How does one define the best anti-aircraft gun of all time? The specs on paper do not tell the whole story. That is because there are always tradeoffs to be made in this, or any field of military weapons. High performance comes with costs – not just financial, but in terms of weight, complexity, maintenance needs, and proper training of the operators – to name just a few of the things that have to be balanced.
When a system gets it right, it becomes a classic. For anti-aircraft guns, the standard is arguably the 40mm Bofors. It packed a punch – about two and a half ounces of high explosives as used by the United States. But this wasn’t an American-designed weapon. Bofors is actually a Swedish company, and Sweden was neutral in World War II. The gun is still produced today, and is still seeing action.
What did that mean? Well, this gun was bought by the United Kingdom before the war, and in 1940, the United States began to build it (the Army having tested a version in 1937, according to NavWeaps.com). And they weren’t the only users. Hungary, a German ally, built some for the Nazis, who also captured a large number of these guns in the early years of World War II. Japan also built some, copied from captured British mounts.
The typical U.S. Navy mount for the Bofors 40mm was a quad mount, which accounted for many an Axis plane.
(U.S. Navy photo)
The Bofors 40mm saw action from land and sea mounts. The land versions were usually single mounts, but twin mounts were also used in vehicles like the M42 Duster and the failed M247 Sergeant York. On sea, the primary mount – and most effective version – was the quad 40mm mount, but twin and single mounts were also used.
The Bofors gun’s shells packed about two and a half ounces of high explosives. And this gun could send as many as 120 rounds a minute at an enemy plane.
(U.S. Army photo)
The Bofors had a maximum range of 11,133 yards and could hit targets just over 22,000 feet high. It could fire as many as two rounds a second, but given the need to manually reload with five-round clips, it was more likely to fire about 90 rounds a minute tops.
The M42 Duster was built around a twin Bofors 40mm gun.
(U.S. Army photo)
The Bofors 40mm was barely enough to handle the kamikazes that the United States was facing in 1945, but the end of World War II meant its replacement by a new three-inch gun was only a partial one. The mounts hung around through parts of the 1980s with the United States Navy.
Before deploying to a developing country, service members go through a variety of medical screenings and receive vaccinations to prepare their bodies for the microorganisms they’ll come in contact with while overseas. After we arrive at our destinations, it’s necessary to keep ourselves as clean as possible to prevent getting sick and developing skin infections.
Some troops have to rough it, rinsing off using bottles of water, showering under bladder systems, or wiping themselves down with baby wipes to keep clean. Others are lucky enough to have showers setup near their berthing areas.
At first glance, cleaning our ourselves with a handful of baby wipes might sound pretty bad compared to using community showers — but you might prefer those wipes after reading this.
Senior Airman Dustyn White collects a water sample at the Lima Gate entry point at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia. The water entering the base is tested for pH, chlorine, and fecal coliform.
(Photo by Master Sgt. David Miller)
Questioning the water source
The bacteria on our bodies like to grow and get smelly, making frequent showers an essential. However, the quality of that shower is dependent on the type of soap you use and the cleanliness of the water with which you rinse.
If there are showers set up in your FOB, be sure to look into how often the water is tested. Someone should be checking pH, chlorine, and fecal matter levels.
The baby-wipe option might actually be a healthier choice.
Always wear your shower shoes.
I’m standing in a puddle of… what?
Military showers are known for being use at high frequencies by service members who use the facility in a timely manner. As with any community-shower setup, not all the water goes down the drain immediately, and puddles being to build up.
As the next person in line, it’s pretty gross to have to step into a pool of murky, leftover water. You should be wearing shower shoes, but even then, puddles could’ve risen higher than your protective soles — and it might not be just water you’re dipping your toes in.
Open bay showers
The open bay shower has been around for decades and will be around for many more. This setup is ideal for rinsing off large crowds who need to freshen up. Unfortunately, getting sprinkled with water that’s splashing off of someone else’s dirty body can make you feel even nastier than before.
Cleanliness of the highly-used, private shower stalls
On deployment, the vast majority of the military community wakes up, shaves, and then takes a quick shower. Showering off in a private stall may feel a little closer to home, but it also might be a curse in disguise.
When you’ve been forward deployed for months, you’ve probably found yourself in some fairly filthy places. Once you return to the FOB, a hot shower sounds like a good idea before settling down. However, the private stalls are pretty small — there’s not much moving around in there. Be careful as you touch the walls and knots — they might not be sanitized as often as you’d hope.
Griffin Johnsen (The Armchair Historian himself) narrates the video and summarizes the effectiveness of line formations succinctly. They were influenced by cavalry, order and communication, and the tactics of the enemy. As warfare technology advanced, so, too, did battlefield tactics. One example Johnson gives is how horses influenced warfighting.
Cavalry was effective against infantry, so the line formation was adopted to defend against cavalry. Once munitions became more accurate and lethal, cavalry became less effective… and the evolution continued.
Line formation warfare was developed during antiquity and used most notably in the Middle Ages, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Battle of the BastardsBattle of Cannae. It was seen as late as the First World War before giving way to trench warfare and specialized units with increased firepower and weaponry.
“Despite the prolific casualties suffered by units in close order formations during the start of the First World War, it should still be understood how effective line formations were in their heyday,” narrates Johnsen.
But seriously, can we talk about the Battle of the Bastards? Geek Sundry broke down the tactics displayed (omitting the tactics not displayed — SERPENTINE, RICKON, SERPENTINE!!!) in what is arguably one of the most riveting Game of Thrones episodes created.
The Boltons’ tactic of using Romanesque scutums to surround the Stark forces was unnerving and would have delivered a crushing victory without the intervention of the Knights of the Vale.
The probable Bolton trap of allowing the appearance of an escape path (in this case…a mountain of bodies — talk about PSYOPS) effectively tempted their enemy to break formation.
