Every Air Force and Navy feels the need for speed. It’s just a fact. When trying to scramble your defending aircraft, time is of the essence and speed is a critical element of that. Aircraft developers have come a very long way since the development of the first jet engine in the mid-20th Century. These days, an airframe that can’t cruise at supersonic speeds might as well be a diesel-powered propeller plane.
It was a long and winding road human engineering took to get to the point where fighter aircraft have the radar cross section of bumblebee. Here are the fastest examples currently in service.
The Boeing X-37 is an unmanned space drone operated by the U.S. Air Force and boosted into space by NASA. Its mission is to test reusable space technologies, then come back to Earth. On the way down, the X-37 re-enters Earth’s atmosphere at an average speed of 16 times the speed of sound, but has come back as fast as Mach 25.
The fastest fighter still in service today is the Soviet-built MiG-25. Mikoyan designed this fighter to be a pure interceptor aircraft. As a result, the Foxbat can sustain a cruising speed of Mach 2.8 and kick it into overdrive with a top speed of 3.2 – not a bad technology for an aircraft that first took off in 1964.
Aug. 3 airpower summary: F-15E provides cover for disabled convoy
F-15E Strike Eagle
The F-15 has been flying for more than 30 years and is set to keep going. The reason is just good design, another aircraft initially designed to catch incoming enemies and destroy them. The F-15 can fly at a top speed of 3,017 miles per hour, then stop, hit ground targets, and fade away.
When the Russians needed something that could try to chase down the vaunted SR-71 Blackbird, they called up the MiG-21 and its Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. The only problem is that it doesn’t handle as well as its predecessor, the MiG-25. With a top speed of 2,993 miles per hour, it also isn’t as fast.
The Su-27 is a heavy fighter, designed to be the Soviet Union’s answer to the F-15 program. First flown in 1977, it’s still used by a handful of different countries, and is relied on for its 2,496 miles per hour top speed. The United States even has four SU-27 aircraft it uses to train pilots.
The U.S. Air Force announced plans to ramp up its pilot training to produce 1,500 pilots a year by fiscal 2022. Now, Air Education and Training Command (AETC) has divulged preliminary blueprints on how it anticipates accomplishing the task.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said before a Senate Armed Services readiness and management support subcommittee hearing Oct. 10, 2018, that the service will increase its current 1,160 pilot training slots to 1,311 in fiscal 2019, aiming for 1,500 every year shortly thereafter.
“AETC has been tasked to produce about 1,500 pilots per year … That number includes active-duty Air Force, Air Force Reserves, Air National Guard and international students,” command spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday told Military.com this in October 2018.
While the undertaking is in its initial stages, the command will use programs such as the experimental Pilot Training Next — paired with Pilot Instructor Training Next — to improve how teachers and incoming students work together.
U.S. Air Force Second Lt. Brett Bultsma, Pilot Training Next student, and Capt. Jeffery Kelley, PTN instructor pilot, prepare for a training flight aboard a T-6 Texan at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
AETC is also updating its Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) curriculum to streamline how quickly the Air Force can produce new pilots, Holliday said.
“The final touches to the new Undergraduate Pilot Training syllabi were adjudicated and are now in the initial stages of execution,” she said.
Revising pilot training
The curriculum’s redesign gives squadron commanders the ability to refine training to better meet the needs of individual students, AETC said in a recent release.
Previously, students went back and forth between simulators and the flight line. The new syllabus moves “11 simulators that had been previously spread out over a three- to four-month time frame, into a single block of training prior to the first flight in the aircraft,” Holliday said.
It’s also a blended learning model, she said, that incorporates several best practices from “advanced military flight training and civilian flight training.”
Students will cut their training time from 54 to 49 weeks once the changes are fully implemented.
“We are still in the early phase of executing the syllabus redesign, but initial performance from students indicates increased pilot performance,” Holliday said.
Students will advance at their own pace. Previously, they had to wait until the entire class completed stages or assignments before moving on to the next. AETC will now allow for individual students to complete courses faster or slower as needed, officials said.
Holliday said this will not alter the official course length, but the time a given student spends in the course could change. The first UPT students to use the adjusted curriculum will graduate in spring 2019, she said.
