The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

Ask any military historian: Tactical aggression is a game changer. Throughout history, forces who were more aggressive in combat saw a lot more success compared their predecessors. Ulysses S. Grant’s determination to take the war to the Confederates led to a win for the Union in the Civil War. When Maj. Gen. Lloyd Fredenhall was soundly beaten by the aggressive Nazi Afrika Corps in Tunisia, he was replaced by the famously aggressive George S. Patton, who saw resounding success. The U.S. strategy of building an overwhelming force to push Iraq out of Kuwait led to a decisive victory in a mere 40 days during the Gulf War.

In a game of strategy like NFL football, the same kind of aggression pays off.


For anyone who saw the Bengals-Chiefs game on Oct. 21, 2018, watching Cincinnati opt to take a field goal in the 3rd quarter while down by 30-plus points was a real head-scratcher. Why not risk the turnover when you’re running out of the time it takes to score the four touchdowns you need?

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down
Maybe you don’t know who their coach is.

That call — still a bad one — is one made over and over by conservative coaches, even in situations not quite as extreme as the one Cincinnati faced that Sunday night. If a team is facing a 4th down with 4 yards to go on their opponent’s 40 yard line, there’s a good chance they’ll still opt to punt the ball away.

They shouldn’t.

Well, maybe the Bengals always should. Anyway…

Kicking the ball, either for a punt or a field goal, is the safe choice. Whenever a team opts for the kick, fans and sportscasters alike praise the coach for making that decision. Economists and statisticians, on the other hand, lose their minds.

Why? Because there’s no real reason for a coach to be so conservative. Brian Burke, a former Naval aviator who used to fly the F-18C, is a nationally recognized expert on advanced sports analytics. Burke is currently an analyst for ESPN. In 2014, he published a study on Advanced Football Analytics that took a look at 4th-down decision making.

The longitudinal study assumes that coaches want to maximize the number of points they score while minimizing the number of points the other team scores. Then, it took thousands of real NFL plays on 4th down to calculate the potential value of each situation. Every down versus yardage situation has an “expected point” value and a value attached to the result of previous play, which affects the value of that play.

For example, the expected points value of a touchdown is actually 6.3 points because the opponent gets the ball back on the next play, whose value is .07. If you understand the value of the situation a team is in on 4th down, then you can find the statistically-driven decision the coach should make on that down.

If you don’t understand the math, don’t worry about it. People who do understand math created a handy graphic for the New York Times, based on Burke’s calculation. So we can look at the Bengals horrible performance in Kansas City a different way.

The horrible ball handling that led to the turnover aside, the Bengals tried for a fake punt on 4 and 9 from their own 37-yard-line with almost the entire second quarter remaining. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis tried a play that worked against the Chicago Bears in a preseason matchup. No matter how the ball was handled, the Times‘ 4th Down Bot says they should have punted it away.

Later in the game, with 6:20 left in the 3rd quarter and the Bengals down 28-7, Lewis opted to kick the field goal from the Kansas City 15-yard-line. Bengals fans everywhere were livid, given the score. While the the bot created by Burke’s formula and the New York Times doesn’t account for what to do in a blowout situation, Lewis made the mathematically correct call.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

Too bad math isn’t enough to make Bengals fans hate Marvin Lewis any less.

Looking at the 2018 season, let’s see if there’s a correlation between game-winning success and 4th down aggression.

As of week 7, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a staggering 4-4 when comes to first downs on 4th down — but their record is still a measly 3-3. That doesn’t correlate, but the teams with the next-highest percentages in 4th down conversions are the Saints (at 87.5 percent) and the Chiefs (at 80 percent). New Orleans and Kansas City are first in their respective divisions. Five of the ten most successfully aggressive teams on 4th down also lead in total yardage, points per game, and total points this season.

One caveat: the least successful on 4th down conversions are also the least successful teams so far this year. So… know your own limitations.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of December 6th

Did you guys hear the story of the staff sergeant in Afghanistan who raised $8k to bring a stray cat he took care of back to America? Literally everything about that story is great. He rescued an innocent kitten, took it to an animal rescue shelter on base, gave it all the shots and whatnot, and even had more money left over to help out other animals at the shelter.

I don’t care who you are. That’s a heart-warming story. Good sh*t, Staff Sgt. Brissey. If you ever decide to start taking a million photos and upload them to Instagram in an attempt to turn your new kitten into a meme… I’ll be behind you 110% of the way on that one.


Anyways, here are some memes.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

(Meme via Call for Fire)

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Once you’ve done sh*t, everything else is a cake walk. There’s nothing that can be so bad that you can’t look back on and say “well, it was much sh*ttier then and I didn’t give up. Why stop now?” 

Then again… Pot is really good for PTSD and that might also have something to do with it.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

(Meme via Not CID)

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why people think Area 51 has aliens

Area 51 is highly classified, mysterious Air Force base in Nevada. It’s been at the center of numerous conspiracy theories pertaining to aliens and UFOs.

Over 1 million people have responded to a Facebook event to “storm” the site. The event is supposed to take place on Sep. 20, 2019, with the end goal of getting the group to “see them aliens.”

The event is likely a joke, but it’s also led to memes. From spy planes to tourist attractions, here’s how the military base became associated with the theories.


The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

Area 51 is an active Air Force base in Nevada.

Very little is known about the highly classified, remote base, making it the perfect object of fascination and conspiracy.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

The extraterrestrial highway cuts through the desert near Area 51 but not into it. It is a tourist attraction.

It’s unclear why the base is even called Area 51.

According to the CIA, Area 51 is its map designation. But it begs the question — are there other “areas?”

As National Geographic notes, there are many other names for the base. One of those names, is Groom Lake, a reference to the dry lake near the base, while another is the sarcastic moniker Paradise Ranch. Its official site name is Watertown, but it’s sometimes referred to as Dreamland, after the Edgar Allen Poe poem of the same name.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

(Photo by Dustin Belt)

The base is not open to the public, but there are plenty of nearby tourist attractions that capitalize on its history.

The active base has high security 24 hours a day. This means if a person — or, say, 1 million — wanted to storm the base in an attempt to see aliens, it would be incredibly dangerous.