Even commanding archers to volley their arrows into the fray of the battle was a gangster move; it killed Bolton’s own men, but for a man who believes in the ends justifying the means… it was a very lethal means to an end.
Some Navy SEALs follow a saying that, when you feel that you’re completely wiped out, you’re actually only 40 percent done and have 60 percent in the tank.
It’s an idea popularized by David Goggins, a SEAL who completed 14 races that were each over 100 miles long, and he did it most of it while on active duty with a potentially fatal heart defect that limited him to about 75 percent heart function.
Jesse Itzler, a billionaire who competes in some endurance events, met Goggins during a 100-mile race, one of Goggins’ first. Itzler was running as part of a 6-man relay team. The SEAL was running the same race on his own at 260 pounds.
According to Itzler, Goggins’ feet and kidneys were shot when they met on the course. But Goggins kept going and, after they finished race, Itzler asked Goggins to come live at his house for a month and teach his family about mental resilience.
And that’s what most of the world knows about Goggins, but his story is actually more amazing than he gets credit for.
He kept running and began competing in triathlons despite a hatred of running. He did it to raise money for the families of fallen special operators, and he raised over $200,000 in three years by running more than 14 races of over 100 miles.
He competed in the Badwater 135 less than a year after running his first marathon and he placed fifth. He ran the race again a year later and finished third by running 135 miles in 25:49:40. That’s about 11:30 per mile for 135 miles.
The Memphis Belle has received a lot of attention over the years. In 1944, this Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber was the subject of a documentary, entitled Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, that followed an aircrew as they completed their 25th and final mission. Today, we now know that the Memphis Belle was actually the second choice for that documentary — the first was shot down in battle.
Nonetheless, the Memphis Belle was thrust into notoriety and had a place in the public eye. Then, in 1990, that documentary was dramatized and turned into a film, titled Memphis Belle, starring Harry Connick Jr.
Now, you can see the famous bomber itself at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The bomber’s display was formally opened on May 17, 2018, which marked the 75th anniversary of the plane’s 25th mission. But this B-17 bomber endured a long journey before finally arriving at the museum.
The Memphis Belle being restored at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. In the background is Swoose, another historic B-17.
Still, 55,000 hours is a long restoration period — what took so long? Well, the experts weren’t interested in plastering on a pretty paint job and calling it done. Instead, they wanted this iconic plane to look exactly as it did when she flew that famous 25th mission. That was no easy task. One of the hardest parts was finding authentic parts for the plane, or at least period-accurate parts.
The Memphis Belle as she appeared during World War II.
The Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress, was able to carry as many as 17,600 pounds’ worth of bombs and was equipped with as many as 13 M2 .50-caliber machine guns as well as a single .30-caliber machine gun. It had a crew of ten, a top speed of 325 miles per hour, and a maximum range of 4,420 miles.
Of the over 3,400 B-17Fs built, only three survive today — the Memphis Belle is one of those.
KYIV, Ukraine — China sent fighter jets into Taiwanese airspace on Monday morning amid the first visit by a senior US official to Taiwan in decades, underscoring a steady deterioration in Sino-American relations that is increasingly edging the two countries closer to a military clash, some experts warn.
“The risk of conflict in the Taiwan Strait is rising,” Ryan Hass, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies, told Coffee or Die. “At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that Taipei, Washington, and Beijing each continue to have a strong incentive to manage competition without resorting to force, given the risks of rapid escalation and the catastrophic consequences that any conflict in the Taiwan Strait would create for all parties.”
US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar landed in Taiwan on Sunday afternoon, marking the most significant official US visit to the island country in more than four decades. Around 9 a.m. Monday morning, Chinese J-10 and J-11 fighter jets crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait — the narrow body of water dividing mainland China from Taiwan — and briefly entered Taiwanese airspace.
A Chinese Su-27 Flanker fighter makes a fly by while the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, visits with members of the Chinese Air Force at Anshan Airfield, China Mar. 24, 2007. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, released.
After the Chinese warplanes ignored Taiwanese warnings, Taiwan’s air force scrambled fighters to intercept the Chinese jets, Taiwanese military officials reported on Monday. Taiwanese missiles were also tracking the Chinese jets, Taiwanese defense officials said.
“Beijing is using its military to demonstrate its capabilities to audiences that are likely watching,” Dean Cheng, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, told Coffee or Die.
“This is part of the Chinese approach to compellence — which is translated often as deterrence,” Cheng said.
In a release, Taiwan’s air force stated that the Chinese aerial maneuver was a “deliberate intrusion and destruction of the current situation in the Taiwan Strait” and that it “seriously undermined regional security and stability.”
Beijing has not yet commented on the incident, which marked the third time since 2016 that Chinese warplanes have violated Taiwan’s airspace.
“Chinese fighters crossed the [Taiwan Strait] mid-line in 2019 and have done so several times this year,” Cheng told Coffee or Die.
“So, on the one hand, this is part of the new normal, put in place since Tsai Ing-wen was elected president of Taiwan in 2016,” Cheng said, adding that the Taiwanese president is “committed to Taiwan independence, so as you can imagine, she — and her party and government — are not seen as friendly to Beijing.”
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base, flies in formation over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson.
Azar’s visit was meant to signal US recognition of Taiwan’s role in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. However, amid mounting tensions with Beijing, Washington has made it a priority to tighten its ties with Taiwan, including increased arms sales to the island nation.
“We consider Taiwan to be a vital partner, a democratic success story, and a force for good in the world,” Azar said at a meeting with the Taiwanese president Monday.
Rather than a significant, escalatory move by China, some experts say Monday’s aerial incident is further evidence of a new era of strategic competition between Washington and Beijing — an era, experts add, that is fraught with danger due to the risk of an accidental conflict arising from an unintended, escalatory domino chain set in motion either by accident or an ill-conceived military maneuver.
