America's top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns - We Are The Mighty
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America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

The B-52 has been serving in America’s nuclear deterrent arsenal since 1952. But a lot has changed on the BUFF and its mission since it was on the front line against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.


The strategic bomber has gone from being designed to deliver huge nuclear bombs on Russia to dropping precision-guided conventional bombs on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Today, it is far more likely to deliver its nukes using air-launched cruise missiles than a gravity bomb.

But little did most people know that part of its post-World War II heritage equipped the lengthy bomber with tail guns.

The retirement of Chief Master Sgt. Rob Wellbaum is notable since he was the last of the B-52 tail gunners in the Air Force. Most versions of the BUFF had four .50-caliber M3 machine guns – fast-firing versions of the historic Ma Deuce (1,000 rounds per minute, according to GlobalSecurity.org) that were also used on the F-86 Sabre. Two B-52 versions went with different armament options, the B-52B (twin 20mm cannon in some planes) and the B-52H (an M61 Vulcan).

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
This is what a B-52’s tail looks like now, with the M61 Vulcan removed. A sad sight. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the B-52G and H, the tail gunners were in the main cabin, using a remotely operated turret. Earlier models had the tail gunners sitting in a shooters seat in the rear of the plane, providing the BUFF an extra set of eyes to detect SAM launches.

Those tail guns even saw some action. During the Vietnam War, three B-52Ds used their tail guns to score kills. All three of the victims were North Vietnamese MiG-21 Fishbeds, who found out the hard way that the BUFFs weren’t helpless targets on their six.

The B-52s up to the G model ultimately used the MD-9 fire-control system for the tail guns. The B-52G used the AN/ASG-15 for its remotely-operated quad .50 caliber turret while the B-52H used the AN/ASG-21 to guide its M61 Vulcan.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
A F-4G Wild Weasel, the plane involved in the friendly fire incident that prompted the removal of the tail guns and tail gunners from the B-52. (USAF photo)

An incident during Operation Desert Storm, though, would soon change things for the BUFF. A friendly-fire incident occurred when a tailgunner thought an Iraqi plane was closing in. The plane was actually an Air Force F-4G Wild Weasel. The crew of the U.S. jet mistook the B-52G’s AN/ASG-15 for an enemy air-defense system. The Weasel crew fired an AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile, which damaged the BUFF. The BUFF returned to base, and was reportedly named “In HARM’s Way” as a result.

Shortly after the misunderstanding, the Air Force announced that the tail guns were going away.

So, for all intents and purposes, a generation has passed since the B-52 had a tail gunner. Gone are the days when a fighter had to watch its steps when trying to get behind the B-52. To get a glimpse at what was lost, check out the video below.

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The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base

Everyone is up a tizzy now about the possibility of an actual Space Corps, the sixth branch of the military. But this isn’t America’s first pass at space occupation. The Army and Air Force launched two separate studies in the late 1950s about establishing a base on the moon and permanently occupying it.


America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
The proposed U.S. Army Moon base in 1965, near the end of construction. (Illustration: U.S. Army Project Horizon)

Since America ultimately won the first round of the Space Race, it’s easy to forget that the Soviet Union spent years firmly in the lead. It launched the first man-made satellite in 1957 and landed the first man-made object on the moon in 1959.

So the U.S. looked quickly for a way to catch up. The CIA was stealing technology as quickly as it could, Eisenhower ordered the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (now DARPA), and the Army and Air Force got to work planning moon bases.

While it may sound odd today, both military studies took it as a given that someone would occupy the moon relatively soon and that it should be America — even if there wasn’t a firm plan yet on what to do with it.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
(Illustration: U.S. Army Project Horizon)

The Army said:

The primary objective is to establish the first permanent manned installation on the moon. Incidental to this mission will be the investigation of the scientific, commercial, and military potential of the moon.

The Air Force was more direct, saying, “The decision on the types of military forces to be installed at the lunar base can be safely deferred for 3 to 4 years provided a military lunar base program is initiated immediately.”

But both services did have their own plans on what to do with it, even if they were relatively hazy ideas in the far future.

Both services wanted to use the moon base as a point for intercepting Soviet signals, an idea partially proven by the 1948 detection of air defense radar signals bouncing off the moon and later by “ELINT” which detected cutting-edge Soviet radar technology via lunar reflection.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
A space station would serve as a midway point for many missions to the moon under the Army plan. The Air Force plan called for direct flights from the Earth to lunar surface. (Illustration: U.S. Army Project Horizon)

The Army and Air Force were both interested in using the moon as an observation platform from which to watch activity in the Soviet Union.

