When you hear the word “military,” without a doubt your mind paints a very specific picture. It may involve weapons, it may have a few brush strokes of physical training, but there is one part of the picture that is simply inescapable: the uniform.
For most of America, the picture is painted for you through media glamorization – and no uniform has been more glamorized than the USMC Blue Dress A!
That thing is absolutely f*cking beautiful and for those of us that don’t get the privilege to don that glorious masterpiece it can leave us quite envious – but the greatness of the Blue Dress A cannot be argued.
The Marine Corps has authorized everyone ranked E-4 and above to wear some type of sword. Non-commissioned officers are issued the NCO sword while officers get the Mamaluke sword.
The only sword I ever saw in the Air Force looked like it belonged on Final Fantasy VII.
4. Women love it.
The Blue Dress is downright sexy. It’s tailored to the individual Marine like a fine cut Italian suit. It’s so beautiful that it is considered equivalent to a civilian black tie affair.
3. It’s way cooler than ours.
I’m 100% sure you’ve seen the USMC blue dress. It is insanely popular. It’s literally the uniform you conjure up in your head when you think “military.”
I’m also pretty sure you have no idea what the Air Force equivalent looks like. Just think this: 1960’s flight attendant.
2. It’s iconic.
As I stated, the blue dress is literally the picture we have in our head of “military.” It is one of the most recognized symbols of the American military. Ever. It’s damn near a celebrity all by itself!
On June 17, 2019, the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that it will scale back its compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal – that the United States withdrew from in 2018. According to Iran’s Tasnim News Service, the government will increase stocks of enriched uranium and the heavy water required to make more enriched uranium at its Arak heavy water site.
Heavy water is used in nuclear reactors to slow down neutrons so they are more likely to react with uranium-235, where the element will capture neutrons in a fissile manner. uranium-238 cannot sustain a nuclear reaction, but uranium-235 can. Heavy water reactors create plutonium as a waste material, plutonium that can be used in nuclear weapons.
Iran has been making consistent nuclear advances since the reviled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in office.
The Islamic Republic also announced it would begin enriching uranium again as a result of the U.S. leaving the 2015 deal. This means Iran will begin creating more of the uranium-235 required to sustain nuclear reactions, using the heavy water in its reactors. Under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpiles of medium-enriched Uranium and reduce its stock of low-enriched Uranium by 98 percent. It also agreed to limit its centrifuge production and use while limiting its future enrichment to uranium at on 3.67 percent.
Iran also agreed to limit the possibilities of nuclear proliferation by converting other sources of uranium enrichment and heavy water production to other purposes.
The Arak Heavy Water Facility.
Until now, other global powers have agreed with Iran ending its participation in some areas of the deal. Those powers are still signatory to the agreement. The most recent developments, the continuation in heavy water production and the increased production of enriched uranium, were not agreed upon by the other signatories to the deal. Iran warned the world in May 2019 that it would take these steps unless the sanctions on Iran were lifted as per the terms of the agreement.
It has been true to its word in all areas regarding the deal – and its dismantling – so far.
When it comes to aviation, original ideas are few and far between. Much of the progress that happens in the space can be considered more evolutionary than revolutionary. The F-15E Strike Eagle multirole fighter, for instance, was an evolution of the F-15 Eagle, an air-superiority fighter. This is often the case with transport planes, too.
For example, the general appearance of transport planes hasn’t changed much over the decades. There’s a huge, mostly hollow fuselage, high-mounted wings, and, at the very least, a rear ramp used to load vehicles or pallets of cargo. In developing cargo planes, the real issue isn’t figure out how to transport something, it’s figuring out how to transport that much.
A Y-20 in flight. This plane is based on the Russian Il-76 Candid transport.
(Photo by Alert5)
When the Chinese Communists were looking for a solution for massive-scale logistics, they decided to develop an aircraft based on the Il-76 “Candid” family of planes. They took this already-impressive aircraft and put it on a metaphorical steroid regimen, just like the ones former baseball sluggers Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez used to bulk up.
The Il-76 can haul 44 tons of cargo. Communist China’s Y-20, their ‘roided-out version of the Russian plane, hauls up to 66 tons. The Y-20 has a top speed of 572 miles per hour and a maximum range of 2,796 miles. The Il-76 can go for 2,734 miles at a top speed of 559 miles per hour.
