Welcome to our newest Sandboxx series: Air Force Fighter Pilots with U.S. Air Force F-35 pilot instructor and Sandboxx News contributor, Major Justin “Hasard” Lee.
In this series, Justin will be taking us through every facet of the fighter pilot lifestyle, breaking it down for you in a way that you’ve never seen before.
In this first edition, Justin explains what Air Force fighter pilots do, and it entails a whole lot more than just flying an aircraft. Fighter pilots are responsible for the planning, the execution, and then the debriefing for each sortie.
Air Force Fighter Pilots | Ep. 1: What do Air Force fighter pilots do?
Here’s Major Justin “Hasard” Lee to explain… What do Air Force fighter pilots do?
Do you want to learn more about life as an F-35 pilot? Click here and you can check out Justin Lee’s advice now how to conserve your mental energy like jet fuel, whether you’re in the sky or not.
Then you can click here to see what pulling 9Gs in a fighter jet can do to Justin’s face.
Want to know more about dogfighting? Justin’s covered that here.
You can also click here to learn more about developing mental discipline in the same ways that pilots do.
And of course, click here to read the story of Justin’s top-speed flight in a stripped-down dragster of an F-16 Fighting Falcon.
If you still haven’t had enough fighter pilot in your day, then make sure you check out Justin Lee’s podcast, The Professionals Playbook! Each week, he brings on experts and gurus from the Fortune 500 to Navy SEAL BUDS training and helps you get to know what makes people successful in any venture.
It’s safe to say that we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the gear we carry with us into the great outdoors. Whether you’re in the market for a new pocket knife or a thirty-foot camper to tow behind your truck, there’s no shortage of options available to you, each claiming their own “extreme” superlatives to make sure you know just how rugged they are. Of course, there’s one phrase you may see pop up more than many others when it comes to toughness: “military grade.”
The idea behind claiming your product is “military grade” is simple: the consuming public tends to think of the military as a pretty tough bunch, so if you tell me a product has met some military standard for toughness, it stands to reason that the product itself must be pretty damn tough, right?
The military actually employs thousands of people to maintain and repair “military grade” equipment.
(Photo By: Master Sgt. Benari Poulten 80th Training Command Public Affairs)
The phrase “military grade” can be used on packaging and on promotional materials without going through any particular special toughness-testing. In fact, even when sticking closely to the intent behind the phrase, which would mean making the product meet the testing criteria set forth in the U.S. military’s MIL-STD-810 process, there’s still so much leeway in the language of the order that military grade could really mean just about anything at all.
The testing procedures set forth in the military standard are really more of a list of testing guidelines meant to ensure manufacturers use controlled settings and basic standards for reliability, and importantly, uniformity. The onus is on the manufacturer, not any military testing body, to meet the criteria set forth within that standard (or not) and then they can apply the words “military grade” to their packaging and marketing materials. In other words, all a company really has to do is decide to say their products are “military grade” and poof–a new tacti-tool is born.
It’s as simple as that. No gauntlet of Marines trying to smash it, no Airmen dropping it from the edge of space, and no Navy SEALs putting it through its paces under a sheet of ice near the Russian shore. The only real reason that pocket knife you just bought said “military grade” on the box is that the company’s marketing team knew plastering the phrase on stuff helps it sell.
Believe it or not, this is not how Marines test new gear.
(Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel)
For those of us that have spent some time in uniform, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. There’s never any shortage of jokes about the gear we’re issued coming from “the lowest bidder” for a reason: the gear we’re issued often really did come from the lowest bidder. Meeting the military standard (in mass production terms) usually means that a manufacturer was able to meet the minimum stated requirements at the lowest unit price. To be fair, those minimum requirements often do include concerns about durability, but balanced against the fiscal constraints of ordering for the force. When you’re budgeting to outfit 180,000 Marines with a piece of kit, keeping costs down is just as important in a staff meeting as getting a functional bit of gear.
But most products sold as “military grade” never even need to worry about those practical considerations, because the Defense Department isn’t in the business of issuing iPhone cases and flashlight key chains to everyone in a uniform. When these products advertise “military grade,” all they really mean is that they used some loosely established criteria to conduct their own product tests.
Of course, that’s not to say that products touting their “military grade” toughness are worthless–plenty of products with that meaningless label have proven themselves in the kits of millions of users, but the point is, the label itself means almost nothing at all.
An F-35 fighter pilot says he would be confident flying the Joint Strike Fighter against any enemy in the world, including Russian and Chinese 5th Generation stealth fighters.
