator, but the insurgent gained ground against Atkins
Atkins then wrapped up the bomber and pushed away from his men who were standing a few feet away, attempting to open up space. He pinned the insurgent to the ground and, when the vest detonated, Atkins absorbed the brunt of the blast.
Atkins was mortally wounded by the blast, but his actions saved others. Now, his son will receive his father’s posthumous Medal of Honor.
Soldiers kneel to pay their respects to Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who was killed, June 1, 2007, by a suicide bomber near Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq, at a memorial ceremony held, June 7, 2007 at Camp Striker. Atkins was on a patrol with his unit, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., when they detained men who were wearing suicide vests.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Chris McCann)
Before the fateful day on June 1, Atkins joined the Army on Nov. 9, 2000, and attended basic infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and deployed with them to Kuwait in March 2003. He took part in the invasion of Iraq later that month before leaving the Army in December 2003.
After attending college and working as a contractor, Atkins returned to the Army in 2005 before deploying to Iraq in 2006.
It’s the ultimate getaway for the type of person that’s either preparing for an inevitable doomsday, really into Cold War history, or is simply done with everyone’s collective crap. We’ve got some good news for the reclusive and slightly paranoid: If you’re willing to put in the time, money, and effort, you can own your very own abandoned missile silo!
Once you put in the requisite funds and elbow grease, you can gloat to the internet about how your pad is much cooler than everyone else’s suburban townhouse (or that yours can survive a zombie apocalypse, whichever floats your boat).
But, as with everything else, it’s much easier said than done, even if you’ve got an extreme amount of cash laying around. Here’s what it takes.
I don’t read Russian but I’m highly confident that that reads, “Free Candy, Don’t mind the killer clown”
(Photo by Charlie Philips)
One of the first hurdles in getting your dream silo is finding it. The U.S. military technically had to release the exact locations of all nuclear silos in accordance to many nuclear arms treaties, but many of these silos have either been retained by the government as relics of a forgone time or have had their legal rights transferred back to the original landowners, from who they taken via eminent domain.
Since you’re probably not going to easily wrest the land deed from the government, your best bet is to find a private owner and hope they’re willing to sell — and that’s going to be a pricey venture.
Say you found the silo and it’s for sale — it’s likely going for somewhere in the range of 0k and million. Thankfully, those on the higher end have already been remodeled into beautiful homes capable of withstanding a nuclear blast. Congratulations. Your wallet is lighter and the job is done.
For the rest of us who’ll never see that amount of cash in one lifetime, we’ve got some options — but they’ll take work.
Oh. And there’s no natural lighting. Unless you want to just keep the “roof” open at all times.
(Photo by David Berry)
The silos that haven’t been refurbished have endured years of ruin and decay since the Cold War. After nearly thirty years of disrepair, they are more than likely flooded out. Mold and pests have probably made the place inhospitable and the rust has likely semi-permanently sealed some parts off. Expect to spend lots of time bringing the place up to inhabitable standards.
The next hurdle will be rewiring the place to allow for modern electricity and plumbing. Thankfully, housing troops within the silo and launching a nuclear ICBM both required a vast electrical grid. Unfortunately, that grid is underground, so working on it may require tunneling. Additionally, being so far underground also causes plumbing issues that may require equipment outside of the typical. Again, be ready to shell out some serious cash.
Large areas of these silos were used as living spaces by troops who once worked there. These same quarters will likely become your living space. Other areas will be filled with the remnants of old missile equipment, which you’ll probably want to clear out to make space for your personal stuff (unless you’re got super-villain plans).
To see someone take on this journey of converting an old missile silo into an awesome home, check out the following YouTube video from Death Wears Bunny Slippers — which is a highly appropriate name, given that the name belonged to the Air Force nuclear missile combat crews.
The establishment of the U.S. Space Force as America’s newest military branch didn’t come without its detractors in the media. Some laughed off the idea as a science fiction fantasy, despite both Russia and China already having operational space-specific branches of their own military forces. The truth is, orbital defense is seen as essential by lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle, but fierce (and worthwhile) debate continues to rage about whether establishing a new force was the most cost-effective way to address America’s orbital concerns.
