Everything about 'The Force Awakens' First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words - We Are The Mighty
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Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words

The Imperial Stormtroopers featured in Star Wars are a big deal. Culturally, they are one of the most recognizable henchmen and foot soldiers in all of American pop culture history. So when we see so many iterations of the iconic armor, it makes sense that so many want to know more about them… and that they care about what lies beneath.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens features new kinds of specialty Imperial troops as well as updates on the original, iconic Imperial Stormtrooper, not to mention Gwendoline Christie’s chrome-plated trooper armor she wears as Captain Phasma.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
I mean, shiny armor in combat seems like a bad idea, but it doesn’t seem so bad here.

The First Order Flametrooper is a specialized Stormtrooper. They carry incendiary weapons that “turn any battlefield into an infernal blaze.” Flamethrowers are not exactly a battlefield innovation, though since this was “a long time ago,” it might have been for them. It does speak to the evil nature of the First Order since the weapon was banned by the Geneva Convention.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
… But it still uses liquid fuel, pumps, and hose technology.

See Also: EA releases combat stats for ‘Star Wars Battlefront’ and the results are amazing

And then there’s the updated First Order Snowtrooper. Let’s be honest, the Snowtroopers were the only troops from the original trilogy who had any effectiveness on the battlefield. The Snowtroopers captured the Rebel base on Hoth, where regular Stormtroopers couldn’t duck while entering doorways and Imperial Scouts couldn’t even beat Ewoks on a planet they occupied long enough to build the Death Star.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Also, the original Snowtroopers don’t seem all that warm.

But even though no one in the audience ever saw the faces underneath Stormtrooper armor in the previous films, the idea of a Stormtrooper being a black man caught a few people by surprise when audiences first saw actor John Boyega in the armor. It doesn’t make much sense for people to be surprised since the Armed Forces have historically led the way for racial and other forms of integration.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Draftees in Korea on their way to the front.

Finn (played by John Boyega) doesn’t think it’s important either.

“I really don’t care about the black stormtrooper stuff,” he said.  “This is a movie about human beings, about Wookiees, spaceships, and TIE fighters, and it has an undertone and a message of courage, and a message of friendship, and loyalty. And I think that’s something that is ultimately important.”

Which is pretty much the same takeaway anyone who served had when President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 in 1948, which abolished racial discrimination in the U.S. military. Three years later, the U.S. was fighting in Korea. In war, as one Korea-era Marine Corps officer once told me, “after you’ve fought alongside a man, it doesn’t matter what color he is, you gotta respect his fighting ability.”

See Also: Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq Afghanistan

Joe Owen, then a Marine Corps lieutenant and author of Colder Than Hell, a retrospective about his time in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, remembered getting two young black men in his mortar company.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Joe Owen, age 90.

“We had some black guys who came to us who were named squad leaders. Some of our people objected to this. Two Marines from the first platoon approached me and asked for a transfer to my outfit because a black guy was their squad leader. They refused to take orderes from him,” Owen recalled. “I told them they were going to take orders from a  Sergeant of Marines and that they were to go back to their outfit. After one night of fighting the Chinese, that squad leader was killed. I was on the detail of carrying the dead and wounded to battalion, and as I’m taking my column down, those same two Southerners came up to me and said they wanted to go with their squad leader and carry his body down because they said they wanted to pay proper respect to the best goddamn squad leader in the Marine Corps. That’s how that was settled.”

What the First Order Stormtrooper needs most is the ability to stop and aim. Kylo Ren was a Marine for crying out loud. Empire Fi.

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Today in military history: Battle of Midway ends

On June 7, 1942, the Battle of Midway ended, turning the tide of the war for the Americans against the Japanese in the Pacific.

It had been six months since the attack on Pearl Harbor and during that time, the Japanese Navy had been nearly invincible. The United States, however, had become an increasing threat, and Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto decided to strike a blow against the U.S. Navy before the States could become a serious rival. 

He set an intricate trap near the strategic island of Midway. Unfortunately for the Japanese, U.S. codebreakers uncovered the plot and responded in force. On June 3, the Japanese fleet was spotted right where the Americans expected them to be. What followed was four days of fighting one of the most decisive battles in the Pacific. 

After crippling the Japanese fleet by destroying four of its carriers, the Americans were able to finally defeat Yamamoto and level the playing field in the Pacific theater, but the naval counteroffensive would continue until Japan’s surrender three years later. 

The Battle of Midway is arguably one of the greatest moments in the history of the United States Navy. American heroism was put on display during that battle by personnel both in the air and on the sea, but only one man received the Medal of Honor during the multiple-day campaign: Marine Captain Richard E. Fleming. Fleming was assigned to Marine Scout Bomber Squadron 241. Also known as the “Sons of Satan,” the squadron was equipped with 16 Douglas SBD-2 Dauntless and 11 Vought SB2U-3 Vindicator dive bombers.