Pilot Training Next
Thirteen students graduated from the first, experimental Pilot Training Next (PTN) class in August 2018 after six months of learning to fly in virtual-reality simulators. The program ran 24 weeks and “included 184 academic hours, with approximately 70 to 80 flight hours in the T-6 Texan II, as well as approximately 80 to 90 hours of formal flight training in the simulator,” Holliday said. Students also trained on their own time in the simulators.
“We want to learn as fast as possible,” said 2nd Lt. Christofer Ahn, a student pilot, in an interview before graduating. “Being able to use the simulators is a huge step in allowing us to accelerate through our training.”
U.S. Air Force students and instructor pilots from the Pilot Training Next program fly a T-6 Texan during a training flight at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
The service recently announced there will be a second class to test Pilot Training Next before the results are briefed to Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who will decide whether the program will be incorporated into formal pilot training. The second class will begin training in January 2019.
Holliday said that lessons learned from PTN have already been incorporated into traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training, as well as Pilot Instructor Training.
Instructors are also refining the ways they connect with students through innovation and simulation training. With a program called Pilot Instructor Next, they are looking for ways to develop what AETC calls the “Mach-21” airman, or the next generation of 21st century pilots.
Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, the AETC commander, coined the term to describe what the Air Force wants in its new pilots.
“A Mach-21 Air Force essentially is comprised of airmen who learn faster, adapt faster and strategically out-think the enemy, because they are moving at Mach-21 speed,” he said.
To produce such high-quality and sought-after pilots, instructors need to up their game.
“Through Pilot Instructor Training Next, AETC flying squadrons have been equipped with virtual-reality simulators and 360-degree video headsets to integrate into syllabi,” Holliday said. “Since implemented, there have been measurable benefits from the addition of technology, and 10 instructor pilots are slated to graduate from the PIT Next program each month.”
U.S. Air Force Second Lt. Brett Bultsma, Pilot Training Next student, and Capt. Jeffery Kelley, Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, prepare for a training flight aboard a T-6 Texan at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
Its biggest advantage, AETC says, is the ability to test students in high-stress environments in the safe space of a simulator.
“Virtually, instructors can put students in any situation to determine if they would recognize the danger and whether or not they take the right course of action,” Holliday said. “Students also have the opportunity to take home mobile-video headsets, which connect to the pilot’s smartphone and allow for on-command and on-demand training, which has also been helpful.”
She added, “Incorporating this level of technology and deep-repetition learning allows these students to see the flight environment so many more times than they would have in the past.”
Aircrew Crisis Task Force
AETC is also coordinating with the Aircrew Crisis Task Force — set up in 2016 by the Pentagon — building on its “holistic plan to ensure the Air Force’s pilot requirements are met through retention of currently trained pilots as well as through the production pipeline.”
At the Oct. 10, 2018 hearing, Wilson said the Air Force is placing an emphasis on addressing the national aircrew shortage by focusing on pilot quality of service and quality-of-life issues.
The task force has looked at ways of giving fighter pilots and aircrew the ability to stay in rotations longer at select commands and bases in an effort to create stability for airmen affected by the service’s growing pilot shortage.
“We continue to work with the Aircrew Crisis Task Force to ensure our pilot production planning encompasses an airman from commissioning through training and then to their operational flying units,” Holliday said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
For nearly 40 years, the Air Force missions of VIP transport in the DC area as well patrolling Air Force Global Strike Command missile fields has been performed by the UH-1N Huey. Despite modernization efforts, the aging fleet of Air Force Hueys is limited by range and speed which makes its primary missions of transport and patrol difficult. In September 2018, the Air Force awarded a $2.38 billion contract to Boeing-Leonardo to supply 84 MH-139A helicopters to replace the Huey.
Based on the commercially available AugustaWestland (now Leonardo helicopter division) AW139, the first MH-139A was delivered to the Air Force on December 19, 2019 at Duke Field, Florida. It was at this unveiling ceremony that the new helicopter was given the name Grey Wolf. “As they hunt as a pack, they attack as one, they bring the force of many,” said AFGSC Commander General Timothy Ray of the MH-139A. “That’s exactly how you need to approach the nuclear security mission.”