China has acquired 30 planes in the Il-76 Candid, 22 of which are transports similar to this Indian Air Force Il-76.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)
Now, that still doesn’t quite match up with the United States’ logistical powerhouse, the C-17, which can carry up to 85 tons of cargo up to 2,400 nautical miles. Additionally, the C-17 can be refueled in flight, so it can reach anywhere in the world. But compared to the baseline Il-76, the Y-20 is a substantial improvement, and gives Communist China a better plane — even if it’s still waiting on the WS-20 engines.
Watch the video below to see this plane go through some of its paces.
Belarus’s Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich rolled her eyes when the creators of Chernobyl approached her for permission to use material from her book “Voices From Chernobyl” for the hit HBO miniseries.
“I told my agent, ‘Galya, they’re going to make another film…’ I was far from convinced. The only thing that convinced me, maybe, was the fee,” Alexievich explained in a recent interview with RFE/RL’s Belarusian Service.
However, the five-part miniseries about the tragic accident at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant has raked in rave reviews from critics and viewers alike, and Alexievich is no exception.
“It really impressed me. It is a very strong film. There is something there in the aesthetics that touches the modern consciousness. There is a dose of fear. There is reasoning. There is beauty. That is something that has always worried me about evil, when it’s not out in the open, when so much is confusing.”
And she said that her fellow Belarusians, hard hit by the nuclear fallout scattered into the air when Reactor No. 4 exploded on April 26, 1986, have now had their eyes pried open to the real scale of the tragedy, Alexievich said.
“We are now witnessing a new phenomenon that Belarusians, who suffered greatly and thought they knew a lot about the tragedy, have completely changed their perception about Chernobyl and are interpreting this tragedy in a whole new way. The authors accomplished this, even though they are from a completely different world — not from Belarus, not from our region,” she explained.
Alexievich said the film has especially struck a chord with young Belarusians.
“It’s no accident that a lot of young people have watched this film. They say that they watch it together in clubs and discuss it. They are different. For them, questions about the environment, especially in the West, it is through that lens that they understand life.”
Alexievich also praised the selection of Johan Renck as director.
“The director is a Swede by nationality. And in the Swedish consciousness there is a deep awareness of the environment,” she said.
Meanwhile, Alexievich’s book has, in turn, received high praise from Craig Mazin, the writer and producer of Chernobyl, who tweeted on June 13, 2019: “I drew historical fact and scientific information from many sources, but Ms. Alexievich’s “Voices From Chernoby”l was where I always turned to find beauty and sorrow.”
From the vintage Soviet furniture and trash bins to the period clothing, Chernobyl has been praised for staying incredibly accurate to detail, even using real dialogue, much of it recorded in Alexievich’s oral history of the disaster, “Voices From Chernobyl.”
“There is a lot of my text in the reactions of the people. For example, when people stand on the bridge and admire the fire. Those are the first impressions following the accident. The world’s, as well. The director even admitted that all of this was created from the book. I have a contract with them and author’s rights of ownership,” Alexievich explained.
Some have suggested that the character of Ulana Khomyuk, a Belarusian nuclear physicist bent on uncovering the truth behind the disaster, is based on Alexievich, although Chernobyl’s creators have said the figure is inspired by a composite of scientists involved in the disaster. Alexievich isn’t convinced the character is based on her either.
“I don’t think they wrote Khomyuk with me in mind. [Eimuntas] Nekrosis (the late Lithuanian theater director) before his death put on a play based on [my] The Boys In Zinc. I was supposedly the main figure, but she was absolutely not like me.”
Alexievich says having a female protagonist like Khomyuk simply made sense, juxtaposing her against Valery Legasov, who was instrumental in the cleanup after the disaster.
“In the film, there is a need for a leading figure, a woman — maybe because they took from my view of life, this sense of femininity, the world of the woman. For me, this is very important. In all my books there are many women heroes, not only in the work The Unwomanly Face Of War. This relationship with the living. A woman is extremely capable of detecting the connection of things. Therefore, it was probably necessary to have a woman, not only Legasov. If there had been two men, there would be no story. They introduced a woman and with a man and a woman you get two perspectives. It is very interesting.”
