Recently, four skydivers from FullMag decided to step up their game by jumping out of the bomb bay doors of a World War II B-17 bomber using wingsuits.
The skydivers are all equipped with go-pros, parachutes, and the American flag.
The B-17 Flying Fortress has lived up to its name. Primarily, it saw combat during WWII for allied bombing runs in Europe. Originally developed for the U.S. Army Air Corps, this behemoth had as many as 13 machine guns attached.
But what its known for is the devastating 9,600-pound bomb load that it could bring into battle.
The 14 men of the ‘Memphis Belle’ were among the most famous B-17 Bomber crews. It was one of the first bombers to complete 25 combat missions and bring all of her men back.
The tales of this beauty have been made into a documentary in 1944 and a feature film in 1990. In May 2018, the aircraft will be restored and placed in the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This will be done in celebration of the 75th anniversary of it’s final combat mission.
Once dubbed “the world’s most dangerous road,” the 7.5-mile stretch from Baghdad’s Green Zone to the airport was called “Route Irish” during the American-led occupation of Iraq.
It was a fitting introduction to the country during the height of the war. For years, Route Irish was a trial by fire: if you survived the drive from the airport, you would be ready for anything.
The Americans and British had a hard time controlling the road for nearly two years. Most taxi drivers refused to go anywhere near it and those that did sometimes got caught up in the mix between the insurgency and the occupation forces. It wasn’t just dangerous for troops; it was dangerous for everyone.
1. It was an easy target.
Irish was the direct airport road, connecting the International Zone (aka the “Green Zone”) with BIAP and the Victory Base Complex. Insurgents of all brands, from loyalists to al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists knew coalition forces were based along the road and knew they would have to use the road and the areas adjacent. Irish became a magnet for bullets, rockets, mortars, VBIEDs, and hidden IEDs.
Suicide bombers lurked on the exit ramps and road crews repairing holes from previous attacks buried IEDs. It became so bad, that by December 2004, State Department personnel were banned from using Irish and troops began calling it “IED Alley.”
2. The road was a bumpy ride.
All those explosive impacts created craters in the asphalt and littered the road with husks of destroyed vehicles. Besides making the trip seem like you were riding a bucking bronco for miles on end while dodging obstacles, the hastily filled-in holes created by explosions made the trip much longer than it had to be. The craters and garbage also made it easy for insurgents to hide IEDs.
Riding in a Bradley in 127-degree heat with little light and less air flow makes the 8-minute ride seem like it takes hours. Bumping your head on the side of this hotbox a few times will make anyone appreciate a foot patrol or IED sweep.
3. Getting aboard “the Rhino” was intimidating.
“The Rhino” was a Rhino Runner, a 22-seat bus with heavy armor, designed by Florida-based Labock Technologies. Troops, contractors, and VIPs traveling to and from Victory Base, BIAP, or the Green Zone had to mount up into the belly of this behemoth. Looking at this veritable mountain of a vehicle made the first time fobbit on his or her way to Iraqi Freedom’s nerve center think twice about whether or not they could conduct their business via email.
In November 2004, a three Rhino convoy was ambushed on Route Irish with a 250-pound suicide VBIED that made a crater 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep. A dust cloud over 1,000 feet long could be seen for miles around the city. There were no injuries to the 18 people in the vehicle.
4. The road required constant patrols.
Eventually, Irish would be secured by American troops using concrete obstacles, Iraqi Army units, and taking control of the neighborhoods adjacent to the road. Until then, Coalition forces had to keep the road as clean as possible and remove the blown-up car carcasses.
At one point, the Boston Globe reported the U.S. Army dedicated an entire battalion of the 10th Mountain Division to keeping the road as clear and safe as possible. This opened the troops up to constant attacks from suicide bombers, a tactic the military could do little to prevent short of destroying the car before it reached the target.
5. If the attacks weren’t dangerous enough, the Iraqi drivers were.
Because of the frequency and severity of attacks on American and other Coalition personnel (and sometimes sectarian violence) drivers in the city put the pedal to the metal while driving along the road. They so slow down for U.S. vehicle convoys because the turret gunners have no problem taking a few shots at a tailgater.
