Get ready for a new A-10 budget fight. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein wants to fund new initiatives in connectivity, space, combat power projection, and logistics starting in 2021 – to the tune of $30 billion on top of what it is already using. One way to do that, says Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is to retire $30 billion worth of legacy aircraft.
That is, get rid of the old stuff to make room for the new.
While getting rid of these aircraft isn’t the only way to make room for the new initiatives and save $30 billion, it is the fastest route to get there, and many of the retirements make sense. Some of the planes’ missions are obsolete, some of the airframes are currently being updated with newer models, and at least one can’t even fly its primary mission due to treaty obligations.
The B-1B is already scheduled for retirement in the 2030s, but retiring the program early could save up to .8 billion. At 32 years old, the Lancers are already struggling with a 50 percent mission-capable rate. It can’t even complete the missions for which it was designed as a nuclear deterrent. The Air Force’s fastest bomber, the one that carries the biggest bomb loads, can’t carry nuclear weapons under the terms of the 1994 START I agreement with Russia.
Also scheduled for retirement in the 2030s, the B-2 Spirit has a mission-capable rate of 61 percent and is scheduled to be replaced by the new B-21 Bomber in the late 2020s. Retiring the B-2 early could save as much as .9 billion.
A-10 Thunderbolt II
The Air Force’s 281 A-10s are mission capable 73 percent of the time and are its primary close-air support craft. The average A-10 is 38 years old, and even though the bulk of the A-10 fleet has just been scheduled to get new wings, canceling the re-winging and retiring the Warthog could save as much as .7 billion.
Retiring the 59 heavy tankers in the U.S. Air Force fleet would save the service billion if they do it before 2024 – when they’re scheduled for retirement anyway. This may create a tanker shortage because the new Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tanker isn’t quite ready for prime time.
RC-135V/W Rivet Joint
This signals intelligence and optical and electronic reconnaissance aircraft is more than 56 years old but still kicking around the Air Force waiting for a yet-undeveloped Advanced Battle Management System to replace its old tech. While retiring it before 2023 would save .5 billion, it would create a gap in electronic and signals intelligence capacity.
E-3 Sentry AWACS
These 39-year-old planes are mission-ready just 66 percent of the time and are undergoing modernization upgrades. If the Air Force scraps its modernization along with the rest of the airframe before 2023, it could save billion.
U-2 Dragon Lady
Getting rid of the 37-year-old U-2 would save some billion for the Air Force. The Air Force could then rely on the much more efficient RQ-4 Global Hawk drone for ISR.
Also waiting for the unknown advanced battle management system, the 16 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar aircraft in the Air Force are already scheduled for retirement. But actually retiring the aircraft would save the USAF .7 billion.
There’s a lot going on behind closed doors in the ground services as planners see an opportunity to fundamentally change the mix of infantry weapons given bigger defense budgets and a command more receptive to change.
WATM earlier reported on moves in the Army to quickly outfit soldiers with an interim battle rifle capability with available 7.62 NATO chambered rifles to replace some standard-issue 5.56 M4s in the infantry squad and platoon. It now seems the service is set to issue an Urgent Needs requirement for over 6,000 battle rifles for soldiers in the fight now.
But in a move that analysts say could fundamentally transform the lethality of small units on the front lines, U.S. Special Operations Command and the Marine Corps have teamed up to find ways to replace some of their M2 .50 caliber machine guns and M240 machine guns with a new one chambered in an innovative round developed primarily for long-range precision shooters in the civilian market.
WATM reported in March that the services were taking a hard look at the Lightweight Medium Machine Gun developed by General Dynamics that fires the .338 Norma Magnum round — a relatively new cartridge that’s seen few military applications until now. According to sources in close touch with military planners, the .338 NM machine gun is 3 pounds lighter than the M240B and has double the range and lethality of the 7.62 round.
On May 11, SOCOM and the Marine Corps issued a so-called “Sources Sought” message to industry asking for a LWMMG that weighs less than 24 pounds, with a rate of fire between 500-600 rounds and which includes a suppressed and un-suppressed quick-change barrel.
The LWMMG should have the capability to accurately engage point targets out to 2,000 meters, SOCOM and the Marine Corps says.