“The risk of a clash is trending upward,” said Steve Tsang, director of SOAS University of London’s China Institute. “In the run up to the US presidential election, I do not expect Beijing to want to create an incident involving Chinese and US military forces. […] But the risk of an unintended incident is trending higher.”
According to the Defense Department’s 2019 Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, China “seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and, ultimately […] global preeminence in the long-term.”
Ens. David Falloure, from Houston, uses a rangefinder to determine the ship’s distance to the Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Stuart (FFH 153), left, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Akizuki-class destroyer JS Teruzuki (DD 116) from the port bridge wing aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) during a trilateral photo exercise, July, 21, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Hong.
Greater sway over the Pacific region would expand China’s regional economic and military influence — it would also help China undercut Taiwan’s network of regional allies, experts say. Thus, in the minds of America’s military leadership, the larger contest between the US and China for global dominance is currently playing out in the Indo-Pacific region.
Highlighting the region’s newfound importance to the US, the White House National Security Council recently created the new position of director for Oceania and Indo-Pacific Security. And, looking forward, the Pentagon is set to beef up the US military’s presence in the Indo-Pacific, taking advantage of existing partnerships and developing new ones to pre-position US forces and equipment.
Across the entire Indo-Pacific region, both China and the US are jostling for influence over island nations for the sake gaining strategic military advantage over the other.
Establishing a far-reaching footprint across the region will allow US military forces to forward deploy military forces — including long-range, precision strike weapons — which are meant to deter China from aggressive power grabs that threaten the status quo balance of power.
Some warn, however, that tensions between China and the US are edging away from innocuous diplomatic sparring and increasingly toward military competition. Thus, as the China and the US continue their tit-for-tat military maneuvers in the Indo-Pacific region, the danger of a military clash is trending upward.
“Sending fighter jets into Taiwan’s airspace should always been considered significant but given the context of Secretary Azar’s visit, it symbolizes something else,” said SOAS University of London’s Tsang.
“The impotence of the Chinese state in its response to something that it would have seen as unacceptable,” Tsang told Coffee or Die. “Sending the jets is clearly meant to show how tough Beijing is, but Beijing knows perfectly well that it will have no effect on the USA or Taiwan, so it remains essentially a gesture.”
An MH-60S Sea Hawk, attached to the Golden Eagles of Helicoper Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12, approaches the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during a trilateral exercise in the Philippine Sea, July 21, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erica Bechard.
China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, opposed Azar’s visit, calling it an escalatory move. Ahead of Azar’s arrival in Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin urged Washington to cut off all official contact with Taipei to “avoid serious damage to China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
“Foreign Minister Wang’s statement last week confirms my assessment that Beijing would prefer to lower the temperature at the moment,” Tsang said. “Hence, the gesture in the response to Secretary Azar’s visit to Taipei. Beijing cannot afford not to respond in a way that can be presented as robust.”
Also on Monday, China announced it had placed sanctions on 11 high-profile US senators and officials in response to American criticisms of Beijing’s authoritarian crackdown on Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s protests began in June 2019 over a new bill allowing the extradition of the special autonomous-city’s citizens to mainland China. In November, Washington passed a new law — the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act — that supports the Hong Hong protesters and the city’s democratic autonomy from the rest of China.
After months of protests, Beijing announced in May that it would tighten its grip on Hong Kong under a new “national security” law.
On Friday, President Donald Trump enacted new sanctions against Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as well as law enforcement personnel. Then on Monday Chinese authorities arrested Hong Kong media magnate Jimmy Lai, who has been a staunch supporter of Hong Kong’s anti-Beijing, pro-democracy protest movement.
“In response to those wrong US behaviours, China has decided to impose sanctions on individuals who have behaved egregiously on Hong Kong-related issues,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reportedly said, according to multiple news outlets.
F-15C Eagles fly in formation over the East China Sea Dec. 11, 2018, during a routine training exercise out of Kadena Air Base, Japan. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Seefeldt.
At the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, Chinese national forces under the command of Chiang Kai-shek retreated from the Chinese mainland and established an autonomous government on Taiwan called the Republic of China. Communist China has continued to claim Taiwan as its sovereign territory.
In 1971, Taiwan was booted from the United Nations and many countries have refused to officially recognize the autonomous island nation for fear of sparking reprisal from Beijing. The US does not recognize Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. And even though Washington officially ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979, the US has sold military hardware to Taipei — including missiles, missile defense systems, and F-16 fighters.
Despite the escalating tensions, The Heritage Foundation’s Cheng remained skeptical about the possibility of an imminent armed clash between US and Chinese forces.
“I don’t think this signals that there is a greater likelihood of military conflict,” Cheng said of China’s warplane incursion into Taiwanese airspace on Monday. “It does reflect China’s greater willingness to employ the military to signal others, a natural outcome as China’s military becomes mores sophisticated and more capable.”
Cheng added: “Beijing seems to have a far different view of crisis stability compared with Western nations. It seems to think that it has the ability to unilaterally escalate and deescalate crises. It is this attitude, if it were transferred to the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, or the East China Sea, that might precipitate a military confrontation.”
A common misconception civilians have about the military is that we all have cool call signs, like Hawk-Eye, Maverick, or whatever. The truth is, if you’ve got a nickname, you’re either high enough rank to have earned one, you’re a pilot, you’re called by your unit’s name, or you did something so bad that it’s used to mock you.
If anyone calls you one of these in the military, look up the definition of sarcasm. You don’t want to earn any of these:
7. High Speed
This is the one dude who’s just trying way too hard. Maybe they got antsy when the Battalion Commander gave a speech on the range or they watched old Army recruitment commercials and decided to be “all that they can be.”
The military is based on “one team, one fight.” If you’re going WAAAAAAY above and beyond for extra brownie points, you’re ass-kissing.
This term is reserved for the kid who probably only got their name right on the ASVAB. It’s usually given out when someone does something monumentally stupid, like dry their boots in the communal dryer or actually bring an exhaust sample to the mechanics.