Iraqis drove the highway at high speeds, veering away from the median (a potential source of IEDs) except when they were veering away from the exits (a source of suicide VBIEDs), and randomly weaved while driving under overpasses for fear of someone dropping something on them.
Civilians who wanted a ride from the Sheraton to the airport could easily hire their own armored shuttle service – for the deeply discounted price of $2,390 each way.
Army veteran Ernesto Rodriguez finished his trek from Clarksville, Tennessee, to the California coast when he walked the last few miles and onto the Santa Monica Pier.
A police motorcycle officer led the way and a crowd of supporters followed as Rodriguez strode to the end of the pier with American flags protruding from his backpack.
“I’m freaking out, I’m overwhelmed,” he told KTTV. “It’s the culmination of everything I’ve done and it’s starting to hit me. I’ve tried to stay calm pretty much up until today but I’m getting to a point where my emotions are starting to hit.”
Rodriguez, who spent 15 years in the Army, said he got the idea for the journey after hearing about a 2012 study that said there were 22 veteran suicides a day.
“I could’ve been one of those 22 back in 2011,” he told the station. “I wanted to find a way to inspire those that are having dark days like that to just keep pushing forward. So I just started walking.”
The trek began on Veterans Day 2016.
“There’s been days I’ve wanted to quit,” he said. “There’s been days that I almost died, to be quite honest. When I was out in the desert it was rough — dehydration, heat exhaustion — but there were so many people that came out. I remember something as simple as somebody driving and finding me and bringing me water or Gatorade just to make sure I wasn’t dehydrated out there.”
“I’m so grateful for the kindhearted people that helped me get through this.”
After years of waiting, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is finally opening, offering fans the chance to leave our world behind and head to a galaxy far, far away. But while you are undoubtedly stoked to visit Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland (opening May 31, 2019) or Disney World (opening August 29, 2019), you are probably also a little anxious about making the most of your trip. Fortunately, Carlye Wisel visited the 14-acre expansion at Disneyland and she shared her experience with Polygon, giving insight into the best way to spend your time and money at the park. Here is what she shared.
There are two main areas in Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire Outpost and The Resistance Forest. And according to Wisel, you are best of avoiding the latter for the time being, as it is mostly home to “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which won’t open until later this year.” But there’s more than enough to do at Black Spire Outpost, which features “Toydarian Toymaker, The Jewels of Bith, Creature Stall, and Black Spire Outfitters, as well as Kat Saka’s Kettle, offering colorful, spicy-sweet popcorn.”
If you are someone who is primarily looking for an awesome souvenir, Wisel recommends Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, which is “packed with all the high-end, super-insidery merch that fans are bound to freak out about, sold under the gaze of its mysterious Audio-Animatronic proprietor.” As for more casual shopping, First Order Cargo features a litany of cool pins, while Black Spire Outfitters will get you looking like a real-life Jedi.
Of course, the main attraction are the personalized lightsabers and droids, which can be found at Droid Depot and Savi’s Workshop, respectively. However, it’s worth noting that for the lightsabers, there are limited spots.
“The merchandise experience, which lets guests hand-select their own kyber crystals and build a heavy-duty personalized lightsaber, has approximately three build show experiences per hour, and each turn is limited to 28 people — 14 builders with a single allotted guest,” Wisel writes.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to Open May 31 at Disneyland Resort, Aug. 29 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Perhaps the biggest tip of all doesn’t involve what you should do at Galaxy’s Edge but rather, what you should not do. According to Len Testa, co-author of The Unofficial Guide and founder of Touring Plans, you might be better off not heading straight to Smugglers Run, as it is almost guaranteed to be overrun with visitors during the first few hours but may become less crowded by lunchtime.
Whatever you want to do, Wisel suggests that the best thing to do before you visit is to come up with a gameplan to ensure you don’t waste your time there.
“Whatever you do, download the Play Disney Parks app before you enter,” Wisel writes. “It’s being used to facilitate and enhance the Galaxy’s Edge experience — and you’ll be way too busy sucking down cantina drinks and taking in the otherworldly delights of Batuu to do it once there.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
On April 17, 1970, the Apollo 13 spacecraft safely returned to earth after suffering major malfunctions on its journey to the Moon.
