Air Force pararescuemen are among the elite when it comes to special operations. Their main task is to rescue pilots who have been shot down behind enemy lines. It’s never been an easy task, but at least the tech has improved since World War II. Back then, a pilot had to walk back to friendly lines – a very long walk.
Amphibious planes, like the PBY Catalina and HU-16 made rescue possible, but you needed enough water – or a strip of land – for them to land and take off. The same went for other planes, even the L-5, the military designation for the Piper Cub.
Insert the helicopter. They first appeared in a small capacity during the Korean War before they really came of age during Vietnam, proving to be the search-and-rescue asset America needed.
Here’s a look some legendary choppers that carried out that mission.
1. Sikorsky HH-3 Jolly Green Giant
The first helicopter to become a legend for search and rescue was the Sikorsky HH-3. The H-3 airframe was first designed for the Navy to carry out anti-submarine warfare, and was called the Sea King. But the size of the chopper lead the Air Force to buy some as heavy transports. They were eventually equipped with 7.62mm Miniguns and used to rescue pilots, with some seeing service in Desert Storm and the last ones serving until 1995.
According to an Air Force fact sheet, the HH-3 has a top speed of 177 miles per hour, and could carry up to 25 passengers or 15 litters, plus a crew of four and two attendants.
2. Sikorsky HH-53 Super Jolly/Pave Low
The Air Force didn’t stop with the Jolly Green. Eventually, the even larger HH-53 was procured, and called the Super Jolly Green Giant. They also took part in search-and-rescue missions during the Vietnam War, but after that war, the HH-53s were upgraded into the Pave Low configuration, making them capable of operating at night and bad weather. They also became used as special operations transports. The last Pave Lows were retired in 2008.
According to an Air Force fact sheet, the latest version of the Pave Low has a top speed of 165 miles per hour, an un-refueled range of 690 miles, and a crew of six.
3. Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk
The Air Force though, was looking for more search-and-rescue assets – mostly because they only bought 41 of the Super Jolly Green Giants. The HH-60G is primarily tasked with the combat search and rescue role, and it usually carries .50-caliber machine guns to protect itself. Like the Pave Low, the Pave Hawk can carry out missions at night or day. The HH-60G is currently serving.
An Air Force fact sheet notes that a total of 99 Pave Hawks serve in the active Air Force, the Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. The Pave Hawk has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, an unrefueled range of 504 nautical miles, and can carry a crew of four.
4. Sikorsky HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter
The H-60 airframe has been a mainstay of all five armed services, so much so that the replacement for the HH-60G is another H-60. In this case, the HH-60W is a modified version of the Army’s UH-60M Blackhawk.
According to materialsprovided by Sikorsky, a division of Lockheed Martin, the HH-60W has a combat radius of 195 nautical miles, and is equipped with new displays to reduce the air crew’s workload, and to help the pararescue jumpers do their job more efficiently. The Air Force plans to buy 112 HH-60Ws to replace the 99 HH-60Gs currently in service.
In short, when a pilot goes down, the assets are now there to pull him out, and to keep him from becoming a guest in a 21st century Hanoi Hilton.
A North Korean defector who made a mad dash to freedom amid a hail of bullets in November 2017 says he’s lucky to be alive.
In his first television interview with a US broadcaster since his escape, Oh Chong Song told NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt that it’s a “miracle” he made it out.
Oh, a former North Korean soldier, made international headlines when he bolted through the Demilitarized Zone into South Korea, suffering multiple gunshot wounds as his comrades, hot on his heels, pumped rounds into the fleeing man.
“I was extremely terrified,” Oh told NBC, recounting his escape. “I was wearing a padded jacket and the bullet penetrated through here and came out this way. Because of that penetration wound, the muscle there was blown apart and I could feel the warmth of the blood flowing underneath me. I still ran.”
He collapsed on the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone. “I did think that I was going to die as I was lying there,” he explained. South Korean soldiers rushed to him and dragged him to cover.
“I watch this video once in a while and every time I see it, I realize the fact that I am alive is a miracle,” Oh explained. “I can’t believe it’s me in the video.” He told NBC Nightly News that he was not in his right mind as he was escaping. “I was driving at a very high speed.”
Fleeing to South Korea was an impulsive, spur-of-the-moment decision. He said that had he been caught, assuming they didn’t kill him as he fled, he “would have been either sent to a concentration camp for political prisoners or, worse, executed by firing squad.”
The US medic who treated the defector never thought the young man, who was shot five times during his escape, would even make it to the hospital.
“I remember thinking this guy is probably going to die in the next 15 minutes,” Sgt. 1st Class Gopal Singh previously told Stars and Stripes. The Black Hawk helicopter, flying as fast as the crew could go at 160 mph, needed at least 20 minutes to get to the medical center.
But Singh managed to keep him alive as Oh drifted in and out of consciousness.
“I am truly grateful to him and I hope there will be an opportunity for me to meet him. If I do, I want to thank him in person for everything.” the defector told NBC.
“It’s truly a miracle. He was fighting all the way,” Singh told reporters, saying he’d like to meet Oh. “But just knowing that he’s OK, that’s a pretty good reward.”
Doctors, who fought fiercely to keep Oh alive, also called his survival miraculous.
When the defector arrived at Ajou University Trauma Center in Suwon, just outside of Seoul, he was bleeding out and struggling to breathe. Not only did the doctors have to treat Oh for gunshot wounds, but they also had to deal with large parasites as they worked to repair his intestines, which were torn open by bullet fragments.
South Korean surgeon Lee Cook-Jong said Oh was “like a broken jar.”
