Russia’s increasing aggression in Europe has made some countries nervous. This is particularly true for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — former Soviet republics that have since joined NATO. To make matters worse, these countries don’t have much in the way of military power.
That said, NATO is doing what they can to reassure these countries. To do that, they’re putting on an exercise known as Saber Strike. This exercise brings together 19 countries, including Baltic nations and Poland, to “build readiness” in the area — sending a clear message to a particular Eastern neighbor.
This year’s exercise features the 2nd Cavalry Regiment moving from its base in Germany to Poland, simulating the type of deployment the unit would make in a real crisis.
In a fight with Russia, A-10 Thunderbolts would likely use AGM-65 Mavericks as a primary weapon against air-defense systems.
(DOD photo by Jim Haseltine)
One of the units taking part in this exercise is the 127th Operations Group, the parent unit of the 107th Fighter Squadron of the Michigan Air National Guard. This unit has flown the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a plane designed for close-air support missions, since 2008. This is the plane that would back up NATO forces sent to defend the Baltic states if anything were to go down.
The United States currently has 13 squadrons that operate the A-10. This plane, famous for the BRRRRRT emitted by its GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun, has a top speed of 450 knots and a maximum range of 2,240 nautical miles. In addition to its massive gun, the A-10 can carry up to eight tons of bombs, missiles, and rockets.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II was designed to help NATO defeat the hordes of Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks threatening Western Europe.
The Air Force is currently running the OA-X program to try to (partially) replace the A-10 — right now, the AT-29 Super Tucano and the AT-6 Wolverine, a pair of light attack planes, are looking like favorites. Unfortunately, as it stands now, those planes aren’t nearly as capable as the A-10.
Watch the video below to see the A-10s with the Michigan Air National Guard take part in Saber Strike ’18!
From St. Nicolas Island, Calif., the United States fired its latest gift for Vladimir Putin’s Russian Army – a new medium-range missile that would have been banned under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987. The accord, also known as the INF Treaty, bans nuclear-capable weapons with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
The United States left that treaty earlier in August 2019, after blaming Russia for violating the agreement first. The Russians aren’t happy about it at all.
Russia’s 9M729 missile, the one that broke the 1987 INF Treaty.
The Aug. 18, 2019 missile test saw the projectile deliberately fly beyond the 500-kilometer range that would have seen it banned by the INF Treaty. Newly-minted Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wants missiles like this new one deployed throughout the Asia-Pacific region, but that effort was hampered under the old agreement. Now the U.S. is free to pursue the relevant technology.
“Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” the Defense Department said.
Meanwhile, the Russians were openly upset about the Americans pulling out of the treaty and then having a new weapon within the same month.
“All this elicits regret, the United States has obviously taken the course of escalating military tensions. We will not succumb to provocations,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. “We won’t allow ourselves to be pulled into a costly arms race.”
Bold words from a government who has, according to the United States government, already violated the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty on several occasions, most notably after it developed and deployed a prohibited missile, known by its apparent Russian designation Novator 9M729, a land-based cruise missile with a range of more than 500 kilometers.
“Russia has violated the agreement; they have been violating it for many years,” Trump said after a Oct. 20 campaign rally in Elko, Nevada. “And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to.” But it’s not just the President who is denouncing the Russian military. The State Department came to the same conclusion.
“The United States has determined that in 2016, the Russian Federation (Russia) continued to be in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” according to the State Department’s April 2017 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments report.
The new U.S. missile isn’t nuclear-equipped (at least, not for this particular test) and resembles the more common Tomahawk missile in looks and the once-banned intermediate-range Tomahawk missile last seen in 1987. But the Russians weren’t the only ones upset about the looming new Cold War.
“This measure from the U.S. will trigger a new round of an arms race, leading to an escalation of military confrontation, which will have a serious negative impact on the international and regional security situation,” Chinese Foreign Minister Geng Shuang said, adding that the U.S. should ditch its Cold War mentality.
Most people are familiar with the basics: Slap together enough uranium or plutonium and — kaboom! — you have a nuclear blast. But the details of how these complex devices are made, delivered, and controlled can make the difference between keeping the peace and sparking a cataclysm.
It doesn’t help that there’s more than 60 years’ worth of convoluted terminology surrounding the complex policies and politics of nuclear weapons. There are words like isotopes, tritium, and yellowcake; abbreviations such as HEU, LEU, SSBN, and CVID; and the subtle yet striking difference between uranium-235 and uranium-238.
As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo resumes talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, we’ve defined some of the most important (and misunderstood) words, phrases, and acronyms here.
That effort could take years to pan out, and it’s guaranteed to get very, very complicated.
A mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device.
(U.S. Department of Defense photo)
1. Nuclear weapon
A conventional explosive device rapidly burns up a chemical to cause a blast. A nuclear weapon, meanwhile — such as a bomb or warhead — splits atoms to release thousands of times more energy.
Yet the term “nuclear weapon” can also refer to a vehicle that’s able to deliver a nuclear attack, such as missiles, fighter jets, stealth bombers, and truck-like mobile launchers. (If flying dinosaurs were alive today and trained to drop nuclear bombs, the creatures may be considered nuclear weapons.)
During weapons inspections like the ones between the US and Russia, nuclear warheads are actually concealed with a piece of cloth; it’s the vehicles, missiles, and launch or bombing bays that are the focus. Without them, a warhead can’t get anywhere quickly.
A Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, launching from North Korea.
Technically speaking, an ICBM is any missile capable of delivering a warhead from more than 3,415 miles away. The missile silos in the US in which they’re stored are sprinkled around the country, with most stationed in middle America.
Fallout describes the dangerous leftovers of a nuclear weapon: a cloud of dust, dirt, sand, pebbles, and bits of debris that an explosion has irradiated.
Bombs or warheads detonated near the ground vastly increase the amount of fallout by sucking up soil and debris, irradiating it, and spreading it for dozens if not hundreds of miles. Very fine particles can circle the globe and be detected by special airplanes.
Part of CNO cycle diagram, made just to be illustrative for nuclear reactions in general.
Each element on the Periodic Table has a unique chemical identity but can have different weights, or isotopes.
For example, hydrogen is the smallest atom and is usually made of just one positively-charged proton in its nucleus, or core. Its shorthand name, H-1, specifies its atomic weight. If a chargeless neutron gets added, you get the isotope deuterium, or H-2. Add two neutrons and you have the isotope tritium, or H-3.
All three forms of hydrogen have nearly identical chemistry and can, say, bond with oxygen to form water. But their nuclear properties differ significantly: deuterium and tritium can fuel thermonuclear explosions because their extra neutrons can encourage helium atoms (which have two protons) to fuse together far more easily than H-1 alone.