The Grey Wolf boasts a cruising speed of 130-140 knots compared to the outgoing Huey’s 90-100 knots. It also has much longer legs than the Huey with a range of 778 miles vs. just over 300 miles for the UN-1N. The Grey Wolf is also equipped with armor, countermeasures, a forward-looking infrared camera system, and the ability to mount a machine gun. These capabilities will prove to be crucial in AFGSC’s primary missions of security and patrolling.
Testing is currently underway on the Grey Wolf. Flying from Duke Field at Eglin AFB, a Boeing pilot and Maj. Zach Roycroft of the 413th Flight Test Squadron made the first combined test flight on February 11, 2020. “This first flight with Boeing was a critical step for the MH-139A program and allows us to establish a foundation for government testing,” Roycroft said. As testing progresses, production at Leonardo and Boeing’s Philadelphia facilities is ramping up as well. Full-rate production is expected to be achieved in 2023 with an anticipated delivery rate of 10 aircraft per year into the early 2030s. Of course, the most important part of acquiring a new helicopter is teaching pilots how to fly it.
On November 20, 2020, Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett announced that Maxwell AFB, Alabama would host the MH-139A Formal Training Unit. Less than 100 miles to the southeast of Maxwell is the Army’s Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Alabama. There, alongside their Army counterparts, Air Force flight students of the 23d Flying Training Squadron earn their wings flying the TH-1H Huey II training helicopter before going on to specialized helicopter training. Students selected to the fly the new Grey Wolf will have a short PCS up the road to Maxwell.
In addition to the nuclear security and National Capitol Region missions, the Grey Wolf is also slated to replace the Huey in civil search and rescue, airlift support, and survival school and test support missions. Following successful testing and acceptance by the Air Force, the Grey Wolf is scheduled for initial delivery to the 37th Helicopter Squadron at Warren AFB, Wyoming, the 40th Helicopter Squadron at Malmstrom AFB, Montana, the 54th Helicopter Squadron at Minot AFB, North Dakota, and the 1st Helicopter Squadron at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland in 2021.
The US has imposed sanctions on two top Turkish officials on Aug. 1, 2018, in a long-standing dispute over Turkey’s detention of an American pastor.
The US Treasury Department targeted Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and its Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu, whom they say played a major role in the arrest and detention of the evangelical Christian pastor Andrew Brunson.
“Pastor Brunson’s unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated the Justice Department’s words at a press briefing Aug. 1, 2018, and said that Trump had personally ordered the sanctions against the officials who played “leading roles” in Brunson’s arrest.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Brunson,50, is originally from North Carolina, and has led a small congregation in the coastal Turkish city of Izmir since 1993.
He was arrested in 2016 and has been accused of orchestrating a failed military coup attempt against Turkish President President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has been imprisoned in Turkey for the last 21 months on espionage charges, though he was moved to house arrest last month because of health concerns.
Brunson has denied any wrongdoing. He faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.
There are suspicions that Brunson’s detention could be politically motivated. Erdogan has openly suggested a high-level strategic swap with the US in exchange for Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish preacher living in Pennsylvania who has been accused of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt.
Since the failed coup, Erdogan has instituted sweeping executive powers, which allow him to select his own cabinet, regulate ministries and remove civil servants, all without parliamentary approval.
The following video was filmed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, on Dec. 21, 2016, during the final flight with the U.S. Air Force of the legendary F-4 Phantom.
As explained by Skyes9, the user who posted it on YouTube, the long footage shows the start-up, taxi out, and flyby of the F-4s, followed by water cannon salute and then shut down of the USAF McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II.
Interestingly, it also shows (actually, it lets you hear) the double “sonic boom” caused by two Phantoms flying overhead.
Lt. Col. Ronald King, the only active duty U.S. Air Force F-4 pilot flew AF 349, the last QF-4 Phantom II in the USAF story.
“This has been a humbling experience,” said King, the Det. 1, 82nd Aerial Target Squadron commander in an Air Force release. “There is no way to truly understand what this aircraft has done without talking to the people who lived it.”
In 53 years of service, the Phantom set 15 world records, including aircraft speed – 1,606 miles per hour – and absolute altitude – 98,557 feet. Moreover, it has been the only aircraft to be flown by both the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
Nicknamed Double Ugly, Old Smokey, and the Rhino, the aircraft was retired from the active service in 1997. However, it continued to serve with the flying branch: re-designated the QF-4 and assigned to the 82nd ATS, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, 53rd Wing, at Holloman, the QF-4 has flown as manned and unmanned aerial target until Dec. 21, 2016.