But the most surprising proposed use of the moon base came from the Air Force, which twice mentioned the possibility of a “Lunar Based Earth Bombardment System,” a weapon projected to be accurate within 2-5 nautical miles.

The study doesn’t go into detail on what ordnance the LBEBS would use, but…pretty much the only weapon that can destroy an enemy installation by landing within five miles of it is a nuke.

When it came to planning the construction of the base, both services focused on their strong points.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
(Illustration: U.S. Army Project Horizon)

The Army, used to building large and complex bases around the world while under fire or during other adverse conditions, wrote up a detailed plan on how a 12-man team could bury modular containers three feet under the surface to establish a base for them to live in. They would use a special tractor and other excavation equipment to do so. It even planned out potential meals.

The Army does spend a few dozen pages discussing how to get everything to the moon, but is counting on nuclear-powered Saturn rockets to carry the heavy payloads. While the U.S. has tested nuclear-powered rocket engines a few times, it’s never made the jump to actually constructing one.

The Air Force, meanwhile, spends a lot of time and energy discussing how to send automated rocket flights with equipment payloads to specific points on the surface for later construction. But the study essentially kicks the can down the road when it comes to assembling those payloads into a functioning base.

A nuclear power plant was slated to power each base.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
The Army’s plan called for regular flights to and from the moon in cramped capsules. (Illustration: U.S. Army Project Horizon)

The timelines for the projects were ambitious, to say the least. The Air Force called for an operational lunar base by June 1969. In reality, Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon a month later, almost two years after the Air Force’s projection for the first manned mission.

The Army was even more optimistic, envisioning that the first people would reach the moon in 1965 and that the first outpost would be fully-functioning by the end of 1966.

Instead, here we are in the new millennium without a single moon base. The Space Corps is going to be busy playing catch up if it ever actually gets formed.

You can see all the studies at the links below:

Air Force Lunar Expedition Plan

Air Force Military Lunar Base Program

Army Lunar Outpost Summary and Supporting Consideration

Army Lunar Outpost Technical Considerations Plans

MIGHTY HISTORY

Russian nuclear warheads provided electricity for the US for 20 years

Even today, people can go on YouTube and watch videos of old military parades from the days of yore, when the Soviet Union was a constant threat to the United States. Part of those old parades included a drive by of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles driven on the back of trucks. If you watched one of those old videos between 2005 and 2013, there’s an excellent chance your computer was being powered by one of the nuclear warheads driving by. 

For two decades, the United States received uranium shipments from the former Soviet Union to use in its electric-generating nuclear power plants. The Russians would take their old warheads, get the weapons-grade nuclear material from them, turn it into fuel and sell it to private companies in the U.S. 

It all started after the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the newly-formed Russian government had neither the will nor the funds to secure its nuclear stockpile. 

Philip Sewell was an employee of the Department of Energy in the early 1990s. It was his job to go to Russia’s old Soviet nuclear sites and determine the situation there. What he reported back was unsurprising at best, downright scary at worst. 

He told NPR the military facilities he found were mostly abandoned shells, with very few people around them. Windows were broken, gates and doors were unlocked, and it seemed like anyone could walk right in, take some nuclear material and walk out. 

There were 20,000 warheads’ worth of decommissioned nuclear material in the buildings. He and the U.S. State Department needed to find a means of securing it in a way that the new Russian government would care about. So he pitched the idea of creating an entire industry around it. The Russians were hesitant. 

energy plant fueled by nuclear warheads
Nuclear power produced electricity in the US for decades.

“It was a matter of pride, principle and patriotism,” Sewell told NPR. “Even though they didn’t need that excess material, [and] they didn’t have the money to protect it, they didn’t want to let go of it.”

But they needed the money. The Russian economy was in ruins after the fall of the Soviet Empire. Millions were out of work and the country had to rebuild a capitalist system in a hurry. Sewell’s solution was a winner for everyone involved. 

The United States was able to secure weapons-grade uranium, nuclear power companies got much-needed material to power their businesses, and the Russians got a $17 billion income stream from the deal. 

But the deal came to an end in 2013 when the last of the agreed-upon uranium was delivered to the United States. Russia was not in as much financial hardship as it was in the early 1990s and now it can find more and better uses for uranium. 

Still, with the weapons decommissioned and the nuclear fuel spent, we can sit comfortably in front of our smartphones knowing 20,000 fewer nukes are pointed at us.

Articles

12 rare and amazing photos from the ‘War to End All Wars’


The Great War – World War I – raged through Europe and the Middle East 100 years ago. These are some of the most unbelievable photos of troops and tech from the “War to End All Wars.”


Losing incredible photos to history could happen for any reason. Perhaps there were so many, these were rejected by publications, locked away in a box for us to find a century later. Or maybe they were just the personal keepsakes of those who fought the war. Whatever the reason, we can marvel at what wartime life was like, both in and out of the trenches.

