By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal - We Are The Mighty
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By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

This post was sponsored by FN.

When your slogan is “World’s most battle-proven firearms,” you had better be able to back it up, right? While introducing the question of what company actually has that to a random set of gun guys might yield a lot of answers, most of them would be wrong. Like cars and shoes, people tend to be brand loyal with their firearms without actually crunching the data. But the data in this case leaves only one answer: FN.


FN Herstal, and its subsidiary FN America, have made the weapons that were carried across the beaches of Normandy all the way to the mountains of Afghanistan. While we could have chosen from many arms best suited to back up FN’s claim, these top 6 are absolutely stunning in depth. Any one of them could be number one, so consider these in no particular order. A great amount of FN’s contributions to this list come from the brilliant mind of John Moses Browning. Later in his life, Fabrique Nationale, now known simply as FN, became the go-to for Browning and is also the owner of his namesake company, Browning.

So here we go, in an order that no one could call descending, 6 guns that are battle-proven and stunning:

Browning High Power

The very first iteration of this pistol was called the GP 35 or Grand Puissance and was completed by Dieudonne Saive, a protege of John M. Browning, who took over the design when JMB died at their factory in 1926.

Saive is also the engineer that developed the modern double-stacked magazine, first introduced on the FN High Power.

Known as the High Power (and, later, the “Hi Power”) because when it was created it carried 13 rounds of 9mm, when most handguns carried 7, the High Power was ahead of its time. It has been used in conflicts from 1935 to the present, from WW2 to the Falklands to Syria. It was the classic favorite of not only the SAS but many Commando Units from across the world. These guns are still highly prized.

Canadian military still uses the High Power. They have an interesting connection to the design after the plans were secreted out of Belgium before the German occupation of FN’s factory. The Canadians, under the Inglis brand, produced their own.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

A version of the FN FAL used by West German soldiers in 1960.

FN FAL, aka “ The Right Arm of the Free World”

Right Arm of the Free World is not an easy nickname to get, but it is well earned with the FN FAL. FAL stands for Fusil Automatique Leger, which is French for “Light Automatic Rifle.” Prototyped in 7.92x33mm Kurz and again in 280 British, most examples historically are 308 (7.62x51mm). At a time the world was recovering from WW2, and in desperate need of a new rifle, the FAL entered service in an eventual 90 nations as their service rifle.

The British called it the L1A1, and it stood across the Cold War from the AK-47. So many FAL’s were produced that on occasion, opposing armies have both been carrying them. It was a favorite worldwide and is still in use today. I had a captured Paratrooper model in Iraq that I was absolutely in love with, and sadly had to leave behind due to its auto switch.

M2 50 Caliber BMG, aka The Ma Deuce

This is a weird one, because it isn’t an FN exclusive design, nor does FN currently hold the contract for the M2. Due to World War requirements, dozens of companies made M2 machine guns, much the same way Singer sewing machines made 1911’s. But, FN has been producing M2’s since the 1930s, and you may have actually used one in the service. Arguably the longest serving weapon in U.S. history, the M2 needs no introduction. From an anti-aircraft role in WW2, to Kandahar last week, the M2 has served on every battlefield imaginable.

FN currently produces the M2 in a Quick Change Barrel or QCB model for vehicle or boat pintle mounts. They also produce the FN M3M designated as the GAU-21 which is in service with the U.S. Navy.

M-16/M-4/M16A4

I am counting this as one weapon, though it is a family of weapons. Something that may surprise you: If you were in the military after 1988, odds are pretty good that your service rifle was an FN. FN first won the contract, beating out Colt, for M-16 production in 1988. They created the M16A4 for the USMC in the Global War on Terror out of whole cloth, and again beat Colt for the M-4 contract in 2013. In addition to serving the U.S. military, FN has armed what can only be called a metric grundle of other nations with M-16/4 weapons over the decades. FN’s production tops one million units of M16/M4 carbines for DoD.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

FN America on Facebook

M240/M249

Again this could count as multiple weapons, but I’m considering it one since the M249 is basically a scaled down M240. It might surprise you to learn it has been in service (240 version) since 1958. It is issued in 80 militaries, and has been made under license by FN in Canada, India, Egypt and the United Kingdom. It has many names, such as the GPMG for you Brits, and sets the standard across the globe as the medium machine gun of choice. While the M240 (7.62x51mm) is older, the smaller M249 (5.56x45mm) has actually been around for some time as well. It was designed in 1976, and entered US service in 1984.

It is well known enough to also have many names, such as “Minimi” to our cousins across the pond. It has been used in every U.S. conflict since the invasion of Panama in 1989, and was a personal favorite of mine in the GWOT. I think a great many of us GWOT veterans, including myself, can say this. I came home on my feet instead of in a body bag more than once because I was carrying an FNH machine gun.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

U.S. Navy SEAL with a SCAR.

SCAR- aka “ Special (operations forces) Combat Assault Rifle”

This one hasn’t seen quite as many conflicts, having been only produced in 2004. But it does represent the future for FN. Available in either 5.56 (Light Variant) or 7.62×51 (Heavy Variant), and as of January 2020, 6.5 Creedmoor, the SCAR has been a rising star. It won the SOCOM service trials for the U.S., and entered service in 2009. The Heavy version became very popular among troops headed to Afghanistan, and has entered the service of 20 nations. Rapidly user configurable for various mission roles, the SCAR continues to evolve. Considering FN’s previous reputation, I think we can expect this one to be around for a good long time.

Living up to a slogan that proclaims the world’s most anything might be tough to do, until you’ve held an FN product.