“Houston, we’ve had a problem,” Apollo 13 astronaut John “Jack” Swigert famously told the NASA Mission Control Center “Houston” during the Apollo 13 spaceflight.
200,000 miles from Earth, three astronauts and veteran test pilots were scrambling to adapt and overcome a seemingly impossible challenge. They were James Lovell — a Navy Captain and test pilot; Jack Swigert — a fighter pilot in the Air National Guard; and Fred Haise — a fighter pilot in both the Marine Corps and Air Force.
Two days into their mission to the Moon, an oxygen tank exploded, severely disrupting their supply of oxygen, electricity and water. They aborted their landing mission, and scrambled to implement creative and improvised solutions suggested by the support staff back in Houston.
They’d have to improvise a way to make a square filter fit into a round hole. They’d conjured up a makeshift lifeboat.
The support staff no longer cared what the spaceship had been designed to do – they had to figure out how to squeeze every bit of capability from the vehicle.
Overcoming nearly impossible odds, the crew guided the spacecraft back to earth, reentered the atmosphere and touched down in the Pacific Ocean, where they were recovered by the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima.
Featured Image: The crew of the Apollo 13 mission step aboard the U.S.S. Iwo Jima, prime recovery ship for the mission, following splashdown and recovery operations in the South Pacific. Exiting the helicopter, which made the pick-up some four miles from the Iwo Jima are (from left) astronauts Fred W. Haise, Jr., lunar module pilot; James A. Lovell Jr., commander; and John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot. The Apollo 13 spacecraft splashed down at 12:07:44 pm CST on April 17, 1970. (NASA Image)
The western world is always in a rush for the latest and greatest iPhone or other tech gadgets, but troops know that some weapons systems stand the test of time without too many, if any, mods. Here are 11 of them:
1. M2 (1933)
This baby predates World War II, entering service in 1933. The M2 fires a .50-caliber round at 2,910 feet per second. It was originally adopted as an anti-aircraft weapon, but has served for decades in anti-personnel, anti-light vehicle, and anti-ship roles as well.
The C-130 Hercules was a radical, and ugly, design departure from Lockheed’s previous transport aircraft. But the ridiculed “Herk” of 1954 has proven itself over hundreds of thousands of sorties and still serves with distinction today.
So, when we say “2014” that means about 49 days that WATM was live, but thanks to you, our rapidly growing audience, we have had some hits. Here are the Top 10 among them (ranked using a proprietary algorithm that uses page views, video plays on two domains, and editorial intangibles):
Mylee Cardenas had a plan: stay in the Army until they begged her to leave. But her dreams of becoming a career soldier were derailed by cancer. See how she finds her second wind in life as a model and actress.
The V-22 Osprey was the first generation of “tiltrotor” aircraft, and now the manufacturer is introducing the “Valor,” a prototype that claims to take the Osprey’s unique capability to the next level. How will it work, and will the Army buy it?
Happy New Year from the WATM team, and look for many more great videos at The Mighty TV in 2015.
As the Syrian military begins its push to take back opposition-held areas in northwestern Syria, Russia has provided backing through an intensifying aerial campaign.
Among the planes Moscow has used to back the Syrian military’s attempted advance is a Russian combat aircraft that some have compared to the US’s venerated A-10 Warthog.
The Russian Su-25 Frogfoot is a low-flying tank-like plane that specializes in providing aerial cover and attacking ground targets.
The Frogfoot is a sturdy plane, and according to The National Interest, the plane can keep flying after suffering damage while striking targets with precision-guided munitions.
These systems make it ideal for the kind of operation that the Assad regime and its Russian partners are trying to launch against the opposition.
“The Russian air force will use the Frogfoots to support the Assad regime in the same way the USAF is using the A-10 Warthog to support the Iraqi government,” a former US Air Force aviator told The National Interest.
Russian state-owned media outlet RT reports that since Tuesday Kremlin forces have carried out 40 airstrikes against rebel and ISIS forces throughout five Syrian provinces. The majority of these strikes occurred around the city of Aleppo and in the neighboring province of Idlib, which is completely under opposition control.
At the same time as these airstrikes, the Assad regime is massing a large counter-attack against rebel forces in Idlib, Hama, and Aleppo. The regime offensive initially stalled last week after rebels armed with anti-tank missiles destroyed several Syrian armored vehicles.