“His vital signs were so unstable, he was dying of low blood pressure, he was dying of shock,” he told CNN. Oh had multiple surgeries over a period of several days. “It’s a miracle that he survived,” the doctor said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Nearly two decades before the Harrier jump jet would prove the efficacy of vertical take-off and landing platforms, the U.S. Navy considered taking another approach to fielding fighters without a runway.
In the years immediately following World War II, the United States found itself trying to adapt its newfound airpower to a world with nuclear weapons in it. America knew its monopoly on atomic bombs wouldn’t last forever, and by the mid 1940s, it seemed clear that the Soviet Union would eventually become the planet’s second nuclear power.
That day came sooner than many expected, when a nuclear detonation at the Semipalatinsk test site in modern-day Kazakhstan on August 29, 1949, ushered in an era of military competition between global powers. In just a few short decades, the combined nuclear weapon stockpile of the U.S. and Soviet Union exceeded 70,000. The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction tends to be discussed in terms of just the U.S. and Soviets these days, but with stockpiles that large, it was truly the world that hung in the balance as these two superpowers stared one another down from their respective hemispheres.
Nuclear war and the need for VTOL aircraft
For some time, nuclear war seemed not only possible, but even likely, as the two nations postured for territory and prestige. Within some defense circles, the question really wasn’t if a nuclear war would break out… but when.
The fact that just 21 years passed between the conclusion of World War I and the onset of World War II is an important piece of context to consider when looking back at the decades immediately following that second great conflict. Military leaders in both nations were largely old enough to have seen not one, but two world wars, each setting a new precedent for war’s horrific destructive capacity. World War III wasn’t a hypothetical concept for much of the world as it is today. World War III seemed like a very real and potentially likely scenario, and the one thing both sides were certain of was that the next global conflict would start the same way the last one had ended: With nuclear weapons.
While America’s politicians largely saw the concept of nuclear war as the end state of a diplomatic failure, America’s military leaders were stuck in the unenviable position of having to plan to fight and win such a war. That meant finding ways to stay in the fight after the first nukes made landfall, and one way that manifested in a number of military aircraft development programs was the concept of VTOL, or Vertical Take-Off and Landing.
Throughout World War II, the world saw an explosion of aviation infrastructure development, as landing strips popped up in every region of the fight. These airstrips throughout Europe and the Pacific would almost certainly be seen as an imposing threat to the Soviets in a new conflict, as they would provide America and its allies with ample opportunity to launch heavy payload bombers deep into Soviet territory.
As a result, Pentagon brass believed airstrips would be among the first targets of a Soviet nuclear attack. If they were right and the U.S. couldn’t count on having airstrips positioned around the globe to support combat operations, they needed a new fighter that could take off and land without the need for a well-manicured runway.
The U.S. Air Force considered the Canadian flying saucer known as the VZ-9 Avrocar. The U.S. Navy sought their own solution, and by 1950, they had received proposals from both Lockheed and Convair.
The Lockheed XFV “Salmon”
While the need for VTOL aircraft was seen all across the Pentagon, the Navy saw vertical take-off and landing platforms as an opportunity to deploy intercept fighters from non-aircraft carrier vessels. In fact, the Navy even considered launching VTOL fighters off of merchant ships in a new World War if necessary.
In June of 1951, Lockheed was awarded a Navy contract to build the XFV-1; a prototype fighter with traditional wings, a massive reinforced X-shaped tail, and a 5,850 horsepower turboprop engine spinning a pair of three-bladed contra-rotating propellers that made the aircraft look like the bastard child of a helicopter and a prop-driven fighter. Most unusual of all, the aircraft was designed to take off and land on its tail, with its nose pointed straight up in the air.
Lockheed called on famed aviation pioneer Kelly Johnson to design their VTOL XFV, and one could have argued at the time that the program couldn’t have been placed in better hands. Johnson was just coming off of the development of the P-38 Lightning and then America’s first jet fighter, the P-80 Shooting Star. His long and storied career as an aeronautical engineer eventually included overseeing first of their kind platforms like the U-2 Spy Plane, the SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 Nighthawk.
For testing, the XFV-1 was fitted with an awkward-looking set of landing gear, which included mounting wheels on the bottom of the lower tail wings. In December of 1953, the XFV-1 got its first taste of the sky when Chief Test Pilot Herman ‘Fish’ Salmon managed to make the aircraft “hop” briefly during taxing tests. Less than a year later, in June of 1954, it would make it all the way into the sky for its first real flight.
Unfortunately, the Allison YT40-A-6 turboprop engine installed on the prototype was not powerful enough to manage actual vertical take-offs or landings. Instead, Lockheed planned to use the forthcoming (and more powerful) Allison T54 engine, which would produce 7,100 horsepower, but issues with the engine’s development meant the XFV’s desperately needed power plant would never arrive.
The prototype XFV-1 did make a total of 32 brief flights and even managed to hover with its nose up for a short period of time, but never accomplished a single vertical take-off or landing.
The Convair XFY Pogo
Convair’s take on the vertical take-off and landing premise shared a number of similarities with Lockheed’s. Like the XFV, Convair’s XFY Pogo was designed to sit upright on its tail so it could leverage its pair of three-bladed contra-rotating propellers to take off like a helicopter. Then, once in the air, the aircraft would re-orient itself to fly forward like a traditionally prop-driven plane.
For its purposes, the Pogo was more successful than Lockheed’s outing. The first outdoor test flights began in August of 1954, and a series of 70 successful vertical take-off and landing drills following shortly thereafter. By November of that year, the team at Convair with test pilot and Marine reservist, Lieutenant Colonel James F. “Skeets” Coleman at the stick, achieved their first successful transition from vertical flight to horizontal. In order to make the transition easier, the pilot’s seat within the cockpit was mounted on gimbals that oriented the pilot at 45 degrees in vertical flight mode and 90 degrees when flying horizontally.