5. Uranium — including U-238, U-235, and U-233
Uranium is a dense element and a key ingredient in nuclear weapons production. It occurs naturally in ores and minerals and has a few important isotopes.
U-238 makes up about 99.27% of natural uranium and is inert. Less than 1% of the uranium in ore is U-235 — the “active ingredient” that can be used for nuclear reactor fuel or bombs.
U-235 is special because it becomes very unstable when it catches a flying neutron. This capture causes it to split (known as fission), release a huge amount of energy, and shoot out more neutrons. Those neutrons can then split other atoms of U-235 in a chain reaction.
Although plutonium (which we’ll describe in a moment) is now the favored bomb-making material, U-235 was used in the Little Boy bomb that the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
U-233 is another isotope that’s weapons-ready, but it’s only made inside special reactors that no longer exist (for now).
6. Plutonium, including Pu-238, Pu-239, and Pu-240
Plutonium is a metallic element that doesn’t occur in nature, and it most often refers to the isotope Pu-239: the go-to material for modern nuclear weapons.
Only nuclear reactors can make Pu-239. They do so by irradiating U-238 with neutrons. The plutonium can then be separated from the uranium, concentrated, and formed into weapons pits — the cores of nuclear weapons.
Pu-239 can more easily trigger a nuclear explosion than uranium, and with less material; as little as about 10 lbs can be enough.
Plutonium-240 is an unwanted and pretty radioactive byproduct of making Pu-239. It can make bombs prematurely explode and fizzle because it’s fairly radioactive. Pu-238 is a byproduct of Cold War weapons production that generates a lot of warmth and powers NASA’s most adventurous robots in the cold, dark depths of space.
7. Yellowcake uranium
Yellowcake is a powder of uranium oxide that’s made by leaching uranium from natural ores and chemically treating it. Despite its name, it’s most often brown or black in color.
The powder is a concentrated form of natural uranium — about 99.72% U-238 and 0.72% U-235. It’s an important commodity because it can be stockpiled and later processed to extract and enrich U-235.
The U-235 and U-238 isotopes are chemically identical and nearly the same weight — so they’re very hard to separate. However, one of the easiest ways to separate uranium is a centrifuge.
The process starts with converting yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride (UF 6), then heating the compound into a gas. The gas then enters a centrifuge: a tall, hollow tube that spins faster than the speed of sound. The rotation pulls heavier U-238 toward the centrifuge’s outer wall while leaving more U-235 near the middle.
Cascades of centrifuges — one linked to another in long chains — further separate and concentrate each isotope. U-235-rich gas moves through an “upstream” line of centrifuges, growing until a desired level of concentration is reached. Meanwhile, U-238 moves “downstream” until it’s mostly depleted of U-235.
9. Highly enriched uranium (HEU) and low-enriched uranium (LEU)
Highly enriched uranium is any amount of uranium with 20% or more U-235 — the kind that can spur a nuclear detonation.
HEU with a concentration of 85% or more U-235 is considered “weapons-grade,” since that is enough to cause a large and efficient nuclear explosion. But it’s rarely used anymore: It most often goes into special reactors that power naval ships and submarines, can make plutonium, or create medically important isotopes (such as molybdenum-99, which can help diagnose certain heart diseases and cancers).
10. Lithium deuteride (sometimes called lithium hydride)
Lithium deuteride is a whitish salt made of one lithium atom and one deuterium atom (hydrogen-2).
It’s a key ingredient in thermonuclear weapons, also called hydrogen bombs — the most powerful type of nuclear arms. (Russia’s Tzar Bomba thermonuclear weapon, detonated in 1961, was about 3,300 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb in 1945.)
A thermonuclear weapon is actually two bombs in one. Energy from the first explosion is absorbed by and “ignites” the lithium deuteride, leading to fusion — where two atoms combine — and creating a plasma many times hotter than the sun.
The process also creates a lot of neutrons. These bullet-like particles can then ram into and split a lot of nearby U-238 in the bomb, vastly multiplying the weapon’s destructive energy.
A UGM-96 Trident I clears the water after launch from a US Navy submarine in 1984
11. Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
An SLBM is a nuclear-tipped rocket that shoots out of launch tubes in an underwater attack submarine.
Unlike most land-based missiles, SLBMs are mobile and very difficult to track. Some models can fly nearly 7,500 miles, which is about 30% of Earth’s circumference. That’s plenty of range to strike any inland target from a coast.
12. Ballistic-missile submarines (SSBN or SSB)
Attack submarines that can launch ballistic missiles are known as SSBs or SSBNs. The “SS” stands for “submersible ship,” the “B” for ballistic” (as in ballistic missile), and the “N,” if present, means “nuclear” (as in powered by a nuclear reactor).
These vessels can stay underwater for 90 days and carry more than a dozen nuclear-warhead-tipped SLBMs — each of which can strike targets thousands of miles inland.
13. Complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)
CVID is the strategy that was pursued in disarming Libya of its nuclear weapons. The Trump administration pursued it in initial talks with Kim Jong Un and North Korea.
The approach allows inspectors into a country to count weapons, witness their destruction, disable nuclear reactors, prevent the development of missiles, and perform other watchdog work.
Weapons experts think North Korea will reject CVID, mostly because it’d bar the use of nuclear reactors to produce energy and rule out the development of rockets, which can launch satellites and people into space.
Experts also point out that the strategy has a nasty historical precedent: Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi followed through on a US-led CVID program but ultimately ended up dead in the streets.
Deterrence is the idea that if countries have nuclear weapons, the threat of an overwhelming retaliation in response to an attack will keep the peace.
In 1995, a few years after the Cold War ended, Reagan-era government officials wrote:
“Deterrence must create fear in the mind of the adversary — fear that he will not achieve his objectives, fear that his losses and pain will far outweigh any potential gains, fear that he will be punished. It should ultimately create the fear of extinction — extinction of either the adversary’s leaders themselves or their national independence, or both. Yet, there must always appear to be a ‘door to salvation’ open to them should they reverse course.”
Some nuclear weapons experts worry that deterrence will only keep the peace for so long. They also think belief in deterrence encourages the development and spread of nuclear weapons— so if and when nuclear conflict does break out, the catastrophe will be much worse.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Real grenades are puffs of smoke with a bit of high-moving metal. Why not give troops mobile fireballs that instill fear and awe in the hearts of all that see them? Why not arm our troops with something akin to Super Mario’s fire flower?
First, we should take a look at what, exactly is going on with a real grenade versus a movie grenade.
The grenades you’re probably thinking of when you hear the term “grenade” are likely fragmentation grenades, consisting of strong explosives wrapped up in a metal casing. When the explosives go off, either the case or a special wrapping is torn into lots of small bits of metal or ceramic. Those bits fly outwards at high speed, and the people they hit die.