On June 4, the squadron took part in attacks on Japanese carriers, losing a number of planes. During the initial attacks, Fleming dove dangerously low in order to get a better angle of attack on the ships. The next day, Fleming led an attack on a pair of Japanese cruisers that were damaged in a collision caused by the submarine USS Tambor. During this attack, too, Fleming dove, closing in on the enemy ship.

Fleming was shot down while pressing his attack on the heavy cruiser HIJMS Mikuma. His bravery, and the bravery of those around him, helped turn the tide for the Allies at Midway.

Featured Image: USS Yorktown (CV-5) is hit on the port side, amidships, by a Japanese Type 91 aerial torpedo during the mid-afternoon attack by planes from the carrier Hiryu, in the Battle of Midway, on June, 4, 1942. Yorktown is heeling to port and is seen at a different aspect than in other views taken by USS Pensacola (CA-24), indicating that this is the second of the two torpedo hits she received. Note very heavy anti-aircraft fire. (U.S. National Archives image)

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Here’s how the super tanks of World War II ultimately proved bigger isn’t always better

During World War II, there was a concerted effort to develop heavier and heavier tanks, often stretching past the limits of practicality and even credulity. Some of the larger examples were well over 100 tons, huge by today’s standards. Almost none were ever deployed in battle. But they displayed a school of thought similar to that of battleships, where sheer armor and weaponry took precedence over anything else.


The Japanese developed several prototypes for massive tanks to be used in the Pacific Theater. The O-I superheavy tank was conceived due to the profound inferiority of Japanese Army armor facing off against Soviet armor in a series of severe border clashes at Khalkin Gol on the Manchurian border. A single functional model was built by 1945, weighing in at a gigantic 120 tons and armed with a 105mm gun and two rocket launchers. Under murky circumstances it was shipped to Manchuria and it is unknown whether it ever saw combat. It was scrapped after the war. Only its tracks remain in an Japanese museum.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Japanese O-1

The German Panzer VIII, jokingly named the Maus, or Mouse, was the largest and heaviest tank design that was ever actually built, though it never saw any frontline service. It weighed in at 188 tons, over six times as heavy as a U.S. M4 Sherman, and was conceived as a way to break through heavy field fortifications in frontal assaults. It was armed with a 128mm gun that could easily destroy any Allied tank out to very long ranges. It also carried a 75 mm gun as a secondary armament that was equal to the main gun on the M4. Several prototypes were constructed, but were captured by the Soviets in 1945. Only one, assembled from the prototypes, remains in the Kubinka tank museum in Russia.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
German Panzer VIII

The United States and the British also worked on vehicles in the 70-100 ton range, but they were conceived more as large armored self-propelled artillery, such as the American T28 and the British Tortoise. Neither entered production before the end of the war.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
British Tortoise

Despite their awesome appearance, superheavy tank designs were almost uniformly a failure. The size and weight of the tanks made traversing rough terrain difficult if not impossible, and they were often far too heavy for most bridges, restricting them to fording the rivers using snorkels. But river fords shallow enough for passage were not always available, a severe restriction on the tank’s tactical flexibility. Also, tanks were generally transported long distances by rail, and the extreme difficulty of doing so with 100-plus ton tanks was a serious disadvantage.

Heavy armor alone was not enough to make up for low speed and presenting a large target. Tanks in the open are extremely vulnerable to air attack, and a slow, large target was even more so. A 250-pound bomb from above would kill a superheavy tank as quickly as a light one.

Even light artillery could at the least knock off one of the tracks, leaving the tank immobilized and helpless. Low maneuverability and speed meant lighter enemy tanks could outflank them and hit them from the sides and rear, where the armor was weakest. Far greater numbers of regular tanks like the American M4 and the famed Soviet T-34 could be built, and it was these that overcame the often superior German tanks through tactics and numbers.

But the single biggest problem facing superheavy tank designs was one that plagued many of their smaller cousins: mechanical reliability. The engines available were uniformly underpowered, and the huge weight of armor and weapons took a terrible toll on transmissions, suspensions, and turret mechanisms. A broken-down tank was just as useless as one destroyed by the enemy. Even the German King Tiger II, still large at 68 tons, lost more tanks to mechanical breakdown than to the enemy.

Following the war, improvements in armor and gun technology made superheavy tanks unnecessary. Advances like composite armor and better engines made tanks more survivable while faster and more maneuverable, and ever more effective airpower made monster tanks more of a target than a weapon. The M1 Abrams, the mainstay tank of the United States for over 30 years, weighs in at less than a third of the Panzer VIII.