The request is in answer to worries by military planners that the enemy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other potential battlefields have widely-available small arms capabilities that can target U.S. troops at ranges Americans can’t reach with most weapons. Additionally, the M2 is extremely heavy and cannot be wielded by a single operator like the LWMMG can.
Documents show the 75th Ranger Regiment and Marine special operations units have successfully evaluated four LWMMGs and 16,000 rounds of .338 NM ammunition and want more.
The Sources Sought notice also includes a request for .338 NM ammunition with a polymer case rather than a brass or steel one — an effort to cut down on the overall weight of the system and allow more rounds per shooter. General Dynamics is well on its way to fielding a polymer-cased .338 round (less than 13 pounds for a 500-round box), and the Marine Corps is moving forward with outfitting its forces with polymer-cased .50 caliber rounds.
“In my opinion, adoption of this capability is the single greatest small arms capability enhancement to the US military in the last century,” said one military small arms expert on the industry website SoldierSystems.net. “It offers the ability to deliver accurate sustained fire at ranges out to 2000m in a package which can be employed by one operator.”
Marine Corps F-35s recently carried out the first at-sea “hot reload” of ordnance, dropping 1,000-pound bombs in the Pacific in rapid succession, the Marines said in a statement.
Marine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters armed with a 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition and a 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb took off from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and conducted a strike on a “killer tomato,” a large red inflatable target.
After dropping its payload, the aircraft quickly returned to the ship, refueled, reloaded, and set out on a second attack run on the floating target.
The fifth-generation stealth fighters also opened fire with their GAU-22 cannon, which can uses four barrels simultaneously to fire 3,300 rounds per minute. The 25 mm gun is, according to Military.com, carried on an external pod on the Marine Corps’ F-35 variation, which is capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings on the amphibs, basically small aircraft carriers.
At-sea hot reloading is a critical capability that allows for the surge offensive air support for strike missions in this theater, where US forces are increasingly training to fight in contested environments. While the training is not directly aimed at any particular adversary, the US military is focused on great power competition and is training for a high-intensity conflict with China and Russia.
“Our recent F-35B strike rehearsals demonstrate the 31st MEU’s lethality and readiness to address potential adversaries.” Col. Robert Brodie, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked aboard the Wasp, said in a statement. “The speed that we can conduct precision strikes with devastating effects while providing close air support to our Marines is nothing shy of awesome. Bottom-line; the F-35B defines shock and awe!”
An F-35B Lightning II makes the first vertical landing on a flight deck at sea aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Natasha R. Chalk)
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Daniel Sallese, aviation ordnance officer with the 31st MEU, said that the troops are learning to “rain down destruction like never before.”
Marine F-35Bs with the 31st MEU achieved another milestone earlier this year, flying in “beast mode” and conducting strike missions with externally-loaded inert and live munitions.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When most people think of Iowa, they think about cornfields, hog farms, Field of Dreams, and politics. Generally overlooked is the Battle of Credit Island, an island in the Mississippi River, which would host one of the westernmost skirmishes of the war of 1812.
The Louisiana Purchase
After the United States made the Louisiana Purchase in 1804, the country faced the challenge of establishing control of the Mississippi River. At the time, St. Louis was the northernmost city on the river, and all the territory north of there, the upper Mississippi, was generally controlled by natives. The United States attempted to gain more control in 1808 by establishing Fort Madison (in present-day Fort Madison, IA).
This fort would be abandoned in 1813, however, as it was regularly attacked by Sauk tribes. This led to the U.S. establishing Fort Shelby (located in present-day Prairie du Chien, Wisc). Fort Shelby, however, was captured in 1814 by the British, just months after its establishment, during the Siege of Prairie du Chien.
Zachary Taylor 12th President of the United States.
American troops would attempt to retake Fort Shelby, mounting an attack with armored keelboats. However, one would become grounded near East Moline Ill., where it was burned by Sauk Indians, forcing another retreat. One more effort would be made to reclaim the fort using armored keelboats, and this time, Major Zachary Taylor would lead the excursion.