The U.S. military uses the M67 Fragmentation Hand Grenade. 6.5 ounces of high explosive destroys a 2.5-inch diameter steel casing and sends the bits of steel out up to 230 meters. Deaths are commonly caused up to 5 meters away from the grenade.
U.S. Army soldiers throw live grenades during training in Alaska.
That’s because grenades are made to maximize the efficiency of their components. See, explosive power is determined by a number of factors. Time, pressure, and temperature all play a role. Maximum boom comes from maximizing the temperature and pressure increase in as little time as possible.
That’s actually a big part of why M67s have a steel casing. The user pulls the pin and throws the grenade, starting the chemical timer. When the explosion initiates, it’s contained for a fraction of a second inside that steel casing. The strength of the steel allows more of the explosive to burn — and for the temperature and pressure to rise further — before it bursts through the steel.
As the pressure breaks out, it picks up all the little bits of steel from the casing that was containing it, and it carries those pieces into the flesh and bones of its enemies.
Movie grenades, meanwhile, are either created digitally from scratch, cobbled together digitally from a few different fires and explosions, or created in the physical world with pyrotechnics. If engineers wanted to create movie-like grenades, they would need to do it the third way, obviously, with real materials.
The explosion is easy enough. The 6.5 ounces in a typical M67 would work just fine. Enough for a little boom, not so much that it would kill the thrower.
But to get that movie-like fire, you need a new material. To get fire, you need unburnt explosives or fuel to be carried on the pressure wave, mixing with the air, picking up the heat from the initial explosion, and then burning in flight.
And that’s where the problems lie for weapon designers. If they wanted to give infantrymen the chance to spit fire like a dragon, they would need to wrap something like the M67 in a new fuel that would burn after the initial explosion.
Makers of movie magic use liquid fuels, like gasoline, diesel, or oil, to get their effects (depending on what colors and amount of smoke they want). Alcohols, flammable gels, etc. all work great as well, but it takes quite a bit of fuel to get a relatively small fireball. The M1 flamethrower used half a gallon of fuel per second.
But liquid fuels are unwieldy, and even a quart of gasoline per grenade would add some serious weight to a soldier’s load.
So, yeah, there’s little chance of getting that sweet movie fireball onto a MOLLE vest. But there is another way. Instead of using liquids, you could use solid fuels, especially reactive metals and similar elements, such as aluminum, magnesium, or sodium.
The military went with phosphorous for incendiary weapons. It burns extremely hot and can melt its way through most metals. Still, the AN-M14 TH3 Incendiary Hand Grenade doesn’t exactly create a fireball and doesn’t even have a blast. Along with thermite, thermate, and similar munitions, it burns relatively slowly.
But if you combine the two grenades, the blast power of something like the M67 and the burning metals of something like the AN-M14 TH3, and you can create actual fireballs. That’s how thermobaric weapons work.
U.S. Marines train with the SMAW, a weapon that can fire thermobaric warheads.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brian J. Slaght)
In thermobaric weapons, an initial blast distributes a cloud of small pieces of highly reactive metal or fuel. Then, a moment later, a secondary charge ignites the cloud. The fire races out from the center, consuming the oxygen from the air and the fuel mixed in with it, creating a huge fireball.
If the weapon was sent into a cave, a building, or some other enclosed space, this turns the secondary fire into a large explosion of its own. In other words, shoot these things into a room on the first floor of a building, and that room itself becomes a bomb, leveling the larger building.
But throwing one of these things would be risky. Remember, creating the big fireball can turn an entire enclosed space into a massive bomb. And if you throw one in the open, you run the risk of the still-burning fuel landing on your skin. If that’s something like phosphorous, magnesium, or aluminum, that metal has to be carved out of your flesh with a knife. It doesn’t stop burning.
So, troops should leave the flashy grenades to the movies. It’s better to get the quick, lethal pop of a fragmentation grenade than to carry the additional weight for a liquid-fueled fireball or a world-ending thermobaric weapon. Movie grenades aren’t impossible, but they aren’t worth the trouble.
“We’re fortunate to be chosen,” said Cmdr. Leslie “Meat” Mintz, executive officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 213 (VFA-213). Mintz, a career weapons system officer on the Super Hornet, spoke to Military.com on Jan. 31, 2019, ahead of the flyover.
The tribute, announced by the Navy, will take place as Mariner receives a full military graveside service at New Loyston Cemetery in Maynardville, Tennessee.
The pilots have performed other flyovers, Mintz said. But “it’s certainly the first time I’ve done this for a female aviator. Everyone is truly humbled to be a part of it.”
Mariner was one of the first eight women selected to fly military aircraft in 1973, according to her obituary. A year later, she became the Navy’s first female jet pilot, flying the A-4E/L Skyhawk and the A-7E Corsair II. She died Jan. 24, 2019, after a years-long battle with cancer, the service said.
Rosemary Mariner is shown in the 1990s when she was commanding officer of a squadron on the West Coast.
(U.S. Navy photo)
She was also the first female military aviator to command an operational air squadron, and during Operation Desert Storm, commanded Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 34 (VAQ-34), the Navy said.
Among other achievements, she executed 17 arrested carrier landings in her career, and, as an advocate for the pilot community, helped pave the way for those who came after. Mariner retired in 1997.
“She shaped generations of people with that confidence in them and helping them find their path,” said Katherine Sharp Landdeck.
Landdeck, an expert on the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II (WASPs) and a professor at Texas Woman’s University, told NBC News on Thursday she saw her friend Mariner as a brave “and badass” pilot.
Lt. Emily Rixey, left, Lt. Amanda Lee, middle, and Lt. Kelly Harris, right, talk to each other in a hangar bay on Naval Station Oceana.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Maddocks)
“Landing on carriers? That’s pretty badass. You’re not just landing a jet. You’re landing a jet on a runway that’s rising up and down in the seas, and I think, as a woman doing it, you’ve got everybody on deck watching. Very cool under pressure,” Landdeck said in the NBC News interview.
Mintz will be flying alongside Cmdr. Stacy Uttecht, commander of Strike Fighter Squadron 32 (VFA-32); Lt. Cmdr. Paige Blok, VFA-32; Lt. Cmdr. Danielle Thiriot, VFA-106; Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Hesling, NAS Oceana; Lt. Christy Talisse, VFA-211; Lt. Amanda Lee, VFA-81; Lt. Kelly Harris, VFA-213; and Lt. Emily Rixey, Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic.
On Feb. 2, 2019, like any mission, the women will brief the plan before four F/A-18F Super Hornets and a single F/A-18 E-model launch from Oceana, roughly 400 miles from Mariner’s burial site. One of the jets will act as a backup in case something in the flight plan gets reshuffled, Mintz said.