But while the real-life Space Force is no laughing matter, Netflix’s spin on the concept, starring Steve Carell (The Office) alongside Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation), and Lisa Kudrow (Friends), looks like it might just be the laugh riot America needs to get back on its game once our COVID-19 fears are hopefully easing up.
SPACE FORCE starring Steve Carell and John Malkovich
According to Netflix, the new show is a workplace comedy first, and a show about space second. That means fans of shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation will probably feel right at home with this new show, regardless of whether it takes place in Pennsylvania or low-earth orbit.
The premise of Space Force (the show, not the branch) seems pretty believable, based on Netflix’s summary. Carell will play Air Force four-star general Mark R. Naird, a decorated pilot with aspirations of running the Air Force before being tasked by the president to head up the newly formed space branch. Naird (Carell) then uproots his family to move to Colorado, where his new command is located, and he and his team set about achieving their goal of getting back to the moon and, of course, securing “total space dominance.”
The real Space Force, of course, doesn’t outline its own goals in such a dramatic way. While getting back to the moon is among NASA’s initiatives, the Space Force is more concerned about America’s defenses right here on our own planet. Much of the Space Force’s responsibilities actually revolve around tracking objects in the sky, from foreign satellites to space junk, and finding ways to mitigate risks to America’s orbital infrastructure while simultaneously looking for ways to harden it against attack.
America’s military apparatus is dependent on satellites for everything ranging from communications to navigation to early warnings about missile launches, but many of those satellites were launched before America had any concerns about being able to defend these assets against foreign nations.
This could be a shot right out of the Air Force’s former Space Command.
Today, Russia and China are fielding both earth-based anti-satellite weapons and orbital platforms that could be used to interfere with or even de-orbit enemy satellites (by nudging or dragging them into a degrading orbit that will lead to them burning up on reentry).
As former Air Force secretary Heather Wilson put it, “We built a glass house before the invention of stones.”
This new show may not help on that front, but it might just be exactly what we need to lean back and chuckle a bit at the end of May — and I think it’s safe to say we could all use a bit of that right now.
While it may sound cliché, it’s a common motto within the tanker community. For more than 60 years of continuous service, the KC-135 Stratotanker has been the core aerial refueling capability for U.S. operations around the world.
The KC-135 provides the Air Force with its primary mission of global reach, but it also supports the Navy, Marine Corps and allied nations in assisting training, combat and humanitarian engagements.
The aircraft is also capable of transporting litters and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.
A Cold War-era image of B-52D refueling from a KC-135A.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The stratotanker was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker, replacing the KC-97 Stratofreighter. It was originally designed and tasked to support strategic bombers, but has been heavily used in all major conflicts since its development, extending the range and endurance of U.S. tactical fighters and bombers.
The KC-135 is a mid-air refueling aircraft with a telescoping “flying boom” tube located on the rear of the plane. A boom operator lays prone and guides the boom insert into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft. With a single boom, aircraft refuel one at a time.
The mid-air refueling capability changed the landscape of air dominance during the Vietnam War and enabled tactical fighter-bombers of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to stay on the front lines for hours rather than minutes due to their limited fuel reserves and high fuel consumption.
For bombers, all targets were now within reach without the need of hopping from base to base until striking their targets. No longer are lives at stake to build airstrips to support bombing campaigns, as they were in WWII.
Development and design
The Boeing Company’s model 367-80 jet transport, commonly called the “Dash-80,” was the basic design for the commercial 707 passenger plane as well as the KC-135A Stratotanker.
In 1954, the Air Force purchased the first 29 of its future 803 aerial refueling tanker fleet. The first aircraft flew in August 1956, and the initial production Stratotanker was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, California, in June 1957. The last KC-135 was delivered to the Air Force in 1965.
The aircraft’s KC identifier stands for (K) tanker (C) transport.
The aircraft is powered by four turbofan engines mounted on 35-degree swept wings, has a flight speed of more than 500 mph and a flight range of nearly 1,500 miles when loaded with 150,000 lbs. of fuel.