Taylor led eight armored vessels up the Mississippi, but due to inclement weather stopped for the night in the vicinity of Pelican Island (a small island just to the north of Credit Island, near modern-day Davenport, Iowa.) Overnight, Sauk warriors waded to Pelican Island, and at daybreak attacked Taylor’s sentries, killing one. The Americans mounted their defense, repelling the natives, only to come under attack from accurate cannon fire, from a nearby British canon. The British and the native warriors would fire on Taylor’s flotilla for the next 45 minutes, with good effect, until Taylor ordered a retreat downriver.
30 to 40 British troops and approximately 800 Native Americans would repel Taylor’s 334 soldiers, and end their ambitions to recapture Fort Shelby. The Americans would not gain control of the upper Mississippi region until after the war in 1815.
The war would come to an end the following winter of 1815 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which would normalize relations between Britain and the United States and restore borders to their pre-war status. As for Taylor, he continued to climb the military ranks, serving next in the Black Hawk War, the Second Seminole War, and later in the Mexican-American war. He would be elected 12th President of the United States in 1848, but died of illness in 1850.
A Belgian Air Force F-16 has been destroyed and another aircraft damaged when the M61A1 Vulcan 20mm cannon on board a third F-16 was accidentally fired on the ground by maintenance personnel at Florennes Air Base in the Walloon area of Southern Belgium on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018.
Multiple reports indicate that a mechanic servicing the parked aircraft accidentally fired the six-barreled 20mm Vulcan cannon at close range to two other parked F-16s. Photos show one F-16AM completely destroyed on the ground at Florennes. Two maintenance personnel were reported injured and treated at the scene in the bizarre accident.
In a nearby hangar, positioned at the extension of the flight line, a technician was working on an F-16. It is said that by accident the six-barrel 20mm Vulcan M61A-1 cannon of that F-16 was activated. Apparently, the cannon was loaded and some ammunition hit the FA128. This aircraft had just been refuelled and prepared together with another F-16 for an upcoming afternoon sortie. After impact of the 20mm bullets, FA128 exploded instantly and damaged two other F-16s.
The airbase at Florennes is home to the Belgian 2nd Tactical Wing which comprises the 1st ‘Stingers’ Squadron and the 350th Squadron.
A report on F-16.net said that, “An F-16 (#FA-128) was completely destroyed while a second F-16 received collateral damage from the explosions. Two personnel were wounded and treated at the scene. Injuries sustained were mainly hearing related from the explosion.”
The news report published late Oct.12, 2018, went on to say, “The F-16 was parked near a hangar when it was accidentally fired upon from another F-16 undergoing routine ground maintenance. Several detonations were heard and thick black smoke was seen for miles around. Civilian firefighters have even been called in to help firefighters at the airbase to contain the incident. About thirty men were deployed on site and several ambulances were dispatched. The Aviation Safety Directorate (ASD) is currently investigating the exact cause.”
The accident is quite weird: it’s not clear why the technician was working on an armed aircraft that close to the flight line. Not even the type of inspection or work has been unveiled. For sure it must have been a check that activated the gun even though the aircraft was on the ground: the use of the onboard weapons (including the gun) is usually blocked by a fail-safe switch when the aircraft has the gear down with the purpose of preventing similar accidents.
A report ten days after the incident said the search for the missing weapon was called off. The missile was never located. “All the theoretical impact points of the missile have now been carefully searched,” said Commander of the Estonian Air Force Col. Riivo Valge in an EDF press release.
“Over the past two weeks, we employed three helicopters, five ground patrols and fifty-strong units of personnel to undertake the search on the ground. We also got help from the Rescue Board (Päästeamet) Explosive Ordnance Disposal Centre and used Air Force drones in the search,” Col. Valge added.
“Despite our systematic approach and actions the location of the impacted missile has not been identified and all probable locations have been ruled out as of now,” Col. Valge concluded in the Aug. 17, 2018 media release ten days after the missile was accidentally fired.
Because strict weapons safety protocols, especially with live ammunition, are in place during ground handling it is extremely rare for maintenance personnel to accidentally discharge an aircraft’s weapon.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Richard Overton’s relatives discovered that someone had accessed the 112-year-old’s account using his social security and personal checking account numbers, The Dallas Morning News reported.
His cousin, Volma Overton Jr., said the family was shocked when the bank said it would credit Overton’s account.