Female Aviators, Flight Officers, and aircraft maintainers pose for a group photograph.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Maddocks)
The jets will hold until the signal is given for the missing formation “so that the timing is perfect,” she said.
Uttecht will lead the formation. Mintz will be backseat in a jet on the flank as Thiriot pulls up thousands of feet into the sky.
The crew appreciates “the outpouring support, the text messages, the Facebook messages, for what we’re doing,” Mintz said.
“It’s truly an honor to do this … for Capt. Mariner. I’ve been in this business for 19 years. I really haven’t thought about male vs. female gender issues because it’s strictly merit-based. ‘Can you fly? Can you perform?’ [but] really I owe that to her,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The first American to visit Afghanistan decided he was going to take the wild land by force. That’s just what Americans did back then, I suppose. The young man was born into a privileged life for the time, and lived a life of globetrotting adventure as a young man. When the love of his life decided to marry another man, Josiah Harlan decided to make his world a little more interesting.
But so were the Afghan rulers and warlords.
Having grown up learning Greek and Latin and reading medical books and journals for fun, Harlan decided to join the British East India Company’s expedition to Burma as a surgeon, even though he had never attended medical school. But he didn’t stay for all of the company’s wars. He left the company in 1826 to live in an Indian border town called Ludhiana. That’s where he met Shuja Shah Abdali Durrani, the deposed ruler of Afghanistan that would shape Josiah Harlan’s future.
The two men hatched a plan to oust the leader who deposed the Shah, Dost Mohammed Khan using a coalition of Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim fighters, then foment a full-scale rebellion in Afghanistan. Once the Shah was back on the throne, he would make Harlan his vizier. Things did not go according to plan. Khan defeated Shah at Kandahar and was forced to flee once more.
Dost Mohammed Khan can sleep soundly knowing the British got what was coming to them.
Harlan next fell in with Maharajah Ranjeet Singh, a great warrior king who had conquered most of what is today Northwest India and Pakistan. Singh, it turns out, knew how to party unlike anyone since the good ol’ days of insane Roman emperors. He was also a hypochondriac, one that “Doctor” Josiah Harlan could treat. Harlan did treat the Maharajah, earning his trust and the governorship of Nurpur, Jasota, and later, Gujerat. But he eventually fell out of Singh’s favor and turned to Dost Mohammed Khan – the man he tried to usurp in the first place.
Acting as a special military advisor to Khan, Harlan took to the battlefield against armies allied to the Maharajah, having taught the Afghans the “Western way of war,” which basically meant using numerical superiority to your supreme advantage. With Khan, he was made royalty and led armies against the Sikhs in India, against Uzbek slavers, and even led punitive expeditions in the Hindu Kush. But upon returning from those raids, he found Khan was deposed, and the British occupied Kabul and had replaced Khan with ol’ Shuja Shah.
The Maharajah’s life was so great it gave him Forest Whitaker Eye before that was even a thing.
Even though Harlan was the Commander-In-Chief among all Afghans by Khan’s decree, Khan was out and Shah was in. All the tribes and their warlords were now allied with Shah – that was just the Afghan way. Khan already fled, so it was time for Harlan to return to America and to his life in Pennsylvania.
Unsurprisingly, Pennsylvania had a marked lack of exotic spices, royal orgies, and international intrigue, so Harlan found himself trying to drum up American support to challenge Russia and Britain for supremacy in Afghanistan. America, however, had enough problems back home around the time the man returned in 1841, and there was little interest in it. Josiah Harlan moved to San Francisco where he spent the rest of his days practicing medicine.
Project Blue Book is a mystery series about U.S. Air Force-sponsored investigations into UFOs from the early 1950s to the late 1960s. Dr. Allen Hynek teams up with Captain Michael Quinn to gather evidence to explain a plethora of phenomenons happening across the United States. I had the opportunity to sit down with the Creator of the series, David O’Leary, for an interview.
UFOs have been a lifelong passion for me, to be honest. I grew up in New York City and I remember going to E.C.E.T. as a little kid and leaving Reese’s Pieces on my window sill. When I was nine years old, I dragged my father to see this famous UFO encounter movie called Communion, [which is] a book that they turned into a movie starring Christopher Walken. I dragged my father to this scary, real-life abduction movie when the it came out in 1989.
Given the fact that, in many cases, people are embarrassed or reluctant to talk about [their experiences,] I very quickly came to assess, these are not attention-seekers looking a weird form of fame, but they genuinely encountered something strange and they’re trying to make sense of it.
My focus, initially, was sort of present day, what was happening with UFOs in the 80s and 90s — that’s when I really started to educate myself. America has this sort of strange and mysterious history in regards to this phenomenon. You can’t look at that without looking at the premier official investigation into UFOs, which was of course, Project Blue Book.
It baffled me that, for 17 years, between 1952 and 1969, the U.S. Air Force was officially looking into these matters and going out there and investigating cases. What baffled me even more was the fact that the chief scientific adviser of Project Blue Book, a civilian astrophysicist who is a complete UFO skeptic with a trained eye, tries explain what people are seeing in the sky and emerges on the other side as a believer. Not only in the notion that UFOs represent an intelligence in our skies that we have yet to understand, but also in the fact that Project Blue Book was, in part, a disinformation campaign.
He spent the rest of his life going out there and investigating cases and wrote several books on the subject.
I thought, what if we did a television show rooted in fact, where every week we looked into these different cases that happened and examine them just like Hynek examined them in Project Blue Book?
The cast includes many high-ranking officers who deny Hynek’s findings. How true-to-life are these responses from the military?
Very accurate. One of the people I was able to meet was the last living director of Project Blue Book, his name is Lt. Colonel Robert Frend. He was a Tuskegee Airman in World War II and he’s 98 years old. He worked with Hynek and Project Blue Book. He was instrumental in the information on a day-to-day basis — what did Project Blue Book look like? How did it function? How did they get reports? How did it work when they went to examine cases? How did cases come in?
He spoke to high-ranking men who could come and go as they please that would take their files, examine their files, and change their files. [On one hand,] there was the public face of Project Blue Book and then there were the generals who controlled Project Blue Book with their own agenda. Our main characters are the men stuck in the middle.
These sightings began at the start of the Cold War. Did our deadlock between the Soviet Union influence the decisions to keep the investigations classified?
Oh yeah, majorly. UFOs, even during World War II — they would call them “foo fighters” then — both sides of the conflict were seeing things in the sky. Each side was convinced that the other side had some sort of technology that would emerge once the war was over. The war ended and nobody claimed responsibility for what they were seeing. Certainly, as we move into the 50s, five or six years after World War II, most historians believe that that’s when the modern UFO era began — Roswell, Kenneth Arnold, “flying saucers” was coined, all that. It became again this notion of: Is what we’re seeing in our sky some sort of weaponry? Aircraft? Intelligence-gathering device that the other side has that we’ve miscategorized?