Despite its successes, subsequent test flights began to reveal problems with the VTOL upright fighter’s very premise. While flying, the Pogo lacked airbrakes or spoilers to help it slow down after high-speed flight, but more troubling was just how difficult landing the unusual aircraft could be. Pilots had to look over their shoulder and back to the ground as they slowly lowered the fighter down onto its tail. Eventually, a low-power radar system was installed that would help the pilot gauge their altitude with a series of lights, but landing was still risky. It quickly became apparent that the Navy’s plan to put these fighters on a wide variety of non-carrier vessels just wouldn’t work, because only the best pilots in the force had a chance at landing the plane.
Further damning the concept were jet fighters of the era that were reaching speeds as high as Mach 2, while the prop-driven vertical take-off fighters the Navy was testing couldn’t even break the sound barrier. Ultimately, the concept was scrapped, damning both the Lockheed and Convair vertical take-off fighters to life in museums by the end of 1956.
Ultimately, the U.S. Navy would invest heavily into fixed-wing and sweep-wing carrier-based fighters like the F9F Panther, the F-14 Tomcat, and the F/A-18 Hornet. However, vertical or short take-off fighters did still find their way into America’s arsenal. The U.S. Marines began flying the AV-8A Harrier in 1971, and today, Marines are experimenting with using amphibious assault ships to launch sorties of the short take-off, vertical landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35B.
U.S. prosecutors have filed a lawsuit to seize the gasoline aboard four tankers that Iran is currently shipping to Venezuela, the latest attempt to increase pressure on the two sanctioned anti-American allies.
The civil-forfeiture complaint filed in the District of Columbia federal court late on July 1 claims the sale was arranged by an Iranian businessman with ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization.
Since September 2018, the IRGC’s elite Quds Force has moved oil through a sanctioned shipping network involving dozens of ship managers, vessels, and facilitators, according to the lawsuit.
“The profits from these activities support the IRGC’s full range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad,” the prosecutors alleged.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations said that any attempt by the United States to prevent Iranian lawful trading with any country of its choosing would be an act of “piracy.”
The four tankers named in the complaint — the Bella, Bering, Pandi, and Luna — are carrying 1.1 million barrels of gasoline, the U.S. prosecutors said.
The Justice Department said on July 2 that U.S. District Judge James Boasberg issued a warrant to seize all the gasoline on the vessels, “based on a probable cause showing of forfeitability.”
The United States has been pressing for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s ouster with a campaign of diplomatic and punitive measures, including sanctions on its energy sector.
The South American country is suffering from a gasoline shortage amid a ravaging economic crisis.
Tensions have been on the rise between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when the United States withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions that have battered the Iranian economy.
Star Trek would be a lot less interesting if we found out the Enterprise didn’t run on an advanced isolinear computing system but instead ran on something like MS-DOS. We might laugh at how incredulous that work of science fiction would be. But in today’s U.S. Air Force, the F-22 – one of the most advanced fighters ever made – runs on a similar disparity.
But of course, the Air Force will remind you that it isn’t science fiction, it’s what they do every day.
The F-22 program was killed at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in an effort to reshape the U.S. military. The F-22 was designed as an air superiority fighter to take on advance fighters from China and Russia in air combat, not support troops on the ground. At the time, American troops were focused on insurgencies and ground combat. Until the terrorists started flying F-14s, there was little perceived need for such a fighter. Now that the U.S. military is refocused on great power wars, the need for such a program is becoming more apparent.
The F-22 is the fastest combat aircraft in the U.S. Air Force, even after the development of the F-35. It can detect and attack enemy aircraft from miles away, even if the enemy isn’t yet able to detect the incoming Raptor. In one instance, a Raptor was able to pop up from underneath two Iranian F-4 Phantoms and tell them to go home, which they promptly did, presumably to change their shorts.
It wasn’t like this, but it could have been.
Just the presence of a Raptor in a battlespace is enough to clear the skies of enemy aircraft. In a great power war with a country like China, the Raptor would be an indispensable part of the Air Force order of battle. Raptors will quickly disperse in order to keep China from targeting them with ballistic missiles. Their stealth and air combat abilities would then be used to escort C-17s and frustrate Chinese fighters, as well as any Chinese efforts to jam their communications. That’s due in large part to the pilots’ advanced training and the advanced stealth technology aboard the airframe. But the reason Chinese hackers couldn’t hack their computers is something different altogether.
The technology is more than 35 years old.
Like this, except on one of the world’s most advanced killing machines.
When the billion fighter was cut from the Pentagon budget, there was a lot of joking surrounding the fighter, that the United States had developed a weapon it would never use in combat – after all, until that point the F-22 hadn’t flown a combat mission over either of the two wars the U.S. was actually fighting. Former Navy Secretary John Lehman, found a silver lining, telling the Wall Street Journal that at the very least, the plane’s computer technology was safe from Chinese hackers.
“No one in China knows how to program the ’83 vintage IBM software that runs them,” he said.
Ten years later, the F-22 has definitely flown combat sorties over Syria and the rise of China and Russia, and their fifth-generation fighters, some of the technology stolen from the United States, might have the Pentagon wishing they had more Raptors.
How many times in life can we actually say that? Today, today, we can say that. On the verge of uncertainty, nothing has prepared you better than military life, either as a service member or spouse. Here’s the list of skills more valuable than gold right now– cheers to not just surviving but thriving my friends.
No food no problems, I survived Ranger School.
This isn’t the first time you’ve had to skip a meal and it won’t be the last. Field chow, AKA rations, eaten in world record time, or the MRE that makes a bigger impact on exit than entrance (think about that one) has left you hungry before.