Asked about some of the inaccuracies in the series that critics have seized on, Alexievich is dismissive.
“First of all, it is a feature film, and the author is entitled to his interpretation and understanding of things. But they say, ‘This minister was fat, old, and now he’s young.’ Or the opposite. Or the windows weren’t like that. If you want to think like that, then if we look at the famous film Battleship Potemkin by Eisenstein, where the baby carriage flies down the steps, then some sailor named Zhalyaznyak would say that that type of revolution never happened. God forbid if the truth about Chernobyl or the gulag system had been in the hands of such people.”
Alexievich noted even Russian media were full of praise for the series, at least at first.
“In the beginning, Russian media was very positive about the series and then probably there was some yelling in the Kremlin and they suddenly became very patriotic. Then there was news they are launching their own series about Chernobyl, about how ‘our’ agents pursue some American spy at the power plant. My God, when I read all this I thought that 30 years have passed and has really nothing changed in the consciousness?”
Despite those initial doubts, Alexievich is convinced that HBO has created a classic with a strong message that she feels needs to be heard.
“Most importantly, I would like that people watch it and think about the type of world we’ve entered with such dangers. And there are more and more. Artificial intelligence, robots. It’s a whole new world.”
Peter Francisco was born into a wealthy family in June, 1760, on an island in the Azores archipelago of Portugal. When Francisco was just 5 years old, he was abducted by pirates. The future patriot was ripped from his home and carted off to a nearby ship. Approximately six weeks later, a dock worker saw a boat maneuver up the James River in Virginia. There, the pirates dropped off the young Francisco and left as quickly as they’d arrived.
Nobody’s entirely sure why the abductors snatched him up only to later drop him off without seeking payment, but historians have their theories. Some say that Francisco’s father orchestrated the kidnapping in order to spare Peter from the wrath of his family’s political enemies.
Whatever the case, locals took the abandoned Francisco to a nearby orphanage soon after he arrived. There, he was taken in by Judge Anthony Winston. He took the young boy back to his plantation to learn English. Due to his dark, Mediterranean complexion, however, Francisco lived near the slaves and never received a proper education.
Francisco spent many of his early years working on Judge Winston’s plantation, learning how to be a blacksmith. Winston invited Francisco to join him at the Second Virginia Convention in 1775, where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry were all in attendance. After several days of intense debate between loyalists and patriots, Patrick Henry delivered his famous quote,
“Give me liberty or give me death.”
As the teenage Francisco watched through a window, he chose liberty.
Nearly a year and a half later, Francisco finally convinced Winston to allow him to join the Continental Army. At just 16 years old, Francisco was officially a member of the 10th Virginia Regiment and stood six feet, six inches tall and weighed 260 pounds — truly a giant of his era.
Soon after, Francisco fought in several famous battles, including Brandywine and Valley Forge. During the Battle of Stony Point, George Washington recruited 20 elite troops to be first in line to assault the British fort. Francisco was selected as one of those men.
Francisco was tasked with scaling a 300-foot wall and reaching the fort’s flagstaff. Of the 20 who led the charge, 17 were either killed or wounded — a large slash across the abdomen put Francisco among them. Despite his injury, he killed his adversaries and reached his destination. He lay, wounded, at the base of the flag as the British surrendered. From then on, Francisco was known as the “Hercules of the American Revolution.”
During the Battle of Camden, Francisco noticed a 1,100-pound cannon in a field next to some dead horses. According to legend, he managed to lift the canon and take it, saving it from falling to British hands. For this courageous act, the U.S. Postal Service design a stamp in Francisco’s honor.
As Francisco continued to fight the war, he continuously remarked on the tiny size of the swords with which they fought. Eventually, Washington gave Francisco a six-foot broadsword — not unlike the sword famously used by William Wallace in his own battles against the English.
By the time Francisco was done serving, he had been wounded six times, but never stopped fighting. He was later elected by the Senate to work as the sergeant-at-arms.
Later, Francisco died from appendicitis. He was 71-years-old.