During its service as an aerial target, the QF-4 has helped test an array of weapons that have contributed improving 4th and 5th generation fighters and weapons systems.
It flew its last unmanned mission in August 2016 and will be replaced by the QF-16 in 2017.
Air Combat Command declared initial operational capability for its replacement, the QF-16 full-scale aerial target, that has been flying with the 82nd ATRS, based at Tyndall AFB, Florida, since September 2014, on Sept. 23: therefore the QF-4 flown by the 82nd ATRS Det. 1 at Holloman AFB were retired on Dec. 21.
Whilst unmanned operations ended, the last unmanned mission in a threat representative configuration was flown on Aug. 17, 2016, “against” an F-35 Lightning II.
During that sortie, the Vietnam-era remotely piloted aircraft was shot at by the F-35 Lightning II with two AIM-120 AMRAAMs (advanced medium range air-to-air missiles). However, the aircraft was not destroyed in the test.
President George H.W. Bush occupied the White House during tumultuous times, conducting military operations in Panama and the Persian Gulf and grappling with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in just four years.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun, he told the CIA officers tasked with briefing him each day.
As vice president and president, Bush took special interest in the intelligence he was provided and in the personnel who provided it, according to a remembrance in the most recent edition of the CIA’s Studies in Intelligence journal, written by its managing editor, Andres Vaart, a 30-year CIA veteran.
In a 1995 article in the journal, one of Bush’s briefers, Charles A. Peters, recounts how, on Jan. 21, 1989, the day after his inauguration, Bush injected levity into one of the more severe daily tasks the president takes on.
“When the President had finished reading, he turned to me and said with deadly seriousness, ‘I’m quite satisfied with the intelligence support, but there is one area in which you’ll just have to do better.’ The [director of Central Intelligence, William Webster] visibly stiffened,” Peters wrote, according to Vaart.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist administering the oath of office to President George H. W. Bush during Inaugural ceremonies at the United States Capitol. Jan. 20, 1989.
(Library of Congress)
“‘The Office of Comic Relief,’ the new President went on, ‘will have to step up its output.’ With an equally straight face I promised the President we would give it our best shot,” Peters wrote. “As we were leaving the Oval Office, I wasted no time in reassuring the Director that this was a lighthearted exchange typical of President Bush, and that the DCI did not have to search out an Office of Comic Relief and authorize a major shakeup.”
The CIA staffers compiling the PDB included a “Sign of the Times” section, which included amusing or unusual anecdotes meant to lighten otherwise heavy reading.
“Libyan intelligence chief recently passed message via Belgians laying out case for better relations with US and expressing desire to cooperate against terrorism… even suggested he would like to contribute to your re-election campaign,” one January 1992 entry read, according to Peters.
“French company says it has won contract to export vodka to Russia… deal apparently stems from shortage of bottles and bottling equipment… no word on whether Paris taking Russian wine in return,” a July 1992 entry read.
US President George H. W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
(George Bush Presidential Library and Museum)
Bush’s single term stretched over the final days of the Soviet Union, possibly giving CIA staffers the opportunity to draw on their cache of Soviet jokes to liven up the daily briefing.
Bush’s briefs also included updates about his counterparts. From time to time, Vaart writes, Bush would call one of those leaders to chat about something interesting they were doing.
For staffers working on the President’s Daily Brief between 1981 and 1993, during Bush’s time in office, “no labor was too intense to produce the needed story and no hours were too many or too late to make certain we … made it good and got it right,” Vaart writes.
“This may have been true with later presidents,” Vaart adds, “but what stood out with President Bush was that we … knew well that the effort was truly appreciated.”
“We also saw through those interactions, as though at first hand, the humor and personality of a man who deeply cared about the people who served him,” he writes.
Bush’s mirth was widely recounted in the days after his death on Nov. 30, 2018. Friends and colleagues remembered his enthusiasm for jokes — at his expense, like when he invited Dana Carvey to the White House to impersonate him after his 1992 electoral defeat, and at the expense of others, like the “award” he gave aides who fell asleep during meetings, named after national-security adviser and frequent dozer Brent Scowcroft.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
My guest today is Richard Browning, the British inventor dubbed the “real life Iron Man.” He’s the founder of Gravity, launched in 2017 with a dream to reimagine an entirely new form of human flight. Using 6 small jet engines, he’s built a suit that has set multiple world records. In just 2 years he’s given 5 TED talk and executed 96 public demonstrations of his technology across 30 countries.