This post was sponsored by FN.

popular

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

Before kickoff at Dec. 8, 2018’s Army-Navy football game, seven cadets and seven midshipmen will walk to mid field to be traded back to their home academies.

The annual prisoner exchange ceremony is part of the Service Academy Exchange Program where students from each of the four service academies are exchanged to spend the fall semester at an academy other than their own. In 2018, seven U.S. Military Academy cadets and seven Naval Academy midshipmen are taking part in the exchange between the two schools.


The students enrolled in the program spend the semester living at their exchange academy, taking classes and training with fellow future leaders in the American military. The program has roots dating back to 1945 when West Point cadets and Naval Academy midshipmen did a weekend long exchange program. The program expanded to a semester long in 1975 and has continued ever since.

Prisoner Exchange

youtu.be

Second Class cadets, or Cows, from West Point can participate in the exchange, but must go through a competitive selection process. In 2018, seven cadets are at each the Naval and Air Force academies and five are at the Coast Guard Academy for the fall semester.

“I wanted to participate in the Navy exchange program because it provided a great opportunity to learn more about another service academy and about two other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces,” Class of 2020 Cadet Kevin Rinkliff said. “Despite the rivalry, we are both on the same side of the fight, and I knew that learning more about the experiences of Naval Academy midshipmen would be beneficial if I ever get the opportunity to work with Navy or Marine Corps Officers in the future.”

While they will stay at their exchange academy through the end of the semester before returning to their home academy in January 2019, the cadets and midshipmen will have the chance to sit with their home academy during the Army Navy game Dec. 8, 2018.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

U.S. Military Academy cadets run back to their seating area after the prisoner exchange before the 2017 Army-Navy game.

(US Army photo)

Prior to the start of the game, the midshipmen spending the semester at West Point will be led to midfield by the USMA first captain and the West Point cadets will be brought out by the USNA brigade commander. The two academy leaders will then exchange their prisoners before returning to their seating sections, allowing the cadets and midshipmen to cheer on their teams from friendly areas.

“I’m very excited for the prisoner exchange,” Class of 2020 Cadet Nathaniel Buss said. “My family will be at the game this year, and I’m looking forward to the last about-face before we run back to the Corps of Cadets. I can’t wait to be reunited with my cadet friends that I haven’t seen for a semester.”

Col. Ty Seidule, the head of the West Point history department, said he is unsure when the prisoner exchange itself became a tradition, but he believes it would have started soon after the semester long exchanges became an annual event so cadets and midshipmen wouldn’t be in hostile territory during the rivalry game.

“The prisoner exchange will likely be one of the biggest highlights of my cadet career,” Class of 2020 Cadet Daine Van de Wall said. “Not only do I get to represent my school out on the field, but I also get to then run back and cheer on the Army team with my closest friends. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army chief is ready for the F-35 overhead

The US Army wants the F-35 to support its ground troops.

It’s that simple. We hear volumes of information about the Marine Corps vertical-take-off-and-landing F-35B, Navy carrier-launched F-35C, and Air Force F-35A — but what does the Army think of the emerging Joint Strike Fighter?

Does the Army think the 5th-Gen stealth fighter would bring substantial value to targeting and attacking enemy ground forces in close proximity to advancing infantry? What kind of Close Air Support could it bring to high-risk, high-casualty ground war?


“When you are in a firefight, the first thing infantry wants to do it get on that radio to adjust fire for mortars and locate targets with close air support with planes or helicopters. You want fires. The F-35 has increased survivability and it will play a decisive role in the support of ground combat,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.

Gen. Milley’s comments are quite significant, given the historic value of close air support when it comes to ground war. His remarks also bear great relevance regarding the ongoing Pentagon evaluation assessing the F-35 and A-10 Warthog in close air support scenarios.

Over the years, close-air-support to Army ground war has of course often made the difference between life and death — victory or defeat. The Army, Milley said, wants next-generation close-air-support for potential future warfare.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.

(US Army photo)

“We fight with the Navy, Marines and Air Force. Our soldiers have never heard an Air Force pilot say ‘I can’t fly into that low-altitude area,’ These guys take incredible risk. If there are troops on the ground, they are rolling in hot,” Milley said.

While Milley of course did not specifically compare the A-10 to the F-35 or say the Army prefers one aircraft over another, he did say the F-35 would be of great value in a high-stakes, force-on-force ground war.

Long-revered by ground troops as a “flying-tank,” the combat proven A-10 has been indispensable to ground-war victory. Its titanium hull, 30mm cannon, durability, built-in redundancy and weapons range has enabled the aircraft to sustain large amounts of small arms fire and combat damage — and keep flying.

At the same time, as newer threats emerge and the high-tech F-35 matures into combat, many US military weapons developers and combatant commanders believe the JSF can bring an improved, new-generation of CAS support to ground troops. Thus, the ongoing Office of the Secretary of Defense comparison.

Accordingly, the Pentagon-led F-35/A-10 assessment is nearing its next phase of evaluation, following an initial “first wave” of tests in July 2018 Vice Adm. Mat Winter, Program Executive Officer, F-35 program, recently told a group of reporters.

“Mission performance is under evaluation,” Winter said.

Pre- Initial Operational Test Evaluation test phases, are currently underway at Edwards AFB and Naval Air Station China Lake, officials said.

“Mission performance is being evaluated in the presence of a robust set of ground threats and, to ensure a fair and comparable evaluation of each system’s performance, both aircraft are allowed to configure their best weapons loadouts and employ their best tactics for the mission scenario” a statement from the Director, Operational Test Evaluation said.

Upon initial examination, some might regard a stealthy, 5th-Gen F-35 as ill-equipped or at least not-suited for close air support. However, a closer look does seem to uncover a handful of advantages — speaking to the point Milley mentioned about survivability.