Like so many “miracle weapons,” the superheavy tanks never panned out. It proved more effective to have larger numbers of smaller, economical, and more reliable tanks, rather than a small number of large ones. Modern tank design in particular has concluded that bigger is not always better.

For more on these super tanks go here, here, and here

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Pentagon identifies Navy SEAL killed in Fleet Week parachute accident

A Navy SEAL who fell to his death when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River has been identified as a 27-year-old Colorado man.


The accident that killed Remington J. Peters occurred Sunday at Liberty State Park, a large New Jersey park across from Manhattan where people catch ferries to see the Statue of Liberty.

Peters, whose identity was revealed late Monday, was a member of an elite Navy parachute team called the Leap Frogs. He was a role model who will be “painfully missed,” his family said in a statement released by the U.S. Navy.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“He was an angel on earth and role model to all,” the statement said. “We couldn’t have been more proud of him. He lived life to the fullest and taught us to do the same.”

The cause of the parachute malfunction that killed Peters is under investigation.

Peters was among four parachutists who drifted down from two helicopters. The Navy said he was pulled from the water by the U.S. Coast Guard. His parachute landed in a parking lot.

The Navy Region Mid-Atlantic commander, Rear Adm. Jack Scorby, asked for prayers “for the Navy SEAL community.”

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The Navy converted side-wheel paddle steamers into WWII aircraft carriers

Paddle steamers are usually associated with 19th century cruises on the Mississippi river. Modern representatives like the Mark Twain Riverboat at Disneyland preserve this quaint and picturesque scene in American culture. However, during WWII, two side-wheel paddle steamers found themselves in a very different type of scene. Desperate for more ships, the Navy converted these two-paddle steamers into aircraft carriers.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Luxury cruise ship Seeandbee in 1919 (Public Domain)

To be fair, these makeshift flattops were not truly weapons of war. Unlike purpose-built aircraft carriers like USS Hornet (CV-12) and USS Lexington (CV-16), the steam-powered carriers lacked armor, a hangar deck, elevators and weapons of any sort. Additionally, the flight decks built on top of the steamers were shorter and lower than regular carriers. However, the converted carriers weren’t built for combat; they were built to train aviators.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Greater Buffalo on its way to be refit in 1942 (U.S. Navy)

In 1942, the Navy purchased the side-paddle steam cruise ships Seeandbee and Greater Buffalo. The Great Lakes passenger ships were acquired as a cost-saving measure to build trainer aircraft carriers for flight students at the Naval Air Technical Training Center.

Both ships were stripped of their superstructures and luxury cabins during the Navy refit. To become aircraft carriers, the steamers were fitted with a bridge island, arresting cables, and of course, a flight deck. Seeandbee’s flight deck was made of wood while Greater Buffalo’s was made of steel. Following their refit, Seeandbee and Greater Buffalo were renamed USS Wolverine (IX-64) and USS Sable (IX-81), respectively.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
USS Wolverine and USS Sable docked at Navy Pier in 1945 (U.S. Navy)

Supporting NATTC training, Wolverine and Sable moored at and operated from Chicago at what today is known as Navy Pier. Wolverine began her training duty first in January 1943. Sable followed in May that same year. Together, the Great Lakes carriers were nicknamed the “Corn Belt Fleet.”

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
An FM-2 Wildcat takes off from USS Sable on Lake Michigan (U.S. Navy)

Pilot training on the carriers took place seven days a week. They provided critical training to thousands of naval aviators and a smaller number of Landing Signal Officers. One of these naval aviators was future president George H. W. Bush, who trained on Sable.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
An FM-2 Wildcat barrier crash aboard USS Sable (U.S. Navy)

After WWII ended, the need for the Corn Belt Fleet had run its course. In November 1945, Wolverine and Sable were decommissioned, struck from the Navy register, and sold for scrap.

Together, the two ships trained 17,280 naval aviators in 116,000 carrier landings. They remain the only freshwater, coal-driven, side-wheel paddle steam aircraft carriers used by the Navy.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
USS Wolverine takes on coal at anchor on Lake Michigan (U.S. Navy)

Feature Image: U.S. Navy photo

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Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

The 1968 World War II film “Where Eagles Dare” thrilled some viewers — and scared the bejesus out of others — with its tale of commandos storming a snow-covered mountain fortress and a scene of Richard Burton wrestling with Nazi thugs on the roof of a swaying cable car.


But for an Omaha teen named James Stejskal, seeing the movie inspired his life’s work as an Army Green Beret.

“I was always interested in that kind of life,” said Stejskal, 63, now retired from careers as a soldier and CIA agent and living in Alexandria, Virginia. “A small unit fighting against the bigger enemy (using) a combination of military and intelligence operations, not just brute force.”