Military spouses have played a key role behind the scenes in supporting military members from the beginning of America’s history. So many military spouses’ stories are lost in history as their military service member’s service and sacrifice is often the main focus of historical records. However, we can see from the stories that were preserved that military spouses have made their mark on history just like the men and women who served in uniform.
The role and impact of military spouses continues today, but even the earliest military spouses showed their grit.
Unlike today’s war that continues despite the weather, in the winter, each Army would hunker down in place. Martha Washington would come to the camp at her husband’s request to provide comfort and even helped manage the camp. Martha oversaw social events, nursed sick soldiers, acted as a liaison between her husband and other officials and encouraged troops even though the chance of victory looked bleak. Martha Washington set a precedent for spouses in war through her reliance and strength and willingness to give up so much for their spouses.
Julia Grant was married to Ulysses Grant, who was a General for the Union Army. Although her immediate family supported the Confederacy, she felt her role was to support her husband. And, she showed her loyalty to the Union time and again. She played a key role in the Civil War by providing him a constant flow of support. Because of her ability to manage her family and finances, he could stay focused on the war. Later, she made an impact as the First Lady when her husband became the President of the United States.
If you have seen “We Are Soldiers” you know that Julia Moore was the wife of Lt Gen Hal Moore. When the Battle of Ia Drang went terribly wrong, she took it upon herself to notify her fellow military wives of the news. The Army didn’t have a system in place and would send telegrams via taxi cab drivers. Her efforts and complaints led to the U.S. Army, setting up a survivor support network and created casualty notification teams consisting of uniformed officers that are still in use today. She was also active in setting up the Army Community Service organizations that are now a permanent fixture on Army Posts. Her legacy continues today with an award in her name. The Julia Compton Moore Award recognizes the civilian spouses of soldiers for “Outstanding Contribution to the U.S. Army.”
For Linda Stouffer, Desert Storm began months before as her husband deployed to Saudi Arabia to prepare for the war against Iraq. She was the head of the Family Support Group at the time, and watching the war come to life on television was very hard. The families left behind had little to no contact with their service members overseas, and they had to pick up the pieces of their lives and keep moving. There were countless military spouses who had to stay behind and take care of their families during a time of much uncertainty and change.
Stephanie Brown is the founder of The Rosie Network that is designed to help military spouses jump into entrepreneurship. As a successful small business owner, she saw a need to help military spouses build their business and wanted to create a tool that provided needed resources. She is married to retired Rear Adm. Thomas L. Brown II (SEAL). Brown is still active in the military community and was recognized for her dedication with the Department of the Army Commander’s Award for Civilian Service.
Bonnie Carroll took her personal tragedy of her husband, Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll dying in a plane crash with seven other soldiers in 1992 and turned it into hope, resilience and encouragement for countless survivors. At the time of her husband’s death, there was no national support network for the families of America’s fallen heroes. In 1994, Bonnie launched the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) to give support to the families of the fallen. Since its launch, TAPS has cared for the more than 100,000 surviving family members. In 2015, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. She has also been featured in a number of publications and recognized for her work through various awards and programs.
Military spouses are no longer expected to accompany their partners onto the battlefield, but they are still asked to make massive sacrifices for their country. And for many, their contributions continue after their spouse has left the military behind. It has been proven throughout history that the men and women who stand beside their service members are making an impact on the future of both the military and America.
Featured Image: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
There’s a long history of military slang, probably dating all the way back to when the first people hit each other with sticks and rocks. While military slang can be fun, it’s even more fun when it seeps into the common vernacular of everyday people. The only problem is when a word or phrase is too good, its origin gets lost in time, and people forget where it came from – but no longer.
Here are just a few words and phrases that came from military tradition.
1. “Best man”
In the days of yore, it was quite possible that a betrothed man might lose his wife even before their wedding to any number of possible hazards – rival bands, enemy leaders, or even random highwaymen. So while he was in the middle of the ceremony, he would enlist his best swordsman to cover his back while his attention was focused elsewhere or hold off an attacking party while the new couple made their getaway.
These days, to be way out in the boonies means you’re out in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the sticks. When the term was coined, it meant that too, only the actual boondocks are in the Philippines. In Tagalog, “bundok” literally translates to “mountains” so when Filipino fighters told American troops they were headed to the bundoks during the 1898 Spanish-American War and the subsequent Philippine-American War, it meant they were headed to the islands’ inner wilderness.