The KC-135 has been modified and retrofitted through the years with each update providing stronger engines, fuel management and avionics systems. The recent Block 45 update added a new glass cockpit digital display, radio altimeter, digital autopilot, digital flight director and computer updates.
Of the original KC-135As, more than 417 were modified with new CFM-56 engines.
The re-engined tanker, designated either the KC-135R or KC-135T, can offload 50 percent more fuel, is 25 percent more fuel efficient, costs 25 percent less to operate and is 96 percent quieter than the KC-135A.
In 1981 the KC-10 Extender was introduced to supplement the KC-135. The KC-10 doubles the fuel carrying capacity of the KC-135, which is critical in supporting mobility operations of large cargo aircraft like the C-5 Galaxy and the C-17 Globemaster III.
Airmen of the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron perform lifesaving procedures to a patient in a KC-135 Stratotanker, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, March 26, 2015. Aircrew and a KC-135 from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, spent multiple days at Ramstein performing aerial refueling missions, which also gave AES Airmen the opportunity to train on their mission inside a different airframe.
(Photo by Damon Kasberg)
Through the years, the KC-135 has been altered to do other jobs ranging from flying command post missions to reconnaissance. RC-135s are used for special reconnaissance and Air Force Materiel Command’s NKC-135As are flown in test programs. Air Combat Command operates the OC-135 as an observation platform in compliance with the Open Skies Treaty.
The KC-135R and KC-135T aircraft continue to undergo life-cycle upgrades to expand their capabilities and improve reliability. Among these are improved communications, navigation and surveillance equipment to meet future civil air traffic control needs.
There have been 11 variants or models through the years of the C-135 family.
The aircraft carries a basic crew of three, a pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some missions require the addition of a navigator.
An A-10C Thunderbolt II receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Afghanistan Oct. 2, 2013. The A-10 is deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., to the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The KC-135 is assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron.
(Photo by Stephany Richards)
Nearly all internal fuel can be pumped through the flying boom. A special shuttlecock-shaped drogue attached to and trailing behind the flying boom may be used to refuel aircraft fitted with probes. Some aircraft have been configured with the multipoint refueling system, which consists of special pods mounted on the wingtips. These KC-135s are capable of refueling two receiver aircraft at the same time.
In 2007 the Air Force announced plans for the KC-X tanker replacement program for the KC-135. In 2011, the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus was selected as the winner of the program.
The first 18 combat-ready Pegasus tankers are expected for delivery by 2019.
The KC-135 E and R models are expected to continue service until 2040 when they will be nearly 80 years old.
A KC-135 Stratotanker flies through storm clouds on its way to refuel a C-17 Globemaster III off Florida’s east coast, July 12, 2012. The KC-135 was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker and replaced the KC-97L Stratofreighter.
(Photo by Jeremy Lock)
Operation and deployment
Air Mobility Command manages the current inventory of 396 Stratotankers, of which the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard fly 243 aircraft in support of AMC’s mission.
While AMC gained the control of the aerial refueling mission, a small number of KC-135s were also assigned directly to U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Pacific Air Forces and the Air Education and Training Command.
All Air Force Reserve Command KC-135s and most of the Air National Guard KC-135 fleet are operationally controlled by AMC, while Alaska Air National Guard and Hawaii Air National Guard KC-135s are operationally controlled by PACAF.
Did you know?
The Stratotanker is constructed with almost 500,000 rivets. The installed cost of these rivets range from 14 cents to id=”listicle-2595814234″.50 each.
The KC-135 as 23 windows, nearly all of which are heated electrically or with hot air to prevent fogging.
The tanker has a cargo area easily capable of holding a bowling alley, with enough room left over for a gallery of spectators. The cargo area is almost 11 feet wide, 86 feet long and 7 feet high: the equivalent of 220 automobile trunks.
The KC-135 transfers enough fuel through the refueling boom in one minute to operate the average family car for more than one year.
It can transfer more fuel in 8 minutes than a gas station could pump in 24 hours.
A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress leads a formation of aircraft including two Polish air force F-16 Fighting Falcons, four U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, two German Eurofighter Typhoons and four Swedish Gripens over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2016. The formation was captured from a KC-135 from the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana as part of exercise BALTOPS 2016.