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Green Berets standing proud.  (U.S. Army photo)

This spring, Stejskal published a book called “Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the U.S. Army’s Elite, 1956-90,” about the secret unit with which he spent nine of his 23 years in the Army. Its work was so sensitive that the Pentagon didn’t acknowledge its existence until 2014.

“That’s when we finally came in from the cold,” said Tom Merrill, 63, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, who served with Stejskal in Berlin and remains a friend.

Stejskal enlisted in the Army in 1973, a year after graduating from Central High School. Soon he became a Green Beret, serving on small special ops teams. He was a weapons sergeant and a medic, known to his buddies as “Styk.”

“He was the consummate operator — natively smart, well-educated, thought well on his feet,” said Merrill, who lived in Council Bluffs as a boy.

The Berlin unit, created in 1956, was blandly named Detachment “A.” It disbanded in 1990, after the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Berlin Wall, 1989 (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

The soldiers of Detachment “A” didn’t look much like soldiers. They dressed in modish clothes, wore beards and long hair, made local friends, lived in off-base apartments. All spoke German, many of them fluently.

“Working in civilian clothes, blending in with the locals, doing cool stuff in West Berlin and the middle of (Communist) East Germany,” recalled Stejskal, who served in the unit from 1977 to 1981, and from 1984 to 1989. “It was a very ambiguous kind of duty.”

They were expert at soldierly skills like marksmanship, wilderness navigation, rappelling from helicopters, urban combat. But they also learned the tradecraft of spies, including surveillance and secret messaging.

In the event of a Soviet-led invasion of Western Europe, the detachment’s job was to melt into the population of Berlin and engage in acts of sabotage behind enemy lines. In his book, Stejskal describes it as a “Hail Mary plan to slow the (Soviet) juggernaut they expected when and if a war began.”

Each of the detachment’s six teams was to be responsible for sabotaging bridges and railroads, harassing the enemy in designated slices of East Berlin and East Germany.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Berlin during the Cold War.

The work evolved as new threats emerged in Europe, and encompassed training in guerrilla warfare, direct-action precision strikes, and counterterrorism.

As radical groups spread terror across Europe with kidnappings, mass shootings and hijackings in the 1970s, Detachment “A” practiced rescuing hostages from trains and airplanes. Pan Am let them drill using airliners stored in its hangars at Berlin’s Tegel airport.

The detachment’s highest-profile mission had little to do with the Cold War and didn’t even take place in Europe. In 1980, the detachment was tapped to help rescue 52 U.S. diplomats held hostage in Tehran by radical Iranian students.

Soon after the embassy was captured Nov. 4, 1979, the U.S. military began developing a plan to seize the hostages. Most were held in the main embassy compound, but the job of Detachment “A” was to snatch three who were being held separately at the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The first rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw, ended in disaster when a plane and a helicopter collided in the dark in the Iranian desert.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Operation Eagle Claw ends in failure, 1989. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The military quietly began planning a second rescue attempt, again including members of Detachment “A.” Stejskal and Merrill, who hadn’t been part of Eagle Claw, were involved in the second, Operation Storm Cloud. It involved using Air Force transport planes to fly partly disassembled helicopters into an airfield commandeered in the desert. The helicopters would be quickly reassembled and used to assault the Foreign Ministry.

The team traveled to Florida to conduct live-fire drills and spent weeks rehearsing with helicopter crews. They honed their weapons skills with extra-long hours on the shooting range.

“We were blowing (our weapons) up, we were firing them so much,” Stejskal said.

They ran a dress rehearsal in late November 1980, but soon the word came down: The mission had been scrubbed.

“It was deflating, extremely,” Stejskal said. “It’s like preparing for a big game and then being told you can’t play.”

The hostages were released Jan. 20, 1981, the same day President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
President Reagan’s inauguration, 1981. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Stejskal soon rotated out but returned to the unit in 1984. The 1980s are remembered now as the death throes of the Soviet empire. But at the time, it wasn’t clear whether popular movements like Poland’s Solidarity might provoke a Soviet crackdown.

“No one was really sure how it would all play out,” he said.

Stejskal left Berlin in the spring of 1989, but he flew back in November when he heard that the Wall had fallen. He wanted to see the end of the Cold War icon that had shaped his life.

“In one way, it was a relief: The mission as I knew it in Berlin was over, or soon would be,” Stejskal said. “On the other hand, there was a bit of nostalgia for the way things were.”

Not that his life on the razor’s edge ended when the Wall fell. In December 1992, Stejskal was badly wounded when his car drove over a land mine in Somalia.

Stejskal suffered a serious head injury and a shattered leg.