Sorry, but the term “cowboy” used to define the ranchers and vaqueros of the Old West was never actually used for those guys at the time. They were usually just called cow herders or cowhands. The term “cowboy” goes well past the 19th Century. The original cowboys were American colonists loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution. They would band together in guerrilla units and lure other units of rebel farmers into ambushes using cowbells to coax them in. After the war, it was used to describe criminals from Texas who made raids into Mexico.
4. “Face the music”
In the European military tradition (from which the U.S. tradition is derived), any disgraced officer who was summarily kicked out of his unit was done so in the most demeaning manner possible. As the regiment’s drummer played on, the officer would have his sword broken, his buttons removed, and his charges read to the entire room. The officer was them marched across the parade ground to the tune of the “Rogue’s March” toward the regimental band.
5. “Last ditch effort”
In the kind of fighting that took place in the 16th and 17 Century, troops didn’t just maneuver around the battlefields in the open, in tight formations, wearing bright colors. I mean, they did that, but they also constructed a series of earthwork redoubts and other protective places to hold. Among these was a series of trenches they could fall back to if the stuff started hitting the fan – and they would dig many in case things went really wrong. But everyone knew by the time you got to your last one, you had to do something amazing, or everyone was likely to die in that last ditch.
6. “The whole nine yards”
This term appeared in the 1950s, after the end of World War II – and it has nothing to do with football or anything else where yardage is a factor. It refers to the length of the ammunition belts designed for American and British fighter planes during the war, 27 feet (or nine yards). When flying a particularly tough mission or otherwise using a lot of ammo, a pilot might have been said to use “the whole nine yards.”
The Army is mulling over where they can set up the Army Future Command. One of the locations that’s been on the tips of everyone’s tongues is none other than the Motor City — until recently. There are countless benefits that the city of Detroit stands to gain, but the Army would benefit far more if they gave them a second look.
So, why turn down Detroit? The primary reason that Detroit was removed from contention is because of the “livability scale.” As a Michigan native, I can assure you those claims are blown out of proportion. Yes, there are bad neighborhoods in Detroit, but the area most suited for the Future Command would be the really-nice suburb of Warren.
(U.S. Army TARDEC Photo)
There’s historical precedent here. This suburb was once home to the Detroit Arsenal, where the Army manufactured its tanks until 1996. It’s still currently home to the Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command. The Army chose to this location for two separate installations throughout history for the same reason they’re now eyeing the outskirts of Washington D.C.: it has an infrastructure capable of handling many people.
When many cities around the United States were created, the infrastructure had to evolve around them. Most cities east of the Mississippi River struggled to restructure themselves around a new need to support everyone’s cars — except Detroit. In recent years, the infrastructure has taken hits — there’s no denying that — but the city has been recovering far faster than anyone cares to admit.
(Photo by Sean Marshall)
Choosing Detroit as the center for the Futures Command also affords it many opportunities to work hand-in-hand with TACOM. The tanks and vehicles that are going to be used in combat are literally just down the street. Logistically, this means you can get a good gauge of where the Army is at with a quick meeting at your local Tim Hortons.
Another factor that disqualified Detroit (an excuse first employed by Amazon and seemingly copied by the Army) is the educational credentials of the potential workforce. To counter this, I show you the nearby city — one of Forbes’ Most Livable Cities — Ann Arbor. It’s home of also one of Forbes’ best Public Colleges, the University of Michigan. The workforce is available and highly educated, with 75.2 percent of the population holding a degree and a whopping 10.3 percent with doctorates.
Detroit and the surrounding regions are making a strong comeback. The goal of Future Command is to detail how the Army will advance it’s technology into the coming decades. There really is no better place to look towards than the city that is leading the way.
When Eugene Stoner first introduced his aluminum and plastic Armalite rifle that would later become the basis for the M16 and M4, he scarcely could have imagined his little black rifle would still be in the hands of infantrymen more than 50 years later. Yet, after dozens of conflicts, Stoner’s lightweight automatic rifle persists — though it’s been modernized along the way.