(Photo by Erin Babis)
KC-135 Stratotanker fact sheet:
Primary function: Aerial refueling and airlift
Builder: The Boeing Company
Power plant: CFM International CFM-56 turbofan engines
Thrust: 21,634 pounds of thrust in each engine
Wingspan: 130 feet, 10 inches (39.88 meters)
Length: 136 feet, 3 inches (41.53 meters)
Height: 41 feet, 8 inches (12.7 meters)
Speed: 530 mph at 30,000 feet (9,144)
Range: 1,500 miles (2,419 kilometers) with 150,000 pounds (68, 039 kilograms) of transfer fuel; ferry mission, up to 11,015 miles (17,766 kilometers)
Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
Maximum takeoff weight: 322,500 pounds (146, 285 kilograms)
Maximum Transfer Fuel Load: 200,000 pounds (90,719 kilograms)
Maximum Cargo Capability: 83,000 pounds (37,648 kilograms), 37 passengers
Crew: 3 (pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some KC-135 missions require the addition of a navigator. The Air Force has a limited number of navigator suites that can be installed for unique missions.)
Aeromedical Evacuation Crew: A basic crew of five (two flight nurses and three medical technicians) is added for aeromedical evacuation missions. Medical crew may be altered as required by the needs of patients.
Initial operating capability: 1956
Unit cost: .6 million
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
France, one of Europe’s two nuclear powers, said on Feb. 5, 2019, that it had fired a nuclear-capable missile from a fighter jet, while the US and Russia feud over the death of a nuclear treaty that saw Europe purged of most of its weapons of mass destruction during the hair-triggered days of the Cold War.
“These real strikes are scheduled in the life of the weapons’ system,” said a spokesman for the French air force, Col. Cyrille Duvivier, according to Reuters. “They are carried out at fairly regular intervals, but remain rare because the real missile, without its warhead, is fired.”
A French Dassault Rafale.
France also operates a fleet of ballistic-missile submarines that can fire some of its 280 some nuclear warheads, but the subs move in secrecy and don’t provide the same messaging effect as more visible fighter jets.
France’s announcement of a nuclear test run came after the US and Russia fell out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which barred both countries from building nuclear missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles. Signed in 1987, it saw Europe and Russia remove an entire class of nuclear warheads from the continent in one of the most successful acts of arms control.
But while France, as part of NATO, sided with the US, it has increasingly sought to distance itself from the US in foreign-policy and military affairs, and increasing the visibility of its nuclear arsenal is one way to assert independence.
France flexes its nuclear might against Russia — and the US
President Donald Trump on May 29, 2018, praised the “solid response” to a letter he sent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in which he canceled a planned summit between the two leaders.
After Trump sent the letter on May 24, 2018, many of Asia’s top negotiators spent the weekend in a flurry of diplomatic activity with the goal of saving the summit, which had been scheduled for June 12, 2018, in Singapore.
“We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea,” Trump tweeted on May 29, 2018. “Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!”
When Trump called off the summit, citing North Korean anger and hostility, it came as a shock to US allies and journalists alike.
Two days later, Kim had a surprise meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, an attempt to get the summit back on track.
In talking to South Korea, North Korea seemed to put aside its anger and recent hostility, agreeing to attend meetings with Seoul it had canceled in protest of US-South Korean military exercises. It also reaffirmed its aim for denuclearization.
Notably present at the meeting was Kim Yong Chol, a high-ranking official with ties to North Korea’s spy service.
Kim Yong Chol has been singled out for sanctions by the US. He is accused of masterminding an attack on a South Korean navy ship that killed 46 people and of involvement in the 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures.
If Kim Yong Chol arrives in New York, it will represent the highest-level North Korean to visit the US since 2000, NK News reported.
“At best, this will give US officials a better understanding of North Korea’s position and steer the summit in a more realistic direction,” a former State Department Korea Desk officer, Mintaro Oba, told NK News. “At worst, tense meetings will cloud or poison the atmosphere, calling the summit into question once again. It’s hard to tell which direction is more plausible right now.
“We can also probably expect that some in Washington may raise concerns about the optics of meeting with an official with Kim Yong Chol’s past of provocations.”