Soldiers on all sides are more than just cannon fodder. These photos show people’s hearts, souls, and personal beliefs. They show the innovation on the battlefield – the gruesome killing power of the world’s first industrialized war. They also show the efforts made to improve technology that could save lives by ending the war.

Most of all, it shows that we who fight wars are still human, no matter which side of the line we maintain.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

1. This listening device.

Before the advent of radar, aircraft had to be located by hearing the direction from which the aircraft approached. The horns amplified sound and the tech would wear headphones to try to pinpoint the location of the incoming enemy.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

2. Holy rolling.

German infantryman Kurt Geiler was carrying his bible when a four centimeter piece of shrapnel embedded itself in the book, likely making a lifelong Christian out out of Geiler.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

3. Lady Liberty takes 18,000 soldiers.

This depiction of the Statue of Liberty was made to drive war bonds and is made up of 18,000 troops – 12,000 just for the torch, which is a half mile away.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

4. Realities of war.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affected troops even 100 years ago. Called “shell shock” at the time, up to 65,000 troops were treated for it, while thousands of others were charged with cowardice for it. Blasts from shells would leave lesions on the brain, resulting in symptoms similar to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) experienced by post-9/11 veterans.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

5. This Austro-Hungarian war face.

This war face would make Gunnery Sergeant Hartman proud. It looks like William Fichtner’s great-grandfather.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

6. These Italian troops mummified by the cold.

The next time you complain about being in formation in the winter, remember it could always be worse. These Italians froze in the Alps, fighting Austrians.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

7. This gay couple flaunting DADT before it was controversial.

Proof that DADT was garbage in the first place.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

8. This pigeon is ready for your close up.

Both sides used animals for reconnaissance and communication. Pigeons were especially useful for their homing ability and attitude.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

9. This woman looks ready to take the whole German Army.

There’s so much so-called “great man history,” that we often forget about women’s contributions. Women worked in many industrial areas during the Great War. Look at this photo and realize most of you couldn’t chop wood all day on your best day.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

10. This incredibly brave little girl.

Where are this girl’s parents? This is 1916, and child rearing was slightly tougher back then, but that’s still unexploded ordnance. (Europeans still find unexploded bombs from both world wars.)

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

11. This is the “Ideal Soldier.”

This propaganda photo depicts what the French public thought the ideal French soldier looked like.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

12. These Vietnamese troops who did not fit #11’s profile.

A total of 92,411 Vietnamese men from what was then called French Indochina were in the service of France and were distributed around Europe, of which around 30,000 died.

Lists

6 of the best barracks drinking games, ranked

When you’re young and living in the barracks, regardless of whether you’re legally old enough, you’re going to enjoy a beer or some hard liquor. Underage drinking in the barracks happens every day. Although we don’t condone the act, there’s not a whole lot for troops to do when you don’t have a car and you’re stationed at a base in the middle of nowhere.


So, if you’re one of those youngsters trapped on base and all you’ve got is a 12-pack in the fridge, then take note, because this article might make you look a lot cooler at one of those barracks parties.

So, let’s get freakin’ lit. But, as always, drink responsibly, people.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

Let the games begin!

(Wheres My Challenge)

Edward 40-hands

The idea of this game is simple. Tape two 40-ounce beers to your hands. Now, don’t remove the tape and free yourself until you’ve consumed the contents of both beers.

If you’re a lightweight and you have to pee just minutes into the game, good luck to you.

Cup swap

This game is played in teams of two or more and with a variety of mixable alcohols. First, one person fills up a cup with their booze of choice. Next, you swap your cup with another contestant. From this moment, they have one minute to move the contents of their cup into another, using a teaspoon. After the minute is up, the player must drink the reminder.

Good times.

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Flip cup

First, split a group up into two equal teams. Line up the teams, man for man, on either side of a table. Set a cup in front of each player and distribute a couple beers. Starting at one end of the table, two opposing players drink the beer in front of them, set the empty cup rim-up on the edge of the table, and attempt to flip it over by tapping the bottom of the cup. After you successfully flip your cup onto its head, the next player in line begins the same process. Repeat this until every player on a team is done.

Now, start flippin’!

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Medusa

Now, this game is perfect for playing with four or more players, so get some of your buddies together. Arrange your closest friends around a table and bow your heads. After counting to three, quickly lift your head up and make eye contact with another player.

If you do make eye contact with another player, the one who says “Medusa” last, loses and they have to take a drink. If you don’t make eye contact with another person, well, then, we guess no one wanted to look at you.