A lot of sightings would occur over military bases and weapons tests and that was a genuine fear. “Oh my gosh, the Russians have a technology that is surveying our bases!” UFO sightings were also happening in Russia, but they were not as well known. The U.S. Government was the only one that launched an official investigation into these matters, at least at first.
It became this idea that flying saucers might be man-made technology that we couldn’t fathom yet, and that they were built by our enemies. That was just as scary as anything. On the show, we tried to remain true to that aspect of it. Are we dealing with the Russians or not?
US Fighter Jets Encounter Unknown Flying Object [UFO] – With Pilots Audio
I’ve worked for the government before and it is incredibly hard for them to admit to investigations, even if they’re declassified. Were there any barriers in your way when you were gathering research for this project?
Fortunately, through the Freedom of Information Act, the Project Blue Book files are now in the National Archives and are searchable online. Although this was not always the case. It used to be, for many many years, the only way to access these files was to literally go to Washington D.C. and ask for them, one at a time.
Another barrier that I think is sort of interesting is that the official [statement] from our government is Project Blue Book. The official answer today is, “Listen, we’ve looked into this matter for 17 years, from 1952 to 1969, until Project Blue Book was closed after it was deemed that UFOs do not pose a threat to National Security.” The Truth is, that’s not when the government stopped investigating UFOs. The New York Times did this incredible piece on the -million-per-year program where they were researching UFOs. It became clear that the seriousness with which the military takes UFOs has never gone away, it’s just been removed from the public sphere all together.
Now they claim that that program is closed as well, but what can you believe if they said this matter was put to rest in 1969 and then you find out as recently as a couple of years ago, there’s another program looking into the matter, too. They were willing to spend million of taxpayer money researching this — and that’s just what we know about. I’m sure there are many others.
(Wright-Patterson Air Force Base)
There’s a good probability some of our audience may have had grandparents stationed on bases that appear during the show’s timeline. What locations can we expect to see in the arc of the show?
We go to Fargo, North Dakota, to look into a famous case that happened near a military base there. We to go to Texas, West Virginia… I don’t want to give them all away because I want people to be surprised by the cases we examined. Even if we give some of them away in the trailer, we still travel the country. We wanted to showcase the totality of this phenomenon across the country, and we go to Washington D.C. itself at one point.
What I think is nice about each episode is that they end up having a particular flavor to it. If we’re going into the South, you feel it. If we’re in the Pacific North West, you feel it. If we’re in the middle of the country or a big city like D.C., each episode has a different vibe.
Of course, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, plays a huge role [because] that’s where Project Blue Book was based in Dayton, Ohio.
Do you personally believe that we are not alone in the universe?
I do, I 100% believe we are not alone in the universe. I think the fact that we’re one planet, orbiting in one solar system, amongst many solar systems, in one galaxy amongst many galaxies says enough. There is a line on the show that I wrote,
“The probability of us being alone in the universe is zero.”
That is something I certainly believe.
[However,] in regards to what UFO themselves are, I keep an open mind. I’m in the Dr. J. Allen Hynek camp of thought. I really do believe that UFOs are real and that they do represent an intelligence in our skies that we have yet to understand. I’m as open to [the idea] as he was, but he never explicitly said “aliens.”
He expresses an extraterrestrial hypothesis among others, such as inter-dimensional phenomenon, time travel, suggesting that UFOs are a life form that evolved on the planet that we are yet to understand, or extraterrestrial artificial intelligence. He lays out all these different theories.
Is there anything you’d like to say to our service members and veterans?
I’m so happy and feel so fortunate that we can talk to you guys as a military representation in film and media. There’s so much show content written [in that area], and I know our actors did a ton of research, especially Michael Malarkey, who plays the young Air Force Captain. He really wanted to understand what it was like being in the Air Force back then — he actually grew up in Ohio and had a friend stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He asked if he could hop into a plane because he needed to know how it feels to really fly and be one of those guys.
I’ve gotten close with Michael Harney, who plays one of our generals on the show. His character was originally inspired by a few different generals and General Hoyt Vandenberg. He went down the rabbit hole: Who are these men? What is it like to be that high-ranking of an official? What kind of weight of the world do they hold?
To the viewers and the readers of We Are The Mighty, we really do make the effort to get the military aspects of the show correct. I’m sure there’s going to be something we failed at, but we did have military advisers.
There are plenty of skeptics, believers, and people in between. The show walks that fine line. Even if people say we went deep into X-Files territory or something like that from the trailer, they will be pleasantly surprised to see not everything is as it seems. There are always two answers to every story because the truth is, simply, we don’t know. The show tries to keep an open mind while rooted in real-life findings.
The third episode of the hit series, Project Blue Book, premieres on HISTORY on January 22 at 10PM PST, 9 central. Be sure to catch new episodes each week as they’re released!
It’s a signal that the effort to kill the A-10 is dead, instead of the A-10 itself – which is what usually happens to anything trying to kill the A-10 Warthog. After trying to bury the plane for nearly a decade, the Air Force has not only finished refitting some of its old A-10 Thunderbolt II airframes, the branch has decided to expand the effort to more planes. The re-wing projects will cover 27 more of the Warthogs through 2030.
So the Marines can expect excellent close-air support for the foreseeable future.
“Hey Taliban, what rhymes with hurt? BRRRRRT.”
The news comes after the Air Force finished re-winging 173 A-10s in August 2019 when the Air Force awarded a 0 million contract to Boeing to expand the re-winging effort to include more planes. Even as the battle over the future of the airframe raged on in the Air Force, at the Pentagon, and in Congress, the A-10s were undergoing their re-winging process, one that first began in 2011. Ever since, the Air Force has tried to save money by using the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for close-air-support missions or even giving that role to older, less powerful planes like the Embraer Super Tucano.
Despite its heavy use in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fact that the airframe is beloved by warfighters on the ground, the Air Force effort to retire the plane stems from the perception that close-air-support missions can be done better and with less risk to the plane and pilot by higher-flying, more advanced aircraft like the F-35.
Talk BRRRRRT-y to me.
The A-10 was first developed in the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, to bust tanks and provide the kind of cover artillery might otherwise give, but with a faster, more mobile, and efficient delivery. A slow flyer, the A-10 is a kind of flying tank. But it’s more than an aircraft built around a gun (the GAU-8 Avenger fires so powerfully, it actually slows the A-10 down) the Thunderbolt II features armor, redundant systems, and a unique engine placement that makes it a difficult threat against most conventional anti-air defenses.
The Air Force’s main reason for getting rid of it was that the Thunderbolt II isn’t suitable for modern battlespaces and that most of its missions could be done by the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The new re-winging effort is a signal that fight is likely to be over and that the Air Force’s close-air support mission is a much bigger deal than previously expected.