But Trump’s team, previously thought to be unprepared for the summit, also saw a big change over the last weekend of May 2018.
The US ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, traveled to North Korea for talks. He took part in denuclearization talks with North Korea a decade ago and is highly regarded in that capacity.
With the summit’s originally scheduled date now less than two weeks away, Trump’s letter to Kim has whipped the region into a flurry of activity that appears for now to have saved diplomacy.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The branches of the U.S. military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along.
The differences don’t stop at uniforms. Each branch has its own goals, mission, and its own internal culture. At the upper levels of the services, they compete for funds and favor from civilians in DoD. In the lower ranks, they compete for fun and favor from civilians in bars and strip clubs (especially in North Carolina). The branches are like siblings, competing for the intangible title of who’s “the best” from no one in particular.
“The Soviets are our adversary. Our enemy is the Navy.” —Gen. Curtis LeMay, U.S. Air Force
Of course, when it comes to joint operations downrange, a lot of that goes out the window. But when the op-tempo isn’t as hectic and frustration has time to build, the awesome Army platoon who saved your ass last month become a bunch of damn stupid grunts who steal everything you don’t lock down and leave their Gatorade piss bottles everywhere. Parsing out the best and worst of our services isn’t hard if we’re honest with ourselves.
Here’s how the other branches hate on the Navy, how they should actually be hating on the Navy, how the Navy hates on the Navy, and why to really love the Navy.
The easiest ways to make fun of the Navy
Sailor harassment has its roots in the age-old reality that since man first decided to put military power to sea in ships, those aboard those ships were forced to spend weeks and months underway before being afforded a few days of downtime in a foreign port. As a result of this ratio, sailors may have had a tendency for exuberance while on liberty over the years. And that exuberance may have caused a scuffle or two that caught the attention of bar owners and other locals who may have developed impressions that were less than positive.
Over time these locals spread rumors that these sailors couldn’t hold their liquor and tended to burn through what little cash they had in a short time. Word of these phenomena returned stateside, which gave birth to the saying, “spending money like a sailor on liberty.”
Because sailors spend time on the water, service members from other military branches wanted to give them a nickname that was both sufficiently pejorative and germane. Naturally marine life came to mind. “Sharks” was too cool and tough and “guppies” was too cute, so they settled on “squids.” So if you want to make fun of a sailor call him or her a “squid.” They really hate that because squids are spineless and ugly and otherwise devoid of personality. (They can swim fast, but nobody really cares about that.)
Because SEALs. In the wake of the Bin Laden raid, SEALs have managed to morph from silent professionals to the warfare specialty that is quick to tell all to land book and movie deals.
Because Top Gun. No other military movie in history has done more to give the public the wrong idea about what it means to serve. And it’s got a lot of homoerotic imagery, which leads to . . .
. . . The quickest way to strike a squid’s nerve is to make “gay” jokes. Yes, you know the kind, “100 sailors go out, 50 couples come back,” or “it ain’t gay if it’s under way,” and many, many more. It also doesn’t help that sailors are a popular gay fantasy.
Henri Belolo created the Village People around macho male stereotypes that gays fantasize about. The cowboy, cop, construction worker, leather-clad biker, Indian, and the sailor. The band became popular, moved into the mainstream and took the sailor in the cute Crackerjack uniform along with it. Yes, we said “cute.” Admit it, the sailor dress uniform has more in common with the Japanese school girl uniform than with the other service branches.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, of course. This is, after all, the post-DADT world.
Because nuclear power. While the introduction of this science gave Navy ships the ability to sail a long, long time without refueling, the existence of it also created a zero-tolerance culture that has raised the bar of fun suppression to heights that can never be lowered. And this ability to sweat the load has crossed over into other warfare specialties and other branches of the military. Thanks, Nukes . . .
Why to actually hate the Navy
Every service tries to imitate the Marine Corps when it comes to celebrating its birthday, and the Navy’s history makes this in many ways the biggest joke (which is a polite way to say “the biggest lie”). While the Navy uses October 13, 1775 as the birth date, they leave out the fact that the first version of the U.S. Navy was dismantled completely after the Revolutionary War because the ragtag bunch of vessels they managed to assemble on the fly did little to protect ports or disrupt the British in any way.