But, as Travel Nevada notes, there are several attractions around the state that have glommed on to the alien-theme, playing up the secrecy of the base, including the Extraterrestrial Highway. Stops along the highway include Hiko, Nevada, where you can visit the Alien Research Center and purchase ET Fresh Jerky, and Rachel, Nevada, which is considered the “UFO Capital of the World.”

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

Area 51, from up above.

(Google Maps)

Until 2018, you couldn’t view satellite images of Area 51. Now you can.

The base is located relatively far off from any public roads. According to a 2017 Business Insider video, some Area 51 employees have to fly to work on personal planes out of the Las Vegas airport.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

A 1966 Central Intelligence Agency diagram of Area 51, found in an untitled, declassified paper.

The government won’t say what exactly goes on at the site.

It’s unclear what the base is used for these days. The secrecy has led to a great deal of public speculation and, in turn, conspiracy theories — especially those relating to aliens and space.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

The U-2 can fly higher than 60,000 feet.

We do know that it was used for military training during World War II.

The remote location was later used by the US government to test high-flying U-2 planes during the 1950s.

The base was used to build prototypes and run test flights for the vessels, which could reach higher altitudes than standard crafts of the time, as declassified documents would later reveal.

After the U-2 was implemented, the Air Force continued to use the base to test other aircraft, like the OXCART and F-117 Nighthawk.

But, at the time, the American public had no idea.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

The US government didn’t confirm that Area 51 was an Air Force base until 2013.

After the National Security Archive at George Washington University filed a Freedom of Information Act in 2005 about the U-2 spy plane program, the CIA was forced to declassify documents related to Area 51 in 2013.

In doing so, the CIA not only revealed that the military spent 20 years testing the aerial surveillance programs U-2 and OXCART, but also confirmed the existence of the Area 51 base.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

The area is also linked to conspiracy theories — mostly pertaining to aliens, space, and UFOs.

Although the supernatural theories have been debunked, the base is still associated with aliens and UFOs. Some of the excitement around the area have to do with the aircraft flying in, out, and around the base.

As a 2017 Business Insider video notes, there was an increase of supposed UFO sightings in the area in the 1950s — around the same time the U-2 planes were being tested. The secrecy of the program prohibited Air Force officials from publicly refuting the UFO claims at the time.

Jeffrey T. Richelson, the man who filed the FOIA that confirmed the existence of the base, explained this theory.

“There certainly was — as you would expect — no discussion of little green men here,” Richelson told The New York Times in 2013. “This is a history of the U-2. The only overlap is the discussion of the U-2 flights and UFO sightings, the fact that you had these high-flying aircraft in the air being the cause of some of the sightings.”

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

Bob Lazar.

And then there are the rumors started in the 1980s by a man named Robert Lazar, who claimed to have worked near the base.

In an interview with reporter George Knapp from the time, he described working on propulsion systems for “nine flying saucers of extraterrestrial origin,” according to archival footage reviewed by Vice.

Lazar is also the subject of a documentary called “Bob Lazar: Area 51 and Flying Saucers,” which was released in December 2018. In the documentary, he goes into further details about his claims about what he alleges happened while he worked at Area 51 and what life has been like for him since.

Lazar’s claims may have cemented the base’s association with aliens and inspired others to come forward with stories and theories of their own.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

In the music video for the “Old Town Road” remix, Young Thug, Billy Rae Cyrus, Lil Nas X, and Mason Ramsey storm Area 51.

(Lil Nas X/YouTube)

The mysteries around Area 51 have prompted over 1 million people to come together to “storm” the base. The event is likely a joke — but it’s led to some really good memes.

The Facebook event titled, “ Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” has gone massively viral. The participants, according to the event’s description, hope to raid the active base and see aliens.

It’s likely a joke. The event comes from a Facebook group called “Shitposting cause im in shambles.” It’s even spawned its own meme cycle, complete with an “Old Town Road” music video, because why not?

But not everyone is so amused.

Namely, the Air Force.

“[Area 51] is an open training range for the US Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews told the Washington Post. “The US Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

US Air Force F-22s and F-35s will soon launch and control recoverable attack drones from the cockpit of the plane to expand air-combat operations, test enemy air defenses, conduct long-range ISR, and even deliver weapons.

This fast-approaching technology, which calls upon advanced levels of autonomous navigation, is closer to reality due of DARPA’s Gremlins program which plans to break new ground by launching — and recovering — four drones from an in-flight C-130 in 2019.

Air recoverable drones, slated to become operational over just the next few years, will bring a new phase of mission options enabling longer ranges, improved sensor payloads, advanced weapons, and active command and control from the air.


“The team looked at how fifth generation aircraft systems like the F-35 and F-22 respond to threats, and how they could incorporate Gremlins in higher risk areas,” a DARPA statement said.

For years, it has been possible to launch expendable drones from the air, without needing a ground control station, provided they do not return to an aircraft. Gremlins, by contrast, is a technical effort to engineer specially configured aerial drones able to both launch and return to a host aircraft.

The program is now moving into a phase three, according to DARPA statements, which cite a new demonstration and development deal with Dynetics to execute the upcoming launch and recovery C-130 flight.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

A C-130E Hercules from the 43rd Airlift Wing, Pope Air Force Base, N.C., flies over the Atlantic Ocean.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Howard Blair)

“DARPA is progressing toward its plan to demonstrate airborne launch and recovery of multiple unmanned aerial systems, targeted for late 2019. Now in its third and final phase, the goal for the Gremlins program is to develop a full-scale technology demonstration featuring the air recovery of multiple low-cost, reusable UASs, or “Gremlins,” a DARPA announcement said in early 2018

This technology, which hinges upon higher levels of autonomous navigation, brings a wide swath of improved mission possibilities. These include much longer attack and mission reach, because drones can begin missions while in the air much closer to an objective, without having to travel longer distances from a ground location or forward operating base. Furthermore, perhaps of even greater significance, air-launched returnable drones can be equipped with more advanced sensor payloads able to conduct ISR or even attack missions.

A flight test at Yuma Proving Ground in early 2018 provided an opportunity to conduct safe separation and captive flight tests of the hard dock and recovery system.