Walk down the apocalyptically empty aisles with pride that you have what it takes. Not only can you hack it, but it’ll feel like a downright vacation when all you must do today is hike it to the fridge versus up a mountain.
Weird a*$ food combinations? Bring it on.
Stomachs of steel are made in the military. No one knows for sure what’s in an MRE, and I’m guessing we don’t want to know either. If you’re mid grocery haul and figuring out how to pair pickles, pears, and quinoa into a gourmet meal, fear not. Your stomach can handle it.
Beef stew, it’s what’s for breakfast. Yummm.
Keep calm, it’s only chaos.
Did you have to cancel plans for the 12th time today? Do you have absolutely no clue where you’re going to end up next month, what job you’ll have or when your kids will actually return to school? If so, you might be a military spouse.
Champions of chaos, military spouses can ride a tornado like a cool summer breeze. Need something fun to do? How about sitting back and watch your civilian friends freak out about experiencing a small fraction of what your life is like each year. We are the chaos, and the chaos is us.
Life skills for the win!
Ok, it’s not to this point yet, but just stick with us here… survival skills could possibly tip the scales to outweigh social media followings. Shocking but true. Who can find their way through the woods? You can. Who has seven duffel bags full of survival gear? You do.
You’ve been prepping for doomsday scenarios your entire career, or at least during the training portions of it. If necessary, you have everything you need to walk for miles with everything you need on your back.
Boredom? Hello old friend.
It’s about to get hella boring around here. Snipers, do you know anything about passing long amounts of time with nowhere to go? Remember that super fun game you played while in Afghanistan? Throwing rocks at other rocks, throwing rocks at…each other during downtime? Yet again, life in the military has superbly prepared you to endure the long bouts of boredom we are all experiencing right now.
What are we most looking forward to? Your Facebook posts full of the awesome ways you’re excelling at life right now.
The United States Military has always prided itself on its legacy. That’s why the historical accomplishments of a unit are almost always passed down from the old-timers to the young bloods. And if a great troop does a heroic deed, you can bet the installation where they were once stationed will have a street named after them.
The history books of the United States Military are extensive and cherished — but you won’t often see mention of the glider regiments. Outside of randomly finding their insignia on “Badges of the United States Army” posters that line the training room, you won’t ever hear anyone sing the tales of the gliders.
That’s mostly because the history of the gliders is a bit… awkward, let’s say.
Still though. There was a need that the gliders filled and they got the job done… some times…
Since their inception, gliders have been at odds with the paratroopers. Instead of having an infantryman jump from an aircraft and float down individually, the gliders would be filled to the brim with infantrymen that could all exit the glider at the same time and location. Gliders could also be filled with heavy equipment or vehicles and moved into the battlefield, remaining fairly silent as it glided to the ground.
And that about does it for the list of benefits to using gliders.
Earlier anti-glider poles had explosives, but the Axis found it a bit of overkill, as the inertia alone did the trick.
The thing is, all of the functions of the glider were better (and more safely) served by the helicopter. But even before helicopters were ready to take on a primary role, the Army had long abandoned gliders.
There were simply too many problems in the operating of gliders. First, gliders had to be towed by a much larger aircraft. When the time came, the glider would release the line and, as the name implies, glide to its intended destination. It didn’t have its own engine or any completely reliable means of piloting it.
Accidents were frequent. After all, there’s a reason they were unaffectionately called “flying coffins.” The glider needed to remain light (despite the heavy load in the back), so it had barely any kind of protection. The glider was literally made of honeycombed plywood and canvas, meaning air pockets or 40-mph winds could start shredding the exterior.
If the glider did manage to hold together throughout its journey, it was most left to its own devices after the departure of the towing plane. There were no brakes and steering was difficult. The only safe bet was to find a clearing, which were difficult to spot, seeing as the gliders cut the line while still miles away from their destination.
It also didn’t help that the Axis knew about the gliders’ biggest weakness: randomly placed ten-foot poles in giant clearings.
Farewell, gliders. You won’t be missed.
(442nd Fighter Wing Archive photo)
Gliders, in the eyes of the public, were doomed from the very beginning. In August, 1943, the gliders were given their first public demonstration in front for 10,000 spectators in St. Louis. A single bolt came undone and the glider fell like a sack of bricks right in front of the grand stand. Everyone onboard, including the mayor of St. Louis, was instantly killed.
The gliders did land properly more often than not and they played an instrumental role in major Allied invasions, but the fact that a staggering eleven percent of all troops who rode in them would die (and thirty percent were wounded upon landing) was something that the military just wanted to forget about.
The US Navy bragged on social media Tuesday morning that it currently has seven aircraft carriers underway, a major improvement over the situation in late October, when half the carrier fleet was in a non-deployable state.
“The Navy has 7 aircraft carriers underway today. NBD,” the Navy Chief of Information (CHINFO) tweeted Tuesday in a humble-brag; “NBD” is an acronym for “no big deal.”
Less than two months ago, the Navy had that many carriers stuck pier-side due to maintenance issues, preparation for mid-life overhauls, unexpected malfunctions, and new construction challenges.
On the East Coast, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) was winding up to a deployment after an extended maintenance availability.
The USS George Washington (CVN-73) was in the yard for its Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) with the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) pier-side, apparently in preparation for its mid-life overhaul.
The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) was in extended maintenance. The USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) was down for an electrical malfunction.
The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) was in an extended post-shakedown availability.
Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)
And, on the West Coast, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) was in maintenance, leaving only handful of the 11 carriers readily available.
Even with less than half of its carriers available, the Navy still had ready an unmatched carrier force, but the problem is that with that many ships in the yard, it makes it harder to meet the demand for carriers, important tools for the projection of American military power.