And this anti-Navy sentiment in and around DC lasted a while after that. Thomas Jefferson hated the idea of a standing Navy and few in Congress thought any differently about it. It wasn’t until early Navy badass Stephen Decatur decided to take a couple of ships to Tripoli to raise some Yankee hell against the Barbary Pirates. His successes made lawmakers take notice and actually warm to the idea of a standing Navy, and one with an over-the-horizon outlook.
So the real birth date of the Navy would be somewhere around 1810 when Decatur took the USS United States up and down the east coast to show the American public what they had in terms of seagoing capability.
Hate SAPR training and the CYA leadership atmosphere you’re currently serving under? Blame the Navy.
All the mechanisms that surround using the military as a social experiment and other morale-sapping things that get labeled as “politically correct” started with the Tailhook Scandal in the early ’90s. Of course, sexual battery, never mind harassment, is a bad thing that should never be tolerated, but Navy leadership over the years has done little to stop agenda-based over-corrections that have marginalized the culture in undesirable ways (in the eyes of those who intimate they know about warfighting and such).
So, regardless of your branch, if you feel like you’re serving in a nanny state, blame the Navy.
Because Jimmy Carter. He’s a Naval Academy grad and a submariner, but he never really acted like it when he was Commander-in-chief. His “man is inherently good” naivete made for some very bad foreign policy, most notably in how he de-fanged the CIA and emboldened the Iranian government to take Americans hostage for 444 days. And the Desert One rescue attempt was a disaster. Basically his time in the White House made the country very happy to see Ronald Reagan.
And because the Navy is the absolute worst when it comes to changing uniforms. Remember aviation greens? How about service dress khaki? No? Well, here’s one for you: aquaflage. What are you hiding in, the water? And if a sailor is in the water don’t you want to be able to see him or her? We rest our case.
Because they wrecked most of what was cool about the band Godsmack and made them corporate sellouts.
Because sailors don’t have to eat MREs when they deploy. Ships are built with mess decks and Navy cooks (and supply officers) generally take pride in serving the crew good food.
Why to love the Navy
Because Navy SEALs. They popped OBL and the Somali pirates and many more high value bad actors since 9-11. Their warfighting skills are second to none.
Because Hollywood remains enamoured by Navy life, it keeps teeing up Navy-themed shows like “The Last Ship,” and as a result, the general public has a favorable opinion of the military.
Because strike warfare. As has been the case throughout history U.S. Navy carriers and surface combatants were the first on the scene after 9-11, and because of that we were able to take it to the enemy a mere three weeks after the homeland was attacked.
Because the U.S. Navy really is, as the commercials state, “a global force for good.” From Hurricane Katrina to the Haitian earthquake to the tsunami in Thailand, when a country needs humanitarian assistance, the Navy has always been first on the scene.
Because the Navy continues to fight “the war between the wars.” The Navy goes to potentially hostile places like the littorals of Yemen and Chinese-claimed islands to prove to those nations that we’re willing to protect the sea lanes to keep goods moving safely to and from our shores.
According to legend, Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain is a sleeping dragon that many years ago saved the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. In the Native American story, the Great Spirit punished the people by sending a massive flood, but after they repented, it sent a dragon to drink the water away. The dragon, engorged by the massive amount of water, fell asleep, was petrified and then became the mountain.
Unlike the dragon of legend, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex has never slept during 50 years of operations. Since being declared fully operational in April 1966, the installation has played a vital role in the Department of Defense during both peacetime and wartime.
Though the complex may have changed names during the past five decades, its mission has never strayed from defending the U.S. and its allies. Today, it is known as Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, with a primary role of collecting information from satellites and ground-based sensors throughout the world and disseminating the data to North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command — a process Steven Rose, Cheyenne Mountain AFS deputy director, compares to the work done by the stem of the human brain.