“Early flight tests have given us confidence we can meet our objective to recover four gremlins in 30 minutes,” Scott Wierzbanowski, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said in a written statement in early 2018.

Gremlins also can incorporate several types of sensors up to 150 pounds, DARPA statements said.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

Artist’s concept.

(Dynetics)

Maturing a full-scale operational capability for this technology has force engineers to confront a range of technical challenges, Dynetics engineers told Warrior Maven. Safely docking a returning drone aboard a moving C-130 requires an as-of-yet unprecedented level of technical sophistication.

“The key technological advance is achieving increased safety through software redundancies to be able to operate a vehicle of this size in close proximity to a C-130 and tether it to stabilize the vehicle,” Tim Keeter, Deputy Program Manager and Chief Engineer, Gremlins, Dynetics, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview.

Once stabilized, the drone can then be stowed safety in the cargo bay of the C-130, Keeter added.

“This certainly involves precision navigation and we need the structure of the airframe to bear the burden,” he said.

In preparation for the upcoming drone air-recovery demonstration, Dynetics conducted a safe separation flight test from a mock air vehicle.

“We are ready to fabricate,” Keeter said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

Skyborg is an autonomy-focused capability that will enable the Air Force to operate and sustain low-cost, teamed aircraft driven by artificial intelligence that can thwart adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments. These unmanned aerial systems are meant to operate alongside manned fighters and will utilize machine learning technology to increase combat capability as they train alongside their piloted partner.

These wingman aircraft could fly ahead of manned planes to extend the pair’s sensor coverage to increase battlespace awareness. They can fire weapons at targets designated by their human wingmen, and a swarm of automated wingmen could protect piloted aircraft by absorbing missile shots from enemy forces.


SKYBORG

vimeo.com

Air Force policy stipulates that people are always responsible for lethal decision-making. Accordingly, Skyborg will not replace human pilots. Instead, it will provide them with key data to support rapid, informed decisions.

“Ever since “Star Wars” first debuted, this idea of being able to fly with autonomy to support you, and cute little beeps and squeaks right, it has just caught the imagination,” said Dr. Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “It’s time to make that real.”

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

Attendees watch a video about the Skyborg Vanguard Program during the Air Warfare Symposium, Feb. 28, 2020. Skyborg is an unmanned aircraft focused competency that will allow the Air Force to employ a team of artificially intelligent aircraft to quickly thwart adversaries in combat. Skyborg will not replace pilots but will provide crucial and prompt data to help the pilot make informed and accurate decisions. (PHOTO // KENNETH MCNULTY)

Roper said he’s excited for the R2-D2 program, a name he uses to refer to Skyborg.

Speaking to the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in June, Roper divulged that conversations with world-renowned experts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed that artificial intelligence, in its current form, is fragile.

“It’s (AI) fine when it’s helping you with entertainment related functions. If your app crashes and the AI gives you the wrong choice on what movie or song to play next, well no big deal,” Roper said. “But on the battlefield an adversary will be there trying to thwart and confound that AI and it’s very easy to do.”

Roper added that the Air Force is going to need a new form of AI that is hardened against an adversary, and research is underway. He expressed the need to accelerate and if done skillfully, the Air Force won’t just be accelerating for the Defense Department; this kind of hardened AI is also needed in the commercial sector for delivery drones and improving self-driving cars.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, discusses “The Future Air Force, Faster, Smarter: The Next Gear” during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 16, 2019. One innovative project the Air Force is employing is Skyborg, an unmanned aircraft focused competency that will allow the Air Force to employ a team of artificially intelligent aircraft to quickly thwart adversaries in combat. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. CHAD TRUJILLO)

“The roots of the Air Force are all about breaking boundaries and doing new things and I think we may have forgotten that a little bit,” Roper said. “In the wake of the Soviet Union collapse, we didn’t have that adversary pushing us. We ought to be doing new things all the time and everywhere and AI autopilot, or wingman or R2-D2 is something new. I can’t wait to get it out on the battlefield.”

Skyborg is one of three Vanguard programs identified in 2019 as part of the Air Force Science and Technology 2030 Strategy. The Air Force plans to channel more resources into the programs and speed up their development.

The Air Force Research Laboratory announced the new strategy last year. It prioritizes demands on time, space and complexity in future conflicts across all domains. The strategy aligns with the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy and lays out a path forward for the Air Force Science and Technology ecosystem to deliver warfighting capabilities at the speed of relevance and necessity.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

The Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie is an experimental stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle designed and built for the United States Air Force Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator program, under the USAF Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology project portfolio. (PHOTO // AFRL)

In July, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center awarded multiple indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts to The Boeing Co., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, Inc. and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. These initial awards will establish a vendor pool that will continue to compete for up to 0 million in subsequent delivery orders in support of the Skyborg Vanguard Program.

“Because autonomous systems can support missions that are too strenuous or dangerous for manned crews, Skyborg can increase capability significantly and be a force multiplier for the Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Dale White, program executive officer for fighters and advanced aircraft, who, along with Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, Air Force Research Laboratory commander, serves as the leadership for the Skyborg program. “We have the opportunity to transform our warfighting capabilities and change the way we fight and the way we employ air power.”

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

An illustration depicting the future integration of the Air Force enabling fusion warfare, where huge sets of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data are collected, analyzed by artificial intelligence and utilized by Airmen, their autonomous wingmen and the joint force in a seamless process to stay many steps ahead of an adversary. (ILLUSTRATION // AFRL)

“Autonomy technologies in Skyborg’s portfolio will range from simple play-book algorithms to advanced team decision making and will include on-ramp opportunities for artificial intelligence technologies,” Pringle said. “This effort will provide a foundational government reference architecture for a family of layered, autonomous, and open-architecture unmanned aerial systems.”

The Vanguards are also introducing a novel early partnership between AFLCMC and AFRL due to the need to quickly identify cutting edge technology and transition it directly into the hands of the warfighter.

“The greatest technological edge is for naught if the warfighter can’t use it on the battlefield. That makes the partnership between AFRL and AFLCMC so vital to this program. We can’t allow bureaucratic speed bumps to interfere with our mandate to deliver,” White said.