Long-range, computer-enabled F-35 sensors could enable the aircraft to see and destroy enemy ground targets with precision from much higher altitudes and much farther ranges than an A-10 could; the speed of an F-35, when compared to an A-10, would potentially make it better able to maneuver, elude enemy fire and get into position for attack; like the A-10s 30mm gun, the F-35 has its own 25mm cannon mounted on its left wing which could attack ground forces; given its sensor configuration, with things like a 360-degree Distributed Aperture System with cameras, the F-35 brings a drone-like ISR component to air-ground war. This could help targeting, terrain analysis and much-needed precision attacks as US soldiers fight up close with maneuvering enemy ground forces.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

Two A-10C Thunderbolt IIs.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter)

An F-35 might be better positioned to respond quickly to enemy force movement; in the event that enemy air threats emerge in a firefight, an F-35 could address them in a way an A-10 could not, obviously; an F-35 would be much better positioned to locate enemy long-range fires points of combat significance and destroy hostile artillery, mortar or long-range-fires launching points. Finally, while the A-10 has a surprising wide envelope of weapons, an F-35 could travel with a wider range of air-ground attack weapons — armed with advanced targeting technology.

Also, fighter-jet close air support is by no means unprecedented. F-22s were used against ISIS, F-15s were used against insurgents in Iraq — and the F-35 recently had its combat debut in Afghanistan.

There are, however, some unknowns likely to be informing the current analysis. How much small arms fire could an F-35 withstand? Could it draw upon its “hovering” technology to loiter near high-value target areas? To what extent could it keep flying in the event that major components, such as engines or fuselage components, were destroyed in war? How much could A-10 weapons and targeting technology be upgraded?

Regardless of the conclusions arrived upon by the ongoing assessment, it is likely both the A-10 and F-35 will perform CAS missions in the immediate years ahead.

When it comes to the Army and the F-35, one can clearly envision warfare scenarios wherein Army soldiers could be supported by the Marine Corps F-35B, Navy F-35C or Air Force F-35A.

“We don’t fight as an Army, we fight as a joint force. What makes us different is the synergistic effect we get from combining various forces in time and space,” Milley said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The bug-out bag that allows you to be ready for anything

This article is sponsored by Propper, the guys dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. In addition to the Propper gear that’s perfect for the mission, we’ve scoured the market for the very best from other brands to build out a kit that’s perfect for getting out of dodge in a hurry.

We don’t know what you’re preparing for. Maybe you’ve found yourself in hot water with a local gang, maybe you’re convinced that the rise of automation will lead to SkyNet, or perhaps you have the very real concern that molemen will come out of the internal layers of the earth and demand large segments of surface world (an attack to which we are vulnerable thanks to everyone poo-pooing Capt. John Symmes’ expedition to the center of the Earth).


Regardless, our friends over at Propper want to help you prepare. For our illustrative case, we’re going to use a possible zombie outbreak model, because that’s fun for us and something all patriotic Americans should prepare for.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

PROPPER® Expandable Backpack (.99)

There you are, quietly typing away on your newest article (You’re all internet writers, right? No? Some of you have real jobs that produce actual value for the economy? Well, aren’t you fancy) when, suddenly, a news alert pops up on your phone:

CDC confirms that new variation of flu virus has spread in America. Small town near you on lockdown. Read more: https://bit.ly/2TVioLq

Sure, there’s a chance it’s nothing, just like there was a chance that alerts on December 7, 1941 were nothing, or that Iraqi forces would never cross into Kuwait in 1990. You didn’t make it to your ripe current age by assuming that potential threats were nothing.

So it’s time to bug out for a little while, get away from population centers, and wait for this whole thing to blow over. And you need to reach your spot before that virus spreads.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

PROPPER® Bail Out Bag (.99)

Luckily, you know a pretty good spot in the hills where you’ve got a little water cached, and you’ve got two bags ready to go with all your immediate needs. You head home, get your dog into the car, and grab your PROPPER® Bail Out Bag and Expandable Backpack from the hall closet.

You’re out the door and on the road in under a minute. Medical supplies, ruggedized laptop, water, some old MRE components, and more supplies are already packed away in your trusty bag.

You drive towards your spot, but the ominous rain reaches you on the road, and you’re left driving slow with the wipers on max. Unfortunately, a driver headed the other way isn’t being so conscientious, and they’re flying down the road. You try to slow down and shift to the shoulder, but the other guy is coming too fast and swerves towards you, forcing you to ditch the road entirely to avoid a collision.

The car tumbles down the shoulder and ends driver-side down. You take a quick stock of yourself. Nothing seems broken, and the cut over your eye could be much worse. You take a moment for your mutt.

“Hey, good dog. How are you feeling?”

You hear a quick whine, but then feel a tongue licking your face, so you look over your right shoulder and see a healthy dog. Shaken, but they don’t appear to be favoring a leg. So, that’s great news.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

Propper® Packable Waterproof Jacket (.99)

Carefully, you position your boot against the windshield. You rear back and let loose a quick, calculated kick, cracking the windshield. Two more hits and the glass breaks. You slowly disentangle yourself from the wreck, and free yourself into a cool, consistent drizzle.

The dog runs out with you, and you reach back in to pull out your bags. Before you get too wet, you pull on your Propper® Packable Waterproof Jacket to keep the rain off.