While some may question why the A-10 is getting an extended life when the F-35 can supposedly fill that role, the guys on the ground will tell you it’s all about the BRRRRRT – they live and die by it, sometimes literally.
Looking for a dessert that won’t just impress your houseguests but could impress them years from now? Look no further than the first name in cakes, pies, and other fine desserts: The Pentagon. The Department of Defense has a brownie recipe that is sure to end the clear and present danger to your sweet tooth.
Just imagine being able to whip up some sweet treats for your unborn children, whether you’re currently pregnant or not.
Kinda like this but without all that green sh*t.
The Pentagon’s brownie recipe is (perhaps unsurprisingly) the only recipe that tells you exactly how things are gonna be and does it in the vaguely threatening manner that only the United States military is capable of. The consequences of diverging from the recipe aren’t listed, but you definitely get the feeling there might be consequences:
Shortening shall be a refined, hydrogenated vegetable oil or combination of refined vegetable oils which are in common use by the baking industry. Coconut and palm kernel oils may be used only in the coating. The shortening shall have a stability of not less than 100 hours as determined by the Active Oxygen Method (AOM) in Method Cd 12-57 of the Commercial Fats and Oils chapter in the Official and Tentative Methods of the American Oil Chemists Society. The shortening may contain alpha monoglycerides and an antioxidant or combination of antioxidants, as permitted by the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and regulations promulgated thereunder.
“And parties found to have added walnuts to said brownies shall pay a 00 fine and serve no less than three years in a federal correctional facility because that sh*t is gross.” That’s not in the recipe, but it should be in every brownie recipe.
But the brownie regulations don’t stop at shortening. Each ingredient has more specific sourcing instructions than a vegan hipster with Celiac Disease. Even adding the eggs is enough to make any baker wonder what a legal chicken is.
“Whole eggs may be liquid or frozen and shall have been processed and labeled in accordance with the Regulations Governing the Inspection of Eggs and Egg Products (7 CFR Part 59).”
The strict regs came about in part because the military needs their baked goods to be edible for much longer than the average baker needs them. The U.S. military’s brownies are said to last up to three years, just in time to bake brownies for the kids currently in high school that will be deploying to Afghanistan by then.
The Civil Irregular Defense Group compound at Loc Ninh. The airstrip is to the right of the photo.
The small town and airbase were important for two reasons. First, the airbase was a logistical hub for military and espionage operations conducted by the U.S.; something communist forces were keen to excise. But the town was also the district capital. With a new president awaiting inauguration in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese wanted to embarrass him before he took office.
And North Vietnam was looking for a tasty target. A new commander and staff needed to try out the 9th Division in the field and build up its combat proficiency ahead of larger, corps-level offensives. So, in late 1967, North Vietnamese Senior Col. Hoang Cam, gave orders to get his regiments in position and supplied for an attack on the base at Loc Ninh.
One of his key units ran into an immediate problem, though. U.S. forces were working to secure a hey highway and clear out communist forces that could threaten it, and they swept through an area where Cam’s top regiment was hiding. That regiment was able to set an ambush just in time and killed 56 Americans, but they also suffered heavy losses and fled to Cambodia.
So Cam was down a regiment before the battle started. Still, his men were facing 11 Special Forces soldiers, 400 Civilian Irregular Defense Group soldiers, and about 200 South Vietnamese regulars. The largest weapons on the base were a few mortars and machine guns.
But the North Vietnamese forces failed to hide their buildup. South Vietnamese and U.S. forces intercepted radio traffic, discovered a field hospital under construction, and discovered elements of a specific unit typically employed in major offensives, the 84A Artillery Regiment.
U.S. Gen. William Westmoreland was too savvy to overlook all this evidence of a coming attack. He suspended some operations and ordered his subordinate to plan for a major defensive operation in that part of Vietnam, especially the district capitals at Loc Ninh and Song Be.
U.S. Special Forces soldiers and South Vietnamese troops in September 1968.
On Oct. 27, 1967, just five days after Westmoreland issued his warning to subordinates, Cam launched the North Vietnamese attack on Song Be. His division attacked a South Korean division but was rebuffed, partially thanks to American artillery and air power. Before South Vietnamese Rangers and American infantry joined the fight the next day, Cam pulled his men back.
As the Rangers looked for the enemy near Song Be, Cam launched a new attack. This time, he struck at Loc Ninh and fully committed to the fight.
Rockets and mortars flew into the base with no warning. The town itself caught on fire, and the South Vietnamese soldiers, with their Special Forces allies, rushed to send their own mortar rounds out.
Before reinforcements could arrive, North Vietnamese sappers blew through a wire obstacle and forced the defenders into the southern part of the compound. With the American and South Vietnamese defense collapsing, the Army rushed in UH-1Bs with machine guns mounted, and the Air Force sent in an AC-47 Spooky gunship that rained metal into the jungle.
The helicopters were able to put some fire on the attackers within the compound, but the AC-47 couldn’t strike there without threatening the defenders. Eventually, that became beside the point, though, as the South Vietnamese called artillery strikes onto the compound. He specifically called for proximity fuses, detonating the rounds a little above the surface to maximize shrapnel damage.
That’s the call you make to shred humans behind light cover. Many of the defenders were in bunkers that would hold back the shrapnel, but the Viet Cong in the open were shredded. The Viet Cong in the jungle finally withdrew under aerial bombing, but attackers remained in the conquered bunkers of the northern part of the compound.
The South Vietnamese were forced to clear these bunkers one-by-one with LAWs, light anti-tank weapons.
The allies found 135 North Vietnamese bodies. They had suffered eight dead and 33 wounded.
But the U.S. knew it had nearly lost the district that night, and it wasn’t willing to go round two with the same setup. So it not only watched the South Vietnamese clear those bunkers, it flew in two artillery batteries and another infantry battalion. Those infantrymen dug into the jungle and established light bunkers.
The U.S. and South Vietnamese alliance struck hard, rooting out platoons in the rubber plantations. In one case, an impatient South Vietnamese soldier grabbed a U.S. officer’s pistol from him and used it to attack a North Vietnamese machine gunner. When he couldn’t chamber a round in the pistol, he used it to pistol-whip the machine gunner instead.
This back and forth continued for days. On Oct. 30, the North Vietnamese sent additional forces to threaten other cities and positions, potentially trying to draw away some of the American defenders. But the allies knew the fight for Loc Ninh wasn’t over and sent other forces to protect Song Be and other locations.
Just after midnight on Oct. 31, another rain of mortars and rockets flew into Loc Ninh. But this time, the fire was more accurate, and North Vietnamese forces used anti-aircraft fire the moment the helicopters and AC-47 showed up. But proximity fuses were again used to slaughter North Vietnamese attackers.