Just as the last generation of pilots had the instincts for stealth, Roper believes, the next generation will have the instincts for this, previously nonexistent, type of algorithmic warfare on future battlefields.

“This next generation of pilot is not going to be ready to hand the reins over to R2-D2, but neither will they be willing to go into combat without R2-D2, if R2-D2 is available,” Roper said. “Our pilots are the best and they will continue to be the best if we give this technology, it will take their game into a completely different dimension.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.


MIGHTY HISTORY

4 things you didn’t know about the agent who took down Al Capone

U.S. Attorney George E. Q. Johnson of Chicago, Illinois, was personally tasked by President Hoover to orchestrate the takedown of Al Capone, the gangster of the Windy City who had the law in his pocket. Capone had transformed Chicago into a hive of organized crime in defiance of prohibition. However, how can the law be enforced if those in charge of gathering evidence accepted bribes? You bring in a man who cannot be bought.

Eliot Ness was a Prohibition agent who attacked the distribution pipeline of alcohol while the U.S. Treasury Department simultaneously collected evidence on Al Capone’s tax-related crimes. Ness marshaled a small team of experts to track empty barrels from saloons en route to Capone’s distilleries to be refilled with the illegal substance. Whenever there was to be a raid on these operations, Ness notified the press so they could be on the scene. It was his way of sending a message to the public: There was a new sheriff in town.

However, there was a lot more to this moral crusader than met the eye.


The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

The face of a man who just watched years of his collected evidence get tossed to the wayside.

(Crime Museum)

The Prohibition case was not used against Al Capone

In June, 1931, Al Capone was indicted on charges of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy to violate Prohibition. Unfortunately, the chances of convicting the crime lord for his violating Prohibition required city-level action, and to betray Capone was as deadly as suicide. So, the only charges that would stick were federal tax crimes.

While Eliot Ness is credited as the agent who took down Al Capone, it wasn’t his thwarting of the bootlegging operation that did it.

Hello darkness my old friend

He had a drinking problem

Eliot Ness decompressed after a long day of busting bootleggers by pouring himself a drink and reading the headlines made from his crackdowns. That’s like a DEA agent going home to do a celebratory line of coke while watching the news praise yet another successful raid on a cartel. He pieced together a scrapbook of his victories to chronicle his own legacy.

Maybe there’s some truth to the saying, “never meet your heroes…”

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

Front-page news

He failed to catch a serial killer in Cleveland

Later in his career, Ness took his fight against organized crime to Cleveland, and he successfully turned it from the deadliest city in America to the safest. Then, in what seems like a deliberate challenge to the man who turned a city around, a serial killer preyed on the homeless, killing them and severing their limbs in brutal fashion.

After 12 bodies were found in succession, Ness brought the police to where the homeless lived in makeshift huts and burned them to the ground. Ness reasoned that if there were no more homeless to fall victim, there would be no murders.

It seems crazy, but it worked. The homeless were relocated to the Salvation Army, and the death toll stopped climbing.

Eliot Ness

Crime Museum

He wrote the book that was turned into a movie

The 1987 hit gangster film, The Untouchables, directed by Brian De Palma, was based on Eliot Ness’ book by the same name. It recounts a sensationalized version of the hunt for Al Capone that puts him at the center of the investigation as the principal figure who took down the gangster.

Most of the embellishments can be credited to the co-author, Oscar Fraley. An abundance of self-celebration aside, a good story is a good story.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how the Navy tests its new carrier launch system

If you’ve seen Top Gun or any footage of an American aircraft carrier doing its thing, you’ve probably seen catapults launch aircraft. These impressive devices can launch a fully-loaded plane, getting it up to speeds as high as 200 knots in a matter of seconds — if everything’s working right.

The same is true for the electromagnetic aircraft launch system, or EMALS, in use on the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).


But how does the Navy make sure everything’s working as intended? How can they verify that any repairs they’ve made have actually fixed the thing? There are 122 millions reasons why you wouldn’t want to test it out on a brand new F-35C Lightning II. So, because USAA doesn’t offer that magnitude of coverage, the US Navy needs a cheap, solid stand-in.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

When you fix the catapult, you want to make sure you got it right.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Cole C. Pielop)

According to one Navy release, they use what are called “dead loads” to simulate the weight of planes. These are essentially wheeled sleds made of solid metal that can be launched in relatively shallow water (“relative” to the USS Gerald R. Ford’s maximum draft of 41 feet). That makes recovering the dead loads easy.

Since the dead loads aren’t outfitted with electronics — or even an engine — they are relatively easy to replace. Furthermore, if they are recovered, they can be reused. It’s a very cheap way to make sure that your aircraft launch system is working, be it a traditional catapult or the new EMALS.

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

When you are trying to launch a 2 million F-35 Lightning from a carrier, you want to make sure the launching system works.

(U. S. Navy photo by Arnel Parker)

To watch the Navy test the EMALS on USS Gerald R. Ford, check out the video below. You even get a view from the perspective of the “dead load,” giving you a taste of the catapult’s power.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

Future destroyer named for former POW, Navy hero

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer named a future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer in honor of U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran, Navy Cross recipient, and former U.S. Senator from Alabama, Admiral Jeremiah Denton.

“Admiral Denton’s legacy is an inspiration to all who wear our nation’s uniform,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “His heroic actions during a defining period in our history have left an indelible mark on our Navy and Marine Corps team and our nation. His service is a shining example for our sailors and Marines and this ship will continue his legacy for decades to come.”


In 1947, Denton graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served as a test pilot, flight instructor, and squadron leader, and developed operational tactics still in use, such as the Haystack Concept, which calls for the dispersing of carrier fleets to make it more difficult for the enemy to find the fleets on RADAR.

On July 18, 1965, Denton was shot down over North Vietnam and spent nearly eight years as a POW, almost half in isolation. During an interview with a Japanese media outlet, Denton used Morse code to blink “torture,” confirming that American POWs were being tortured. He suffered severe harassment, intimidation and ruthless treatment, yet he refused to provide military information or be used by the enemy for propaganda purposes.