It’s not super late yet, but with the storm clouds overhead, you know it’ll be hard to see anything outside the range of your headlights. You take a quick chance to check out the hound and are happy to find no serious injuries. You also slap a quick bandage on yourself and dig out your Streamlight® ProTac HPL USB Rechrg Light.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

Streamlight® ProTac HPL USB Rechrg Light (4.99)

It’s charged, so you’ve got a while. And you can always swap in your spare button batteries if you need. You step past the headlights and give a quick scan of the road. You can’t see the car that nearly hit you, but you still want to get moving. Erratic drivers in a potential zombie outbreak area is a horrible sign.

So it’s time to start moving overland to your hideaway. You clip the flashlight to the D-ring on the backpack and dig out the map and compass, taking a quick second to mark your car’s location on the map. The backpack goes on your back, the bailout bag goes over your shoulder, and you step off.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

HQ ISSUE Multi-Band Dynamo & Solar Powered Radio (.99)

As you do, you switch on the HQ ISSUE Multi-Band Dynamo Solar Powered Radio and leave the volume on low. You can always crank the dynamo if it runs low on juice, and you can open the solar panel on it come morning. In the meantime, it will help you stay connected to the rest of the world long after you lose cell signal.

As the miles start to crunch away under your boots, you remember that you went offroad a good distance from where you planned, meaning it’s going to take way longer to reach your secret spot and its supply of water. You’re going to need an interim solution.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

Katadyn Vario Filter (.95)

But hey, you’re clearly nothing if not well-prepared. You double check the map for the little blue lines and pools that denote water, and alter your course to take you past a nearby creek.

Once you hear the trickle of water over the rocks, you beeline to it. Out here, the water looks pure and clear, but you know that even rainwater this close to the city can be contaminated, and rivers and streams can pick up all sorts of pollutants from its path and bacteria from the local wildlife.

So you pull out your Katadyn Vario Filter and plunge the hose into the water. In a pinch, it can clean and bottle two liters of water in a minute, passing the water through three filters. Activated charcoal eliminates most scents in the water too. But since you’re not in that big of a hurry, you set it to one-liter a minute, reducing wear and tear.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

GOSO Starter 24 Piece Lock Pick Set with Sturdy All Weather Zip Case (.99)

Refreshed and once again moving to your cache, you start to whistle. You’ve got your dog, you’ve got your supplies, you’re hiking in the rain. As long as the city doesn’t descend into a zombie apocalypse tonight, life could be a whole lot worse. And if it does, well, at least you’re prepared.

And, hey, you’ve even got a GOSO Starter 24-Piece Lock Pick Set in your pocket, so if the worst has come to pass, at least you can break into all sorts of old bases, libraries, whatever, and explore them wasteland-style.

“Let’s go, Mutt.”

This article is sponsored by Propper, the guys dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others.

To make sure you’re prepared for any mission, check out the other Propper Mission Kits.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US and Taliban agree to the ‘framework’ of a peace deal

U.S. and Taliban officials have agreed in principle to the “framework” of a peace deal, The New York Times quotes U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad as saying after five days of talks between the militant group and the United States in Qatar.

Both sides have said “progress” had been made in the talks aimed at ending the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.

“We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” The New York Times quoted Khalilzad as saying on Jan. 28, 2019, in an interview in Kabul.


In the framework, the militants agree to prevent Afghan territory from being used by groups such as Al-Qaeda to stage terrorist attacks.

That could lead to a full pullout of U.S. combat troops, but only in return for the Taliban entering talks with the Afghan government and agreeing to a lasting cease-fire.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

Zalmay Khalilzad.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The Taliban “committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals,” Khalilzad was quoted as saying.

“We felt enough confidence that we said we need to get this fleshed out, and details need to be worked out,” he added, according to The New York Times.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has struggled to fend off a resurgent Taliban and other militant groups.

The Taliban has so far refused to hold direct negotiations with Afghan government officials, whom they dismiss as “puppets.”

In separate comments made at a meeting with the Afghan media in Kabul on Jan. 28, 2019, Khalilzad said, “I have encouraged the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government. It is our policy to get to intra-Afghan talks.”

The militants have said they will only begin talks with the government once a firm date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops has been agreed.

In a televised address on Jan. 28, 2019, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called on the Taliban to enter “serious” negotiations with the government in Kabul and “accept Afghans’ demand for peace.”

“Either they join the great nation of Afghanistan with a united voice, or be the tool of foreign objectives,” he told the militant group.

Ghani spoke after Khalilzad briefed him and other Afghan officials in Kabul on the six-day talks he held with Taliban representatives in the Qatari capital, Doha, January 2019.

The president’s office quoted Khalilzad as saying he had held talks about the withdrawal of foreign troops and a possible cease-fire, but nothing was agreed upon.

“The U.S. insisted in their talks with the Taliban that the only solution for lasting peace in Afghanistan is intra-Afghan talks,” Khalilzad said, according to a statement.

“My role is to facilitate” such talks between the insurgents and Kabul, Khalilzad was quoted as saying.

The U.S. envoy said on Jan. 26, 2019, that the United States and the Taliban had made “significant progress,” adding that the Doha talks were “more productive than they have been in the past.”

He also emphasized that the sides “have a number of issues left to work out,” and that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that while there was “progress” at the meetings, reports of an agreement on a cease-fire were “not true.”

Mujahid also said in a statement that talks about “unresolved matters” will continue.

Until the withdrawal of international troops was hammered out, “progress in other issues is impossible,” he insisted.

Another round of peace talks between the Taliban and the United States was tentatively set for Feb. 25, 2019, the Reuters news agency quoted a Qatari Foreign Ministry official as saying on Jan. 28, 2019.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Czech training jet was the Warsaw Pact’s answer to the T-38

The T-38 Talon has seen a long career training fighter pilots, entering service in 1961. Since then, over 72,000 pilots have been trained in that plane. But there were a number of countries that needed an advanced jet trainer, but had no access to the T-38. Those would be the Soviet Union and their allies.