At least 110 North Vietnamese were killed while the allies lost nine killed and 59 wounded.
The next night, artillery and machine gun fire rained onto the air base, but then the main thrust came at the new infantry base in the jungle. Observers posted in the jungle detonated claymores to blunt the attack but then had to melt away as the attackers continued their assault. The U.S. infantry pushed the attack back in just 30 minutes of concentrated machine gun fire and claymore use.
One U.S. soldier had been killed and eight wounded. Over 260 bodies were found, and there were signs that even more had been lost.
Additional forces were flown in, and the U.S. commanders were finally able to go on the attack. The attacks did not go perfectly, however. On Nov. 7, a U.S. battalion moving down a dirt road moved into the jungle and came under a furious assault. An RPG took out most of the U.S. battalion command team, including the commander.
One soldier in that fight was Spc. Robert Stryker who stopped one attack with a well-aimed M79 grenade launcher shot, but then died after diving on a grenade to save others. He’s one of the two Medal of Honor recipients for whom the Stryker vehicle is named.
But the 9th Division finally withdrew, ending the Battle of Loc Ninh. The U.S. had lost 50 dead and hundreds wounded, but the North Vietnamese lost somewhere over 850 dead and failed in its objectives to take either Loc Ninh or Song Be. But the Tet Offensive was on the horizon.
(Most of the information for this article came from an official Army history from the Center of Military History, Combat Operations: Staying the Course, October 1967 to September 1968 by Erik B. Villard. It is available here.)
Whether it’s in the desert, arctic, jungle, an urban environment or at sea, the men and women of the Air Force train to handle any situation.
The primary focus of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists is to train military personnel to survive any situation. These elite instructors are experts on how to survive in the most remote and hostile environments on the planet, and it’s their responsibility to ensure when a mission doesn’t go as planned, the airmen involved are ready for anything.
This focus on readiness was on display Aug. 5, 2019, during a SERE exercise in Vallejo, California, which provided airmen an opportunity to train using realistic scenarios while testing new technology.
“Aircrew must maintain combat mission ready status, allowing them to be deployable worldwide,” said Tech. Sgt. Emanuel Espino-Mata, 60th Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of SERE operations. “Pilots and other airmen considered to be at high risk of isolation during a mission attend refresher training at remote locations near Travis AFB every three years to stay proficient in SERE skills. It’s also vital we as SERE instructors do all we can to ensure our airmen can survive and operate in contested environments.”
Maj. Justin Krull, 6th Air Refueling Squadron KC-10 Extender instructor pilot listens to last-minute instructions on communication devices before a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training exercise for aircrew members Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
During the exercise, which took place among steep, rocky hills covered with insect-infested trees, 11 airmen from flying squadrons across Travis AFB joined two SERE instructors to test the Somewear Labs Hotspot paired with a combat-configured smartphone, a device that can increase radio battery life.
“Today’s exercise was the first-ever field test of the device developed by Somewear Labs,” Espino-Mata said. “Our C-cell radios only maintain limited battery power. They are also bulky and heavy. This new device can be paired with any smartphone once the user downloads the application and provides encrypted messaging between the user in the field, the receiver, another team member, a recovery force or a personnel recovery cell.”
The device, which is smaller and lighter than some secure communications devices currently being used, has the potential to improve life saving capabilities by using a smartphone platform to run the software, which is something everyone is familiar with and comfortable using, Espino-Mata added.
Aircrew members study communication devices utilized during a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training exercise Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
It also offers a wide range of features.
“Our system supports digital maps for navigation, a modern digital experience for satellite messaging and data transmission, as well as comprehensive blue-force tracking for the tactical operations center or any command center,” said Nate Simon, Somewear Labs product manager. “This is a huge step in evasion capability. This device is one of the lightest and smallest of its kind and a major enhancement to the current survival kit.”
airmen assigned to aircrew positions are trained to evade enemy forces if their aircraft is brought down in enemy territory. They are taught to find water, food and shelter while evading capture.
“This is important because help may not come for around a week and they may have to travel several miles without being detected,” Espino-Mata said.
Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Heard, 60th Operations Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape training noncommissioned officer in charge gives last minute instruction on communication devices before a SERE training exercise for aircrew members Aug. 5, 2019 in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
In 2018, Simon, who holds a bachelor’s of science degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, was part of an Air Force Research Laboratory study conducted by Stanford’s class, Hacking 4 Defense: Solving National Security Issues with the Lean Launchpad. The goal of the study was to address issues with survival radios and increase the survivability of downed airmen.
“My team was given a problem by the AFRL to improve personnel recovery,” Simon said. “Given Travis AFB’s proximity to the Bay Area, one of our initial contacts was Sergeant Espino-Mata, who arranged several visits to the base. After over 100 interviews with pilots, aircrew, SERE specialists, rescue squadrons and other Department of Defense experts, we realized a combat smartphone and satellite transceiver could drastically improve the personnel accountability and recovery space.”
Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape personnel field test Somewear Lab’s Hotspot Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
“Somewear’s first product enables any remote operative to reliably access secure communications and improve their situational awareness with a combination of compact satellite hotspots and software designed for low-bandwidth applications,” Simon added.
One exercise participant was thrilled with how well the Somewear Hotspot performed.
“It’s phenomenal,” said Tech. Sgt. Bernie Rowe, 60th OSS KC-10 Extender instructor flight engineer. “It was really simple to use and with the encryption, I was able to make contact and receive new coordinates and instructions by text without it being coded, like the C-cell survival radios. It is light years ahead of the C-cells.”
Jet engines, air-to-air rockets, drones. World War II was filled with flashy technological breakthroughs that would change warfare, both during that conflict and in wars to follow. But it was one humble piece of equipment that got an early upgrade that may have actually tipped the war in America’s favor: the fuse.
Specifically, impact and timed fuses were switched out for a weapon that had been hypothetical until then: the proximity fuse.
Anti-aircraft guns fire during World War II. Air defenders using timed fuses had to fire a lot of rounds to bring anything down.
Anti-aircraft and other artillery rounds typically consist of an outer shell packed with a large amount of high explosives. These explosives are relatively stable, and require the activation of a fuse to detonate. Before World War II, there were two broad categories of fuses: impact and timed.
Impact fuses, sometimes known as crush fuses, go off when they impact something. A split-second later, this sets off the main explosives in the shell and causes it to explode in a cloud of shrapnel. This is great for hitting armored targets where you need the explosion pressed as closely as possible against the hull.
A U.S. bomber flies through clouds of flak with an engine smoking. While flak and other timed-burst weapons could bring down planes, it typically took entire batteries firing at high rates to actually down anything.