Read Admiral Jeremiah Denton POW in North Vietnam TORTURE Morse code

www.youtube.com

In recognition of his extraordinary heroism while a prisoner-of-war, he was awarded the Navy Cross. Denton was released from captivity in 1973, retired from the Navy in 1977 and in 1980 was elected to the U.S. Senate where he represented Alabama.

Arleigh Burke-class destroyers conduct a variety of operations from peacetime presence and crisis response to sea control and power projection. The future USS Jeremiah Denton (DDG 129) will be capable of fighting air, surface, and subsurface battles simultaneously, and will contain a combination of offensive and defensive weapon systems designed to support maritime warfare, including integrated air and missile defense and vertical launch capabilities.

The ship will be constructed at Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Ingalls shipbuilding division in Pascagoula, Miss.. The ship will be 509 feet long, have a beam length of 59 feet and be capable of operating at speeds in excess of 30 knots.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

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The crazy steam-powered gun of the Civil War

The Civil War was one of the first industrialized wars, helping lead the world from battles conducted by marching men with muskets around each other on a large field to battles fought between small, quick-moving formations with repeating rifles, quick-firing guns, and higher-powered artillery. But not all of the weapon designs that debuted had a lasting effect on warfare.


And one of the designs that fell by the wayside was the quite weird “steam-powered cannon.”

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As the world entered the late 1800s, breakthroughs in technology like steam engines and metallurgy allowed the world to make great industrial breakthroughs, and weapon designers hoped to harness those breakthroughs to make the U.S. military more powerful.

William Joslin and Charles S. Dickinson thought the breakthroughs in steam could make a lost weapon design suddenly work: Steam-powered guns. And they had a plan to greatly increase the rate of fire of weapons, possibly as high as 400 rounds per minute. And this was when muskets fired at 3 rounds per minute.

Historically, steam powered guns worked similarly to a conventional rifle, but instead of relying on gunpowder exploding to create high pressure and propel the bullet out of the barrel, they featured a chamber filled with water that would be heated into steam.

When water is heated into steam, it expands to 1,600 times its starting volume. So, it can give a bullet plenty of umph, but it takes a lot of time and heat to build up the pressure necessary to fire the weapon.

But Joslin and Dickinson were at the forefront of a new, steam-powered weapon design. Instead of using steam to build up pressure in the firing chamber, a steam engine would quickly rotate a mechanism and fire the round using centrifugal force.

Basically, this is a mechanized version of David and his sling to hit Goliath, but at 400 rounds per second.

The design showed promise, but the inventors had a falling out, so Dickinson created his own version and won funding for a prototype in 1860. By 1861, it was on display in Baltimore. History buffs will notice that the Civil War started in 1861, so this was an auspicious time to show off a new weapon design. Which, yes, could fire 400 balls per minute.

A steam engine powered a rotary wheel that flung ball ammunition in a closed circle before releasing it at high speeds from a barrel that could pivot within a large metal shield protecting the crew. The entire device was weighty, requiring a large boiler in addition to the barrel, rotary, and shield, and typically had to be moved with horses.

A member of the crew needed to keep feeding balls into the weapon as it tore through rounds. And it wasn’t horribly accurate, so they really needed to keep the balls going. While the weapon is sometimes described as a cannon, it fired .38-caliber rounds, larger than a 7.62mm round but still 24 percent smaller than a .50-cal.

But the worst shortcoming of the weapon was the actual speed of the rounds when they left the barrel. The centrifugal force couldn’t generate nearly the velocity that a chemically propelled or even steam-pressured round enjoyed. In fact, the Mythbusters built one and tested it, and they couldn’t get the rounds to pierce a pig at just a few feet.

Media coverage of the weapon at the time managed to muddle up some details, and the weapon became associated with Ross Winans, a states-right activist and steam expert in Maryland. The public became worried that this was a super weapon and Winans could deliver it to the Confederacy. The weapon even became known as the Winans Gun.

Baltimore police seized the weapon and then returned it to Dickinson who later tried to sell it to the Confederates. Union forces seized the weapon and it served during the war in a number of defensive positions at infrastructure in the North, but it never saw combat.

 

Machine Gun Powered By Steam – Mythbusters

While it would be cool to say that the weapon went on to change warfare or inspire new weapons that were wildly successful, the truth is that the invention of the Gatling gun and then proper machine guns made the steam-powered Winans Gun unnecessary.

And while the Winans showed some promise during the Civil War, when its high rate of fire made it seem worth the effort to improve the weapon’s muzzle velocity, other weapon breakthroughs that were incompatible with the Winans relegated it to the dustbin.

The increased prevalence of rifled barrels didn’t work well with centrifugal weapons, and weapon cartridges allowed other weapons to catch up in rate of fire but didn’t benefit centrifugal weapons. And as it became clear that attacking forces needed to become more mobile, a massive weapon requiring a steam boiler was a clear loser.

Steam obviously still has a role in warfare, nearly all nuclear-powered weapons we’ve ever designed used steam to carry the power from the reactor. But steam projectiles have, sadly, disappeared, ruining our plans for the SteamPunk Revolution.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

The Germans were the first to propose nuclear science, and some of their top minds advanced the field in the 1800s and early 1900s. That’s why it’s probably a little surprising that America had the first functioning nuclear reactor. And the first bomb. But the Nazis had not just one nuclear program, but three. And one of the teams had an honest-to-god reactor ready to go.


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Enriched uranium
(Public domain)

The German nuclear program had two major prongs. There was a weapons program that was begun in 1939, but the shortage of scientists quickly short-circuited the effort. Later that year, a new team was re-assembled to study the wartime applications of fission. The possibility of a bomb was foremost, for obvious reasons.

But, despite Germany’s preeminence in the scientific side of nuclear endeavors, it lacked certain necessary materials like heavy water, water with radioactive hydrogen isotopes, to moderate the reaction. WATM has written before about the heroic lengths that Norwegian resistance members and British special operators went to frustrate Germany’s heavy water theft from Norway.

America, meanwhile, started its nuclear effort with about 1,000 tons of uranium, quickly got another 3,000 tons through a deal with the Belgian government, and began uranium production in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The American government would buy millions of tons over the course of the war from the Congo and other places. It also produced its own heavy water and used graphite as a moderator.

But Germany did get some of its own uranium. It actually has large reserves of its own, it’s just tricky to mine and refine.