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons, and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.
“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview.
Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.
Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft.
While he said he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35.
Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter.
This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011, and is expected to be operational by 2018, according to publicly available information and various news reports.
While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.
“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.
In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.
“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.
Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.
In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.
An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show in February of last year catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies – including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.
“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”
Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”
“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”
F-35 Sensor Fusion
Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior – however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.
For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.
The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.
“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.
The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.
For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.
In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.
“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.
F-35 and F-22
At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.
“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs – give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”
During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.
“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”
“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.
The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
The F-35. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.
Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges – essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.
The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.
The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.
Mission Data Files
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials told Military.com last year. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.
The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.
The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.
There was a study conducted recently by the CDC and the Delphi Behavioral Health Group that concluded that the U.S. Military beats out literally every other profession in days per year spent drinking. If you roughly equal out the days spent with the total number of troops, that puts us at 130 days on average, compared to the 91 day average for every other profession.
And, I mean, it makes absolute sense. No other profession has a culture around drinking like the military. It’s not “drunk like an interior designer” or “drunk like a software developer.” Toss a bunch of them into a barracks with nothing to do but drink after a long and stressful day, and you’ll see their numbers rise too.
So raise a glass, folks! I’m damn sure we’ve managed to keep that number one position since 1775 and won’t let go of it until the end of time!
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)
(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via United States Veteran’s Network)
(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales, meme by Justin Swarb)
The white-suited Imperial soldiers were spotted patrolling a balcony at Disney Springs, the shopping, dining, and entertainment complex that was the first Disney World property to reopen last week. Following a monthslong COVID-19 closure, the complex implemented lots of new precautionary measures, and the stormtroopers were there to remind guests of what they needed to do to stay safe.
“Yeah, I’m gonna need you to move…one bantha’s length away please,” the headstrong female stormtrooper says to the clueless male stormtrooper, a reminder to him and the crowds below of the importance of social distancing.
In another bit, he tries to get the attention of someone in the crowd by saying “Hey! You! With the face covering!”
“They all have face coverings,” she replies.
“Well, I made them all look,” he points out, eliciting a groan from his exasperated companion.
Face masks are, of course, a CDC-recommended measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus. They’re also required for all employees and guests at Disney Springs, and thus made great fodder for the stormtroopers’ routine.
“Some nice face coverings down there,” the female stormtrooper said of the tourists’ masks below. “Probably nicer than these helmets.”
“I doubt it,” he replied matter-of-factly. “These helmets have atmospheric processing units with multi-stage filtration, heat dispersion, and vacuum-tolerant oxygen delivery.”
“Do you stand at night reading spec manuals?” she asked incredulously.
“That checks out,” she said, the “you nerd” heavily implied.
The stormtroopers’ repartee was nice because it managed to have some fun with the serious situation without making light of it. Wearing face masks and social distancing is serious, but this performance shows that messages aimed at the public can have some levity and be effective.
Before deploying to a developing country, service members go through a variety of medical screenings and receive vaccinations to prepare their bodies for the microorganisms they’ll come in contact with while overseas. After we arrive at our destinations, it’s necessary to keep ourselves as clean as possible to prevent getting sick and developing skin infections.
Some troops have to rough it, rinsing off using bottles of water, showering under bladder systems, or wiping themselves down with baby wipes to keep clean. Others are lucky enough to have showers setup near their berthing areas.
At first glance, cleaning our ourselves with a handful of baby wipes might sound pretty bad compared to using community showers — but you might prefer those wipes after reading this.
Senior Airman Dustyn White collects a water sample at the Lima Gate entry point at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia. The water entering the base is tested for pH, chlorine, and fecal coliform.
(Photo by Master Sgt. David Miller)
Questioning the water source
The bacteria on our bodies like to grow and get smelly, making frequent showers an essential. However, the quality of that shower is dependent on the type of soap you use and the cleanliness of the water with which you rinse.
If there are showers set up in your FOB, be sure to look into how often the water is tested. Someone should be checking pH, chlorine, and fecal matter levels.
The baby-wipe option might actually be a healthier choice.
Always wear your shower shoes.
I’m standing in a puddle of… what?
Military showers are known for being use at high frequencies by service members who use the facility in a timely manner. As with any community-shower setup, not all the water goes down the drain immediately, and puddles being to build up.
As the next person in line, it’s pretty gross to have to step into a pool of murky, leftover water. You should be wearing shower shoes, but even then, puddles could’ve risen higher than your protective soles — and it might not be just water you’re dipping your toes in.