“I basically had 3½ inches of bone that was turned to confetti,” he said.

Stejskal returned to duty a year later. But he knew he would never regain his former strength. So he retired in 1996.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Green Berets. (U.S. Army photo)

That was the same year he married Wanda Nesbitt, a State Department foreign service officer he had met five years earlier during an evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, in the country then known as Zaire.

At his first overseas posting with Nesbitt, Stejskal said, someone handed him a sticky note with a telephone number on it and said to call if he wanted a job. That led to a 13-year stint with the CIA.

In recent years, Stejskal has attended Detachment “A” reunions, where the stories flow along with the beer.

“Somebody said, ‘We need to get this down on paper. We’ve got a history. Who’s going to write it down?'” he said.

Stejskal volunteered. Merrill said the book, published in March by Casemate Publishers, has taught him a lot he didn’t know about the unit’s history.

“He gave it the respect it deserved,” Merrill said. “He was able to take his insider knowledge and transfer it to something an outsider can understand.”

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The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson


Four years after the 195th and final F-22 Raptor stealth fighter rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s factory in Marietta, Georgia, the U.S. Air Force still hasn’t committed to developing a new manned air-superiority fighter.

But the world’s leading air arm is proposing to develop some kind of new aircraft to complement, and perhaps replace, the F-22 on the most dangerous air dominance missions in heavily defended territory.

Noting that enemy air defenses are developing faster than the Air Force can counter them, the flying branch’s “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan,”published in May, warns that “the Air Force’s projected force structure in 2030 is not capable of fighting and winning.”

“Developing and delivering air superiority for the highly contested environment in 2030 requires a multi-domain focus on capabilities and capacity,” the flight plan notes. To that end, it calls for the Air Force to begin developing, as early as 2017, a new “penetrating counterair” system, or PCA.

“Capability development efforts for PCA will focus on maximizing tradeoffs between range, payload, survivability, lethality, affordability, and supportability,” the flight plan explains.

Studiously avoiding specificity with regard to the PCA, the plan leaves open the possibility that the new penetrating counterair system could be manned or unmanned. In any event, the PCA will be part of a network of systems.

“While PCA capability will certainly have a role in targeting and engaging, it also has a significant role as a node in the network, providing data from its penetrating sensors to enable employment using either stand-off or stand-in weapons,” the plan explains.

“The penetrating capabilities of PCA will allow the stand-in application of kinetic and non-kinetic effects from the air domain.” In other words, the PCA could be a highly stealthy manned fighter or drone whose main job is find targets for other systems to attack.

Not coincidentally, the Pentagon has studied modifying existing large aircraft — most likely B-52 and B-1 bombers — to serve as “arsenal planes,” carrying large numbers of long-range munitions and firing them, from safe distance, at targets designated by stealthy aircraft flying much closer to enemy territory.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
A Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor. | Photo by Rob Shenk

Along the same lines, the U.S. military is developing a wide range of new munitions, including hypersonic rockets, lasers and microwave weapons. It’s possible to imagine that, around 2030, the Air Force will deploy teams of systems to do the same job the F-22 does today. A team could include a stealthy drone communicating with a distant B-1 arsenal plane hauling a load of hypersonic missiles.

Of course, it’s also possible that the penetrating counterair system could be an existing fighter. The new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter possesses some air-to-air capability plus a higher degree of stealth than do most planes.

But even the Air Force admits that the F-35 isn’t a suitable replacement for the F-22. “It’s not that it can’t do it, it’s just that it wasn’t designed to be a maneuvering airplane,” Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said in late 2015.

More likely, today’s F-22s could give way to … tomorrow’s F-22s. Seven years after then-defense secretary Robert Gates cancelled F-22 production, the U.S. defense establishment has concluded that 195 F-22s is not enough.

The U.S. Congress has pressured the Air Force to at least consider plans for more F-22s. And Air Force leaders are warming up to the idea, despite the high cost. The RAND Corporation, a California think-tank, estimated that 75 new F-22s would cost $19 billion in 2016 dollars. Even so, an F-22 restart is “not a crazy idea,” Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said in May.

Fortunately, the Pentagon had the foresight to order Lockheed to preserve the F-22’s tooling and document production processes. More problematic is the limited networking capability of the current F-22 design. A Raptor’s datalink is compatible only with other Raptors, complicating the F-22’s participation in a network of systems. If a Raptor can’t talk to other aircraft, it certainly can’t designate targets for them.

But again, there are solutions in the works. The U.S. government’s tiny fleet of Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft — a mix of Global Hawk drones, business jets and old B-57 bombers — carry radio gateways that can “translate” datalinks in order to link up disparate aircraft.