“Man, I teared up,” he said, according to The Dallas Morning News. “I couldn’t believe it. They made it happen. The executive of the company said he’d take care of this, and he took care of it.”
Bank of America, Austin police, and federal authorities are investigating the incident.
One of the World War II veteran’s cousins was making a deposit into his account when he noticed a series of illicit withdrawals.
(Richard Overton’s Go Fund Me)
“I looked at it — what the hell are these debits?” Overton’s cousin, Volma Overton Jr., told CNN affiliate KXAN.
The thief or thieves used the funds to purchase savings bonds from Treasury Direct, leaving nothing in the account.
“It’s a shock, it hurts, it hurts tremendously,” Overton Jr. said when he became aware of the theft.
The family hasn’t identified the culprit, and hopes it isn’t someone close to Overton.
It’s unclear how much money was drained from the account. Relatives described it as a “considerable amount.”
Overton, an Austin, Texas resident, volunteered for service in 1942, serving as a member of the Army‘s 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion — an all-black unit that served on various islands in the Pacific, according to the report.
He was honored by Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony in 2013.
He is also the oldest man in America, according to the Gerontology Research Group.
Overton’s family set up a GoFundMe account to help cover the costly, around-the-clock care he requires. The account saw a spike in donations after the theft was reported.
“It’s been a true blessing in disguise for us,” his cousin said.
“Everything’s back just like it was.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
For as long as video games have existed, there have been fed-up mothers yelling at their kids to put down the controller and get back to their homework. As mom loves to remind us, “no one will ever pay you to play video games!” Well, we hate to disappoint you, ma, but for the last decade or so, there have been plenty of gamers who make a living enjoying their hobby.
As foreign as it may sound to some, there are people who are so good at video games that others will tune in (and even pay) regularly to see them compete, just like a traditional sports player. Today, we refer to this competitive gaming as “eSports.” This concept is slowly gaining traction, but just like any other idea, it’s been met with criticism from people who don’t understand that if enough are willing to pay money for something, it’s a feasible business model.
Now, the world of eSports may have just gotten the validation it needs from a brand people trust. Cloud9’s Counter Strike: Global Operations team has been officially sponsored by the United States Air Force.
Red Bull has made a huge impact in the eSports world. Seeing as nearly every gamer is addicted to energy drinks, that’s an easy win.
Video game tournaments are nothing new. Way back in 1972, students at Stanford University competed to see who could get the highest score at Spacewar. In the 90s, Quake tournaments gained recognition around the world and, by 2015, a League of Legends tournament drew in 27 million viewers — seven million more than the highest viewership average of the NBA finals.
But, in a big way, there’s one thing missing from eSports: sponsorship from outside the gaming world. The biggest sponsors of eSports have always been AMD, Intel, and, typical, the company responsible for whichever game is being played. Occasionally, you’d find a sponsor from outside the hardware/software realm, including soft-drink companies, a certain adult-entertainment company, and even Audi — but these are typically outliers.
This pattern makes good sense in a way. It’s easy for sponsors to use gaming events to promote products that are directly applicable to eSports. Do you want to play like these guys? Buy this mouse and keyboard. Do you want to enhance your reaction times? Buy these goofy, yellow-tinted glasses. Do you want to practice late into the night? Chug some of this energy drink.
The sponsors have almost always directly related to gaming — not to a generally huge audience. That is, until the recent sponsorship deal of the Los Angeles-based Cloud9 by the United States Air Force.
“By developing a dynamic partnership with the Air Force, we will be able to deliver extraordinary content that will show fans a totally different side of the team. No one else in the world can put our team into a jet and let our fans watch the sheer thrill come over their faces. It’s going to be amazing.” says Cloud9 owner and CEO, Jack Etienne.
Starting this week, at the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier 2018, the Cloud9 uniforms will now proudly sport the U.S. Air Force logo.
“Join the Air Force! Do all the awesome stuff you see in the video games! Totally!”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Peter Reft)
The details of the partnership aren’t known — but it can be assumed that the USAF has spent more money on getting branded pens dumped into cups at recruitment centers than they did in putting the USAF logo on the t-shirt sleeves of four gamers. Money aside, this is huge news. This means that the United States Air Force has recognized the recruitment possibility in getting exposure in a new, emerging venue.