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American soldiers dismantle a German nuclear reactor after World War II. The reactor never achieved a sustained reaction because the Germans never put enough of their uranium cubes in one spot.
(Public domain)

But when it came to using all these materials to make a proper bomb, Germany made a math error that ended its real efforts. See, British scientists were pretty sure they could make a device work with between 5 and 12 kg of enriched uranium (about 11 to 26 pounds). But Germany thought they needed tons of enriched uranium for a single bomb, thanks to the aforementioned error.

So Germany sidelined its bomb efforts but remained interested in nuclear reactors. Remember, its industry relied on imported or stolen fuel to run its factories, and its primary naval arm was submarines that had to slip under British blockades and patrols with limited fuel stores to do their work after they got into the Atlantic.

Nuclear reactors that gave them virtually unending power in cities or at sea would transform the way they operated in the war, and so they committed their nuclear stockpile to create a reactor.

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A museum exhibit shows the uranium chandelier Germany used for their experimental reactors.
(ArtMechanic, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Germany created three teams and planted one each at Berlin, Gottow and Leipzig. The design that the teams finally came up with centered on uranium chandeliers. Hundreds of small uranium cubes were suspended on wires in close proximity to one another, allowing their combined radiation to sustain a nuclear reaction. When they needed to shut down the reaction, they could lower the chandelier into a pool of heavy water with graphite for additional shielding.

The most advanced team was in Berlin. The reactor there had 664 cubes in its chandelier, and its scientists were actually close in 1944 and 1945 to achieving a sustained reaction, a reaction that could have kept factories humming along until the Allies broke the city.

The only problem: They needed a bit more uranium than they had. They suspected that they needed about 50 percent more cubes, and a 2009 paper says that they were probably right. Funnily enough, the group in Gottow had about 400 cubes, but the two teams weren’t allowed to talk about their work or share resources. So neither group knew that they could pool their resources and succeed in just a few weeks or months of work.

Probably for the best, though. It’s not like the world would be better off if the Nazis had managed to create nuclear power plants for the Allies to bomb as the war ended, and the reactors almost certainly would have come too late to save the Reich, anyway.

Meanwhile, the cubes were largely recovered by American forces and are now passed around as novelties in some classrooms and physicist social circles. Germany did eventually tap into its uranium mines in order to fuel reactors in the post-war world. Germany is getting out of the nuclear business, though, even the power generation part.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy wants to replace Vikings with drones

The return of great-power competition has the US military refocusing on the potential for a conflict with a sophisticated adversary whose submarines can sink the US’s supercarriers.

Defense experts are increasingly concerned by a resurgent Russian undersea force and by China’s increasingly capable boats.

But the centerpiece of the US Navy’s fleet has a decade-old gap in its submarine defenses, and filling it may require new, unmanned aircraft.


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A US Navy S-2G Tracker in the foreground, accompanied by its successor, the S-3A Viking, over Naval Air Station North Island, California, in July 1976.

(US Navy photo)

‘It’s got legs’

During the Cold War and the years afterward, aircraft carriers had fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for anti-submarine-warfare operations. For much of that period, the fixed-wing option was the S-3 Viking.

Introduced in 1974, the turbofan S-3 was developed with Soviet submarines in mind. It replaced the propeller-driven S-2 Tracker, carrying a crew of four. It wasn’t particularly fast, but it had a 2,000-mile range and could stay airborne for up to 10 hours to hunt submarines.

“It’s got legs,” said Capt. John Rousseau, who flew the Navy’s last Vikings as part of an experimental squadron before their retirement in early 2016.

It had strong surface-search abilities to find periscopes, a magnetic anomaly detector to search for submerged subs, and gear to analyze sounds from sonobuoys it dropped in the ocean. Its search and processing capabilities tripled its search area. And in a war scenario, it could fire Harpoon missiles at ships and drop torpedoes and depth charges to destroy submarines.

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An S-3A Viking with a Magnetic Anomaly Detection boom extending from its tail in May 1983.

(US Navy photo)

“It can go fast and long. The radar, even though it’s old, there’s not many better. We still spot schools of dolphins and patches of seaweed” when patrolling off California, Rousseau said in 2016.

The Viking performed a variety of missions, including cargo transport, surveillance and electronic intelligence, search and rescue, and aerial refueling, but it was a mainstay of the carrier anti-submarine-warfare efforts.

Helicopters deployed on carriers typically perform close-in ASW, usually within about 90 miles of the ship. The S-3, with a longer range and the ability to linger, filled the midrange-ASW role, operating about 90 to 175 miles from the carrier.

Land-based aircraft, like the P-3 Orion and now the P-8 Poseidon, have flown the longest-range submarine patrols.

‘The leadership totally turned over’

As the sub threat lessened after the Cold War, the S-3 was reoriented toward anti-surface operations. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, an S-3 attacked a ground target for the first time, firing a missile at Saddam Hussein’s yacht.

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“Navy One,” a US Navy S-3B Viking carrying President George W. Bush, lands on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.

(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Gabriel Piper)

An S-3 designated “Navy One” even flew President George W. Bush to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003. Some of the Navy’s last S-3s operated over Iraq in the late 2000s, looking for threats on the ground.

The S-3 was eventually able to deploy torpedoes, mines, depth charges, and missiles.

With the addition of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, the S-3’s designation in the carrier air wing shifted from “anti-submarine” to “sea control,” according to “Retreat from Range,” a 2015 report on carrier aviation by Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy officer who took part in force-structure planning and carrier-strike-group operations.

Amid shifts in Navy leadership and the rise of new threats after the Cold War, the S-3 lost favor. It officially left service in 2009. There was nothing to replace it.

“There was a slow transition in the makeup of the air wing, as well as a slow transition in the changeover in the leadership of the air-wing community,” Hendrix, now a vice president at Telemus Group, told Business Insider. As a naval aviator, Hendrix spent over a decade in P-3 patrol squadrons that routinely conducted maritime patrols looking for foreign submarines.

“By the time we got … to replace the S-3, essentially the leadership totally turned over to the short-range, light-attack community, led by the F/A-18 Hornet pilots, and also they’ve been operating for the better part of 20 years in permissive environments,” Hendrix said, referring to areas such as the Persian Gulf, where threats like enemy subs are almost nonexistent.