The nickname is more of a play on the phrase, “there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity.” Put down the crayons and read a book.
Slacking off is part of the military, but this person takes things to the next level. They just vanish like they’re freaking Casper.
Most times, there’s no issue if you’re swinging by the gas station for a drink or whatever. The moment you swing by your barracks room to play a few rounds of Call of Duty, well, you might be earning the next nickname, too…
4. Blue Falcon
Whenever anyone is willing to screw over their comrades for the sake of personal interests, they’re a Blue Falcon.
Spend five minutes in the military and you’ll know that this name isn’t a reference to the Hanna-Barbera superhero. It’s a more formal way of saying that this person is a Buddy F*cker.
Just because they sell something cool at the BX/PX/NEx/MCX/cheapo surplus store, doesn’t mean you need to buy it — but chances are this guy bought that crap.
Also called “geardo,” they stick out like a sore thumb because they’re rocking so much unauthorized gear because “it looked cool.” They look more like they’re on a civilian airsoft team than in the world’s most elite fighting force.
2. (whatever) Ranger
In the Army, Rangers are some of the biggest badasses. However, if they have a qualifier, such as “Sick Call” Ranger, then you know they ride the hell out of the ability to go to sick call. PX Ranger is the guy who buys everything they can from the PX (especially if it’s unauthorized). PowerPoint Ranger is that high-speed butter bar who spent hours on a slideshow that put everyone to sleep. The list goes on.
No one thinks they’re a fraction of the badassery of actual Rangers.
1. Desert Queen
This one, is uh — to put it politely — the woman who enjoys getting the most attention while deployed. Don’t. Just don’t.
If you’re a woman who gets called this, knock a motherf*cker’s teeth out.
U.S. Air Force Col. David Skalicky, the 354th Operations Group commander, and Lt. Col. James Christensen, 356th Fighter Squadron commander, taxi the first F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation fighter jets assigned to the 356th Fighter Squadron on the flight line at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, April 21, 2020. The 354th Fighter Wing’s F-35As partnered with the F-22 Raptors stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, will make Alaska the most concentrated state for combat-coded fifth-generation fighter aircraft. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // MASTER SGT. KAREN J. TOMASIK)
In his last public appearance in 1935, Billy Mitchell, a former U.S. Army brigadier general and airpower visionary, testified before Congress that Alaska was the most strategic place in the world. From there, he said, U.S. Army aircraft could reach any capital in the northern hemisphere within nine hours. Mitchell cited, “Whoever holds Alaska will hold the world.” An Arctic presence enables global reach for whoever holds this region and the same is true today – although the flight times have drastically decreased.
Activity in the Far North is heating up, both environmentally and with competing sovereign interests. With the changing of maritime access due to receding land and sea ice, Russia has been refurbishing airfields and infrastructure, creating new bases, and developing an integrated network of air defense, while seeking to regulate shipping routes. China is also seizing the chance to expand its influence to obtain new sources of energy and faster shipping routes.
“The Arctic is among the most strategically significant regions of the world today – the keystone from which the U.S. Air and Space Forces exercise vigilance,” said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein, left, Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond attend a video conference at the Pentagon with members of the Atlantic Council think tank to discuss the rollout of the Arctic strategy, Arlington, Va., July 21, 2020. They discussed the Department of the Air Force’s first guiding strategy for operating in the Arctic region. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // ERIC DIETRICH)
“This Arctic Strategy recognizes the immense geostrategic consequence of the region and its critical role for protecting the homeland and projecting global power,” Barrett said.
The strategy outlines how the Air and Space Forces will enhance vigilance, reach and power to the nation’s whole-of-government approach in the Arctic region through four coordinated lines of effort: vigilance in all domains, projecting power through a combat-credible force, cooperation with allies and partners and preparation for Arctic operations.
The number one Department of Defense priority is homeland defense.
“The strategic value of the Arctic as our first line of defense has reemerged and (U.S. Northern Command) and (North American Aerospace Defense Command) are taking active measures to ensure our ability to detect, to track and defeat potential threats in this region,” Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He is the commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM.
As the combatant commander charged with homeland defense, O’Shaughnessy is seeing the front line of homeland defense shifting north, making it clear the Arctic can no longer be viewed as a buffer. In a recently published commentary, O’Shaughnessy stated, “The Arctic is a potential approach for our adversaries to conduct strikes on North America and is now the front line in our defense.”
North American Aerospace Defense Command F-22s, CF-18s, supported by KC-135 Stratotanker and E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft, intercepted two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on Monday, March 9th. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO)
When it comes to the Arctic, U.S. Air and Space Forces are responsible for the majority of DoD missions in the region, including the regional architecture for detecting, tracking and engaging air and missile threats. Space Professionals in the region are responsible for critical nodes of the satellite control network that deliver space capabilities to joint and coalition partners, as well as the U.S. national command authority.
“Integrating space capabilities into joint operations fuels the joint force’s ability to project power anywhere on the planet, any time,” said Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond. “The Arctic is no different. Spacepower is essential to Arctic operations, allowing us to see with clarity, navigate with accuracy, and communicate across vast distances.”
Protecting America’s interests in the homeland and abroad entails more than a vigilant defensive posture. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, present combat capability with fifth-generation fighters as well as mobility and refueling aircraft. The Air Force provides the capability to reach remote northern locations via the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing which operates ski-equipped LC-130s that can land on ice.
“Our unique positioning in locations like Alaska, Canada and Greenland are integrated with multi-domain combat power,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “These locations harness powerful capabilities, and their unwavering vigilance to protecting the homeland represents a strategic benefit that extends well beyond the region itself.”