Thankfully, for them, the Czechoslovakian aircraft manufacturer Aero came along. In 1972, the L-39 Albatros entered service with the Czechoslovakian Air Force, and then was imported by the Soviet Union and its allies. In the 45 years since, it has proven to be an excellent trainer and light-attack plane. MilitaryFactory.com notes that almost 3,000 of these planes have been built – compared to only 1,146 T-38s!

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal
An Aero L-39 Albatros on takeoff. (Wikimedia Commons)

Unlike the T-38, the L-39 wasn’t supersonic – its top speed is 391 miles per hour. It’s just under 40 feet six inches long, with a wingspan of roughly 31 feet, and about 15 feet six inches tall. It has a maximum range of just under 1,100 miles. The lane can carry up to 1,100 pounds of weapons, including a 23mm cannon in a centerline pod, AA-2 Atoll missiles, and rocket pods. There are also provisions for two wing tanks.

The L-39 was exported to the Soviet Union (and after 1991, to the various successor states), as well as to many other Warsaw Pact countries (Poland being a notable exception), and to planes like Libya, Algeria, Vietnam, and North Korea. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the L-39 airframe has been receiving Western technology, including engines and avionics.

The L-39’s 45 years of service have seen huge changes. Over 200 L-39s are in private hands across the United States, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. You can see a video about this long-lasting trainer below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hi9c3vhK6vc
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s stealthy ‘Hunter’ drone just took first flight

Russia’s new heavy combat drone has flown for the first time alongside the country’s most advanced fighter jet, giving the fighter a new edge in battle, the Russian defense ministry announced Sept. 27, 2019.

“The Okhotnik unmanned aerial vehicle has performed its first joint flight with a fifth-generation Su-57 plane,” the ministry said in a statement, according to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency.

The two Russian aircraft flew together “to broaden the fighter’s radar coverage and to provide target acquisition for employing air-launched weapons,” the ministry added.


Unmanned aerial vehicle “Okhotnik” made the first joint flight with a fifth-generation fighter Su-57

www.youtube.com

Photos of the Okhotnik first surfaced online in January 2019, but it wasn’t until June 2019 that the unmanned aircraft was formally unveiled.

This summer, the heavy attack drone completed its maiden flight, during which it flew circles over an airfield for 20 minutes.

Первый полет новейшего беспилотного летательного аппарата «Охотник»

www.youtube.com

The flight involving both the Okhotnik drone and the Su-57 fighter appears to confirm what some have suspected for months — that the stealthy flying-wing drone was designed to fight alongside and provide critical battespace information to Russia’s new fifth-generation fighters.

In January 2019, shortly after photos of the Okhtonik appeared online, photos of an Su-57 with an interesting new paint job appeared. The redesign featured silhouettes of a Su-57 and a flying-wing aircraft that looked a lot like the Okhotnik.

Russia claims that the Okhotnik has stealth capabilities, a byproduct of its shape and an anti-radar coating, and is equipped with electro-optical, radar, and other types of reconnaissance equipment.

The heavy attack drone is currently controlled remotely, but in future tests, it is expected to perform in a semi-autonomous state and eventually a completely autonomous mode, TASS reports.

Testing with various armaments is expected in the next few years, and the drone will be handed over to Russian troops around 2025.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The B-52’s next bomb upgrade to be harsh message to China

U.S. Air Force officials are looking to upgrade the B-52 Stratofortress‘ bomb load at a time when the service, and the Defense Department as a whole, is preparing for near-peer rivals.

In June 2018 the service posted a request for information survey to identify potential contractors that could offer insights on how to best integrate newer and much heavier bombs under the aircraft’s wings.


Given that the aircraft is expected to fly for another 30 years, the potential upgrade — part of the Heavy Weapon Release Pylon Program — speaks to the Air Force’s initiative to stay ahead of emerging threats, particularly aggressors in the Pacific, according to a service official.

“This is not a requirement that came out of nowhere,” the service official told Military.com on background July 9, 2018. “There are compelling reasons for why we have to go down that road.”

While specific munitions haven’t been advertised, the goal is to quadruple the bomb size. Officials want pylons “capable of carrying multiple weapons in the 5,000-lb to 20,000-pound weight class,” according to the RFI. The current common pylon maximum is for 5,000-pound munitions.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

A B-52 Stratofortress

The external pylon “was designed in 1959 and has been in service since the 1960s. When it was introduced, there wasn’t a requirement nor did anyone foresee a need to carry weapons heavier than 5000 lbs,” the RFI states.

Now that’s changed, the official said.

High-end competitors are driving these choices,” the service official said, referencing the Defense Department’s latest National Defense Strategy.

According to the 2018 NDS, “China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.

“It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions,” the NDS says.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has on multiple occasions referenced China’s quick pace in technological development, which is driving the service to react. There has been explicit recognition “of the re-emergence of great power competition,” she has said.

“[China] is modernizing very quickly. They’re modernizing their air defenses, but also their air-to-air capability is really modernizing across the board. It is the pacing threat for the U.S. Air Force because of the pace of their modernization,” she told reporters at the Pentagon in February 2018.

The official also pointed to the bomber road map, which enhances the B-52 aircraft as a whole.

The service debuted the new “Bomber Vector” strategy alongside its fiscal 2019 budget rollout, which aims to allocate more resources for the nuclear-capable BUFF, or “Big Ugly Fat Fellow.”

The Air Force is pushing for a major engine overhaul for the bomber as it intends to keep the long-range B-52 flying into the 2050s.