Open bay showers
The open bay shower has been around for decades and will be around for many more. This setup is ideal for rinsing off large crowds who need to freshen up. Unfortunately, getting sprinkled with water that’s splashing off of someone else’s dirty body can make you feel even nastier than before.
Cleanliness of the highly-used, private shower stalls
On deployment, the vast majority of the military community wakes up, shaves, and then takes a quick shower. Showering off in a private stall may feel a little closer to home, but it also might be a curse in disguise.
When you’ve been forward deployed for months, you’ve probably found yourself in some fairly filthy places. Once you return to the FOB, a hot shower sounds like a good idea before settling down. However, the private stalls are pretty small — there’s not much moving around in there. Be careful as you touch the walls and knots — they might not be sanitized as often as you’d hope.
Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is a legend of Marine Corps history. One of the most lethal snipers in history, he even repeatedly succeeded in killing snipers sent to hunt him. In one of his last missions on a tour in Vietnam, he crawled nearly two miles to kill a Vietnamese general and escape.
Check out WATM’s podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss the legend of Gunny Carlos Hathcock:
When the mission came down, he didn’t have all the details but he knew tough missions at the end of a tour were a recipe for disaster. Rather than send one of his men, he volunteered for the mission himself.
“Normally, when you take on a mission like that, when you’re that short, you forget everything,” Hathcock said in an interview. “Ya know, tactics, the whole ball of wax, and you end up dead. And, I did not want none of my people dead, and so I took the mission on myself.”
Hathcock was flown towards the objective, but was dropped well short of the target so he wouldn’t be given away. He made his way to a tree line, but still had 1,500 yards to move from the tree line to his final firing position. So, he started crawling.
“I went to my side. I didn’t go flat on my belly, because I made a bigger slug trail when I was on my belly. I moved on my side, pretty minutely, very minutely. I knew I had a long ways to go, didn’t want to tire myself out too much.”
As he crawled, he was nearly discovered multiple times by enemy soldiers.
“Patrols were within arm’s reach of me. I could’ve tripped the majority, some of them. They didn’t even know I was there.”
The complacency of the patrol allowed Hathcock to get 700 yards from his target.
“They didn’t expect a one-man attack. They didn’t expect that. And I knew, from the first time when they came lolly-gagging past me, that I had it made.”
The talented sniper made his way up to his firing position, avoiding patrols the whole way and slipping between machine gun nests without being detected.
He arrived at his firing position and set up for his shot.
“Seen all the guys running around that morning, and I dumped the bad guy.”
Hathcock took his shot and punched right through the chest of the general he was targeting. At that moment, he proved the brilliance of firing from grass instead of from the trees.
“When I made the shot, everybody run the opposite direction because that’s where the trees were,” he said. “That’s where the trees were. It flashed in my mind, ‘Hey, you might have something here.”
Per his escape plan, Hathcock crawled to a nearby ditch and crawled his way back out of the field. For the first time in four days, he was able to walk.
“So, I went to that ditch, little gully, and made it to the tree line, and about passed out when I stood up to get a little bit better speed.”
Managing an infantry squad is similar to a sports coach shifting players around to positions that best fit their strengths and talents. Since Marines aren’t created equal, capitalizing on those strengths and building up weakness is why the U.S. military is such a juggernaut today.
On special occasions, a Marine infantry squad patrol is comprised of a platoon leader (if he decides to go), a squad leader, three fire team leaders, three SAW gunners, and six riflemen.
This all, of course, depends on how your squad is made up — we’re even going to throw in a Company Gunny for sh*ts and giggles.
The Archer didn’t look much different than future self-propelled artillery vehicles (Photo credit: Public Domain)
At first sight, the Valentine Archer isn’t a terribly odd looking vehicle. The fighting compartment and gun appear to be at the rear with the barrel extending over the front deck; but they’re not. In fact, the fighting compartment is at the front of the vehicle and the gun faces backwards over the engine deck in the rear. This odd-looking vehicle was the Vickers-Armstrongs solution to the problem of mounting the heavy, but effective, 17-pounder anti-tank gun in a fighting vehicle; this is the Archer.
Early in the war, Britain quickly learned that the majority of the guns mounted on its armored vehicles were inferior to the firepower that their German counterparts brought to bear. In early 1943, prototypes of the new Ordnance Quick-Firing 17-pounder anti-tank guns were sent to North Africa in response to the appearance of heavy German Tiger tanks. The gun proved to be effective against German armor; the problem was that it was heavy and had to be towed around the battlefield. Britain’s new problem became mounting the 17-pounder on a mobile fighting vehicle.