Russia launched airstrikes ahead of the Syrian military advance. Iran has also sent additional soldiers to Syria to help bolster the government around Hama, and to prepare for a possible offensive against Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.
In the past, Saudi Arabia and other US allies have suggested funneling man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADs) to the Syrian rebels to help shoot down Syrian, and now Russian, fighter jets.
MANPADs are relatively easy-to-use shoulder-launched missiles that could prove to be of pivotal importance against low-flying aircraft, like Russia’s Su-25s.
During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA provided Stinger missiles to anti-Soviet forces, weapons that allowed the mujahedeen to down enemy transport planes and attack helicopters. The use of the missiles bogged down Soviet forces and led to an eventual Soviet withdrawal from the country.
The US has consistently opposed the idea of providing MANPADs and other anti-aircraft weaponry to Syrian rebels, as the weapons could conceivably end up in the hands of al Qaeda or its affiliates and could be used to down a civilian airliner or a US military aircraft.
At least for now, the Frogfoots are largely uncontested in Syria’s skies.
Today, the modern battlefield of Iraq and Afghanistan has prompted our military to change what our troops take with them. “SAPI” plates (Small Arms Protective Insert) were added to help protect the service members vital organs from small arms fire.
All that gear adds up. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago)
Travel back in time where medieval Knights wore several layers and different types of heavy body armor to protect themselves from sharp swinging swords to the accurately shot arrows. These fearless men would spend countless hours training while cloaked in their protective garments, acclimating their bodies for war.
Fast forward to the rice patties of Vietnam where Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Soldiers bravely left the wire typically sporting only their thin layered green t-shirts due to the constant humidity of the jungle while still toting pounds of extras.
One 155-pound TV show host wanted to experience just how heavy the gear of an American GI in Vietnam was. So after donning the full Vietnam War style combat load — complete with ammo, an M-16 rifle, an individual medical bag, and 2 quarts of water — the TV show host’s total weight amounted to just under 235 solid pounds of gear. It was an 80-pound difference.
Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video below to see this TV show host play grunt for an afternoon.
The “Nuclear Club” is a term used informally in geopolitics for the group of nations who possess nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and limit the Nuclear Club to five members. A few countries declined to sign the treaty and have since joined the club.
Though the NPT restricts weapons tech, it does reserve the right of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology for any country, for things like energy production and medical and scientific advancements.
Here are 11 more interesting facts about the world’s most exclusive (and potentially destructive) club.
1. There are eight, maybe nine, members controlling at least 15,600 warheads.
The list of confirmed countries with nuclear weapons includes the United States, Russia, France, China, United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel may or may not have nukes, as they have a policy of making their weapons capabilities purposely ambiguous to the rest of the world.
The first five are permanent members of the UN Security Council. The NPT treaty recognizes these states as weapons states. The latter four aren’t signatories to the NPT.
2. Five other countries host foreign nuclear weapons.
Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey host American nukes under NATO agreements. 30 other states use nuclear technology to generate energy under the terms of the NPT.
3. South Africa is the only country to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.
From the 1960s through the 1980’s, apartheid South Africa pursued nuclear weapons. It was able to assemble six weapons with (alleged) help from Israel. Soviet spies discovered their capabilities, which the South Africans denied. When the apartheid government fell and the African National Congress (led by Nelson Mandela) was set to take power, South Africa dismantled its stockpile. It remains the only country ever to destroy its entire WMD program.
4. 59 other nations have the ability to construct nuclear weapons.
Apart from those already in the Nuclear Club, South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Japan, Uzbekistan, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Ukraine all have the technology and material needed for a weapon. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan have all had weapons programs in the past but openly shelved their efforts.
5. Maintaining the worldwide arsenal is a trillion-dollar business.
Even twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the thousands of nuclear weapons cost the world more than $1 trillion per decade in upkeep costs.
6. By 2020, Pakistan will have the world’s third largest stockpile.
An August 2015 report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center revealing Pakistan was ramping up production, with numbers as high as 20 per year. The report estimated that by 2020, Pakistan would have 350 warheads. The Pakistanis also tested a ballistic missile in December 2015 with a 560 mile range.