The B-52 is no stranger to the Pacific. In January 2018, the B-52 swapped back in for the B-1B Lancer at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

An Air Force B-1B Lancer.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

The move marked a significant shift to bring back the B-52H, which previously filled the continuous bomber presence mission from 2006 to 2016 before the B-1 briefly took over.

Bringing the B-52 back meant putting a nuclear-capable bomber in theater at a time when relations between the U.S. and North Korea were largely unpredictable, and as China continued to flex its muscles in the South China Sea.

The B-52 in recent weeks has made appearances near the South China Sea as tensions over the man-made territory remain high.

In June 2018, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said there could be repercussions for China if it doesn’t curtail its expansion and aggressive behavior in the region.

“It was time to say there’s a consequence to this,” Mattis said at the 2018 Shangri-La Dialogue on June 2, 2018.

Weeks earlier, the Defense Department disinvited China from the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, known as RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise.

“Nothing wrong with competition, nothing wrong with having strong positions, but when it comes down to introducing what they have done in the South China Sea, there are consequences,” Mattis said.

As for the B-52 bomb pylon upgrade, the program is in the early stages.

The RFI “is only for market research of possible contractor sources,” said Stephen Palmer, a contracting officer with Air Force Life Cycle Management Center who specializes in the B-1 Lancer and B-52 programs at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

“[We] are not asking for any contractor to provide a proposal at this time,” he said in an email.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

Articles

‘The last great tank battle’ was a slugfest of epic proportions

The men of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment spearheaded one of the American columns that invaded Iraq on Feb. 23, 1991. After three days of light fighting they stumbled into one of the largest Iraqi armored formations and annihilated it with cannons, TOW missiles and mortars in the Battle of 73 Easting, often called “the last great tank battle of the 20th century.”


By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal
Photo: US Navy D. W. Holmes II

Then-Capt. (now Lt. Gen.) H.R. McMaster, commander of Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd ACR, literally wrote the book on the battle and commanded one of the lead elements in the fight.

Helicopters buzzed over Eagle Troop as the ground invasion of Iraq began on Feb. 23. The mission of the 2nd ACR was simple in theory but would be challenging to achieve. They were to cut off Iraqi retreat routes out of Kuwait and destroy the large armored formations thought to be hiding in the flat, featureless desert.

The empty desert could be challenging to navigate since there were no features to use for direction. Heavy rains and windstorms limited visibility as the tanks and other vehicles felt their way through the desert.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal
Photo: US Army

Fox troop made contact first, destroying a few enemy tanks. Over the next couple of days, 2nd Squadron tanks and vehicles would encounter enemy observation and scout vehicles and destroy them with missiles and cannons, but they couldn’t find the Iraqi Republican Guard divisions they knew were dug somewhere into the desert.

In the afternoon of Feb. 26, 1991, McMaster was pushing his troop through a sandstorm when he crested a rise and there, directly in front of him, was an entire division of Iraqi tanks with elite crews. Finding himself already in range of the enemy, he immediately gave the order to fire.

The enemy had parked themselves away from the slight rise so that they would be hidden and so incoming American tanks would be forced to drive down the hill towards them. This exposed the relatively weak top armor of the tank to the Iraqi guns.

But the Iraqis had lost most of their scout vehicles and so were just as surprised as the U.S. commanders when the two armored forces clashed, leaving them unable to capitalize on their position.

McMaster’s opening salvo set the tone for the battle. His first shot was a HEAT round that destroyed a tank cowering behind a berm. His second shot, a depleted uranium sabot shell, shot through an Iraqi tank that was swiveling to fire on him. As his crew targeted a third enemy, the driver realized they were driving through a minefield and began taking evasive action.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal
Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

Enemy rounds began falling around the lead tank as the two tank platoons in Eagle Troop got on line to join the fight. Nine American tanks were now bearing down on the Iraqi positions, destroying enemy T-72s and armored vehicles. As McMaster described it in his first summary of the battle:

The few seconds of surprise was all we had needed. Enemy tanks and BMP’s (Soviet-made armored personnel carriers) erupted in innumerable fire balls. The Troop was cutting a five kilometer wide swath of destruction through the enemy’s defense.

The Bradley fighting vehicles joined the tanks, firing TOW missiles at the enemy armor and using their guns to cut down Iraqi infantry. Mortar and artillery support opened up, raining fire onto the remaining Iraqi positions.

The American forces cut down 30 tanks, 14 armored vehicles, and hundreds of infantrymen before reaching their limit of advance, the line they were originally told to halt at. But McMaster ordered the troop to continue attacking, fearful that the Iraqis would be able to regroup and wage a strong counterattack.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal
Photo: Sgt. Devin Nichols

At 23 minutes since first contact, McMaster declared it safe to halt his troop’s advance. The single armored troop had crippled the Iraqi flank with zero casualties. One American tank from the 2nd Squadron headquarters had received light damage from a mine.

Near the Eagle Troop position, Ghost, Killer, and Iron troops were mixing it up other Iraqi units and trying to catch up to Eagle. The enemy made a few half-hearted attempts at counter-attacking the U.S. tanks, but they were quickly rebuffed.

That night, the U.S. called on the Iraqi’s to surrender and it was answered by droves of troops. About 250 survivors surrendered to Eagle Troop.

Up and down the U.S. lines, the story was similar to that of Eagle Troop. The Iraqis suffered nearly 1,000 casualties, 85 tanks destroyed, 40 armored vehicles destroyed, 30 wheeled-vehicles lost, and two artillery batteries annihilated. The U.S. suffered 12 men killed, 57 men wounded, and 32 vehicles destroyed or damaged.

popular

This is why sailors wear neckerchiefs with their dress uniform

Any enlisted Navy sailor can tell you that their dress uniform wouldn’t be as famous today without one of its most iconic pieces — the historic neckerchief.