“I have a demand for carriers right now that I can’t fulfill. The combatant commanders want carriers,” Richard Spencer, the former Secretary of the Navy, said at that time.
Right now, the Truman is underway in the 6th Fleet area of operations while the Stennis, Ike, and Ford are all underway in the Atlantic. The USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) are underway in the 3rd Fleet AOR, and the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) remains in the 5th Fleet AOR, the Navy told Insider.
The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is forward-deployed in Japan, but it is currently in port.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Marbleezy asks: How did the ancient Romans manage to build perfectly straight roads hundreds of miles long?
The ancient Romans were a people famed for their architectural prowess, something no better demonstrated than by their ability to build almost perfectly straight and incredibly durable roads spanning expansive distances. For example, in Britain alone, the Romans built well over 50,000 miles of roads with the longest ruler-straight stretch spanning over 50 miles. They did all of this in an era without modern surveying tools, construction equipment, or even very accurate maps of precisely where their destination was for many of the areas. So how did they do it?
To begin with, it’s important to note there were a few different types of roads that were made throughout the Roman Republic and Empire, and exact method and materials used for road construction varied somewhat from region to region and evolved slightly over the centuries.
That caveat out of the way, the three main classification of Roman roads were viae terrenae, essentially dirt roads, often made by people walking and wagons riding over the same path over time; viae glareae, which would be a dirt road that was then graveled; and, finally much more interestingly, viae munita, which were more or less paved roads, some of which have survived through modern times.
Within these types of roads there were further classifications based on who could use them, such as viae publicae (public roads), viae militares (military or state use roads), and viae privatae (private roads, constructed at private expense and for the owners to decide who they allowed access, perhaps the general public or perhaps just a select few).
To help pay for them, roads of all types often had tolls, particularly at locations like bridges and city gates where it would be impractical to avoid the tolling location.
The Appian Way, a road connecting the city of Rome to the southern parts of Italy, remains usable even today.
This brings us to the road construction process itself. As dirt and gravel roads aren’t terribly interesting, we’re going to focus this article on the viae munita. So how did they make these incredibly durable and generally amazingly straight roads? After all, even with modern machinery, constructing and maintaining an expansive road system is an extremely time consuming and labor intensive process.
To start with, a group of surveyors would be sent out to figure out the precise direction connecting the two main points. At the same time, they’d attempt to plan the route as efficiently as possible while accounting for any major obstacles like tall mountains, rivers, etc. When possible, they may attempt to avoid such obstacles, but, particularly in some of the earliest Roman road construction, where it might result in having to take a large detour to get around, say, a mountain, if possible given the terrain, they tended to just build the road to go directly over it or directly through it. For example, the longest tunnel through such a mountain was the Grotta di Cocceio which was excavated from 38 to 36 BCE and is approximately 1 km (.62 miles) long and about 5 meters (5.4 yards) high and wide. Before WWII, it was also still a fully functional and safe to traverse tunnel despite standing about 2,000 years at that point, but was damaged during the war, though there are presently efforts to have it repaired and opened again to the public.
As for going over a mountain, it’s important to note here that we don’t mean they’d use switch backs as is the general method today. No, if at all possible, they’d just build roads straight up a mountain and down the other side, expecting the soldiers and mules and the like to just man up and traverse the steep slopes without complaint.
That said, as the empire matured, it did eventually become apparent that there were economic advantages to slightly longer roads that were easier for draught animals to pull carts over, and thus there was a shift to favoring longer distances but lesser gradients when talking roads for general public use.
A Roman street in Pompeii.
Either way, during the process, the surveyors would setup markers, often at very visible points like on hills, mapping out the optimal path, again trying to ensure the road would be as straight as possible between the start and end point to reduce needed labor, materials, and distance needed to traverse the road once it was complete.
This brings us to how they actually ensured perfectly straight roads between the markers. A key tool here was a device known as a groma. In a nutshell, this was nothing more than a sort of cross with four weights hanging from a string at each end of the cross to function as plumb lines. The whole thing could rotate with degree markers on top. Two of the plumb lines would then be lined up with a marker and then on the other side lined up with the previous marker. Where changes in direction would need to be made, the degrees were marked and ultimately the whole thing drawn up on a central document showing the entire route of the road with each segment.
Once the actual construction was to begin, the groma would once again be used, this time with rods pounded into the ground between markers using the groma to make sure every single rod was perfectly inline in between the markers.
Now, finally, construction of the road would start, usually first done via plows to loosen the soil, this would be followed by legionaries and/or slaves digging the ground out, with depth varying based on conditions. For instance, swampy land would need a lot thicker foundation if it was to have any staying power. For more typical ground, the trench needed would be somewhere in the realm of 3-6 feet (around 1-2 meters) deep. Once dug out, this would then be tamped down to a leveled, compact layer of earth.
From here, exact road composition varied based on available materials in a given region, land composition, and a variety of factors like this.
But typically large stones would be packed as tightly as possible together and into the earth base. Onto this layer would usually be placed smaller stones, sometimes comprising broken concrete or somewhat crushed rock, again packed and smoothed as best as possible. Depending on availability, they would also put a layer of sand on this foundation to make a genuinely perfectly smooth surface.
On top of all of this, at the minimum gravel would be added, packed, and leveled. In some cases, such as near big cities, as described in one manuscript on the construction of roads in Rome itself, paving stones, often flint, lava rock, or marble, would be embedded in cement for the top layer instead. When the road was complete, they are thought to have been quite smooth allowing for relatively bump free travel in carts and the like.
During this whole process, special attention was taken to making the center of the road higher than the sides so that any water would drain off, with the entire road surface itself also elevated above the ground on the sides where drainage ditches would generally be created to help rapidly move water away from the road in times of heavy rains.