More elegantly, Boeing has developed a scab-on datalink system called Talon HATE that, installed on an F-15, allows the older fighter to securely exchange data with an F-22. Talon HATE is still in testing, but could find its way to the frontline F-15 fleet in coming years.

It’s not clear whether the Air Force’s top leadership — to say nothing of Congress and the White House — will follow the air-superiority flight plan’s recommendation and begin development of a penetrating counterair system in the next year or so. But if the stars align, the Air Force could soon, however belatedly, have a replacement for the F-22.

And it might even be a version of the F-22.

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US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

A US patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian boat in the Persian Gulf July 25 after it came startlingly close to to the vessel.


The USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone class patrol ship, was forced to fire warning shots from its .50 caliber machine gun after the Iranian boat closed to 150 yards, ignoring radio calls and warning flares along the way, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson.

The Thunderbolt fired five short bursts into the water due to concerns that there may be a collision, according to a CNN report. The ship ceased its actions but stayed in the area for several hours.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces are believed to have operated the vessel. The IRGC is Iran’s paramilitary wing that is known to have close ties to the country’s extremist, conservative theocratic leadership. It is primarily responsible for Iran’s operation in the Persian Gulf area and is known to act with hostility toward US forces.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution commandos and missile boats in the Strait of Hormuz. Wikimedia Commons photo by Sayyed Shahab-o-din Vajedi

Encounters with Iranian vessels have become commonplace for US forces patrolling in the Persian Gulf.

“Unfortunately, par for the course with Iran,” said Michael Singh, former senior director at the National Security Council and current managing director at the Washington Institute, in a tweet July 25.

Similar close encounters with Iranian vessels have taken an upswing in recent months, but the July 25 confrontation was one of the closer calls.

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A Drunken Intel Employee Crashed A Drone Into The White House Lawn

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Photo: US Secret Service


Don’t drink and drone.

A drunken employee of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency lost control of his friend’s drone over the White House on Monday, where it crashed into the lawn, The New York Times reported.

Also Read: How The US Military Is Countering The Rise Of Enemy Drones 

The unnamed NGA employee — whose work does not involve unmanned aerial vehicles — was off-duty at the time and self-reported the incident to the Secret Service the following day.

NBC News has more:

Law enforcement officials say an employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency turned himself in after losing track of the drone while testing it in bad weather. He said he did not realize the unmanned aerial device landed at the White House until he saw news reports the next morning.

President Obama was not present at The White House during the incident, as he is currently traveling in India. When asked about the drone which he said you can “buy in Radio Shack,” Obama pushed for drone regulations.

“You know that there are companies like Amazon that are talking about using small drones to deliver packages … There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife.” Obama told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. “But we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it.”

NOW: The Pentagon Is Developing A Dirt Bike That Barely Makes A Sound 

OR: 21 Jaw-Dropping Photos Of The US Coast Guard In Alaska 

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This Army private is to blame for military cadence calls

Don’t like yelling in formation? Well, you can blame one soldier from World War II for all those early morning sing-alongs.


Pvt. Willie Duckworth was a young soldier at Fort Slocum, New York in May, 1944, whose unit was dragging their feet during a march. To pep his brothers up, he began calling a chant to hep the men keep in step and to give them more energy.

The chant was an instant hit on base. The next year, the Army worked with recording engineers to make a V-Disc, a special recording distributed during World War II to aid morale. It was known as the “Duckworth Chant,” on base, but it was recorded and distributed as “Sound Off.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=1v=Q6bhv4i8qso

Many of the traits of today’s calls are apparent in this first cadence. There is a back and forth between the caller and the formation, the lines are catchy, and Jody even makes an appearance (at 2:15 in the video above).

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Photo: Youtube

The chant’s fame worked out very well for Duckworth. He received royalty checks for the recordings and used them to start a successful pulpwood company he operated until his death in 2004. A section of Georgia highway near Duckworth’s former home has been renamed the Willie Lee Duckworth Highway and a granite marker was erected at the county courthouse.

Now, if only we could find the evil genius who came up with “C-130 rollin’ down the strip.”

NOW: 9 firsts in military aviation history

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This Italian king went all ‘Game of Thrones’ on his enemies

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
Showtime | The Borgias


The Italian Renaissance had a pretty cutthroat political climate, but King Ferrante I of Naples carved out his own niche of crazy. Born the illegitimate son of Alfonso V of Aragon in 1423, Ferrante (“Ferdinand” in Italian) spent most of his life wrangling his Neapolitan realm into submission. The experience turned him into a real brute.