The M16 evolved into the M16A1 all the way through M16A4 before being retired to non-frontline units. But along the way a shorter, handier carbine version was introduced. The earliest version of the M4 that featured most of the telltale aspects of the design was the CAR-15 SMG. Despite being labeled a submachine gun, the CAR-15 SMG still used the 5.56mm cartridge.
The SMG featured an overly-complex (yet functional) collapsible stock, shortened barrel and fixed carry handle. The biggest difference between early versions of the M16 and modern variations is modularity. Older models needed either modification, or special components to attach accessories like tac lights, lasers or optics. Yet underneath the anodized aluminum shell of every M4, lies the original M16.
Why does this matter? Because it shows that the M4 (in one form or another) is here to stay. It may evolve and grow, but the rifle itself will likely only leave U.S. service when something truly revolutionary emerges. Not a different rifle, nor a different caliber, but a different method of launching projectiles than smokeless powder altogether.
Imagine the cost and logistical nightmare of replacing all M4 rifles in service with all branches of the military. The price would be staggering. And that’s largely why the Army balked at replacing the M4 several years ago — too expensive, and not enough of a “leap” in technology to justify the cost.
The only way Congress would green light a true replacement weapon system is if something arrived that instantly made all modern firearms obsolete.
What would that weapon be? It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what that might look like, but it’s reasonably simple to determine what it wouldn’t do – launch solid projectiles.
First on the chopping block – solid or liquid-fueled rockets. Sounds obvious, but inventor Robert Mainhardt successfully built a series guns that fired small rockets known as microjets back in the late 1950s. While the rifles (really launchers) had many issues, the core problem that could never be solved is the lack of velocity close to the muzzle.
Whereas gunpowder-propelled bullets are at their peak velocity at the muzzle of the barrel, rockets accelerate much more slowly. So at close range the rounds would be ineffective. Add to this the complex nature of the round’s construction and the limited magazine capacity due to projectile size, and any weapon utilizing these rounds is objectively inferior to the M4.
What about magnets? The concept of a railgun isn’t new and has been around since the World War I, and the German air force even designed anti-aircraft batteries of railguns in WWII – but these never even reached prototype status. The biggest issue has been power supply, the large magnets required to launch projectiles at hypersonic speeds consume insane amounts of energy.
One of two electromagnetic railgun prototypes on display aboard joint high speed vessel USS Millinocket (JHSV 3) in port at Naval Base San Diego. The railguns are being displayed in San Diego as part of the Electromagnetic Launch Symposium, which brought together representatives from the U.S. and allied navies, industry and academia to discuss directed energy technologies. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Kirsop/Released)
Modern physicists and engineers have successfully developed methods of magnetic propulsion that don’t require as much power, and have made railguns feasible. So feasible that railguns are currently being developed by the US Navy with one slated to deploy on a vessel this year.
For the uninitiated, the advantage of these guns over traditional cannons or guided missiles has to do with the incredible velocities of the projectiles themselves. When the Army worked alongside the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Electromagnetics, they found that railguns could fire a 4-pound tungsten rod at nearly two miles per second, or 6,840 mph. At this velocity, the round not only defeats the armor of a main battle tank like the M1 Abrams, it passes clean through both sides.
Sounds great, but currently the technology isn’t capable of being scaled down for use by individual soldiers. Also, the amount of power required still isn’t man-portable with current battery technology. Though even if it were, railguns are currently single-shot weapons, making them inferior to the M4 in close combat or urban fighting.
So what is the likely replacement for the M4? As crazy as it sounds, a directed energy weapon. Think more Star Trek than Star Wars – weaponized lasers would offer an enormous advantages over solid projectile firearms and cannons.
One of the largest benefits of a laser weapon would be velocity. With your beam traveling at the speed of sound and being relatively unaffected by gravity. So hitting a distant target wouldn’t require adjusting for wind or drop. But that’s impossible, right?
The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)
Actually, the United States and Israel have been developing and deploying a Tactical High Energy Laser for more than a decade. Israel’s IDF even used the THEL to shoot down 28 incoming Katyusha rockets in 2000. Like the railgun, the THEL is currently far too massive and consumes too much power to be man-portable. But, the same thing was said about computers only a few decades ago. Who knows, maybe the M5A2 laser carbine is only a decade away.