Beside the roads were footpaths, sometimes graveled, which were particularly handy in the case of viae militares where only people with proper authorization could use the road itself. Finally, at the very outer edges of the roads, any nearby trees and bushes would be removed to help reduce areas for bandits to hide and surprise anyone with an attack, as well as to help ensure plant growth didn’t overtake the road or tree roots compromise it.
But this wasn’t the end of the construction process. They now needed to know exact distances along the road. It’s not fully clear how they did this, though a device known as the odometer of Vitruvius is mentioned starting around 27 BC and is often claimed to have been used for this purpose. However, whether it was actually ever used for road construction, or even made at all, is up for debate.
A depiction of Vitruvius presenting De Architectura to Augustus.
At a high level, this device used the spinning of a wheel to mark distance. In this case, it was the spinning of a wagon wheel which was in turn hooked up to gears that would drop a pebble into a container every Roman mile (4,841 feet, which is around 1,000 paces of an adult male, with the world “mile” deriving from the Latin milia, meaning, funny enough, 1,000 paces).
For whatever it’s worth, while Leonardo da Vinci tried and failed to make such a device as per outlined, in 1981 one Andre Sleeswyk was successful in building one exactly as described except, unlike da Vinci, he used triangular gear teeth instead of square ones. His justification for this modification being that these same type of gear teeth were used in the Antikythera mechanism, which was created sometime from around 250 BC to 70 BC, with the device itself used to predict various astronomical phenomenon like eclipses. Thus, perhaps if the odometer of Vitruvius was ever actually built and used, maybe it used these too.
There are, of course, many other much less technologically advanced ways they could have measure mile distances easy enough and with extreme accuracy. However they did it, at every mile mark, the law required they place an approximately two ton, 7 foot tall (2 feet in the ground) mile marker, called a miliarium. Helpfully, on this stone would be engraved the names of the locations the road connected and how many miles to each from that respective marker. A master marker, known as the Miliario Aureo or Golden Milestone was also created during Caesar Augustus’ rule and placed in the central Forum of Rome itself. This was the point at which all Roman roads were said to lead. It’s not actually clear what was on this master marker, but it’s been speculated it listed the distances from that point to all major cities under Roman rule.
Whatever the case, like the roads themselves, some of these mile markers are still standing giving archaeologists and historians a valuable snapshot of the past, since they tended to include not just basic geographic information, but information about when the road was built or repaired and by whom.
Next up, it was also required by law that regular way stations be built for official use, generally every 16 to 19 miles apart. These were more or less really nice resting areas providing food and drink and the like for officials. For the general public, inns known as cauponae would tend to pop up near these way stations. On that note, at particularly high trafficked way stations, many other businesses would pop up as well, sometimes leading to the creation of whole towns.
Along these roads you’d also find at similar intervals mutationes, or changing stations, where people could get the services of veterinarians, wheelwrights, etc., as well as potentially find new mounts.
To give you an idea of how fast one could move along these roads with its network of way stations and facilities, it’s noted that Emperor Tiberius once traversed about 200 miles in 24 hours after news that his brother, Drusus Germanicus was dying from gangrene after being seriously injured falling from a horse. A more typical time to traverse for, say, a government mail carrier was usually around 50 miles per day if not in a particular hurry.
But to sum up, it turns out that Roman road construction, amenities and all, wasn’t all that different from modern times, often featuring deep foundations, paved surfaces, proper drainage, landscaping around the roads, sidewalks, toll booths, rest areas, hotels, restaurants, the historic equivalent to gas stations and convenience stores, etc.
The infamous phrase — “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” — has come to mean a person who is neglecting their duties, probably by doing something frivolous. But did Nero actually sit around play music while Rome was burning around him in 64 AD?
To begin there was such a fire, though its extent is unknown. According to Tacitus, the fire lasted for six days and decimated Rome, with only four districts untouched (out of a total of fourteen). He goes on to state that ten of the eleven districts that burned were heavily damaged, with three of those completely destroyed. However, oddly, there is very little documented mention of the fire from those who actually lived through it. The only Roman historian during that period who even mentioned it at all was Pliny the Elder, and even he only briefly referenced it in passing.
Had it been as widespread as Tacitus claimed, one would think the likes of Plutarch, Epictetus, or other such famed Roman historians who lived through the fire would have mentioned such a significant event. And, indeed, we see that perhaps it wasn’t that great of a fire from the only other documented first hand account of the scope of the disaster — a letter from Seneca the Younger to Paul the Apostle, where he explicitly stated that only four blocks of insulae were burned (a type of apartment building), along with 132 private houses damaged (about 7% of the private houses in the city and .009% of the insulae). Not anywhere close to as widespread as Tacitus later claimed, though Seneca did say the fire lasted six days, as Tacitus stated.
As to Nero’s reaction to the fire, the first and biggest flaw in the fiddling story is that the fiddle, or violin, didn’t actually exist in Nero’s time. Historians aren’t able to give an exact date for the invention of the violin, but the viol class of instruments to which the violin belongs wasn’t developed until at least the 11th century. If Nero actually did play a stringed instrument—and there’s no evidence that he did, whether during the burning of Rome or otherwise—it was probably a lyre or cithara.
Okay, so some details can get muddled through history. But did Nero neglect Rome while it burned? Historians argue probably not. Reports do place Nero thirty-five miles away from Rome at the time of the fire, as he was staying in his villa at Antium. However, an account from Tacitus tells us that he returned to Rome immediately when word of the fire reached him in order to begin relief efforts. As the fire raged on, Nero even opened up his own gardens to provide a temporary home for those who were now homeless. He also ordered the construction of emergency accommodation and cut the price of corn, as well as provided food directly, so that people could eat. Besides this, he paid for much of these relief efforts out of his own pocket.