This offers legitimacy to the world of eSports. This means that a branch of the United States Armed Forces sees the possibility to attract potential recruits out of the pool of people watching eSports events. All jokes about the Air Force aside, younger, nerdy adults are kind of the Air Force’s target demographic — and they have been looking into many different avenues to meet recruitment numbers.
Since the Air Force has been pushing heavily for the cyber fields, this partnership makes absolute sense.
When you think of moving infantry, one of three options usually springs to mind: Troops marching in unison, troops riding in infantry fighting vehicles or armored personnel carriers, or transporting troops by the truck-load. In recent years, that third option has undergone a very interesting evolution, largely due to the War on Terror.
TITUS by NEXTER on TATRA chassis, IDET 2017, Brno Exhibition Center, Czech Republic
(Photo by Karel Subrt)
Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, wreaked havoc on Coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan who used unarmored wheeled vehicles, like Humvees, to move troops. Extremely effective and inexpensive, IEDs quickly became a popular choice among insurgents. In response, Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles were born, specifically tuned to reduce the risks presented by IEDs while maintaining the tactical mobility required by urban warfare.
Developing technology to protect vehicles from explosives is not a new phenomenon. Rhodesia and South Africa had pioneered such vehicles to fight insurgencies in the 1970s. Today, just about every country is developing — or buying — some form of MRAP. France, which has been fighting a radical Islamic terrorist group in Mali, is no different. Their vehicle of choice is the Nexter TITUS, which is short for Tactical Infantry Transport and Utility System.
The TITUS has a crew of three, a top speed of 68 miles per hour, and can go up to 435 miles on a single tank of gas. It can hold up to a dozen fully equipped troops. This transport system also supports an option for a remote weapon system that can hold a variety of machine guns or a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, like the Mk 19.
The TITUS also comes in several variants, including a version for police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, a 120mm mortar carrier, a counter-insurgency version, a water-cannon vehicle, and a “forward-support” vehicle capable of carrying ammunition.
This versatile vehicle will likely be around for a while. Learn more about this tough armored truck in the video below.
For hundreds of years, humans have developed technologies that yield the maximum amount of enemy fatalities in efforts to protect the home front. As time progresses, so, too, do the methods military leaders use to strike fear into the hearts of their deadly opponents. One such threat that dates back hundreds of years is that of a chemical attack that can strike in an instant and indiscriminately kill.
Chemical attacks were deployed on the battlefields of World War I and, although they’re looked down on by much of today’s international community, they can still be deployed at any time. Now more than ever, U.S. troops are trained to protect themselves from potential hazards using specialized gear. This gear is ranked by Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) levels, which ensure that troops have proper protection against any amount of chemical threat.
Here’s how to protect yourself from a chemical attack
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Demetrius Morgan)
MOPP levels range from zero to four. They’re based on current chemical and biological threats and can elevate in minutes, so troops must always be prepared. Over garments, gas masks and hoods, boot covers, and gloves round out the gear necessary to protect troops.
MOPP level zero is simply having all the gear stated above on-hand and ready to don. Though chemical threats are unlikely, they do exist and service members need to be ready.
MOPP level one requires the troop to don over garments. This means a chemical threat is present, so troops must remain alert, as the hazard could escalate at any time.
As the threat increases, so do MOPP levels. MOPP level two mandates that ground pounders quickly put on the both over garments and boot covers.
Moving on to MOPP level three. Service members must don over garments, a gas mask and hood, and boot covers. At this level, the threat of coming in contact with hazardous vapors is high.
Lastly, MOPP level four — which is, by far, the scariest of them all. This level requires over garments, gas masks and hoods, gloves, and boot covers to be worn as a chemical or biological threat is present in the area.
The U.S. Army‘s new uniform may look a lot like the iconic pinks-and-greens worn during World War II, but senior leaders decided to drop the pinks and go with Army Greens as the official name.
Pinks and greens “was a World War II nickname given to it by the soldiers because one of the sets of pants had a pink hue to them. So that is where it came from,” Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey said recently.
The current blue Army Service Uniform, or ASU, will become the optional dress uniform and undergo a name change of its own, Dailey said.
Officials are working on the wear regulations for both uniforms. Once Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley approves them, the service will release All Army Activities, or ALARACT, messages online so soldiers can “click and see the updates to the new regulations,” Dailey said.