You can see Richard Browning in action in this video!
In our conversation we talk about the hurdles he had to overcome to build a jet suit, how to maintain resilience in the face of adversity, and how his next step is to build retractable wings into the suit.
Sign up for my newsletter for a few useful and insightful things that have helped me over the last month. You can sign up here.
Tolkien premieres today, a movie that looks at the horrors that legendary author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien endured in World War I and how it may have informed his writing of The Lord of the Rings and other fantasy novels. But while it’s easy to see some elements of World War I combat in the author’s novels, it’s pretty much certain that some elements won’t make it on to the big screen.
(Also, for what it’s worth, the Tolkien Estate has disavowed the movie ahead of its release, so go ahead and assume it’s not a terribly accurate picture of his life.)
Soldiers with the Royal Irish Rifles at Somme in 1916.
(Public domain, British Army)
Human waste overflowed and spread parasites
Yeah, Tolkien’s novels aren’t known for their graphic descriptions of waste management and disease prevention, so it’s unlikely the movie will have to address it much. But the sanitation challenges of trench warfare were overwhelming. Everyone poops, and millions of soldiers pooping in a line generates a lot of waste.
Soldiers in a shell hole receive a message from a dog in World War I.
(National Library of Scotland)
Buried under exploding dirt
Troops in the trenches were generally below the level of the surrounding terrain. (It’s the whole reason they dug those trenches.) That protected them from machine gun rounds and reduced the threat of artillery, but it also meant that large artillery shells could move tons of dirt onto them, burying soldiers.
World War I wounded leave the battlefield at Bernafay Wood in 1916.
(Ernest Brooks, Imperial War Museums)
Treating the wounded
Tolkien likely has the guts to show hospitals in World War I, but the author wasn’t a medic, and so there would be little reason to depict it. But World War I hospitals in the front were terrifying. They had rudimentary sanitation procedures in place and were often overwhelmed by the sheer number of casualties.
During major battles, like when Tolkien took part in the Battle of the Somme, medical personnel couldn’t keep up with the number of wounded. Harold Chapin was assigned night duty in May 1915, but as he described it, that had no real meaning. The medical personnel worked almost 24 hours a day and still couldn’t keep up. One bombardier described waiting three days to get the shrapnel in his leg treated, not an uncommon wait.
Mind-numbing boredom and spotty communications with home
That meant news of a sick relative in a letter might actually be already dead by the time the letter made it to the front. An overwhelmed lover lamenting the separation might have already written their Dear John follow up. And there was no guarantee that the soldier would be kept busy enough to prevent them from dwelling on potential catastrophes at home.
So, in addition to the horrors of battle, troops were left in a prison of their own mind, wondering what parts of their life back home survived.
A sergeant in a flooded out trench in World War I France. Floods like these spread disease.
(National Library of Scotland)
The movie might show a little water in the trenches, but most directors are happy with some wet ankles and splashes of mud. That is not what troops in World War I endured. No, they could be so wet for so long that their flesh rotted off. And the water could easily be a foot or more deep, too deep for soldiers to get dry just by dropping some wood into the trench or cutting a little shelf into the dirt walls.
With movies like “American Sniper” and “Lone Survivor,” the Navy SEALs are on par with most figures in American pop culture.
Using the non-scientific method of Amazon.com book search reveals that there are way more books associated with the SEAL teams than any other American elite unit, giving filmmakers a rich source of story materials.
Capt Jerry Yellin, World War II fighter pilot, who flew the last combat mission in August 1945, was laid to rest with full military honors Jan. 15, 2019, at Arlington Cemetery, Virginia.
Yellin enlisted two months after Pearl Harbor on his 18th birthday. After graduating from Luke Air Field, Arizona, as a fighter pilot in August 1943, he spent the remainder of the war flying P-40, P-47 and P-51 combat missions in the Pacific with the 78th Fighter Squadron. He was part of the first land-based fighter mission over Japan on April 7, 1945, and was the lead on the last mission of the war on Aug. 14, 1945.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with an oak leaf cluster and the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters.