Because of the lack of other threats, the S-3 was relegated largely to a refueling role during its final years, mainly as a recovery tanker for aircraft returning to the carrier.

“When it came time to make a decision, they said, ‘Well, we really don’t need the recovery tanker. I can do recovery tanking with other Hornets, and this anti-submarine warfare doesn’t seem all that important to us because there’s not submarines around us,'” Hendrix said. “So they made a decision to get rid of the S-3.”

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A US Navy S-3 Viking refuels another S-3 Viking over the Caribbean Sea in May 2006.

(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Christopher Stephens)

The S-3s that were retired had thousands of flying hours left in their airframes. Dozens are being held in reserve in the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

“They actually got rid of the S-3 early in the sense that the community still had a viable population of aircraft,” Hendrix said.

Their departure left a hole in carrier defenses that remains unfilled, especially when carrier groups are far from the airfields where P-8 Poseidons are based.

More helicopters have been added to the carrier air wing, Hendrix said. “However, the helicopters don’t have either the sensors or the mobility to be able to really patrol the middle zone” in which the S-3 operated.

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Sailors on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell load a MK-46 torpedo on an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter during an ASW exercise in the Pacific Ocean in March 2014.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro)

Nor does the arrival of the P-8 Poseidon — a vaunted maritime patrol aircraft introduced in 2013 to replace the P-3 — make up for the Viking’s absence, according to Hendrix.

“We haven’t brought the P-8s in in a one-to-one replacement basis for the older P-3s, and so they’re not really in sufficient numbers to do the middle-zone and outer-zone anti-submarine-warfare mission for the carrier strike groups,” he said. “So we haven’t filled that requirement in force structure.”

‘The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability’

Amid the increasing focus on facing a sophisticated adversary, discussion has intensified about changing the composition of the carrier air wing to replace the capabilities — anti-submarine warfare in particular — shed after the Cold War.

“ASW will become an increasingly important [carrier air wing] mission as adversary submarine forces increase in their size, sophistication, and ability to attack targets ashore and at sea using highly survivable long-range weapons,” said a recent report on the carrier air wing by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

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A Navy S-3B Viking from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on January 23, 1995. It carries a refueling pod under its left wing, and openings in the fuselage for dropping sonobuoys are visible in the rear.

(US Navy photo by PH1 (AW) Mahlon K. Miller)

Longer-range anti-ship missiles allow subs to be farther outside carrier helicopters’ operational range, the report argued. (Long-range land-based weapons may also hinder ASW by reducing the area in which the P-8 can operate.)

“The increasing range of submarine-launched cruise missiles may result in [carrier air wing] aircraft being the only platforms able to defend civilian and other military shipping as well as high-value US and allied targets ashore from submarine attack,” the report added.

Unmanned systems — sensors as well as unmanned underwater and surface vehicles — are seen as an option to extend the carrier’s reach. (The Navy has already awarded Boeing a contract for unmanned aerial refueling vehicles.)

“The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability using distributed unmanned sensors to find and track enemy submarines at long ranges and over wide areas,” the CSBA report said, adding that ships and aircraft in the carrier strike group could then use anti-submarine rockets to keep enemy subs at bay rather than trying to sink all of them.

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Boeing conducts an MQ-25 deck-handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri, in January 2018.

(US Navy/Boeing photo)

The need to operate at longer ranges with more endurance and higher survivability also makes unmanned aerial vehicles appealing additions to the carrier air wing, according to the CSBA report.

“There’s potential there,” Hendrix said, but he added that using the vehicles in the ASW role would be complicated.

“A lot of times doing anti-submarine warfare, there’s a lot of human intuition that comes into play, or human ability to look at a sensor, which is a very confused sensor, and pick out the information” that may indicate the presence of a submarine, he said.

Much of the midrange mission vacated by the S-3 Viking is done within line-of-sight communication, meaning a range in which sensors can communicate with one another, so, Hendrix said, “you could use an unmanned platform to go out and drop sonobuoys or other sensors … and then monitor them, or be the relay aircraft to send their information back to” the ASW station aboard the carrier, where humans would be watching.

“I could see an unmanned platform playing in that role in the future.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the 7 national military parades held by the US

There’s been plenty of buzz surrounding President Trump’s proposed military parade. As is par for the political course these days, there are plenty of people who argue for it — and just as many arguing against. Whether such a parade is good for the military, the United States, or the Trump Administration isn’t for me to decide, but what can be said completely objectively is that Trump is not the first sitting Chief Executive to want to throw such a parade.

As is often the case, the best thing to do before looking ahead is to look behind — let’s review the other times in history the United States has held a military parade, and what those celebrations did for our nation.


In the early days of the republic, it was very common for the Commander-In-Chief to review troops, especially in celebration of Independence Day. This tradition stopped with President James K. Polk, however. His successor, Zachary Taylor, did not review the troops on July 4th and the tradition fell by the wayside.

Since then, we’ve hosted parades only during momentous times. Each of the following parades celebrated either a U.S. victory in a war or the inauguration of a President during the Cold War (as a thumb of the nose at Soviet parades).

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A sight for sore eyes. General Grant leans forward for a better view of the parading troops as President Johnson, his Cabinet, and Generals Meade and Sherman look on from the presidential reviewing stand. “The sight was varied and grand,” Grant recalled in his memoir.

(Library of Congress)

1. Grand Review of the Armies, 1865

Just one month after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the new President, Andrew Johnson, wanted to change the mood of the mourning nation, especially in the capital. Johnson declared an end to the armed rebellion and called for the Grand Review of the Armies to honor the American forces who fought the Civil War to its successful conclusion.

Union troops from the Army of the Potomac, Army of Georgia, and Army of the Tennessee marched down Pennsylvania Avenue over the course of two days. Some 145,000 men and camp followers walked from the Capitol and pat the reviewing stand in front of the White House. Just a few short weeks after the review, the Union Army was disbanded.

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US Marines march down Fifth Avenue in New York in September, 1919, nearly a year after the end of World War I. General John J. Pershing led the victory parade. A week later, Pershing led a similar parade through Washington, D.C.