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Never have I ever

Among a group of friends, one designated player will start by saying the words, “Never have I ever…” and then complete the statement with something they’ve never done before.

If any other players have done what that person hasn’t, they must take a drink. Things can get pretty weird pretty quickly, so play smart.

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Beer Pong

This one’s probably the most popular drinking game of all time. If you don’t know how to play, that sucks for you. But if you need a reminder, just watch the video below.

Also, get out of the house once in a while, will you?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s one-of-a-kind destroyer is a Cold War spinoff

Spinoffs are a curse of entertainment. Any successful TV series soon spawns one or two others that are of suspect quality and have a vague connection to the original. For instance, the overwhelmingly popular Friends led to the creation of the underwhelming Joey. AfterMASH tried (and failed) to piggyback off of the successes of M*A*S*H.

But did you know warships also generate spinoffs? In fact, Russia pulled off a one-of-a-kind spinoff from one of its most successful ships.


America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

The Russian navy destroyer ADM Chabanenko (DD650), right, moves past the French navy frigate FS Ventose (F733) while getting underway during the 2011 FRUKUS (French, Russia, United Kingdom, United States) event.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marie Brindovas)

The Udaloy-class destroyers were built for protecting high-value assets, like Kiev-class carriers and Kirov-class battlecruisers, from NATO submarines. Udaloy-class vessels carried two 100mm guns, two quad SS-N-14 Silex launchers, 64 SA-N-9 Gauntlet point-defense surface-to-air missiles in eight eight-round launchers, four quad 53mm torpedo tube mounts, and four AK-630 close-in weapon systems. The destroyer could also operate two Ka-27 Helix anti-ship helicopters.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

The Russian navy destroyer RFS ADM Chabanenko (DD 650) fires the AK-130-MR-184 130 mm gun at a distant target during a gunnery exercise as part of the at-sea phase of FRUKUS 2011.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Darren Moore)

That’s some serious firepower — a submarine captain would have some trepidation having to take those on. But the Udaloy was a little weak in one crucial area: fighting surface ships. The SS-N-14 and the 533mm torpedoes could be used against ships, but they were primarily intended to hunt subs. In short, the Udaloy was out-ranged by the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, which was in service with U.S. Navy three years before the first Udaloy was commissioned. So, in 1989, the Soviet Union laid down what they hoped would be the answer to this shortcoming.

Despite plans to build several, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union would leave this vessel as the only one of its kind. The Admiral Chabanenko underwent a lengthy construction process — it took ten years to be commissioned. For this ship, the Soviets turned to the Udaloy’s contemporary, the Sovremennyy, as a baseline. The Admiral Chabanenko replaced the two 100mm guns with a twin 130mm gun mount, the quad SS-N-14 mounts were replaced with quad SS-N-22 Sunburn launchers, and the four AK-630s were replaced with CADS-N-1 close-in weapon systems.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5YXvOLWHAY

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Today, this unique vessel is still in service with the Russian Navy. Two planned sister ships were never finished.

Learn more about this one-of-a-kind ship in the video below.

popular

Why the American military created the Silver Star, Navy Cross and other medals for valor

Today, the Silver Star, Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, and Air Force Cross are known as awards that recognize heroic actions by service members in combat.


But they were created on the heels of serious controversy over other awards.

During the Civil War, Congress created the Medal of Honor to recognize valor. But some of the awards were seen as questionable by some. Perhaps the most egregious of these was the case of the 27th Maine Regiment.

According to HomeofHeroes.com, the 864 men of this regiment were awarded the medal en masse due to a poorly-worded order by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and a bureaucratic snafu.

 

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
Sgt. Joshua Moore receives the Navy Cross from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus during a 2013 awards ceremony. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Arif Patani)

 

So, in 1917, there was an effort to clean up the mess that had been created. A total 911 Medals of Honor were revoked, including those from the 27th Maine. But there was also an effort to make sure that the Medal of Honor would not be so frivolously awarded in the future, while still recognizing gallantry in action.

As America entered World War I, it was obvious there would be acts of valor. So Congress created the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Citation Star (Which would later become the Silver Star Medal) in 1918, and the Navy Cross in 1919 to address valor that didn’t rise to the level of the Medal of Honor. It was the start of the “Pyramid of Honor,” which now has a host of decorations to recognize servicemen (and women) for valor or for other meritorious actions.

 

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
Army Spc. Craig Middleton receives the silver star from Army Maj. Gen. Kurt Fuller in a 2012 ceremony. (Photo: US Army)

 

So, what sort of courageous actions warrant which medal? Perhaps one indicator of today’s standards can come from the sample citations in SECNAV Instruction 1650.1H.