Prototypes of the Army Greens uniform, shown above. Initial fielding of the new uniform is expected to occur in the summer of 2020.
(US Army photo by Ron Lee)
“So basically, we are dusting off old regulations. We will take a look at them. We have a few more decisions we have to present to the chief of staff before we can publish those,” he said, adding that the regulation on the ASU will include a new name for the uniform. “It will not be called the Army Service Uniform anymore. It will probably go back to the dress blues.”
The ASU became mandatory for wear in 2014, replacing the Army dress green uniform, which saw 61 years of service.
The service plans to begin issuing the Army Greens to new soldiers in summer 2020. Troops will also have the option to begin buying the new uniform at that time.
In this scene from the show What Would You Do?unsuspecting bystanders go above and beyond telling a vet-in-need “thank you for your service” in a big way.
What Would You Do? features actors playing out scenes of conflict or illegal activity in public settings with everyday people while hidden cameras record their actions. The focus of the show is to capture whether or not bystanders intervene and how.
The way people stepped up is especially touching for the actor, who happens to really be an Army vet.
The opening few minutes of the movie Top Gun make for, arguably, one of the coolest aerial scenes ever caught on film. There’s a reason it’s the enduring air power movie of the 1980s. Too bad for the Air Force that Top Gun featured the Navy.
Except Air Force pilots do that sh*t in real life.
In 2013, two Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantoms moved to intercept an MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace near the Iranian border. The two IRIAF fighters were quickly shooed away by two F-22 Raptors who were flying in escort.
Except, they didn’t just get a warning message, they were Maverick-ed. That’s what I’m calling it now.
How an F-22 Raptor intercepts a Russian-built bomber.
The two F-22 Raptors were escorting the drone because of an incident the previous year in which two Iranian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 close air support craft attempted to shoot down a different Air Force MQ-1. In the Nov. 1, 2012, incident, the drone was 16 miles from Iran, but still in international airspace. Iran scrambled the two Su-25s to intercept the drone, which they did, using their onboard guns.
The fighters missed the drone, which captured the whole incident with its cameras. The drone returned to base, completely unharmed. Not surprising, considering the Su-25 isn’t designed for air-to-air combat.
Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantom fighters.
The following year, another drone was being intercepted by Iranian aircraft. This time, however, it had serious firepower backing it up. The Iranians came at the drone with actual fighters, capable of downing an aircraft in mid-flight. The F-4 Phantom could bring what was considered serious firepower when it was first introduced – in the year 1960. These days, it’s a museum piece for the United States and most of its Western allies. Not so for the Iranians, who still have more than 40 of them in service. When the F-4s came up against the MQ-1, they probably expected an easy target. That didn’t happen.
One of the F-22 Raptor pilots flying escort for the drone flew up underneath the Iranian Phantoms. According to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, the Raptor pilot checked out the armaments the Iranian planes were carrying, then pulled up on their left wing and radioed them.
It wasn’t like this, but it could have been.
“He [the Raptor pilot] flew under their aircraft [the F-4s] to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and then called them and said ‘you really ought to go home’,” Welsh said.
Names like Blackbeard and The Barbarossa Brothers may ring a bell. They conjure visions of a billowing Jolly Rogers flag, bands of thieving pirates, and of poor souls walking the plank to their watery graves. But you probably also picture only men. Contrary to popular belief, female pirates have also sailed the high seas, from the very beginning of piracy’s existence.
These swashbuckling female pirates left their mark on history. They defied odds when women weren’t even permitted on ships, commanded crews, and carried out some of the wildest heists in history.
Madame Ching, also known as Cheng I Sao, was a pirate who terrorized the China Sea in the early 19th century. She commanded over 300 ships, and 40,000 pirates, including men, women, and even children. Skirmishes with the British Empire, Portuguese Empire and the Qing dynasty were common during her reign.
But Madame Ching wasn’t always a successful pirate. She was born in 1775 and is believed to have worked in a brothel until she was in her late teens. Then in 1801, she met Cheng I, a notorious pirate with whom she fell in love. They were married and adopted a son, Cheung Po, who was being taught the ways of piracy by Cheng I. Allying with Madame Ching allowed Cheng to access the alliance and powers of the mainland underworld. Madame Ching, a cunning woman, only allowed his access on the condition that she have equal control and share of their fortune.