Ferrante didn’t let most of his enemies go free. Instead, he killed and mummified them—keeping their preserved corpses in the castle of Castelnuovo for his own enjoyment. He loved having them close by, according to nineteenth-century historian Jacob Burckhardt, “either in well-guarded prisons, or dead and embalmed, dressed in the costume which they wore in their lifetime.” A contemporary chronicler described them as “a frightful sight,” having been “pickled with herbs,” as a warning to future royal enemies.

Ferrante I as a bust, not a mummy Ferrante I as a bust, not a mummy

How did Ferrante get so twisted? King Alfonso didn’t have any legitimate male heirs of his own at the time, and he really wanted his not-so-secret love child to rule over at least part of his burgeoning empire. Thus, he gave Ferdinand the best education he could afford: tutoring by Rodrigo Borgia (later Ferrante’s mortal enemy when he became a cardinal, then Pope Alexander VI). Despite his legitimization, Ferrante struggled to hold on to his territory, facing opposition from numerous popes and the French candidate to his throne, Duke Jean II of Anjou.

Needless to say, Ferrante hated Jean and his French pals, even after he beat them, so he devised his own morbid revenge. After he dominated the French in 1465, Ferrante invited a bunch of his rebellious nobles and their families over to his castle for dinner. He ostensibly was showing his benevolence, and who wouldn’t want to make up over a meal? Unfortunately for his guests, Ferrante wasn’t in a forgiving mood. He fed some of them to the crocodiles in his moat and threw the rest in prison—keeping some of them there for the next thirty years. The King threw another enemy out the window (the Neapolitans loved defenestration). Some of these guys probably wound up in his mummy collection.

Interestingly, Ferrante didn’t just believing in mummifying his enemies. He had himself preserved as an artificial mummy after his own death in 1494. Modern scholars have autopsied his body and determined that he died of large bowel cancer.

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That one time England recruited a magician to trick Hitler

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words


The history of WWII is brimming with legends of incredible heroism, death-defying bravery and sometimes, stories that are just too ridiculous to be true.

The tale of Jasper Maskelyne, the British magician who joined the Royal Engineers once the King declared war on Germany, dances on the line of the third category.

Many people believe that Maskelyne’s “war contributions” are mostly tall tales that have grown more and more fantastical over time, while others contest that his feats of deception are completely factual and actually happened. We may never know for sure how much of history’s account of Maskelyne’s contributions are folklore because there are very few pictures detailing his accomplishments, which is exactly why so many people are skeptical.

Whether or not the illusionist was the real deal or just smoke and mirrors, the story of his contributions to the Allied war effort are too incredible to ignore.

Maskelyne had magic in his blood — he was a third-generation illusionist, so you could say that being awesome ran in his family. He also really, really hated Hitler. Because of this, rather than enlist as a common foot soldier or sailor when Britain began to gear up for WWII, he wanted to offer a flashier form of service: military magician. For whatever reason, the Allies thought that they could actually benefit from having a magic man amongst their ranks, and promoted Maskelyne to major.

But they didn’t stop there — Maskelyne was allowed to assemble a team of the best artists, tricksters, engineers and illusionists around to help him pull off his stunts. The team’s official title was the A-Force, nicknamed “The Magic Gang,” as if The A-Force wasn’t cool enough.

The one and only objective of the A-Force was simple: take down Hitler and the Axis powers in the coolest way possible. Or, to put it simply, to win the war with magic.

And we’re not talking the lame sleight-of-hand card trick stuff you saw on a cruise that one time with your mom. Though, that is apparently what British command was expecting when they brought him on the team. At first Maskelyne was merely used as a troop entertainer, a cheap way to boost morale between training sessions and military operations.

Maskelyne was not down with this. And here is where the first instance of did-he-or-didn’t-he history comes into play. According to history, Maskelyne convinced the Allies to use him for bigger and better things by creating a fake version of the German battleship Admiral Graf Spee and floating it down the river Thames for everyone to see.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words

How did he do it? Reportedly with an inflatable model and mirrors situated to enlarge the fake ship, making it appear as if it were really as big as the German watercraft. The Allies were apparently impressed, and decided to actually let Maskelyne do what they had promised him in the first place. This piece of history is particularly questionable because there are no photos of the model, but is one of the more entertaining pieces of Maskelyne’s repertoire.

Once he was formally accepted by his higher-ups, it was time to dazzle them with his first and arguably biggest trick for the Allied war effort: hiding the Suez Canal.

If you think this sounds impossible then you’re pretty much correct — the landmark is so recognizable and large that it wouldn’t be possible to actually hide the canal with tarps or create a faux canal as a decoy.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
The Suez Canal in WWII

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
A more recent look at the landmark

In order to protect this vital body of water from German bombers, they would need a much flashier strategy — literally. Knowing that the Germans carried out their air raids at night, Maskelyne decided that the best means of distracting the bombers would be to try and blind them, or, more realistically, at least make it more difficult for them to find their target.