7. Nuclear nonproliferation success far outnumber failures.
India and Pakistan developed nuclear warheads in 1998. In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT and has since tested a number of weapons. At the time of the NPT signing, it was estimated that 20-30 countries would have nuclear weapons by 1985. Despite some proliferation setbacks, only three (maybe four) developed them.
8. Only two countries possess worldwide nuclear capabilities.
Only the United States and Russia have the ability to strike anywhere in the world, either through Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or from submarine-based weapons. India and Pakistan have regional strike capabilities. The range of Israel’s and North Korea’s weapons are unknown.
9. Three countries actually inherited nuclear weapons.
Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited stockpiles following the fall of the Soviet Union. They returned the weapons to Russia and signed on to the NPT.
If you’ve seen the flick, then you know that his character, the evil Sith Lord Kylo Ren, has a bit of a temper. Some hilariously associate his character to being emo, which is fitting given the way he spoofed himself on Saturday Night Live. As the sketch goes, Kylo Ren infiltrates Starkiller BaseUndercover Boss style as a radar technician to find out what his employees think of him. It turns out that the truth hurts, and Kylo reacts in typical Kylo fashion.
Every tidal wave starts with a single swell. There is a momentum building in the military community right now that feels like our hurricane moment is finally upon us — all in the name of getting our interpreter allies out of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Since 2001, we’ve promised our interpreters a safe haven in exchange for their help. We swore to them that if they translated our words into their native tongues, if they showed up for us — knowing they were putting themselves and their families in harm’s way — we would protect them from the warfare and the violence ravaging their homes. We told them four words that mattered on the battlefield: No One Left Behind.
For years, we left them behind. But now, there’s hope.
The non-profit organization, NO ONE LEFT BEHIND, is buying tickets for SIV holders to leave Afghanistan as well as offering financial support for interpreters and their families here at home. Army veteran James Miervaldis has been leading this charge.
“It’s part of our warrior ethos,” Miervaldis said. “We secured the funding to give anyone who qualifies for an SIV the option of flying to the U.S. commercially.”
For years, our bureaucracy has created insurmountable barriers to the Special Immigrant Visa these interpreters need to find their escape. Over 10,000 are still waiting for approval in a process that has significantly slowed in the past few years. With violence against civilians and targeted killings increasing in Afghanistan, and with a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan looming in the near future, many SIV applicants worry their visas will come too late, if at all.
Just this week President Biden announced Operation Allies Refuge, a coordinated effort to move interpreters out of Afghanistan. However, as many of us know, it takes valuable time to coordinate such a massive effort and that’s where the team at No One Left Behind comes in.
“Operation Allies refuge is a great and long needed effort,” Miervaldis told WATM. “But this will take time and we are ready to support SIV holders with a flight, right now.”
As part of “Operation Allies Refuge,” by the end of the month the U.S. is expected to begin relocation flights for eligible Afghan nationals and their families who are currently within the Special Immigrant Visa program, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said during a briefing yesterday at the Pentagon.
Kirby said the Defense Department has not been asked, as of now, to provide military flights to support that relocation effort. Instead, he said, the department is involved in identifying potential relocation options for those Afghan nationals.
“The department’s role in Operation Allies Refuge will continue to be one of providing options and support to the interagency effort that’s being led by the State Department,” Kirby said. “To date, we have identified overseas locations and we’re still examining possibilities for overseas locations, to include some departmental installations that would be capable of supporting planned relocation efforts with appropriate temporary residences and associated support infrastructure.”
While Kirby didn’t name specific locations, he did say “all options” are being looked at, to include locations overseas and within the U.S.
“All options are being considered and that would include the potential for short-term use of CONUS-based U.S. installations,” he said. “We’re trying to provide as many options to the State Department-led effort as we can.”
As of now, he said, no final decisions have been made.
Kirby also said the department has stood up an internal action group that will, in part, work with the State Department to help better identify which Afghan nationals might be considered for relocation under the special immigrant visa program.
“We will do what we can to help the State Department in terms of the identification of those who should be validly considered as part of the SIV process,” Kirby said. “The department remains eager and committed to doing all that we can to support collective government efforts — U.S. government efforts — to help those who have helped us for so long.”