Cooperation with Allies and Partners
Alliances and partnerships are key in the Arctic, where no one nation has sufficient infrastructure or capacity to operate alone. Interoperability is especially critical in the Arctic due to the terrains, limited access, and low density of domain awareness assets. Many regional allies and partners have dedicated decades of focus to the Arctic, developing concepts, tactics and techniques from which the joint force can greatly benefit. Indigenous communities possess millennia of knowledge about the Arctic domain passed down through generations. Working with indigenous communities helps Air and Space Forces understand the Arctic environment, enriches training and exercises, and ensures recognition of their contributions to Department of the Air Force activities.
Airmen with the 109th Airlift Wing cooperate with the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 440th Squadron to load equipment on their Twin Otter aircraft in support of Air National Guard exercise Arctic Eagle February 23rd, 2020. (U.S. AIR NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO // TECH. SGT. JAMIE SPAULDING)
“Strong relationships with regional allies and partners, including at the local level, are a key strategic advantage for the U.S. in the Arctic,” Barrett said. “U.S. Air and Space Forces are focused on expanding interoperability with peers that value peaceful access in the region, and we appreciate our local hosts that have welcomed Department of the Air Force installations, Airmen and Space Professionals as part of their communities for decades.”
Preparation for Arctic Operations
The Arctic’s austerity requires specialized training and acclimation by both personnel and materiel. The ability to survive and operate in extreme cold weather is imperative for contingency response or combat power generation.
“Spanning the first airplane flights in Alaska in 1913 to today’s fifth-generation aircraft and sophisticated space monitoring systems operating in the region, the Arctic has consistently remained a location of strategic importance to the United States,” Barrett said. “While the often harsh weather and terrain there call for appropriate preparations and training, Airmen and Space Professionals remain ready to bring the nation’s Arctic air and space assets to bear to support the National Defense Strategy and protect the U.S. homeland.”
354th Security Forces Squadron Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM) instructors oversee Airmen preparing to fire an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Jan. 9, 2020. CATM instructors are responsible for training Airmen how to use various small arms weapon systems. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // SENIOR AIRMAN BEAUX HEBERT)
Eighty-five years have passed since Mitchell’s proclamation about Alaska, made just eight days before his death, and his words still ring true. The same could be said about his foretelling of the attack on Pearl Harbor or his vision of building the world’s mightiest Air Force. During his military career, his outspoken predictions were met with ridicule, which ultimately led to him resigning his commission. Mitchell’s strategic foresight on Alaska is no coincidence to the Air Force’s long history and appreciation to the Arctic, which has now led to the forward-looking approach by leadership to stabilize the region for years to come.
Someone went and moneyball-ed military history. Ethan Arsht applied the principles of baseball sabermetrics to the performances of history’s greatest generals’ ability to win battles. It starts with comparing the number of wins from that general to a replacement general in the same circumstances.
The math is tricky but the list is definitive. There are just a few caveats.
First, where is all this information coming from? Although an imperfect source, Arsht complied Wikipedia data from 3,580 battles and 6,619 generals. He then compiled lists of key commanders, total forces, and of course, the outcome. The general’s forces were categorized and his numerical advantage or disadvantage weighted to reflect tactical ability. The real power is ranking the general’s WAR score, the aforementioned Wins Above Replacement.
For each battle, the general receives a weighted WAR score, a negative score for a loss. For example, at the Battle of Borodino that pitted Napoleon against Russian General Mikhail Kutuzov, the French had a slight numerical advantage against the Russians. So, the model devised by Arsht gave Bonaparte a WAR score of .49, which means a replacement general had a 50 percent chance of still winning the battle. Kutuzov gets a -.49 for Borodino, meaning a replacement for him had a 51 percent chance of losing anyway.
The more battles a commander fights and wins, the more opportunities to raise their scores. Fighting fewer battles doesn’t help, either. There were some surprises in the model, like the apparent failures of generals like Robert E. Lee and more modern generals. For the more modern generals like Patton, that can be attributed to the relatively small number of battles commanded.
For more about Arsht’s results, responses to criticism, and his findings, visit his post on Medium’s Towards Data Science. To see every general’s data point and where they sit in the analysis, check out the Bokeh Plot, an interactive data visualization. Remember, this has nothing to do with overall strategy and it’s all in good fun. Arsht does acknowledge his shortcomings, so check those out, too.
Ancient Macedonians didn’t have sideburn regulations, apparently.
10. Alexander the Great
As previously mentioned, Alexander was a great strategist, but since his life was cut short and he had only nine battles from which to draw data, it leaves the model very little to work with. Still, the conqueror of the known world is ranked much higher than other leaders with similar numbers, including the Japanese Shogun Tokugawa, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart.
It should be noted that Alexander’s per-battle WAR average is higher than anyone else’s on the list.
Soviet General and Stalin survivor Georgy Zhukov.
9. Georgy Zhukov
Zhukov has only one more battle than Alexander and his overall score barely squeaks by the Macedonian. Interestingly enough, his score is far, far above that of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Confederate Generals Jubal Early and John Bell Hood. That’s what overcoming the odds does for your WAR score.
But he places first for “coolest portrait.”
8. Frederick the Great
Ruling for more than 40 years and commanding troops in some 14 battles across Europe earned the enlightened Prussian ruler the number 8 spot on this list. His per-battle average was also lower than Alexander’s but, on the whole, he was just a better tactician.
Grant’s face says, “Do you see any Confederate generals on this top ten list? No? You’re welcome.”
7. Ulysses S. Grant
Grant’s performance commanding Union troops in 16 battles earned him the seventh spot on the list – and the U.S. presidency. Although his performance on the battlefield is clearly much better than those of his contemporaries, it should be noted that his Civil War arch-rival, Robert E. Lee, is so far below him on the list that he actually has a negative score.
Hannibal will very patiently kill you with elephants.
6. Hannibal Barca
Hannibal, once captured by Scipio Africanus, is believed to have given his own ranking system to Scipio, once the two started talking. His personal assessment wasn’t far off from the truth. He listed Alexander the Great and himself. Both of whom are in the top ten, even centuries later.