Historically, though, it should be noted that in the Vietnam War, Randy “Duke” Cunningham received the Navy Cross for making ace (an Air University bio reports that he was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his actions on May 10, 1972).

Or, one can look at the actions of Leigh Ann Hester to get a good idea of what would warrant a Silver Star.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 6 strangest super weapons of the Cold War

The Cold War was one of the most trying times for both Americans and Russians, who constantly lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation. If they only knew about the other weapons the superpowers were coming up with, no one would ever have slept at night. The struggle against Communism was a field day for weapons manufacturers and government war planners. It seemed the military was open to almost anything that could kill or stymie the Russian menace.

Even if that meant getting a little creative.


America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

The Blue Peacock

Land mines are a dangerous, tricky business for a couple of reasons. The first is that they’re hidden, of course, and no one knows where they are until it’s too late. With the Blue Peacock, “too late” came with a lot of baggage – eight to ten kilotons worth. In the Cold War, everyone wanted their special atomic weapon, it seemed. For the British, that came in the form of denying the Soviets an area to occupy in the event of World War III. Blue Peacock was a large atomic weapon that would have been buried in areas around Northern Germany and set to trigger if someone opened the casing or if it filled with water.

The idea was for the bomb to be left unattended, so on top of its itchy trigger finger, it could be set off with an eight-day timer or just detonated by wire. What’s truly silly about this weapon is that British engineers didn’t know how to address the extreme cold of the North German Plain, so their plan was to either wrap the bombs in blankets or keep live chickens with them to keep them warm.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

Chrysler TV-8 Tank

Is this the goofiest tank you’ve ever seen? Me too, but it’s an American-engineered nuclear tank, imported from Detroit. This behemoth was nuclear in that it was powered by a nuclear reactor that was designed to use closed-circuit television for the crew to see. The crew would reside in the tank’s massive pod area, along with the engines and ammunition storage but the pod design would also allow the TV-8 to float, along with two water jet pumps, giving it an amphibious landing capability.

Along with the tank’s main turret, the TV-8 carried two manual .30-caliber machine guns along with a remote-controlled .50-cal mounted on top of the pod. At 25 tons, this incredible hulk was still half the mass of the M1 Abrams.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

Project Orion

Still riding high from the possibilities of nuclear power, American engineers thought going to Mars and beyond would be possible with the use of an atomic engine. But this isn’t an engine that is propelled by some sort of atomic chain reaction or any kind of vacuum energy, no. This engine was powered by atomic bombs. Nuclear bombs were supposed to give the spaceship lift and, once in space, the energy needed for an interplanetary excursion.

The only problem was it left nuclear fallout and radioactive waste spread throughout the atmosphere.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

“Rods from God”

Finally, someone decided that nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered weapons were being a little overdone (probably, anyway) and came up with the idea to design a weapon that could hit with the force of a nuke, but without actually nuking a city.

“Project Thor” was born.

Read: These Air Force ‘rods from god’ could hit with the force of a nuclear weapon

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

Project Pluto

If there was ever a contest for the biggest “f*ck you” weapon of the Cold War, the United States’ Project Pluto is the top contender. The weapon was an unmanned ramjet loaded with nuclear weapons that, once launched, would fly around for as long as it could at supersonic speeds. This jet engine was special, though, because it was heated by a nuclear reactor, so that turned out to be a very, very long time. Once the nuclear drone bomber delivered its payload to targets, it would just fly around, dropping its nuclear waste on everyone it flew over.

Potentially forever.

The Pentagon scrapped the idea because there was no known defense and they didn’t want the Soviets to develop a similar weapon and use it on the United States.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

Soviet Ekranoplan – “The Flying Boat”

Unlike a couple of the other crazy superweapons of the Cold War that made this list, the Ekranoplane was actually built by the Soviet Union. Faster than any ship and bigger than any plane, the Flying Boat could carry anything from troops to cargo to nuclear weapons, all at a crazy speed. And just 13 feet off the ground. Its engines were some of the most advanced of the time, each producing thrust equal to the F-35’s engines.

It could carry some two million pounds, flying low over water to evade detection, moving small, portable D-Day invasions across the globe. Luckily only one was ever built, and the Soviets lost the Cold War anyway.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s new recon helicopter might be on the chopping block

The Army has been looking for a new scout helicopter to replace the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior for over two decades. Between budget cuts and iffy cancellation decisions, a number of contenders, notably the RAH-66 Comanche and the ARH-70 Arapaho, have failed to make the cut. Now, the Army is hoping to get another chance to replace the Kiowa, which retired from U.S. Army service in 2017.

However, it’s looking like Congress may put the kibosh on putting any new birds in the sky.