Capt Jerry Yellin, World War II fighter pilot, who flew the last combat mission in August 1945, was laid to rest with full military honors Jan. 15, 2019, at Arlington Cemetery, Va.
(US Air Force photo)
Although his flying career was short, he witnessed more turmoil than any human being should ever have to witness. Yellin was discharged in December 1945 and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, before it was recognized as such.
After thirty years of suffering, his wife introduced him to the topic of transcendental meditation and it turned out to be the key to a better life. Yellin shared his positive experience with transcendental meditation as a motivational speaker and worked tirelessly in his efforts to help other service members with PTSD.
Additionally, he wrote two books on his experiences in the war, and he was profiled in volume 5 of “Veterans in Blue,” showcasing his contribution to the legacy of the Air Force.
Yellin passed away on Dec. 21, 2017, at the age of 93. His wife of 65 years, the former Helene Schulman, was interred with him. A flyover of four A-10 aircraft from the 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, paid him the final tribute.
To keep the many men and machines in fighting shape during the World War II invasion of France, logistics technicians sure had their work cut out for them. Bomb, bullets, planes and tanks were top priorities, so there was little room for luxury items that’d keep the troops in good spirits while fighting Nazis.
And when a British brewery donated gallons of beer for troops on the front, there was no way to get it to the men by conventional means.
Enter Britain’s Royal Air Force.
In the early days after the Normandy invasion of June 1944, British and American troops noticed an acute shortage of adult beverages — namely beer. Many British soldiers complained about watery cider being the only drink available in recently liberated French towns. Luckily for them, the Royal Air Force was on the tap (pun intended) to solve the problem.
With no room for cargo on their small fighter planes, RAF pilots arrived at a novel solution – using drop tanks to transport suds instead of fuel.
The drop tanks of a Spitfire each carried 45 gallons of gas, meaning a plane could transport 90 gallons of extra liquid. When carrying fuel, the tanks were used and then discarded.
For the purposes of ferrying beer, ground crews set about steam cleaning the tanks for their special deliveries. These flights became known as “flying pubs” by the troops they served. A few British breweries, such as Heneger and Constable, donated free beer for the RAF to take to the front. Other units had to pool their funds and buy the beer.
As the desire for refreshment increased in Normandy, the RAF began employing the Hawker Typhoon which could carry even more than the Spitfire. Unfortunately, the Typhoon was often mistaken by inexperienced American pilots as the German Focke-Wulf 190.
According to one British captain, the beer deliveries were attacked twice in one day by U.S. P-47 Thunderbolts. The Typhoon had to jettison its tanks into the English Channel to take evasive action, costing the troops on the ground dearly.
The drop tanks also had a serious disadvantage. While they could carry large amounts of beer, the initial runs still tasted of fuel. Even after the tanks had been used several times and lost their fuel taste, they still imparted a metallic flavor to the beer.
To counter this problem, ground crews developed Modification XXX, a change made to the wing pylons of Spitfire Mk. IXs that allowed them to carry actual kegs of beer.
These kegs, often called ‘beer bombs,’ were standard wooden kegs with a specially-designed nose cone and attachments for transport under the wing of the Spitfire. Though they carried less beer, it arrived tasting like it just came out of the tap at the pub, chilled by the altitude of the flight over the channel.
To ensure their compatriots remained satisfied, pilots would often return to England for rudimentary maintenance issues or other administrative needs in order to grab another round. As the need for beer increased, all replacement Spitfires and Typhoons being shipped to airfields in France carried ‘beer bombs’ in their bomb racks to the joy of the thirsty crews manning the airfields.
When the Americans learned of what the British were doing they joined in, even bringing over ice cream for the GIs as well.
As the practice gained popularity, Britain’s Custom and Excise Ministry caught wind and tried to shut it down. Thankfully by that time, there were more organized official shipments of beer making it to the troops. However, the enterprising pilots kept up their flights with semi-official permission from higher-ups, they just kept it a better secret.
Entering the military requires an oath to obey the lawful orders of those in the higher chain of command. Commanding officers can order troops into a suicide mission if it serves the greater purpose. When obeying orders, it’s necessary for those troops to believe a commander wouldn’t order them into harm’s way unless it was necessary, that the order serves a greater good, and it’s not an illegal order.