5. Khalid Ibn al-Walid
Khalid was a companion of the Prophet Mohammed, and one of the Islamic Empire’s most capable military leaders. In 14 battles, he remained undefeated against the Byzantine Empire, the Sassanid Persians, and helped spread Islam to the greater Middle East. Compared to others who fought similar numbers of battles, his score eclipses even Frederick the Great.
4. Takeda Shingen
Being one of the best military minds in feudal Japan is a really big deal, because almost everyone seemed to be a military mind and being better than someone else might mean you get challenged to a duel. After 18 battles, the Tiger of Kai reigned supreme – in Japan, anyway.
3. Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
It’s a pretty big deal to be the guy who delivered a solid defeat to the man they called “Master of Europe.” Napoleon’s old nemesis, the Duke of Wellington, also saw command of 18 battles, but his WAR score is considerably higher than that of Takeda Shingen, his nearest challenger.
2. Julius Caesar
Caesar didn’t have command in as many battles as Shingen or the Duke of Wellington, but his WAR score reflects a lot more risk and shrewdness in his battlefield tactics. But Caesar also couldn’t top Alexander’s per-battle WAR average.
“Guys, move over there. Trust me, I’m really good at this stuff.”
1. Napoleon Bonaparte
Yes, you might have guessed by now, but the number one spot belongs to l’Empereur. Napoleon is so far ahead of the normal distribution curve created by the data for these 6,000-plus generals, it’s not even close. After 43 battles, he has a WAR score of more than 16, which blows the competition away. There can be no question: Napoleon is the greatest tactical general of all time, and the math proves it.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
The Battle of the Frontiers, as it would come to be known, began in August, 1914, but historians disagree about the exact date on which it started in earnest. Basically, the French forces mobilized in early August to arrest Germany’s quick progress westward, setting off a series of smaller clashes as the armies maneuvered for position.
By August 22, France’s armies were in position and the command wanted to push forward, always advancing. A general assault was ordered, and French forces pressed against their German counterparts in fifteen distinct locations. French forces attempted to use old-war tactics in a new, industrialized state of war, and it didn’t go better for France than for anyone else in World War I.
French troops tried to force wedges between German armies that had machine guns in defensive positions, tried to conduct bayonet charges against enemies behind cover, and kept sending wave after wave of troops when the first few attacks didn’t work.
Possibly the fiercest of the fighting came at Rossignole when the French 3rd Colonial Infantry Division ran into the entire German 6th Army Corps. The French forces fought bravely with officers leading from the front, but outnumbered and in dire straits, the division was whittled down to virtually nothing.
(Imperial War Museum)
Of the division’s three generals, two were killed and one was injured and captured. The commanding general, thought to have gone mad during the battle, simply waded into the worst of the fighting until he was shot dead. Some of the division’s units lost all but a handful of their officers, and the more conservative estimates for French soldiers killed at Rossignole say up to 7,000 perished. Some estimates are 50 percent higher.
But while Rossignole was fierce, Charleroi to the north was nearly as contested and featured much larger groups of men, resulting in even more casualties. France’s 15 divisions at the Charleroi were reinforced by three from Britain, and higher headquarters thought it was a sufficient force to pit against a suspected 18 German divisions.
Because of the French belief at the time that it was always better to be on offense, they sent division after division into the meat grinder. Thousands more Frenchmen, as well as large numbers of British and German troops, were lost in the bitter fighting.
In all, the Battles of the Frontiers resulted in over half a million casualties in a single month of fighting. The painful lessons learned would all too slowly cause both sides to rethink their tactics and strategy, but years of trench fighting and pointless cavalry charges and bayonet assaults against machine guns would be needed before truly modern tactics were adopted across the board.
Unfortunately for those who sacrificed their lives for France in that bloody month, the large collection of smaller battles are mostly forgotten when held up next to gargantuan fights, like the Battle of the Somme, where over a million men were killed, wounded, and captured in just under five months of fighting.
(French National Library, Public Domain)
Of course, there are some ancient battles where larger numbers of troops were reported killed in a day or a few days of fighting, but the numbers are not always considered reliable. One day of battle, which may have been even larger and more deadly than August 22, 1914, was the day in 216 B.C. when Carthage and Rome fought the Battle of Cannae. There, Hannibal managed to encircle a much larger Roman force and kill nearly all of its troops.
Carthage reportedly lost as many as 6,000 men while the Romans, if the reports are accurate, lost over 50,000, who were either killed or committed suicide on the battlefield.
The European Commission has just published a white paper setting out guidelines for artificial intelligence. They hope to ‘address the risks associated with certain uses of this new technology,’ including concerns around privacy and human dignity.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is finalizing its own rules on the ethical use of artificial intelligence, following a draft of the rules published in October. Like the European Commission, the Department of Defense is determined to keep people in the loop: ‘Human beings should… remain responsible for the development, deployment, use and outcomes of DoD AI systems,’ they say.
The root of the fear is this: whereas earlier technological advances affected just our actions, artificial intelligence is replacing our thoughts. Labor-saving devices are morphing into a decision-making machine, and they operate in a moral vacuum.
Until now, the tough calls have fallen to programmers who write algorithms. Although the point of AI is that machines learn for themselves, the course they choose is set from the start by people who write the code.
The stakes become enormous with the sort of automated decisions in defense the Pentagon is considering. And as long as the West’s main adversaries – Russia and China – are speeding forward with artificial intelligence, NATO countries have to stay ahead. Jack Shanahan, the Pentagon’s AI chief, has said that the US is locked ‘In a contest for the character of the international order in the digital age.’
While both the Pentagon and the European Commission are right to be alarmed at the profound ethical dimension to artificial intelligence, they are wrong to presume AI raises new ethical problems. It doesn’t – it just repaints old ones in technicolor. These problems have never been properly solved, and probably never will be.
Consider just these three of the most worrisome dilemmas Artificial Intelligence is said to create.