Until then, the US military is stuck with upgrading, tweaking and tuning the M4 carbine. It might not be bleeding edge tech, but the old warhorse still accurately slings lead further than most soldiers can see, and it doesn’t weigh a ton.
Since at least 2015, the Air Force has been talking about mounting lasers on planes and jets, such as AC-130s and F-15s and F-16s. Lockheed Martin was recently awarded a $26.3 million contract to develop lasers for fighter jets.
It’s unclear what capabilities a sixth-generation fighter would have, but some have speculated it could have longer range, larger payloads, and an ability to switch between a manned and an unmanned aircraft. It might also be able to travel at hypersonic speeds, carry hypersonic weapons, and more.
Defense News reports that the Air Force hasn’t selected a developer for the F-X, also known as Next-Generation Air Dominance or Penetrating Counter Air, but hopes to put it into service around 2030.
The AFRL says it will “listen and learn from the scientific community, higher education and business professionals through a series of conversations and outreach events” at universities across the US this spring and summer.
“In order to defend America, we need your help to innovate smarter and faster,” the AFRL’s website says. “Our warfighters depend on us to keep the fight unfair and we will deliver.”
In addition to the F-X, the AFRL video features the Air Force’s Loyal Wingman initiative, in which a manned fighter jet commands and controls a swarm of attack and surveillance drones.
It also showcases the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Gremlins program and the Air Force’s Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, known as Champ, a conceptual missile designed to cause electronic blackouts.
Longtime readers of WATM know that the U.S. Navy had flying carriers in the 1930s that eventually failed as zeppelins began crashing and fighters increased in size and weight. But the Air Force wanted their own aircraft carriers in the 1970s, and they thought the new Boeing 747s were just the ticket.
The Air Force’s Crazy 747 Aircraft Carrier Concept
So the Air Force figured, “What if we made jet fighters small enough to fit in the fuselage?”
The Air Force had already experimented with different methods of pairing bombers and fighters through the late 1940s to 1960s. But the only flying carrier was tested on the B-36 Convair. The Gremlin fighters that could fit in the bomber were too tiny and susceptible to turbulence, and pilots couldn’t make the linkups work.
A mock-up of how planes could fit inside the 747 on a conveyor belt along the plane’s spine.
So when the Air Force asked Boeing to take a look at an airborne-carrier variant of the 747, Boeing imagined its own tiny “microfighters.” Ten of these could be teamed with a single 747 equipped with a conveyor belt that could hold them in the plane and shift them to the open bays for launching.
The concept even called for a crew that could re-arm microfighters while the carrier was in flight. And the fighters could be refueled without fully re-entering the plane.
But the Air Force never pursued the idea beyond the 60-page proposal from Boeing, which might be best since a lot of important questions were left unanswered. Could the 747s really carry enough fuel to keep themselves and the microfighters going in a battle? Would the microfighters struggle with the same turbulence problems as the B-36s Gremlins?
What would be the combat radius for a microfighter after leaving its 747? Would it be large enough for the 747 to stay out of range of air defenses while remaining on station to pick up the fighters after the mission?
Boeing experimented with different microfighter designs, but none of them ever went into a prototype phase.
Most importantly, Boeing believed that microfighters could go toe-to-toe with many full-sized fighters at the time, but was there any real chance that Boeing could keep iterating new microfighters that could out-fly and fight full-sized fighters from Russia as the years ticked by?
It seems like it would’ve been a big lift for the aircraft designers and military planners to make the whole program militarily useful.
A new concept that uses drones instead of piloted fighters has popped up multiple times in recent years, and it features a number of key improvements over the 1970s 747 concept. Most importantly, drones don’t have pilots that need to be recovered. So if they face a range shortfall, have to fight Russian fighters on disadvantaged terms, or need to be left behind to save the carrier crew, it’s no big deal.
On Sept. 5, 1986, New York-bound Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked by armed terrorists at Karachi airport in Pakistan in what would become one of the bloodiest hijackings of the 80s.
During the 17-hour ordeal, Neerja Bhanot would help the cockpit crew escape and ground the plane, hide the passports of passengers to protect their identities and nationalities, and open the emergency door to help others escape.