Reportedly, the neckerchief made its first appearance in the 16th century and was primarily worn as a sweat rag and to protect the sailor’s neck from rubbing raw against their stiff collared shirts.

In some cases, the 36-square-inch silk fabric could also be used as a battle dressing or tourniquet in a life saving situation.

The color black was picked to hide any dirt or residue that built up during wear.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal
The iconic Navy dress blue uniformed with a neckerchief being steamed before a uniform inspection.

In 1817, the Navy wanted each one of its sailors to tie their neckerchief the same way, so it introduce the square knot. The square knot was hand-picked because it was commonly used on ships to secure its cargo.

The knot was later added to the dress blue uniform to represent the hardworking Navy tradition, and it remains that way today.

How to tie a square knot:

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal
Step-by-step instructions for the tradition square knot. (Source: Navy.mil)

During the inspection, each sailor is carefully examined by a senior at least twice a year. While under observation, the sailor must display a properly tied square knot which needs to hang at the bottom of the jumper’s V-neck opening, and the ends of the neckerchief must appear even as shown above.

Do you remember your first uniform inspection? Comment below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This British soldier escaped from Dunkirk by stealing a car

Imagine the tension of being a British soldier waiting to be evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk as the Nazi Wehrmacht closed in around you and your mates. Now imagine somehow being left behind after all 340,000 of your fellow troops were led back to Britain.

That’s what happened to then-20-year-old James May, a British Tommy, left behind on the beach. Luckily, he survived the Nazi onslaught and would eventually return to France’s beaches four years later – on D-Day.


May joined the service in 1940, after World War II broke out. He enlisted to become a driver with the 13-division strong British Expeditionary Force in France. The British mission on continental Europe in the early days of the war did not go well. After Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September, 1939, the French and British declared war almost immediately. Just as fast, the British Expeditionary Force began arriving in France.

By June, 1940, they were all being evacuated by any British subject who had a boat that could float. Most of them, anyway.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

The effort to rescue the trapped Allied troops was dubbed “Operation Dynamo” and was a mission to pick up distressed British, French, and Belgian troops waiting on the beaches at Dunkirk. By May 10, 1940, Nazi Germany had captured all of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. They were already in control of much of Northern France and had the Allied forces on the ropes.

As the Nazis moved to push the Allies into the sea, British citizens and Royal Navy ships mounted the massive impromptu rescue effort, pulling any troops they could fit in their craft, and ferrying them back across the channel. Not everyone survived the wait on the beaches, as they were constantly harassed by the Nazi luftwaffe and threatened by German ground forces.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

British troops waiting for evacuation on the beaches of Dunkirk.

In Dynamo, the British expected to be able to save some 30,000 to 45,000 troops who would then defend the British home islands. Using a still-unknown number of “little ships” piloted by civilians, they managed to save ten times that number. It truly was a miracle.

But James May and six of his fellow soldiers were somehow left behind. They did what any quick-thinking, resourceful bunch of soldiers would do in a lawless area with an determined enemy bearing down on them: They stole a car and beat it.

In their own, smaller version of the Miracle at Dunkirk, the group managed to drive out of the war zone in their stolen vehicle, evading the Wehrmacht for a full six days before finding a boat and captain that would ferry them home to England.

He was stationed in Northern Ireland for much of the war but he had his chance to hit the beach of France once more, and again as a driver. This time, however, he was driving a British DUKW amphibious vehicle, landing British troops in the battle to crack the walls of Hitler’s Fortress Europe.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

‘Terrible, tragic mistake:’ Top general warns enemies not to test US military readiness

The Pentagon’s top leaders said Thursday they can see a “light at the end of the tunnel” of the COVID-19 pandemic and stressed that the U.S. military remains a force in readiness, with fewer than 2,000 cases out of more than two million troops available to support contingency operations.

During an internet broadcast Thursday morning, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned adversaries that it would be a “terrible, tragic mistake if they thought that … [they] can take advantage of any opportunities … at a time of crisis.”


“The U.S. military is very, very capable to conduct whatever operations are necessary to defend the American people,” Milley said. “We will adapt ourselves to operating in a COVID-19 environment. We are already doing that.”

As of Thursday, 1,898 service members had confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 389 soldiers, 367 airmen, 164 Marines, 597 sailors and 381 National Guard members.

Given that the Defense Department has 2.3 million troops, including the National Guard and reserve components, the services are “ready today and will be ready tomorrow,” Milley said.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

“I’m absolutely confident that we are very ready to handle any mission that comes our way,” added Defense Secretary Mark Esper during the broadcast. “Why is that? It’s because our commanders and NCOs have taken measures to protect our members.”

Less than .09 percent of U.S. forces have confirmed COVID-19 infections, and nearly all are “mild or moderate” cases, according to Esper. Sixty-four service members have been hospitalized for the coronavirus.

By contrast, .13 percent of the U.S. population have confirmed cases of the illness.

“We also have far, far, far smaller numbers of hospitalizations. …. I attribute that to the measures we took very early on, going all the way back to 3 February when we issued our first guidance to the field in regard to health protection,” Esper said.

According to Esper and Milley, the DoD has more than 50,000 service members responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes 29,400 National Guard members, as well as 17,000 members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and thousands of military medical personnel.

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said Thursday that many of the military medical personnel are now serving in civilian hospitals, filling in for staff members who have become ill or need rest — especially in hard-hit areas like New York City.