(U.S. Air Force)
But for anti-personnel, anti-aircraft, or just wide-area coverage fire, artillerymen want the round to go off a couple feet or a couple yards above the ground. This allows for a much wider spread of lethal shrapnel. The best way of accomplishing this until 1940 was with a timed fuse. The force of the shell being propelled out of the tube starts a timer in the fuse, and the shell detonates after a set duration.
The fuses could be set to different times, and artillerymen in the fire direction center would do the math to see what time setting was needed for maximum shrapnel burst.
But timed fuses were less than perfect, and small math errors could lead to a round going off too early, allowing the shrapnel to disperse and slow before reaching personnel and planes, or too late, allowing the round to get stuck deep into the dirt before going off — the dirt then absorbs the round’s energy and stops much of the shrapnel.
The Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University succeeded in creating a revolutionary fuse that would tip battles in America’s favor.
So, in 1940, the National Defense Research Committee asked the Carnegie Institution and Johns Hopkins University to complete research on a tricky project, proximity fuses that worked by sending out radio waves and then measuring the time it takes for those waves to bounce back, allowing it to detonate a set distance from an object. This required shrinking down a radio transmitter and receiver until it was small enough to fit in the space allotted for a fuse.
This, in turn, required all sorts of breakthroughs, like shrinking down vacuum tubes and finding ways to cradle all the sensitive electronics when a round is fired out of the tube.
That may not sound like a great rate, but it was actually a bit of a miracle. Air defenders had to fire thousands of rounds on average to bring down any of the fast, single-engine bombers that were becoming more and more popular — and deadly.
So, to suddenly have rounds that would explode near their target half the time, potentially bringing down an enemy plane in just a few dozen or few hundred shots, was a revelation.
This solved a few problems. Ships were now less likely to run out of anti-aircraft ammunition while on long cruises and could suddenly defend themselves much better from concerted bomber attacks.
Sailors man anti-aircraft guns during World War II on the USS Hornet.
In fact, for the first while after the rounds were deployed, gains were only made at sea because the technology was deemed too sensitive to employ on land where duds could be captured and then reverse-engineered.
The fuses’ combat debut came at Guadalcanal where the USS Helena, one of the first three ships to receive it, fired on a dive bomber heading for its task force. The Helena fired two rounds and the fuses’ first victim burst into flame before plunging to a watery grave.
Two rounds, at a time when thousands used to fail to bring down an enemy plane.
From then on, naval commanders steered ships loaded with the advanced shells into the hearts of oncoming enemy waves, and the fuse was credited with 50 percent of the enemy kills the fleet attained even though only 25 percent of the ammo issued to the fleet had proximity fuses.
That means the fuse was outperforming traditional rounds three to one in routine combat conditions.
A fireball from a kamikaze attack engulfs the USS Columbia during a battle near the Philippines in 1945. The Columbia survived, but 13 crew members were killed.
It even potentially saved the life of one of its creators, Dr. Van Allen. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, where U.S. planes and gunners brought down over 500 Japanese planes, Dr. Van Allen was exposed on the USS Washington when it came under kamikaze attack. He later described what happened next:
“I saw at least two or three 5-inch shell bursts in the vicinity of the plane, and then the plane dove into the water several hundred yards short of the ship,” he said. “It was so close I could make out the pilot of the plane.”
The rounds were finally authorized for ground warfare in 1944, and their greatest moment came during the Battle of the Bulge when Gen. George S. Patton ordered them used against a concentration of tank crews and infantry.
The rounds were set to go off approximately 50 feet above the ground. Shrapnel tore through men and light equipment and took entire armored and infantry units out of play due to the sheer number of wounded and killed service members.
“The new shell with the funny fuse is devastating,” General Patton later wrote to the War Department. “I’m glad you all thought of it first.”
A lot of time and effort is put into every single advertisement that the U.S. military uses to leave a good, lasting impression on the minds of potential recruits. The best ads evoke emotion, tell the viewer what they stand to gain from service, and inform them that they’ll be a welcome addition to the team.
The following ads exhibit none of those qualities.
Remember, someone in the recruiting command for each branch decided that these videos were the best way to bring those numbers up. And don’t worry, we’re not leaving anybody out — every branch managed to push out a laughably bad commercial.
U.S. Air Force — “We’ve been waiting for you”
Hey, kid! You ever just sit and stare at an incoming tornado like an idiot when someone’s yelling at you to find shelter? Well, then you’re perfect astronaut material!
I’m not saying that every advertisement needs to be upbeat and cheery (you’ll see that those fill out the rest of this list), but this commercial is basically nightmare fuel set to a depressing piano score. Also, it’s cool and all to be fascinated by extreme weather, but if you’re the type of person that walks toward the huge freakin’ tornado in your backyard… you probably won’t score high enough on the ASVAB to get into the Air Force — let alone space command.
U.S. Army — “Sucked in”
It’s been beaten to death already — we all know how terrible of a campaign “An Army of One” was. That slogan completely dispels the notion that you’re becoming a part of something bigger than yourself and promotes Blue Falconry. This ad actually predates that monstrosity.
This ad is what you’d get if someone was sucked into the TV Poltergeist-style, but instead of being pulled into some ghostly dimension, they were instead transferred to the realm of sh*tty detail. Someone thought that layering on an upbeat song was all it’d take to make us how objectively creepy it is — they were wrong.
U.S. Navy — “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure”
When you release a commercial, you typically want to make it abundantly clear what you’re actually pushing. In this video, a bunch of sailors get their port of call in Hong Kong and enjoy themselves, doing all the fun shore-leave stuff that any ol’ tourist would do — which is a far cry from actual service.
It also doesn’t help that this ad was mocked viciously on Saturday Night Live back in 1979, where they showed sailors on a working party to the tagline of, “It’s not just a job, it’s .78 a week!”
U.S. Marine Corps — “Chess”
Oh man, speaking of misleading advertising… At least the Navy’s laughably bad ad featured some sailors. It takes a full 54 seconds of watching this commercial before you realize that it’s trying to sell you on the Marine Corps.
It’s like someone who didn’t even understand the rules of chess decided that it deserved a dark, gritty reboot. First of all, that’s not how the knight piece moves at all. It starts out fine when he moves across the board to take out the lightsaber wielding bishop but, after that, he just does what he pleases.
To be fair, that’s how most Marines would react given a chess board…
U.S. Coast Guard — “Be part of the action”
Did you know that the Coast Guard actually runs commercials every now and then? And I’ll be honest, this commercial is actually the best of the worst on this list. It takes a fair and balanced understanding of what the Coast Guard does and gives it a Miami Vice tone.
The reason that this one stands out as being the worst of the Coast Guard ads is that it finishes with the dumbest criminals in history being stopped by the dorkiest dudes to ever sign up. On the bright side, having Academy Award winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. put on a Coastie Cap at the end earns them at least a couple cool points.