According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the Army’s desire to buy a new recon helicopter is being questioned by some on Capitol Hill. There are concerns surfacing about whether manned helicopters can survive on a modern battlefield full of advanced missiles and self-propelled guns. Currently, the Army is using AH-64 Apaches to fill the gap in reconnaissance capabilities left by the Kiowa’s retirement.

The Army has long planned to find a new scout/utility bird under the Future Vertical Lift program, but now it seems they’re looking to get results faster — and they’ve requested $75 million (couch-cushion money in the DOD budget) to do so. One of the reasons for the rush is that the Apache, as impressive as it is, is not exactly the best choice for recon.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior was retired without a replacement — and the scouting mission got handed over to the AH-64 Apache.

(US Army)

Under the Future Vertical Lift program, one of the proposed Joint Multi-Role helicopters, the JMR-Light, is intended to be a scout/light-utility helicopter. One likely contender for that role, Lockheed’s S-97 Raider, has recently been cleared for full flight testing. The helicopter first flew in 2015 and can reach a blistering 220 knots, according to Lockheed Martin.

Although the S-97 is extremely capable, the Army has expressed a desire for a “pure” scout helicopter — Congress, however, citing the concerns mentioned earlier, don’t share that desire.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

The AH-64 Apache carries the same rocket pods and Hellfire missiles as the S-97 Raider, but it carries a lot of them.

(US Army)

The Raider is capable of using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, as well as 2.75-inch rocket pods and either a 7.62mm or .50-caliber machine gun. The Raider can transport up to six troops and has a range of 323 nautical miles. It can carry the fuel needed for almost three hours of sustained flight time.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

The ARH-70 Arapaho didn’t make the cut — one of several efforts to replace the OH-58 that failed,

(US Army)

The Raider is not the only experimental system being considered to fill a gap in recon capabilities. Bell is offering a family of tilt-rotor aircraft, including the V-280 Valor and the V-247 unmanned aerial vehicle. Other companies are also offering prototypes, seeking to get in on a contract that’ll likely be a massive financial windfall.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Saved by the BRRRRT! – 5 times A-10s made the difference in battle

There are plenty of weapons systems that ground troops want in support of high-risk missions, but few are as beloved as the A-10. The “Warthog” can fly low, take an amazing amount of punishment, and unleash absolute devastation on enemy forces with rockets, bombs, and its famous 30mm cannon.


The A-10 earned this reputation under fire. Here are five times that A-10 Warthogs saved the day for troops in contact and pilots lost behind enemy lines:

1. An A-10 coordinates support of a high-value target capture mission with no notice

 

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder

Capt. Scott Campbell and his flight were enjoying a no-fly day when the word came in that a senior al-Qaeda officer had been spotted. In less than an hour, the pilots had thrown a hasty plan together and gotten into the air.

Campbell and the A-10 pilots provided direct fires in support of ground forces and deconflicted the flight paths of F-14s and F/A-18s on the mission while also feeding reconnaissance information to the troops conducting the capture. When the target was secured, the A-10s escorted the helicopters home to end the 8-hour, no-notice mission.

2. Warthogs shut down Taliban attacks against a besieged Special Forces team

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
Photo: Public Domain Jim Haseltine

An Army Special Forces team stumbled into a Taliban ambush and called for help from Apaches and A-10s. Capt. Aaron M. Palan was on his fourth mission in the deployment and flew his jet into the fray, sending four GPS-guided munitions, three white phosphorous rockets, and 1,150 30mm cannon rounds into the camouflaged and fortified enemy positions.

When Palan’s flight lead went up to refuel, Palan led the Apaches on attack runs against Taliban ground forces, killing 20 to 30 enemy fighters and shutting down five ground assaults against the Special Forces team.

3. A pilot destroys Iraqi forces while rescuing a downed pilot

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
Photo: US Air Force

 

During Operation Desert Storm an F-14 pilot was shot down by Iraqi forces. Air Force Capt. Paul T. Johnson was flight lead for two A-10s sent to conduct search and rescue, the first time the A-10 completed this type of mission in combat.

Johnson flew the plane deeper into enemy territory than it had ever gone and dropped to 500 feet to spot the isolated American. He spent over three hours searching and destroyed an Iraqi missile site before spotting the pilot and killing an Iraqi truck that was approaching the pilot. The rescue was ultimately successful.

4. Pilots use their own A-10s as bait for enemy air defenses to save a downed pilot

 

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
Photo: US Air Force Ben Bloker

 

After an American pilot was shot down over Serbia on Mar 27, 1999, Capt. John A. Cherrey led a flight of A-10s to find and rescue him. Cherrey and his flight had to proceed directly through Serbian air defenses and fly over surface-to-air missile batteries to reach the crash site.