2. World War I Victory Parades, 1919

A year after the end of World War I, General John J. Pershing marched 25,000 soldiers from the American Expeditionary Force down 5th Avenue in New York City, wearing their trench helmets and full battle rattle. He would do the same thing down the streets of Washington, DC, a little more than a week later.

Parades like this were held all over the United States, with varying degrees of sizes and equipment involved.

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A float carried a huge bust of President Franklin Roosevelt in New York on June 13, 1942.

3. The ‘At War’ Parade, 1942

In 1942, New York held its largest parade ever (up to that point) on June 13, 1942. For over 11 hours, civilians and government servants marched up the streets of New York City in solidarity with the American troops who were being sent to fight overseas in World War II.

4. World War II Victory Parades, 1946

When you help win the largest conflict ever fought on Earth, you have to celebrate. Four million New Yorkers came to wave at 13,000 paratroopers of the 82d Airborne as they walked the streets in celebration of winning World War II. They were given one of NYC’s trademark ticker-tape parades, along with Sherman tanks, tank destroyers, howitzers, jeeps, armored cars, and anti-tank guns.

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Army tanks move along Pennsylvania Avenue in the inaugural parade for President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 21, 1953.

5. Inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953 

Fresh from a trip to the ongoing war in Korea, newly-minted President Dwight Eisenhower received a welcome worthy of a former general of his stature. Equally impressive was Ike’s inauguration parade. It was not just a celebration of the military’s best ascending to higher office, it was a reminder to the Soviet Union about all the hardware they would face in a global conflict with the United States.

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The Presidential Review Stand during Kennedy’s inaugural parade.

6. Inauguration of John F. Kennedy, 1961

Keeping with the Cold War tradition of showing off our military power during international news events, like a Presidential inauguration, President John F. Kennedy also got the military treatment, as his military procession also included a number of missiles and missile interceptors.

7. Gulf War Victory Celebration, 1991

President George H.W. Bush was the last U.S. President to oversee a national victory parade. This time, it was a review of troops who successfully defended Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield and expelled Iraq from Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. The National Victory Celebration was held Jun. 8, 1991, in Washington and Jun. 9. in New York City — it was the largest since the end of World War II.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

The Air Force has been struggling for years to correct its pilot shortage, but it has also been dealing with a protracted shortfall of maintainers — the airmen who keep planes flightworthy.


Although the Force has significantly reduced its maintainer shortage, it now faces the daunting task of training the new recruits up to the levels of knowledge and experience the Force needs. That takes considerable time.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, in Nov. 2017, that the lack of maintainers was having a noticeable effect on air operations.

Also read: How the Air Force will replace JSTARS battle management

Whereas in years past, a pilot would have multiple maintainers on hand for aircraft prep, takeoff, and landing, now, Goldfein said, pilots often have to “taxi slow, because the same single-crew chief that you met has to … drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons.”

“Then, you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end,” he added. “This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with.”

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An aircraft maintainer on the flight line in front of a snow-covered C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, January 6, 2015. (US Air Force)

The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time and was exacerbated by the drawdown in 2014, which grew the shortage by 1,200 airmen. At the end of fiscal year 2015, the force was short some 4,000 maintainers.

The shortages fell especially hard on the most experienced airmen — 1,900 maintainers at the 5- and 7-skill levels were absent. Maintainers at that level work on the Air Force’s advanced aircraft, like the F-35, and those with the most experience were left working 50- to 60-hour weeks to keep aircraft in flying shape.

Related: The F-35 could shoot down ballistic missiles — with one catch

The Air Force tries to keep deployed units at full strength, meaning the personnel shortage was felt acutely among squadrons in the US.

The force rolled out a number of enticements to keep airmen on the flight line. By the end of fiscal year 2016, that shortage shrunk to 3,400 maintainers. By the end of fiscal year 2017, the official tally was down to 400.

“So we’ve been getting well” in terms of maintainers, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a Heritage Foundation event last week.

Wilson said in mid-February 2018 that the shortage had fallen to 200 maintainers— though Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider the number can change throughout the year based on the force’s personnel numbers and needs.

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Senior Airman Daniel Lasal performs a post-flight inspection on an F-16 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, November 15, 2016. (US Air Force by Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa)

Wilson added at the Heritage Foundation that simply adding airmen won’t solve the problem created by shedding experienced maintainers.

New, 3-skill level maintainers usually take five to seven years to get fully experienced.

“You go from being an apprentice to a craftsman to a master craftsman,” Wilson said. “So, we have a deficit in those craftsmen, and so we’re looking at different ways to be able to accelerate the learning of those young maintainers.”

“There’s only so much you can do to really learn and master your craft, but we’re almost well in terms of numbers, really now it’s about seasoning that force and getting them to the level of being craftsmen,” she added.

More: The Air Force needs a new A-10 mechanic

To help accelerate training, the Air Force is going to the boneyard — the aircraft storage facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The boneyard (there is more than one) provides long-term storage for mothballed or unused aircraft — the force has scavenged parts from there to keep its largest plane, the C5 Galaxy, in the air.

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Staff Sgt. Kevin Colon removes exhaust covers from a B-1B Lancer at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 21, 2013. (U.S. Air Force)

According to Air Force Times, the force will start pulling F-15s and F-16s from the facility to provide training aircraft for the new maintainers and weapons-loaders. Those planes won’t fly, but they will act as high-tech guinea pigs for aircrews training to work on active combat aircraft. This will also keep the Air Force from having to take active aircraft out of service for training.

More reading: The Air Force just bolted on a bunch of boneyard parts to get its Galaxies up in the air

The Air Force has also brought in civilian contractors to take over some responsibilities — like washing aircraft and instruction — to free up time for maintainers to train.

“Every jet that I can relieve and put back on a flying schedule instead of being a ground instructional trainer, that has second- and third-order return on investment,” Col. Michael Lawrence, head of the Air Force’s maintenance division, told Air Force Times in December 2017.

“When you move jets from one place to another in a maintenance group complex, that drives a level of effort,” Lawrence added. “When we can park a jet down there on a permanent basis, that is a training asset.”

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