Six years after the two were married, Cheng died. Madame Ching took advantage of the opening. She was one of the few female pirates who was fully accepted by an entirely male crew, being adopted wholeheartedly by Cheng I’s crew. Madame Ching rose to become one of China’s most notorious pirates. Once she was in charge, Madame Ching also instituted a code of law for her pirates unlike any seen before. They included prohibition from stealing from friendly villagers, beheading for any rapes, and more.
By the time Madame Ching died in 1844, she held numerous coastal villages under her control, levying taxes and protecting towns from other pirates.
Despite Anne Bonny’s historic reputation, very little is known about her life. We know she was an Irish pirate who spent most of her life in the Caribbean. She’s thought to have been born somewhere near Cork, Ireland in the late 1600s or early 1700s. She and her father moved to London after a fight with his wife—who was not Anne’s mother. He began dressing her as a boy around that time. They later moved to Carolina, then Nassau in the Bahamas.
There, Anne met John “Calico Jack” Rackham, a well-known pirate captain. The two quickly became secret lovers, although Anne had already married James Bonny. She was brought on board his ship in her old male disguise.
She took equal part in combat alongside the men, becoming well-liked amongst the crew. Together, they plundered the waters surrounding Jamaica. However, in 1720, Rackham and his crew were attacked by a patrolling ship commissioned by the Governor of Jamaica. Most were taken off guard and too drunk to fight, but Bonny and a female crewmate (and rumored lover), Mary Read, held off the assailants for at least a short while.
Eventually, the entire crew was taken, convicted and hanged. Both Read and Bonny were able to gain a stay of execution due to their “delicate conditions” (read: pregnancies). However, Read died in prison, most likely during childbirth or from its aftereffects. Bonny gave birth in prison, then was released. Her fate after this is unknown. Some believe she actually died in prison, others that she escaped and returned to a life of piracy.
Grace O’Malley has become a legendary figure in Irish folklore despite her very real roots—she was even an inspiration for Anne Bonny to take up piracy. From a young age, O’Malley longed to follow in her father’s footsteps as a privateer on the seas. She once asked her father if she could join him on a trading venture to Spain. She was promptly rejected: Her father said her hair was too long and would get caught in the ship’s ropes. In response, O’Malley chopped off her hair.
With this proof of her seriousness, her father backed down, and she joined him on his next journey to Spain. Upon his death, she took control of the family’s land and sea despite having a brother. She paraded up and down the coastline thieving and bringing her findings back to her family’s coastal stronghold.
Her marriage to Donal an Chogaidh brought her even greater wealth and power. She had three children, including a daughter who took after her mother. When an Chogiaidh was murdered in an attack on his lands, O’Malley was ready to seek vengeance. She launched an attack on Doona castle, whose owners were thought to be responsible. The ferocity of this attack left her with a lasting nickname: the Dark Lady of Doona.
Later in life, O’Malley had an ongoing battle with Sir Richard Bingham, an English officer who was responsible for the Tudor conquest of England. Irish nobles like O’Malley were unwilling to give up their freedom of rule and fought viciously against the Tudor monarchy. After her sons were captured during a battle, O’Malley decided to visit the Tudor court to plead for their freedom.
She and Queen Elizabeth spoke in Latin, their common language (Elizabeth spoke no Irish, O’Malley no English). O’Malley refused to bow to the queen, as doing so would recognize her rights as the Queen of Ireland. The court was scandalized by O’Malley’s behavior, including blowing her nose in front of the queen. Their meeting resolved in O’Malley’s sons’ freedom and the removal of Bingham from Ireland. O’Malley continued to support the Irish insurgency by sea and land until her death in (approximately) 1603.
Beloved by Irish nationalists, O’Malley was renamed Gráinne Mhaol after her death and held up as a symbol of Irish indepence.
4. Sadie Farrell
Though there is some speculation about whether she actually existed, Sadie Farrell, also called Sadie the Goat, was an American criminal, gang leader, and river pirate who operated primarily in and around Manhattan. Her nickname emerges from how she would attack her victims on land: ramming headfirst into her target’s gut while a nearby acquaintance readied their slingshot.