Most of the nine men listed here (in no order) did not disobey orders because they were illegal. They disobeyed them because lives were at stake and felt saving those lives was worth the risk. Others pushed the envelope to keep the enemy on its heels. People make mistakes, even when the stakes are life and death. It can mean the difference in the course of the entire war (as seen with Gen. Sickles) or to a few men who are alive because someone took a chance on them (in the case of Benaya Rein).
1. Dakota Meyer, U.S. Marine Corps, Afghanistan
In 2009, Meyer was at the Battle of Ganjgal, where his commander ordered him to disregard a distress call from ambushed Afghan and American troops, four of them friends, pinned down by possibly hundreds of enemy fighters. He repeatedly asked permission to drive his truck to help relieve his outnumbered and surrounded friends and allies. He and another Marine hopped in a Humvee. Meyer manned the gun while the other drove the vehicle.
They drove right into the firestorm, loading the beleaguered Afghans, mostly wounded, onto their humvee. As weapons jammed, Meyer would grab another, and another. They drove into the melee five times, until they came across Meyer’s friends, now fallen, and pulled them out too. Meyer received the Medal of Honor for his actions.
2. Daniel Hellings, British Army, Afghanistan
Hellings was on a joint patrol in Helmand Province with Afghan allies when his patrol was hit by an explosion. An improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated in an alleyway, injuring two of the patrollers. Then another went off, injuring a third man. Hellings’ commander ordered an immediate withdrawal. Instead, Hellings got down on the ground and started a fingertip search for more bombs — and found four more. He was on the ground, poking around in the dirt until he found all of the IEDs. For his bravery and quick thinking, he was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.
3. Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, Soviet Army, Cold War
Petrov was in command of the Oko Nuclear Early Warning System on the morning of September 26, 1983 when it detected a probable launch of American nuclear missiles. Suspecting it was a false alarm, he disobeyed the standing order of reporting it to his commanding officers, who likely would have “retaliated” with their nuclear arsenal.
In this case, doing nothing was doing something big, as in completely averting World War III, and mutually assured destruction. It also showed a flaw in the USSR’s early warning system and helped to avert further misunderstandings.
4. Benaya Rein, Israel Defence Forces, Second Lebanon War
Several Israeli soldiers, lacking accurate maps, became lost in 2006 while downrange in Southern Lebanon. As they attempted to get their bearings, about 20 men appeared in the distance, and the commander — thinking they were Hezbollah fighters — ordered Benaya Rein to open fire.
Rein wasn’t so sure. Instead, he took a tank out to the location to investigate. When he arrived, he found 20 of his fellow IDF soldiers. “Because he refused to follow his commander’s order, the lives of these soldiers were saved,” his mother told an Israeli paper.
Rein would later be killed after the tank he was commanding was hit by a Hezbollah missile. He was one of the last Israelis killed during the war.
5. Lt. David Teich, U.S. Army, Korean War
Teich was in a tank company near the 38th parallel in 1951 when a radio distress call came in from the Eighth Ranger Company. Wounded, outnumbered, and under heavy fire, the Rangers were near Teich’s tanks, and facing 300,000 Communist troops, moving steadily toward their position. Teich wanted to help, but was ordered to withdraw instead, his captain saying “We’ve got orders to move out. Screw them. Let them fight their own battles.”
Teich went anyway. He led four tanks over to the Rangers’ position and took out so many Rangers on each tank, they covered up the tank’s turrets. He still gets letters from the troops he saved that day, thanking him for disobeying his order to move out.
6. Cpl. Desmond Doss, U.S. Army, World War II
Doss wanted to serve, he just wasn’t willing to kill to do it and refused every order to carry a weapon or fire one. However, Doss would do anything to save his men, repeatedly braving Japanese fire to pull the injured to the rear. As his unit climbed a vertical cliffside at Okinawa, the Japanese opened up with artillery, mortars, and machine guns, turning his unit back and killing or wounding 75 men. Doss retrieved them one by one, loading them onto a litter and down the cliff.