A QF 17-pounder in Tunisia (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)
Although projects were in development to mount the gun on a turreted tank (which led to the Challenger and Sherman Firefly tanks), the British Army needed to develop a vehicle that could carry the gun as quickly as possible. Vickers-Armstrongs was given the challenge and elected to use the outdated Valentine tank as the base of this new vehicle; its official designation being Self Propelled 17pdr, Valentine, Mk I, Archer. The Valentine’s engine was upgraded to a GMC 6-71 6-cylinder diesel with a higher power output of 192 bhp in order to carry the heavy gun without sacrificing mobility. Still the gun could not be mounted in a turret and was instead mounted in a low, open-top armored fighting compartment. As previously stated, this was at the front of the vehicle with the gun facing backwards.
A front view of the Archer (Photo from The Tank Museum)
The mounting of the 17-pounder in the Archer allowed for 11 degrees of traverse and elevation from -7.5 to +15 degrees. If the gunner required more lateral traverse, the driver would have to physically turn the vehicle. As a result, the driver would remain at his station (facing the opposite direction of the action) at all times. Aside from this, it would be difficult for the driver to get in and out quickly because of the tight confines of the fighting compartment. The gun took up a lot of space and recoiled in the direction of the driver’s head. That said, he was never in any danger of being struck thanks to the hydraulic recoil system that kept the gun well-clear of his head when it recoiled.
An overhead view of the cramped fighting compartment (Photo from The Tank Museum)
Although its odd layout was the product of necessity, it actually made the Archer an effective ambush weapon. An Archer could set up in a concealed position, fire at a target, and then quickly drive off in the opposite direction without having to turn around since it was already facing backwards. It had a top speed of 20 mph and was very adept at cross-country driving and climbing slopes.
Commonwealth military doctrine labeled the Archer as a self-propelled anti-tank gun rather than a tank or even a tank destroyer. As such, it was operated by the Royal Artillery rather than the Royal Armored Corps. The soldiers of the Royal Artillery eventually complained about the lack of overhead cover in the fighting compartment which led to the development of an optional armored roof. However, this addition saw very little, if any, use.
An Archer with the armored roof installed
By the end of the war, a total of 655 Archers had been produced. After the war, the Archer saw service in Germany with the British Armored Corps in the British Army of the Rhine. 200 Archers were also supplied to the Egyptian Army with another 36 going to the Jordanian Arab Legion and National Guard.
An abandoned Egyptian Archer during the Sinai War, 1956 (Photo from the United States Army Heritage and Education Center)
There are Americans who are sick and tired of the United States playing “policeman to the world.” There’s good news and bad news for these people. The good news is that the U.S. isn’t actually the world’s policeman. The bad news is that they’re actually the world’s policeman, fire department, emergency medical technicians, doctors, nurses, and any other global-scale first responder analogy you can think of.
The U.S. military is basically the Avengers.
While the United States doesn’t respond to every trouble spot on the planet they sure respond to a lot of them. Of the 195 officially recognized countries in the world, the United States has military members deployed to 150. So if there is a trouble spot, there’s a very good chance that U.S. troops could go handle a large percentage of them. Luckily, Earth’s mightiest heroes are usually reserved for bigger problems, like keeping North Korea in check, punishing ISIS, and trying to bring food to hungry people.
But some of those countries are actually protected by the United States military, even if that protection isn’t specifically promised. For example, the U.S. military has long been considered a pillar of Saudi Arabia’s stability, because Saudi Arabia’s military can’t invade and win against a much-smaller neighbor, even when 20 other countries are helping them.
Seriously, the Salvation Army could have invaded Yemen and won by now.
But despite how terrible the Saudis are at things like strategy, tactics, and planning, they will never have to worry about being overcome by Iranian interference or military force because they have a substantial force they can rely on to protect their homefront: the United States military. And they aren’t alone.
Treaty obligations tie the U.S. to come to the defense of 67 different countries around the world, going well beyond the 29-member NATO alliance. The U.S. has bilateral defense agreements with six different countries, as well as every individual member of the Organization of American States and the ANZUS agreement.
While the United States is no longer required to defend New Zealand and West Germany doesn’t exist as West Germany anymore, the United States military still has a pretty big job on its hands. And even though relations with some of the members of the Organization of American States aren’t so hot with the U.S. right now, it’s still a way for Americans to find themselves fighting alongside the likes of Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela or helping defend countries with no military at all, like Costa Rica, Panama, or Haiti.