If forced to choose, should a car driven by AI technology kill a pregnant woman or the two kids? The dilemma is no different when there’s a human at the wheel.
When our enemy has automated their battlefield machines so they can deploy them more quickly, should we do the same to keep up? This one pre-dates the First World War.
In fact, all the problems which haunt artificial intelligence coders today can be traced back to conundrums, which vexed the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. The 23 centuries since he died have seen attempts to solve them, and some progress, but we still lack a definite answer to the fundamental question, ‘What should we do?’ Neither today’s European Commission paper nor the emerging Pentagon proposals will take us closer to a solution.
Some in the tech world – especially those who have cracked previously uncrackable problems before – are hoping money and brains will lead to a solution. After all, the determined genius of Newton and Einstein solved physics. Why can’t a little investment solve ethics in the same way?
The answer is that ethics is, at heart, a different sort of problem.
When we humans make decisions, we instinctively locate right and wrong in several places at once: in the motives behind the choice, in the type of action we do, and in the consequences, we bring about. Only if you focus on just a single place in the decision-making process – just on consequences, say – then you can rank and compare every option, but inevitably you will miss something out.
So, if an AI system was certain what to do when good deeds lead to a bad outcome, or when bad motives help people out, we should be very wary: it would be offering moral clarity when really there wasn’t any.
It is just conceivable that AI, rather than being a cause of moral problems, could help solve them. By using big data to anticipate the future and by helping us work out what would happen if everybody followed certain rules, artificial intelligence makes rule- and consequence-based ethics much easier. Applied thoughtfully, AI could help answer some tricky moral quandaries. In a few years, the best ethical advice may even come from an app on our phones.
Both the European Commission and Pentagon approach leave that possibility open.
It wouldn’t mean the profound ethical problems raised by artificial ethics had been solved, though. They will never be solved – because they do not have a single, certain solution.
Let’s chat retirement for a quick minute. You took the Blended Retirement System training, right? Probably because your boss told you to get it done so she could report 100 percent completion for your unit, right? And it was probably the most boring two hours of your life, right? So, now that we’re halfway through 2018, how much do you actually remember about BRS and retirement from that training? Not much, am I right?
Exactly. So let’s break it down.
Who’s eligible for BRS?
Anyone who was in the military as of Dec. 31, 2017, is automatically grandfathered into the High-3 Legacy retirement system. Remember, that’s the one where you multiply the number of years you serve by the average of your highest 36 months of basic pay by 2.5%. This option requires you to serve at least 20 years to qualify for retirement. However, if you have less than 12 years of service (active duty) or less than 4,320 points (Reserves/National Guard), then you have a choice to make. You can either stick with the High-3 system or opt into BRS.
First, let’s be frank. This is a highly personal decision, and quite honestly, we support you either way. But we (the Department of Defense) want to ensure you have the right tools and information to make the best choice for you and your family.
So. You need to take a hard look at your finances and your goals. Chat with your spouse or family. Make an appointment with your installation’s personal financial manager or another trusted advisor and run the BRS calculator. See which choice is best for you.
If you want to stick with the High-3, great! Enjoy that retirement and ride off into the sunset!
If you choose BRS, that’s great too! There are some great benefits to BRS, IF you decide it’s the best choice for you. So let’s look at how you can 1) take ownership of your retirement, and 2) make the most of it.
(National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)
Remind me again what BRS is?
Through the Blended Retirement System, you don’t have to serve 20 years to walk away with government-provided retirement benefits. So, if you don’t think you’ll make a career out of your military service (and that’s FINE!), BRS would be a great choice for you. If you do plan to serve 20 years, the important thing to remember is that if you opt into BRS early and maximize your Thrift Savings Plan contributions, you could have a retirement that is potentially equal to or more than what you might earn with the legacy retirement system.
There are three main parts of BRS that make it different from the High-3 Legacy system:
Defined benefit: Monthly retired pay for life after at least 20 years of service. This is part of BOTH retirement options. However, under BRS, the defined benefit multiplier changed from 2.5% to 2.0%. So apply this to the formula:
High-3: Number of years you serve X Average of your highest 36 months of basic pay X 2.5%
BRS: Number of years you serve X Average of your highest 36 months of pay X 2.0% (This results in about a 20% reduction in monthly retired pay. However, you have the opportunity to make up the difference by maximizing your TSP contributions and receiving the government matching funds.)
Defined contribution: Government automatic and matching contributions of up to 5 percent of basic pay to your Thrift Savings Plan. Even if you’re sticking with the legacy system, TSP is still something you should consider. While the government won’t match your contributions (that’s BRS only), TSP is a great way to augment your monthly retired pay.
Continuation pay: A one-time, midcareer bonus in exchange for an agreement to perform additional obligated service. It’s a direct cash payout, much like a bonus, and is only available to service members enrolled in BRS. Service members who are eligible may receive a payment of at least 2.5 times your monthly basic pay. Reservists and members of the National Guard are eligible to receive 0.5 times their monthly basic pay as if serving on active duty. However, this is unique to each service, so ensure you check with your Manpower/Personnel office to find out more information. You can find more information on continuation pay here.
So, if you opt into BRS and serve 20 years or more and qualify for retirement, you have a pretty sweet deal. But the cool part is that even if you DON’T stay for retirement (which again, is totally OK), you still walk away with your TSP. And don’t worry, you’re always vested (entitled to) your own contributions and earnings. However, to become vested in the Service Automatic Contribution (1%), you must have completed two years of service. After two years of service, you are considered fully vested.
AND what’s even cooler is that, say you get out of the military completely and you get a civilian job with a 401(k) — you can roll your TSP into that company’s retirement fund. Or, you can choose to leave your TSP alone until you’re of the age to tap into it (which is 59 1/2, btw). Even if you’re not contributing to it anymore, your TSP will continue to grow over time based on the market’s performance. So, you could potentially have a tidy sum that you can access when you finally retire from working. Let’s just call this what it is … a win-win.