“Those sensors are your nerves out there sensing that information,” Rose said, “but the nerves all come back to one spot in the human body, together in the brain stem, entangled in a coherent piece. We are the brain stem that’s pulling it all together, correlating it, making sense of it, and passing it up to the brain — whether it’s the commander at NORAD, NORTHCOM or STRATCOM — for someone to make a decision on what that means. That is the most critical part of the nervous system and the most vulnerable. Cheyenne Mountain provides that shield around that single place where all of that correlation and data comes into.”
In the 1950s, the DOD decided to build the installation as a command and control center defense against long-range Soviet bombers. As the “brain stem,” it would be one of the first installations on the enemy’s target list, so it was built to withstand a direct nuclear attack.
Cheyenne Mountain’s 15 buildings rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls, so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast and the inherent seismic event. In addition, an EMP, being a natural component of a nuclear blast, was already considered in Cheyenne Mountain’s original design and construction features, Rose said.
“Back then, it was just part of the effect of a nuclear blast that we were designed for at Cheyenne Mountain,” he added. “If you fast forward 50 years from our construction, the EMP threat has become more important to today’s society because of the investment that has been made into electronics. Just by sheer coincidence, since we were designed in the 50s and 60s for a nuclear blast and its EMP component, we are sitting here today as the number one rated EMP protected facility. The uniqueness of the mountain is that the entire installation is surrounded by granite, which is a natural EMP shield.”
The station, built 7,000 feet above sea level, opened as the NORAD Combat Operations Center. When NORAD and the newly stood up NORTHCOM moved their main command center to Peterson Air Force Base in 2008, many believed Cheyenne Mountain had closed. Today, Cheyenne Mountain hosts an alternate command center for NORAD and is landlord to more than a dozen DOD agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“When I bring official visitors up here, not only are they surprised that we’re still open,” said Colonel Gary Cornn, Cheyenne Mountain AFS Installation Commander. “Many are impressed by the original construction, the blasting of the tunnels, how the buildings are constructed inside, and some of the things we show them, such as the survivability and capability we have in the blast valves, the springs, the way we do our air in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) filtering and the huge blast doors. It’s funny to see senior officers and civilians become sort of amazed like little kids again.”
The threats and sources have drastically changed from when the station opened at the height of the Cold War, but the station’s iconic 25-ton steel doors remain the same, ready to seal the mountain in 40 seconds to protect it from any threat. The underground city beneath 2,000 feet of granite still provides the protection to keep the station relevant as it begins its next half-century as “America’s Fortress.”
Longtime Cheyenne Mountain employees like Rose and Russell Mullins, the 721st Communications Squadron deputy director, call themselves “mountain men.” Mullins’ time in the mountain goes back to the Cold War era, about halfway through its history to 1984.
Although the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was the main focus, today’s Airmen conduct essentially the same mission: detect and track incoming threats to the United States; however, the points of origin for those threats have multiplied and are not as clearly defined.
“The tension in here wasn’t high from what might happen,” Mullins said. “The tension was high to be sure you could always detect (a missile launch). We didn’t dwell on the fact that the Soviet Union was the big enemy. We dwelled on the fact that we could detect anything they could throw at us.
“There was a little bit of stress back then, but that hasn’t changed. I would say the stress now is just as great as during the Cold War, but the stress today is the great unknown.”
The 9/11 attacks added another mission to NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate – the monitoring of the U.S. and Canadian interior air space. They stand ready to assist the Federal Aviation Administration and Navigation Canada to respond to threats from the air within the continental U.S. and Canada.
Airplane icons blot out most of the national map on the NORAD/NORTHCOM Battle Cab Traffic Situation Display in the alternate command center. To the right another screen shows the Washington, D.C., area, called the Special Flight Restrictions Area, which was also added after 9/11.
Whenever a crisis would affect NORAD’s vulnerability or ability to operate, the commander would move his command center and advisors to the Battle Cab, said Lt. Col. Tim Schwamb, the Cheyenne Mountain AFS branch chief for NORAD/NORTHCOM.
“I would say that on any given day, the operations center would be a center of controlled chaos; where many different things may be happening at once,” Schwamb said. “We’re all trying to ensure that we’re taking care of whatever threat may be presenting itself in as short an amount of time as possible.