It might be worth noting that our Venezuelan allies have asked Russia to help with whatever it is they’re planning to do down there, rather than ask the United States. But along with Venezuela, the U.S. has promised to defend a full one-quarter of all the humans on the planet.
The Roman Empire stretched from modern-day Syria to modern-day Spain. To maintain that amount of real estate, you have to have an amazing military to protect it. The Roman Legion was one such force.
But every military that has made its mark on history was notorious for rigorous training and extremely harsh conditions that make today’s toughest Special Operations training look like Air Force boot camp. Here’s why, in reality, being a Roman Legionnaire would’ve sucked.
Suddenly, Sergeant Major doesn’t seem so far away.
It was 25 years. These days, when you sign the dotted line, you’re in for a minimum of four years and you have the option to stay longer to earn a pension and retirement benefits. The average Roman Legionnaire was expected to serve 25 years — no exceptions.
The retirement benefits, however, involved getting a nice piece of land within the empire to spend the rest of your days — If you don’t die first, that is.
If you think the 20-kilometer hike you just did last Wednesday, the 25 kilometers you had to do the night before Christmas leave, or the 30-mile hike you did in Korea sucked, just think about what you’d have to do as a Roman Legionnaire. These guys had to carry their entire kit 90 miles, every day.
This kit included their armor, weapons, shield, and a backpack, which contained the equipment needed to help build camps. Additionally, they had to carry their rations and cooking gear.
Remember this? It would be more regular as a Roman Legionnaire.
Remember those 90-mile forced marches we mentioned? Imagine your company commander calling cadence the whole time. Well, that’s what Centurions did for their Centuries. They would call, “right, left,” the whole time, starting with the right, of course, because the left was seen as wrong or evil.
That’s why issued rifles are made for right-handed war heroes.
The amount of training probably saved a lot of lives…
In the Roman Legion, you wake up in the morning and eat breakfast with your seven tent mates and then you do a little weapons training. By a little, we mean a lot. You’re training every morning with your gear and wooden weapons and shields that weigh twice as much as your regular gear, constantly going against your friends to become a much better warrior.
This is a good thing, but you know you complain about three-day field ops. Yes, you do.
The pay was salt
And you thought your steady income and clothing allowance was bad. Granted, the Roman Legion did pay their soldiers but, at the time, salt was worth quite a bit. So, a soldier would get paid in salt.
If you think your seniors duct-taping a mattress to you and having you take a leap of faith from the third story of your barracks was bad — it was so much worse the Roman Legion.
Remember those annoying Centurions from the marches? They carried a vine branch to whip the disobedient and it was totally okay for them to do so. Getting whipped for stepping out of line is pretty mild considering your friends could stone you to death for being a coward or trying to desert — and that’s only barely scratching the surface of Roman Legion punishments.
The AV-8B Harrier has been a mainstay of the United States Marine Corps for over three decades. The same could be said about some other fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters (some of which have been around even longer), but the Harrier has a cachet about it that no others can match.
Part of its clout may stem from the fact that many of the Marine Corps’ most legendary squadrons have flown (or still fly) the Harrier. These squadrons include VMA-214, the famous “Black Sheep Squadron” led by Pappy Boyington, and VMA-211, the “Wake Island Avengers” who made a heroic stand at Wake Island and were tragically not reinforced.
The AV-8B Harrier has seen a fair bit of action, notably during Desert Storm, over the Balkans, and in the War on Terror.
The Harrier has the ability to hover – making for some interesting tactical possibilities. Its GAU-12 can bring about 85 percent of the BRRRRT of the A-10.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jamean Berry)
But it’s not all history for the Harrier — performance counts, too. With Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) capability, the Harrier is much less dependent on usable runways than other jets (plus, hovering just above a landing site looks cool as hell). Upgrades in the 1990s gave the Harrier the APG-65 radar (as used on the F/A-18 Hornet) and the ability to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM.
The Harrier first entered service with the United States in 1985. It can achieve a speed of 633 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 900 nautical miles.
The Harrier’s V/STOL capability allows it to operate from ships and way from conventional runways.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Michael J. Lieberknecht)
And the holidays just makes it even more impactful and meaningful, which is why celebrities and talk shows often reach out and give back to troops during this time of year. Ellen is no different — but this “Greatest Night of Giveaways” just got better and better.
I watched the whole thing. With the sound on. I recommend you do the same:
Robert Downey Jr. and Ellen DeGeneres Give USMC’s Roy Gill and His Mom a New Car and House! (Part 2)