First and foremost, like we said already, it’s critically important that you make this decision fully armed with the information you need to make the best choice possible for your financial future. That means going to your installation’s financial manager, talking with your spouse or someone you trust. Deeply consider what you want your life after the military to look like, how you’ll get there and how either the High-3 system or BRS can help you get there.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael E. Davis Jr., Maryland National Guard Public Affairs Office)
If you are one of those folks who is grandfathered into High-3 and choose to stay there, then there’s nothing you need to do. Just keep going to work, doing great things and getting closer and closer to retirement.
If you decide that BRS is the way to go, remember that you have until Dec. 31, 2018, to opt in. That can be done via MyPay if you’re a Soldier, sailor, Airman or Coast Guard member, or MarineOnline for you Marines. Once it’s done though, you can’t change your mind. The decision is final.
Then, after that, double check your TSP contribution to ensure that you receive the government matching benefit. If you opt in, you automatically receive the 1 percent government contribution. But YOU have to physically adjust anything after that to ensure you receive the government matching. If you don’t make any TSP changes, your existing contribution rate stays the same, even if that is zero. And if you can’t afford to contribute the full amount right now, that’s totally OK. But think about what you can contribute now and then factor in pay raises or bonuses for potential opportunities to increase your contribution when you can.
If you’re a Reservist, this applies to you, too. But your TSP contributions come from your weekend drill pay. But, any time you’re on long-term active duty orders, your contributions will continue, but come from your basic pay.
So, let’s recap for a hot minute.
While planning for retirement might not be on your mind now, it’s really, really important that you take a second to thoroughly think through your options: BRS v. High-3. And if you’ve made your decision and BRS is it, ensure you opt in by the deadline, Dec. 31, 2018. However, after Dec. 31, 2018, your retirement choice will be irrevocable. If you’ve already opted in, or once you do so, ensure your TSP contributions are adjusted to maximize your TSP and ensure you receive the government matching capability. You’ll be able to adjust your TSP contributions at your leisure any time moving forward.
We just ran through a lot of pretty dense stuff. But, like we said, we, the Department of Defense, are totally cool with whatever choice you make. We just want to ensure you have the tools and resources to make an educated decision. Your retirement is your future – be sure you’re financially prepared for it — and give yourself a high five for making the right choice for you!
There’s always at least one in every unit. That one idiot who ruins everything for the rest of us. In the military, these clowns are given the moniker of “Blue Falcon.” Essentially, it’s a more professional way of calling someone a “buddy f*cker.”
But, no matter how much of a screw-up they are, you’re going to be stuck with them until they ETS or PCS out of the unit, so it’s best if you just learn how to deal with them in one way or another.
Of course, there are varying degrees of buddy f*cking. So, think of the following guidelines as an escalation of force for handling douchebags.
Learning the art of “NMFP,” or “Not My F*cking Problem,” will take you far.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)
1. Walk away
Nine times out of ten, it’s best to just move on. It’s not worth the time nor the effort to deal with some people. That’s not to say you should quickly forgive and forget (if it was a case of accidental Blue Falconing, maybe), but, in general, you should just brush it off and carry on with your day.
There’s literally ten thousand other things to worry about in the military. Don’t worry about what some jerk is doing — let their NCO handle it.
How polite that conversation is depends on you.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Virginia Lang)
2. Talk it out
Rarely do troops actually try to be a Blue Falcon. Screwing over the people who’re supposed to have your back in combat is never a good idea. If someone you’ve known for years starts dabbling in Falconry, settle it like adults. Talk to them and find out what’s really going on — and why they f*cked you over.
You’ll find that, most times, it’s unintentional and being the bigger person in the situation will help everyone move on.
Demonstrate your salt by leaving them high and dry during a working party.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis B. Betances)
3. Shun them
This level of punishment is reserved for the perpetual Blue Falcon. The dude who has proved time and time again that they just can’t get right. The dude who’s still living the “Army of One” mentality. The dude who’s constantly complaining like it’d have any kind of effect on the level of suck that’s in store. Ignore them at every corner.
Psychologically speaking, people can’t stand being ignored and shunning them, as passive as it may seem, is actually a good way to instill social norms. When they get right, you can welcome them back into the fold. Until then, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life or the unit.
You can enjoy it, but don’t take it too far and Blue Falcon someone else in the process.
(National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire, JTF-DC)
4. Play their game
“Two can play at that game.” If they haven’t been doing anything that is strictly forbidden by the UCMJ but is still annoying or inconvenient, give ’em a taste of their own medicine.
If they want to rat on you for swinging by the gas station before going to motor pool, get them when they do the same. If they want to show up 10 minutes late for a working party and you have to pick up the slack, put about ten minutes of your time on their plate.
Then again, this only works if they’re actually breaking any rules.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Hughes)
5. Administrative action
Not ratting on your boys is one thing — but this dude isn’t your boy. The first handful of cases, keep it in house, but if they continually demonstrate behaviors detrimental to the unit, you could face UCMJ action for not speaking up.
Don’t get caught up in whatever sh*tstorm avalanche is about to hit them. Toss that responsibility up the chain of command at least one level to save your own skin when that moment inevitably comes.
Whether you actually get your NCO’s approval before putting that sucker in an armbar is on you…
(U.S Army photo by Sgt. Leo Jenkins)
6. Feed them their teeth
Do this in an appropriate manner, of course — it’d be irresponsible for us to advocate the ass kicking of anyone, no matter how much they deserve it. Just because someone could desperately use a swift, stern reminder of how to act, you shouldn’t face administrative actions to make it happen.
For obvious reasons, this one should be a final resort.
Convince an NCO to set up a combatives or MCMAP class for PT and take your frustrations out on that buddy f*cker. If you’re going this far, there’ll probably even be a line…