“I would describe it as the nerve center of our homeland defense operations. This is where the best minds in NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are, so that we can see, predict, and counter any threats that would happen to the homeland and North American region. It’s really a room full of systems that we monitor throughout the day, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, that give us the information to help us accomplish the mission.”
Protecting America’s Fortress is a responsibility that falls to a group of firefighters and security forces members, but fighting fires and guarding such a valuable asset in a mountain presents challenges quite different from any other Air Force base, said Matthew Backeberg, a 721st Civil Engineer Squadron supervisor firefighter. Firefighters train on high-angle rescues because of the mountain’s unique environment, but even the most common fire can be especially challenging.
“Cheyenne Mountain is unique in that we have super challenges as far as ventilation, smoke and occupancy,” Backeberg said. “In a normal building, you pull the fire alarm, and the people are able to leave. Inside the mountain, if you pull the fire alarm, the people are depending on me to tell them a safer route to get out.
“If a fire happens inside (the mountain), we pretty much have to take care of it,” Backeberg added. “We’re dependent on our counterparts in the CE world to help us ventilate the facility, keep the fire going in the direction we want it to go, and allow the occupants of the building to get to a safe location – outside the half mile long tunnel.”
Although Cheyenne Mountain, the site of movies and television series such as “WarGames,” “Interstellar,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Terminator,” attracts occasional trespassers and protesters, security forces members more often chase away photographers, said Senior Airman Ricardo Pierre Collie, a 721st Security Forces Squadron member.
“The biggest part of security forces’ day is spent responding to alarms and getting accustomed to not seeing the sun on a 12-hour shift when working inside the mountain,” Collie said.
Security forces must also be ready to respond at a moment’s notice because, when charged with protecting an installation like Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the reaction time is even more crucial. Airmen like Collie feel their responsibly to protect America’s Fortress remains as vital today as it was during the Cold War.
“The important day at Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t the day we opened in 1966,” Rose said. “The next important date isn’t in April 2016 (the installation’s 50-year anniversary), it’s about all those days in between. The Airmen who come here to Cheyenne Mountain every day will be watching your skies and shores in (the nation’s) defense.”
As Cheyenne Mountain AFS enters its next 50 years, the dragon remains awake and alert to all threats against the U.S.
When we last saw (the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s) Wanda Maximoff, she was at the funeral of Tony Stark after the Avengers finally defeated Thanos. During Avengers: Infinity War, she was forced to destroy the Mind Stone — killing her lover, Vision, in the process — until Thanos used the Time Stone to undo her actions and tear the Mind Stone from Vision, killing the sentient android himself. Wanda disappeared — along with half the universe — during ‘The Snap’ before being restored in Avengers: Endgame; but sadly, Vision remained among the casualties of the war.
So when Marvel announced that a six-episode series called WandaVision would be added to its Phase 4 lineup, there were questions. Would it take place in the past (a popular Loki theory)? Did Vision somehow survive (like Agent Coulson in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)?
Once the official trailer dropped…well…the questions just keep coming.
WATCH THE OFFICIAL TRAILER HERE:
Set to debut on Disney+ on Jan. 15, 2021, WandaVision appears to take place in an alternate dimension. Star Elizabeth Olsen told the New York Times that the series will explore Wanda as the Scarlet Witch much as she is in the comic books — including addressing the character’s mental health and illness.
The series begins in a 1950s television sitcom where the characters are blissfully unaware of the tragedy that has befallen them. Marvel literally filmed the pilot in front of a studio audience (who signed “very, very strict NDAs,” reported Entertainment Weekly).
“It is even better than it was pitched. It’s even more complicated and fun and interesting and playful than I could have ever imagined this job being,” gushed Olsen. Her co-star Paul Bettany, who plays the titular Vision character, called it “totally bonkers” with a grin.
“Our content is so different from Marvel. It’s like a conversation of American sitcom through the decades with Marvel Film and they’re constantly in dialogue with each other. So it’s really fun!” hinted Olsen.
After a decade of successful films and television series within the MCU, Marvel has earned the right to take some risks. The show will bridge itself to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, according to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. Due for release in March 2022, the sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange promises to feature Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff alongside Benedict Cumberbatch’s zany Dr. Stephen Strange.