The Magic Gang supposedly built a system of rotating searchlights and mirrors that created beams of light that were nearly ten miles across, washing whatever came into its path with blinding white light. However, many still debate whether or not this event was actually carried out, or if Maskelyne was even directly involved with the project itself.

Still, the story is pretty dang awesome, and there are several other accounts of Maskelyne’s hijinks during the war that have been recorded.

Now when’s the movie coming out?

NOW: The crazy story of the man who fought for Finland, the Nazis, and US Army Special Forces

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US defenses get pressured by North Korean missile advances

North Korea’s newly demonstrated missile muscle puts Alaska within range of potential attack and stresses the Pentagon’s missile defenses like never before. Even more worrisome, it may be only a matter of time before North Korea makes an even longer-range ICBM with a nuclear warhead, putting all of the United States at risk.


The Pentagon has spent tens of billions to develop what it calls a limited defense against missiles capable of reaching US soil. The system has never faced combat or been fully tested. The system succeeded May 30 in its first attempted intercept of a mock ICBM, but it hasn’t faced more realistic conditions.

Although Russia and China have long been capable of targeting the US with a nuclear weapon, North Korea is seen as the bigger, more troubling threat. Its opaque, unpredictable government often confounds US intelligence assessments. And North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has openly threatened to strike the US, while showing no interest in nuclear or missile negotiations.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words

“We should be worried,” said Philip E. Coyle III, a former head of the Pentagon’s test and evaluation office. North Korea’s latest success, he said, “shows that time is not on our side.”

US officials believe North Korea is still short of being able to miniaturize a nuclear warhead to fit atop an intercontinental missile. And it’s unclear whether it has developed the technology and expertise to sufficiently shield such a warhead from the extreme heat experienced when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere en route to a target.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, said July 5, “We’ve still not seen a number of things that would indicate a full-up threat,” including a demonstrated ability to mate a nuclear warhead to an ICBM. “But clearly they are working on it. Clearly they seek to do it. This is an aggressive research and development program on their part.”

Davis said the US defensive system is limited but effective.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
The THAAD missile system. | Lockheed Martin photo

“We do have confidence in it,” he said. “That’s why we’ve developed it.”

The Trump administration, like its recent predecessors, has put its money on finding a diplomatic path to halting and reversing North Korea’s nuclear program. While the Pentagon has highly developed plans if military force is ordered, the approach is seen as untenable because it would put millions of South Korean civilians at risk.

But diplomacy has failed so far. That’s why US missile defenses may soon come into play.

The Pentagon has a total of 36 missile interceptors in underground silos on military bases in Alaska and California, due to increase to 44 by year’s end. These interceptors can be launched upon notice of a missile headed toward the United States. An interceptor soars toward its target based on tracking data from radars and other electronic sensors, and is supposed to destroy the target by sheer force of impact outside the Earth’s atmosphere. Sometimes likened to hitting a bullet with a bullet, the collision is meant to incinerate the targeted warhead, neutralizing its nuclear explosive power.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
A long-range ground-based interceptor launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. DoD photo by Senior Airman Robert J. Volio

This so-called hit-to-kill technology has been in development for decades. For all its advances, the Pentagon is not satisfied that the current defensive system is adequate for North Korea’s accelerating missile advances.

“The pace of the threat is advancing faster than I think was considered when we did the first ballistic missile defense review back in 2010,” Rob Soofer, who is helping review missile defenses, told a Senate Armed Service subcommittee last month. Beyond what US officials have said publicly about the North Korean nuclear threat, he said the classified picture “is even more dire.” Soofer didn’t provide details.

The escalating danger has led the administration to consider alternative concepts for missile defense, including what is known as “boost phase” defense. This approach involves destroying a hostile missile shortly after its launch, before the warhead separates from the missile body and decoys can be deployed. One proposed tactic would be to develop a drone capable of long-endurance flight and armed with a solid-state laser to destroy or disable a missile in flight.

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

These and other possible new approaches would add to budget strains already felt in the missile defense program.

President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would cut $340 million from missile defense programs intended to deter a potential strike by North Korea, Iran or other countries. The Republican-led Congress has taken the first steps in rejecting the reduction. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R- Texas, the House Armed Services Committee chairman, declared last month that he was “astonished” Trump would propose trimming missile defense.

Thornberry’s committee voted last week to provide about $12.5 billion for missile defense in the 2018 fiscal year that begins in October, nearly $2.5 billion more than Trump’s request. The Senate Armed Services Committee also called for millions more than Trump requested. The full House and Senate are expected to consider the committees’ legislation, and the boost in missile defense money, later this month.

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