The flight dealt with constant jamming, bad weather, and enemy aircraft to reach the pilot. When the pilot was found close to Serbian air defenses, Cherrey and his flight flew circles over other areas in the air defense ring to distract enemy radar from the real pick-up location. The choppers were able to pick up the isolated pilot and everyone headed home alive thanks to the A-10s.

5. A quick-thinking A-10 pilot prevented a fratricide during a frantic, joint forces mission

In Jan. 2007, a group of British Royal Marines assaulted Taliban forces in Jugroom Fort, an insurgent compound. The fight quickly went south and the British launched a desperate rescue attempt for an isolated, wounded Marine that relied on Marines riding Apaches back into the fort, covered by a B-1 bombing run and A-10 gun runs.

While the A-10s deserve credit for covering the ground troops and Apaches, their single greatest contribution was when the A-10 flight lead called for an abort of the first B-1 bombing run. The flight lead had heard the ground controller pass the target coordinates to the B-1 and had realized, working mostly from memory, that the numbers were actually the coordinates of the Marines. The lead then walked the controller through how to get the proper coordinates, working again from memory.

MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: What was the Missouri Mormon War?

Between August and November of 1838, the Mormons and non-Mormons of Missouri got into a pretty serious conflict. These days, that conflict is known as the 1838 Mormon War. Sometimes, it’s also called the Missouri Mormon War. But if you’ve never heard of it, don’t feel bad. Lots of people don’t know a single thing about this conflict.

First, a little history. The origins of the conflict date back to 1833. That’s when members of the Latter Day Saint movement settled in Jackson County, Missouri. They wanted to call the Show Me State home but were quickly persecuted and evicted by the area’s non-Mormons.

It sure wasn’t easy being Mormon in Missouri

Maybe if the Mormons had a chance to resettle elsewhere, the war wouldn’t have happened. Maybe everything would have remained peaceful if the Mormons had a chance to establish and call MO home. But that’s not what happened. Just like before, the citizens in their new settlements didn’t want the Mormons around either. Queue repeat montage of the Mormons once again going on the hunt for a place to establish roots. So by 1836, Missouri decided to appoint Caldwell County specifically for the Mormons. The authorities thought if they could keep the Mormons in one place, all would be fine. But that’s not what happened. The Mormons settled and soon had really big families. That meant that their population started spilling over to neighboring counties. This caused tension between Mormons and non-Mormons once again. 

The Missouri Mormon War officially began after an election in Gallatin, where William Peniston was running for office. During the election on August 6, 1838, Peniston threatened the Mormons with violence, saying that they either would vote for him or not at all. Of course, the Mormons had to defend themselves, so the fight was on. 

A Mormon’s gotta do what a Mormon’s gotta do

Mob violence increased against the Mormons after this brawl. Mormon settlers were increasingly attacked and forced from their homes, until one day, the Mormons decided they wouldn’t take the persecution anymore. So began Mormon raids on non-Mormon towns, including Gallatin and Millport. Then the non-Mormons returned with even more violence, going into Caldwell County and taking Mormons as prisoners. 

The peak of the 1838 Mormon War was the Battle of Crooked River, where the Mormons were up against who they thought was an angry mob. Three Mormons and one non-Mormon died in the battle. Unfortunately, that mob was actually the Richmond County Militia, so Joseph Smith, the leaders of the Latter Day Saint movement who had come to help his Missouri settlers, was tried for treason for attacking the State. 

The Mormons say goodbye to Missouri once and for all

Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs then issued Executive Order 44, or the “Extermination Order.” It authorized the state militia to give the Mormons an ultimatum: either leave the state or be killed. An unauthorized organized mob then took it upon themselves to attack a small Mormon town called Haun’s Mill on October 30, 1838. The mob brutally killed 18 Mormon men and boys. 

Joseph Smith surrendered on November 1, 1838 at the Mormon headquarters in Far West, a major town inside of Caldwell County. Luckily for him, he was able to escape, at which point he immediately fled to Illinois. Left without any other choice, 10,000 Missouri Mormons followed Smith’s lead and crossed the border into Illinois to establish a new settlement there. 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Spanish aircraft carrier was an elegant warfighter

The Spanish Navy has always operated an aircraft carrier. Its most recent carrier is SNS Juan Carlos I, which is, in essence, an amphibious assault ship capable of operating Spain’s force of EAV-8B Harriers. Juan Carlos I’s predecessor, though, was Spain’s first home-built aircraft carrier.