When she tired of thieving on land, Sadie traveled to the waterfront in West Side Manhattan. It was here that she witnessed a failed attempt by the Charlton Street Gang to board a small riverboat and rob it. She offered up her services to the group and soon became their leader. Within days, she’d organized a highly successful theft which ignited her career as a pirate.
She and the Charlton Street Gang would soon be seen sailing up and down the Hudson and Harlem Rivers raiding small villages with a Jolly Roger flying from their sloop’s masthead. She was notorious for kidnapping men, women and children for ransom and is said to have made countless men walk the plank. Within a few months, people began anticipating the gang’s raids and what successes they had became smaller. Eventually, the gang returned to the Bowery for the more consistent life offered there.
This Breton pirate sailed the English Channel during the 1300s, and in these years earned the title Lioness of Brittany. Born in 1300, de Clisson was married first at 12. She had two children during her first marriage. Her husband, despite being only seven years older than her, died in 1326. Jeanne remarried twice after this. Her third and final marriage was rather unusual for the time—it seemed to be a love match. She and Oliver de Clisson had five children together, one of whom may have been born before they were actually married.
Her path to piracy began during the Breton War of Succession. For most of the fight, she sided with the French. That is, until her husband was lured onto French soil under the guise of achieving some kind of peace deal. He and his companions were captured, with their peers alleging that they had committed treason with the British. They were all tried and beheaded.
As revenge, de Clisson raised a force of loyal men and started attacking French forces in Brittany. With the English king’s help, she decorated three warships completely in black and, so the tale goes, wrote “My Revenge” across the vessels. It was on these ships that she patrolled the English Channel, hunting down and destroying French ships for 13 years before calling it quits. Jeanne seemingly decided that she had achieved sufficient vengeance out of nowhere and simply stopped wreaking terror upon the high seas. She died in a small port town on the Brittany coast in 1359.
Though Sayyida al Hurra never sailed much, if at all, she was regarded as a queen of the pirates in the Mediterranean. Between 1515 and 1542, she was both the actual Queen of Tétouan in northern Morocco and a pirate queen. She controlled the western Mediterranean Sea and was well-respected throughout the Mediterranean for her ability to rule on her own terms and to resist occupation when her power was threatened. In fact, her name means “noble lady who is free and independent; the woman sovereign who bows to no superior authority.”
She was born into a family of power in 1485, and quickly rose in ranks, marrying Tétouan’s ruler in her teens. When he died, she became ruler in her own right, at about 30. Not long after, the King of Fez, another Moroccan city, sought Sayyida’s hand. They were married, and Sayyida began realizing how piracy could revitalize her city after invading Christian forces devastated it.
By 1523, Sayyida was running the Mediterranean Sea. Her pirates stalked Portuguese shipping routes, stealing goods and money for the benefit of Tétouan. Although it’s possible that Sayyida was never actually on board any of her ships, her strategy and skill were able to create the opportunities that her people needed to rebuild Sayyida’s most beloved city.
7. Charlotte de Berry
De Berry is another possibly mythic female pirate. Stories of her life only appear in writing two centuries after her supposed death. Despite this, many believe that Charlotte de Berry did in fact exist and did take to the seas.
Born in the mid-1600s, de Berry grew up in England. In her late teens, de Berry fell in love with a sailor, married him, and started on her journey to piracy. Disguised as a man, she joined her husband onboard and fought valiantly alongside her crew. After one of the ship’s crew discovered that de Berry was a woman, her husband was killed. De Berry barely managed to escape, shedding her sailor garb and posing as a woman working on the docks.
While she was working on the docks, a captain kidnapped de Berry and forced her to marry him. He was brutal to de Berry. In order to escape him, she convinced the crew to betray their captain. De Berry decapitated him before the crew, and took his role as captain of the ship.
For many years following, she sailed the seas, attacking ships and stealing their treasures. She fell in love with a Spaniard, and invited him to join her crew. Shortly after they were shipwrecked. Most of the crew perished, including de Berry’s lover. The survivors were rescued by a Dutch ship, but de Berry jumped into the ocean rather than leave her lover behind. Her fate after this is unknown.
This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.