However, Tacitus also tells of the rumour that had spread among the masses: while the flames surged through the city, Nero stood on his private stage and sang about the destruction of Troy in a comparison of the two events. Whether or not the rumour had any evidence to back it up or was just something made up by the unhappy masses, we don’t know, but this and Suetonius’ account are the most likely source of the fiddle story we hear today. Unfortunately for Nero, at least in the context of this story, he did have a reputation for enjoying concerts and participating in music competitions, so the activity itself wasn’t entirely unlikely even if the timing of the act is highly questionable.
Bust of Nero at the Capitoline Museum, Rome.
While Tacitus claims the singing story was a rumour, Suetonius wrote about it with conviction. However, the story could have been an attempt to further mar Nero’s name. Nero faced problems during his reign from the very start, when it was reported that his own mother poisoned his predecessor, Claudius. He was also blamed for the death of Claudius’ son Brittanicus, who was being urged to take his proper place as Emperor by overthrowing Nero. Numerous other deaths were thought to have been committed by Nero’s hand, including one of his wives and his own mother.
As such, Nero was painted as a man who was difficult for the masses to trust. No one knew how the fire started, and many Romans believed that he had started the fire that burned their city. (It likely started in shops containing flammable goods, and was probably an accident rather than any one person’s intentional act.)
With the mob out for blood, Nero was forced to turn to a scapegoat and blamed Christians for starting the fire. There were only a small number of Christians in Rome at the time and they were considered a strange religious sect, so they were an easy target. As Tacitus stated:
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all [Christians] who pleaded guilty [to the fire]; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.
Even finding someone to blame for the fire didn’t help Nero’s plea of innocence. In the wake of the fire, he built a palace on top of some of the land cleared by the flames, which people argued he had been planning from the start, though this is highly unlikely as the place he built the new palace was over a half mile away from where the fire started. In addition to a new palace, Nero did provide for the reconstruction of the city, but rebuilding stretched the limits of Rome’s treasury at the time. He was forced to devalue Roman currency, which wasn’t a popular move.
Nero ended up committing suicide — or at least, begging his secretary to kill him when he lost the nerve to do it himself—four years after the fire. Accounts of his life and of the time of the fire are highly contradictory. Further, Suetonius and Tacitus wrote their histories fifty years after Nero died, and Cassius Dio wrote his 150 years later. Many historians also think it likely that Nero was more popular with the people of Rome than he was with the senators, and as all three of the main sources were from the senatorial class, it’s likely they carry more than a little bias against him, not unlike happened with the popular history of Marie Antoinette who popular history remembers very differently than who the actual woman appeared to be. That being said, Tacitus did state that while Nero’s death was welcomed by senators, the lower classes mourned his passing.
So in the end, the implication that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” — or played the lyre, sang a song, or neglected his duty in any way — is likely the result of anti-Nero propaganda and an attempt to tarnish his name. The morality of many of his actions during his reign is open to debate, but the fiddling, or playing music, story is almost certainly a myth, unless he was playing to entertain the displaced masses he’d taken in.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
In order for a horror film to work, you need to have relatable characters. The more easily the audience can put themselves in the shoes of the cast, the more real the terror. That’s why, when a horror film is geared towards a younger crowd, the characters are primarily teenagers who are made to be as average and generic as possible.
Of course, while veterans come from every walk of life, one thing they all have in common is that they aren’t average. We’re generally brash, crude, and perform well in environments that would freeze your average horror film character.
And to be fair, there have been horror films that feature characters with military backgrounds, like Predator. The problem here is that troops and vets would easily turn any horror film into an action film. In fact, the 2018 sequel to the Schwarzenegger classic seems to be embracing this action/horror dynamic of “vets versus monster.”
But here’s why vets wouldn’t make the best fit in most horror flicks:
We’re not easily scared
Veterans often have a desensitized “fight or flight” reflex. When vets are spooked, it’s rare for them to freeze in place or scream like children. They’re conditioned to hop right into fight mode.
If a twig snaps, vets look in that direction. When someone screams off in the distance, they’re not just going to shrug it off and continue their party in the middle of the woods.
We would organize survivors
Veterans instinctively take control of situations when everyone stands around confused. It doesn’t need to be a life-or-death situation, either. At a kid’s birthday party, for example, vets expertly knifehand their way into getting balloons inflated and cake cut.
Vets would identify who’s useful and smack some sense into the idiots that say, “let’s split up!”
We could make due with few resources
In horror films, survivors often run around looking for supplies. Most would probably settle for finding a pair of safety scissors that they would then inexplicably throw at the unkillable monster.
Meanwhile, the veteran has fashioned a ghillie suit using mud, sticks, and leaves and they’ve found the sturdiest club they could get their hands on — and set it on fire.
We’d probably be carrying
Chances are, the veteran probably doesn’t need to scavenge. The moment the idiot who went skinny-dipping starts screaming bloody murder, a veteran would chamber a round.
Unless the vet is fighting some supernatural force, the credits would start rolling shortly after the knife-wielding clown starts rushing them.
We know how to actually run and start cars
From the most macho grunt to the wimpiest supply guy, everyone has done Land Nav enough times to not trip on their own feet every ten seconds while running through the forest.
If the monster couldn’t be shot to death, the vet probably wouldn’t even bother and, instead, leave. Especially if the monster just comes at them at a walking pace…
We’ve secretly been preparing for this forever
Ask any veteran why they stockpiled arms and supplies and they may joke that it’s for the zombie apocalypse. The moment an actual zombie apocalypse happens, that cache is definitely coming in handy.
We also have at least seven different plans on what to do in every situation. Catching us completely off-guard isn’t a realistic plot point.