The Principe de Asturias, named for the heir to the Spanish throne, replaced the Dedalo, which began its life as the Independence-class light carrier USS Cabot (CVL 28). The Dedalo had been modified to operate AV-8S Harriers, which were very similar to various the Harriers in service with both the United States Marine Corps and the Royal Air Force.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
The Spanish aircraft carrier SPS Principe De Asturias (R 11) steams through the Atlantic Ocean while participating in Majestic Eagle 2004. Majestic Eagle is a multinational exercise being conducted off the coast of Morocco. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class William Howell)

The fact of the matter was that Independence-class light carriers were good ships — of the nine vessels to serve in World War II, eight survived — but they were designed to launch a piston-engine fighter, like the F6F Hellcat. The Principe de Asturias was designed to be a Harrier carrier from the getgo. One of the primary features of that ship was the ski-jump ramp on the bow.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Principe de Asturias displaced 17,190 tons and had a top speed of 25 knots. It could operate a mix of Harriers and anti-submarine helicopter and had four Meroka 20mm close-in weapon systems.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
An EAV-8B Harrier II from the Spanish aircraft carrier Principe de Asturias (R 11) prepares to land after a live-fire exercise as part of a passing exercise with ships assigned to Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG-2). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Leonardo Carrillo)

25 knots seems quite low when compared to American Nimitz-class supercarriers. This is because the Principe de Asturias wasn’t meant to take on the Soviet Navy in the Norwegian Sea. Her mission was to help protect convoys heading across the Atlantic. The Harriers might not be able to destroy a regiment of Backfires, but they could kill the occasional Tu-95 “Bear D” search aircraft. Meanwhile, her helicopters could keep an enemy submarine at bay — or better yet, sink it.

This ship gave Spain 25 years of excellent service. Despite reports of a number of countries wanting to buy it, she was sold for scrap.

Learn more about this vessel in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIFsez062MY
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
Articles

How Margaret Thatcher almost sent the SAS on a raid to supply besieged Brits in Kuwait

Margaret Thatcher considered an SAS-style raid to resupply Britain’s besieged embassy in Iraqi-occupied Kuwait, which was running out of water, food, and fuel in the run-up to the Gulf War in September 1990, newly released Downing Street papers reveal.


After his shock invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, Saddam Hussein had given the diplomats three weeks to transfer their operations to Baghdad but the British along with other embassies refused to leave.

Percy Cradock, Thatcher’s veteran foreign affairs adviser, was asked to investigate the possibility of using military special forces to resupply the embassy, where four remaining diplomats, including the ambassador, were living behind 3-4-meter (10-12ft) high walls topped with barbed wire.

“Outside, the embassy is under the surveillance of guards. Kuwait City itself is dense with Iraqi infantry. The occupants reckon they have supplies to last 50 days (about the end of October with reduced communications activity). After that they will need water, food, and fuel,” Cradock reported back to Thatcher.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
SAS Emblem from Wikimedia Commons

“We looked at the possibility of resupplying of our embassy by means of a military operation. This has been carefully examined in the Ministry of Defense and the military view is that the hazards in relation to benefits would be excessive. Kuwait and its approaches are heavily defended. There are mines on the beaches and plentiful air defense. The sea approaches are patrolled by Iraqi fast boats. We have no available submarine and a sea approach would involve bringing a destroyer or frigate dangerously close to shore,” he said.

A parachute drop was ruled out as impractical and while they could get a helicopter in it was unlikely to get out again, simply adding to the number of people to be fed and exposing the helicopter crew to probably fatal reprisals by the Iraqis.

Another idea considered was asking the Kuwaiti resistance to get local people to drop small quantities of supplies over the walls at night but an initial response indicates this was considered difficult and dangerous.

Nevertheless, the British remained along with the Americans, Germans, and French, who were also cut off from utilities. Nearly two months later a telegram dated 3 November 1990 appeared in the Downing Street file with a note: “From our man in Kuwait.” Signed “Burton,” it reported “regrettably there is little ‘haute’ about my cuisine, at least in these circumstances.

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns
USAF photo by Ssgt. F. Lee Corkran

“We have one meal a day, consisting of rice and pasta alternately. We still have quite a lot of tins of tuna and a few of frankfurters, plus a lot of spices, mostly taken from the servants’ quarters.

“Unfortunately we are very short of onions, though we do have garlic, and have only a few tins of tomatoes and tomato paste. We have a little powdered milk left and ‘gram’ powder made from chickpeas, I think, so I can make white sauces. We have used up all our ordinary flour, which means I can no longer make bread, as I did in the early days.”

The besieged diplomat reported that curried tuna and tuna lasagna were both popular, and so was crab in cheese sauce: “Curried frankfurter is rather less so, though ‘sausage chasseur’ is accepted.”

In the event the British embassy held on until 16 December before making its way to Baghdad. The US-led coalition assault, known as Operation Desert Storm, started the following month, in January 1991, to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait.

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