Bhanot would give her life saving and protecting the passengers on board that day. She was just shy of 23 years old.
Just after 0600, four gunmen sped onto the tarmac in an airport security van and entered the plane, firing their weapons. Flight attendant Sherene Pavan hailed the cockpit crew and pressed the hijack code as the hijackers grabbed Bhanot and held a gun to her head, demanding to be taken to the captain.
Upon arrival in the cockpit, they saw that the crew received the warning and evacuated by means of a safety hatch in the cockpit.
Inside the plane, 29 year-old American Rajesh Kumar was pulled out of his seat, shot, and kicked out of the plane.
The hijackers wanted a pilot to fly the plane to where other members of their militant group were imprisoned. As negotiators communicated with them from outside the aircraft, the terrorists began looking for more Americans on board.
This is when Bhanot and the other flight attendants began hiding the passports of the travelers to protect their identities. As the hours dragged on, the power of the aircraft began to dwindle. When the lights finally went out, the terrorists began to fire into the aircraft, killing the on-board mechanic Meherjee Kharas.
Bhanot and other members of the crew took the opportunity to open at least three doors and help passengers escape.
Bhanot was shot helping the hostages out of the plane and was evacuated by her colleagues, but she died at Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital.
22 people were killed in the attack, including two Americans, and another 150 were injured. The combined efforts of the 16 flight attendants likely saved hundreds of lives that day, and for two more days after the attack, the crew continued to care for minor passengers until they could be reunited with their families.
As President Donald Trump has cryptically hinted at looming action on Syria, a new report says he may have nailed down eight potential locations to strike.
Citing an unnamed source, CNBC reported on April 12, 2018, that the US had selected eight possible targets in Syria, including two airfields, a research facility, and a chemical weapons facility.
Such a strike would amount to punitive action against Syria for what the US and its allies consider a blatant use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. But it would still carry the risk of sparking a war with Russia.
Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider that though Syria’s chemical weapons facilities lay under the umbrella of Russia’s air defenses, they were not actually close enough that a strike on the facilities would endanger Russian troops.
Russia has threatened to use its air defenses against US missile strikes, and Russian officials have threatened to counterattack if US missiles fly over Syria, potentially by attacking US Navy ships or submarines.
Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, told Business Insider that Russia had flown aircraft specializing in anti-submarine warfare to Syria. Russia has also moved its warships out of a naval base in Syria out of concern for their safety after Trump threatened strikes.
Russia operates out of airfields in Syria, but it’s unclear whether the US would target those. Syria has moved most of its jets to bases with Russian protection for fear of a strike, the CNBC report said.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, indicated on April 11, 2018, that the US wasn’t afraid to target Russian assets in a strike on Syria. But a Russian newspaper reported that the US had been coordinating with Russia to avoid hitting its troops and would provide a list of targets before a strike to avoid escalating conflict between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, urged the US on April 12, 2018, to avoid military action, saying the “immediate priority is to avert the danger of war.”
Asked whether he was referring to a war between the US and Russia, Nebenzia said: “We cannot exclude any possibilities, unfortunately, because we saw messages that are coming from Washington — they were very bellicose. They know we are there. I wish there was dialect through the proper channels on this to avert any dangerous developments.”
He added: “The danger of escalation is higher than simply Syria because our military are there … So the situation is very dangerous.”
Trump is trying to punish Syria, not start World War 3
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Several experts have told Business Insider that despite Russia’s tough talk, Russian President Vladimir Putin does not want a war with the US.
“Putin is not interested in a shooting war with the West,” Gorenburg said.
Gorenburg said that because a war could escalate into a nuclear conflict between the US and Russia, and because “the Russian conventional forces just aren’t as strong as the US forces,” such a fight “would not be a good outcome for Russia.
So far, Trump has played coy about the timing of a strike on Syria.
“We’re looking very, very seriously, very closely at that whole situation, and we’ll see what happens, folks,” he said April 12, 2018, adding that a strike could happen “fairly soon.”Meanwhile, France and the UK have been openly considering participating in a strike and sending forces to the region.
The US, with or without allies, has enough military presence across the Middle East to crush Russian forces in Syria — but a direct attack on Russian forces carries a risk of escalating a conflict into nuclear war.