*Bonus* The downside to being a veteran in a horror film
But realistically our f*ck-off attitude would get us killed. The masked killer would probably show up, covered in blood, and we’d mock them for whatever reason. That’s maybe not the best idea…
We don’t know when and where it was filmed, but the following video surely shows a pretty weird accident occurred to a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter. Indeed, the short clip shows the heavy Marine chopper (whose empty weight is more than 10 tons – 23,628 lb) with folded tail boom being towed aboard a ship using a “system” made of a tug towing another tug coupled to a tow bar attached to the Super Stallion’s nose landing gear.
At a certain point, the tow bar disconnects from the helicopter that starts to slide backwards towards the pier. The end of the story is that no one seems to be hurt by the giant chopper that comes to a stop when the folded tail hits the ramp that was being used to board it.
Here’s the video, shared by the always interesting Air Force amn/nco/snco FB page:
Many have criticized the way used to board the helicopter, saying that the one shown in the footage is not a standard procedure. Others have highlighted the fact that no one was in the cockpit riding the brakes during the operation. We don’t know what the procedure called for in this case, whatever, based on the footage, it is safe to say that the ending could have been worse: despite a significant risk for all those involved or observing the boarding, perhaps the Super Stallion got (minor?) damages and an unscheduled inspection…
Thanks to its impressive lift capacity the Super Stallion is able to carry a 26,000-pound Light Armored Vehicle, 16 tons of cargo 50 miles and back, or enough Marines to lead and assault or humanitarian operation. For this reason it is used for a wide variety of tasks.
The latest version of the iconic CH-53, designed CH-53K King Stallion, will replace the current E variant in the coming years and will feature a lift capacity three times that of the Super Stallion retaining the same size of its predecessor.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
It’s in a dark and wet corner of the gym. Half the gym-goers ignore it altogether. The other half use it to torture their spine as if it owes them money.
The back extension machine can be a valuable tool for your training progression. It could also be the reason you’re spending more time at the physical therapist than making gains. This article is going to set you on the path to a strong, resilient, and pain-free posterior chain.
When you look at a back extension machine, is your first thought to lay face down/ass up, or face up/ass down? If you’re ass up, you’re working ass, and if you’re abs up, you’re working abs.
Using the back extension machine to work abs
Though the machine is intended for the back extension exercise (abs down), it is much more commonly used to train abs, and often unsafely and ineffectively.
Here’s the proper way to train your abs on the machine.
The key is to not over-extend the back when doing your “sit-ups” on the back extension machine. This probably runs counter to every single person you’ve ever seen doing this exercise, including many of the athletes at the Crossfit Games. The below video is a great example of proper form.
When used as intended, lying belly down, the back extension machine trains your hamstrings, glutes, and low back. Back extensions are a great supplemental exercise to the squat and the deadlift for developing your posterior chain. The key to all exercises on the back extension machine is to keep a straight (neutral) spine.
Your spinal erectors–those muscles on either side of your lower spine–are designed to work mainly isometrically in these movements. That’s when a muscle contracts to maintain position, rather than to move a part of the body–think planks, not crunches.
In all of the movements that are possible on the back extension machine, the primary purpose is not to actually put the back into extension. If taken literally, the machine is poorly named.
It should be called the hip extension machine, because that’s what you are primarily doing: extending your hips.
The muscles of the back extension.
The back extension works your spinal erectors in the same way that the squat or deadlift does. You are using the spinal erectors to maintain your spinal integrity.
The way to target different levels of your posterior chain is conquered in the setup. Set yourself up for success by properly setting the machine to target the muscles you want. This is where the pad should hit your legs to properly train different muscle groups.
Hamstring focused: low balance point (around mid-thigh)
Glutes focused: middle balance point (just below hip-flexors)
Low back focused: high balance point (hip-flexors on the pad) (not recommended)
In truth, the back extension is not the exercise you actually want to be doing to target your hamstrings specifically. To use the back extension machine for glutes, you want to be doing the glute ham raise. It’s a leg curl using your entire body as the counterweight rather than a machine. It has the benefit of including your glutes and back in the movement as well, which is completely neglected when doing the same movement in a leg-curl machine.
To focus your back extension on the glutes, start by finding the sweet spot on the back extension machine where:
Your hips aren’t too high above the pad.
Your hips aren’t covered by the pad (too low). This forces rounding in the back and takes the glutes out of the equation.
Your feet are splayed out at 45 degrees or further and separated as wide as possible (think the same stance as Parade Rest in drill).
Bret Contreras is the global authority on all things glutes. The guy literally has a Ph.D. in butts (see, kids, you really can be whatever you want to be when you grow up…even an assman.) Below, he takes you through the optimal setup and cadence for the glutes-focused back extension.
As previously mentioned, the back extension machine’s name is a misnomer. You do not want to actually target your low back through repeated flexion and extension of the lumbar (low) spine.
Think of your back like a paper clip. When it is in a neutral position, it’s strong and can easily hold together the first draft of your romance mystery novel. But if you bend it back and forth repeatedly, eventually the stress will cause the paperclip to snap, and your novel will scatter to the winds.
Likewise, repeated unnecessary extension and flexion of the spine can cause similar damage.
Before you claim fear mongering think of it like this…
Sure, we have muscles that can flex and extend the spine, but we also have complex joints like the hips, knees, and ankles that have the strongest and largest muscles of the body attached to them, that provide better range of motion and function than a bent spine ever could.
Why would you want to train a muscle group to do something it is designed to do as a fail safe (extend and flex the spine) when you could instead train the spine to isometrically hold strong while huge and powerful muscles like the glutes and hamstrings allow you to pull a truck, lift a pool table, or deadlift 400 lbs with ease.