A few days later, in the mouth of a cave, he braved a shower of grenades thrown from eight yards away, dressed wounds, and made four trips to pull his soldiers out. He treated his own wounds and waited five hours for a litter to carry him off. On the way back, the three men carrying him had to take cover from a tank attack. While waiting, Doss crawled off his litter, treated a more injured man, and told the litter bearers to take the other man. While waiting for them to come back, he was hit in the arm by a sniper and crawled 300 yards to an aid station. He was the first conscientious objector to earn the Medal of Honor.
7. Lt. Thomas Currie ‘Diver’ Derrick, Australian Imperial Force, WWII
The Battle of Sattelberg in the Pacific nation of New Guinea was as hard-fought as any in the Pacific Theater. It took the Australians a grudgingly slow eight days to push the Japanese out of the town and they paid dearly for it. On November 24, 1943, Lt. Derrick was ordered to withdraw his platoon because the CO didn’t think he could capture the heights around Sattelberg.
Derrick’s response: “Bugger the CO. Just give me twenty more minutes and we’ll have this place.”
Derrick climbed a vertical cliff by himself, holding on with one hand and throwing grenades with the other, stopping only to fire his rifle. He cleared out 10 machine gun nests that night and forced the Japanese to withdraw. The Aussies captured Sattelberg and Derrick was awarded the Victoria Cross.
8. 1st. Lt. Frank Luke, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps, WWI
In September 1918, Luke was grounded by his commanding officer and told that if he disobeyed, he would be charged with being AWOL. Luke, an ace with 15 aerial victories, flew anyway, going out to find military reconnaissance balloons. Balloons sound like an easy target, but they were heavily defended by anti-aircraft weapons.
He knocked out three balloons that day before he was forced down by machine gun fire. Once out of his plane (which he landed, he wasn’t shot down) he kept fighting the Germans with his sidearm until a bullet wound killed him. Luke is the first pilot to receive the Medal of Honor.
9. Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles, Union Army, Civil War
Sickles’ slight disobedience to orders during the Battle of Gettysburg changed the momentum of the war and may have changed the entire history of the United States. In a move historians haven’t stopped talking about for 150 years, Sickles moved his men to Peach Orchard instead of Little Round Top, as Gen. George G. Meade ordered him. This move prompted Confederate Gen. James Longstreet to attack the Union troops in the orchard and the wheat field, nearly destroying the Union forces there. Which, admittedly, sounds terrible.
The Confederate move allowed Union troops to flank them in a counteroffensive and completely rout the Confederate forces, winning Gettysburg for the Union and ending Robert E. Lee’s invasion of the North. Sickles himself lost a leg in the fighting, but received the Medal of Honor and helped preserve Gettysburg as a national historic site after the war.
Soldiers, Marines, and special operators will be soon sporting a new sniper rifle.
Following a lengthy acquisition process that began in 2016, the Army, Marine Corps, and US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) have started receiving the first batches of the Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) sniper rifle made by Barrett.
In the Army, the MRAD rifle will replace the M107 and M210 sniper rifles. In the Marine Corps, the new weapon will replace all bolt-action sniper rifles, such as the M40, which dates all the way back to the Vietnam War.
What makes the MRAD rifle special is its ability to be adapted according to the situation. The bolt-action rifle can quickly be re-configured to an array of different calibers as the tactical situation demands, thus giving warfighters more options.
On the battlefield, snipers can potentially face several scenarios, from vehicle-born improvised explosive devices (VBIED)—moving vehicle bombs—to high-value targets, to waves upon waves of assaulting enemies. The ability to efficiently adjust depending on the scenario is a remarkable and highly-sought out trait.
In addition, the MRAD rifle has a smooth recoil that allows snipers to quickly get a sight picture after engaging a target.
Initially, the MRAD rifle was a SOCOM-driven initiative through the Advanced Sniper Rifle program, with the Army and Marine Corps entering the process at a later stage. It comes in three calibers (7.62 NATO, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum).
According to the manufacturing company, the MRAD rifle’s “robust design, user modularity and unfailing accuracy combined with the new cartridge designed by Hornady, offer an unbeatable system for long-range effectiveness.”
A spokesperson with the Program Executive Officer Soldier who spoke to Task & Purpose said that the Army is planning to purchase close to 3,000 MRAD rifles, almost six times more than what was originally planned. The Marine Corps plans to buy a significantly smaller number, with just 250 rifles budgeted for.