The strategy is a switch from the initial intent for military health professionals to treat patients transported to field hospitals such as the Javits Center in New York, he said.

“We have thousands of reservists — medical professionals — deployed all over the country from their normal lives at home to the middle of New York City, in hours or days, leaving their families, leaving their homes, running toward the trouble,” Hyten said.

To date, 113 service members of the 1,898 infected have recovered from the coronavirus. One service member, Army National Guard Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, died March 28.

A sailor from the carrier Theodore Roosevelt became gravely ill Thursday and was transported to an intensive care unit after being discovered unresponsive in his room by shipmates, Hyten said.

“We are hoping that the sailor recovers. We are praying for him and his families and his shipmates,” he added.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Military Life

‘Operation Cure Boredom’ is a funny, unrepentant look back at life in the 1990s Air Force

The following is an excerpt from the first book by Air Force veteran and Hollywood writer Dan Martin. Titled Operation Cure Boredom, it’s a hilarious collection of short stories chronicling the adventures of Martin’s 1990-1994 enlistment in the world’s best Air Force.

This chapter, called “Guest on the Range,” is about the extraordinary lengths Martin went to in order to qualify on the firing range as a junior enlisted Crew Chief:


One of the things I learned while holding a loaded semiautomatic rifle was that I shouldn’t “goof around.” Apparently it’s distracting and unnerving to the other participants at the firing range. The angry sergeant on duty pointed this out, adding that it was irresponsible and unsafe. But everyone was so serious, so uptight, so concentrated.

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

Colton continued making the rest of us laugh, lightening the mood. We only managed to annihilate the dirt mounds behind the paper people. At the end of the session, when I learned that I had failed the firing range test and had one more chance to pass it or be discharged from service, I stopped goofing around.

In order to maintain a good standing with the U.S. Air Force, one must complete the annual firing range test. If you fail the retest, pack your bags because you’re heading home on an early discharge. Not wanting to go back to Long Island so soon, I concentrated and passed the retest, barely. For the following annual firing range test, I made arrangements to get help, mostly by ensuring that I was out of the country on assignment, whereupon the test was lost to bureaucracy and ultimately waived. But the year I got married and stopped going on so many TDYs was the year the test came back to haunt me.

I had taken a second job at this point, working in a liquor store not far from the Louisiana Downs racetrack, not because I was saving to buy a house and raise a family, but rather to help pay off all the loans. We had financially backed ourselves into a corner between the cars, furniture, and vacations we simply charged on credit cards. We had to have them because we were a responsible adult married couple. In my third year of military service, now that I was no longer on TDYs, I was unable to escape the firing range.

At the time I had enlisted in the Air Force, it is key to note that nobody, with the exception of the security police, the special ops guys, and maybe a few fighter pilots, had a useful knowledge of weapons, let alone were able to locate the safety. For the rest of us, the firing range seemed to only serve the purpose of reminding us what weapons looked like. I hit my targets by mistake, and self-defense skills were measured by how fast I could run a mile. Although the chow hall on the base displayed a sign upon entering that read “Those Carrying Automatic Weapons May Go to the Head of the Line,” I can guarantee that had my base ever been attacked, it would have been captured within minutes. A massive army of children riding atop Saint Bernards and wielding broomsticks could have charged the main gate and I’d have to think twice about holding my ground. Broomsticks hurt.

Now faced wit having to take the firing range test, I came to the conclusion I needed someone to help teach me how to pass it. Unfortunately, asking for help within the military community was not exactly the option I wanted to exercise. I was all too aware that I had joined the one branch of the military that didn’t require you to use handheld weapons. But asking for help was like a plumber you hired asking you to show him what a pipe fitting looked like.

We were supposed to at least pretend we knew what we were doing. There were a few guys in my squadron who grew up hunting the small animalsI always associated with my local park or the garbage cans on a trash night. But even one of them managed to book himself a trip to the emergency room. Firing a hand cannon with one hand and a large ego, he managed to adorn his forehead with a welt the size of a grapefruit, the recoil smacking him with the pistol hard enough to make him forget the date. Knowing that I was proficient in neither accuracy or emergency room small talk, I decided to search for a teacher who was not in the military.

I knew I could find someone, I had done it before.

My brother piqued my interest in firearms when he shot our father with a flare gun. To be fair, it was a misunderstanding. My father had explained to Peter that he was grounded for some infraction of the rules. Peter said no, then shot him. From the moment my father stepped into his room to confront him, he should have take notes of Peter’s nautical emergency rescue kit, now open on his desk. Normally tucked away on his lobster boat, the flare gun was now strangely instead in Peter’s hand. Moments later, the flare bounced off my dad’s chest and zipped around the carpet, finally coming to a halt near the hamster cage, melting a small hole in the synthetic rug the size of a potato.

The room immediately turned a blindingly bright white color only the Coast Guard could love, and by the time my father regained his vision and looked through the smoke, presumably to grab Peter’s neck and snap it, my brother had used the diversion to jump out the window, eluding punishment for yet another night. Peter was not the best communicator, nor was he ever considered a good candidate for “negotiator,” but I quickly learned by observing his actions that perhaps I didn’t need to learn to communicate with words. Being a shy teenager who was also lacking command of a large vocabulary, talking problems out and reasoning with each other just seemed time-consuming. That night, I came to understand the power of a gun and realized aloud, “Guns are awesome.”

I wanted to test it out for myself. So I found an instructor who chose as my first target the happy, winged creature symbolizing love that perched outside my bedroom window each morning. It was just sitting there on the branch, singing, ruffling its feathers like most swallows do. I was seventeen. My instructor was twelve. The BB gun was pumped with enough pressure to launch a kitten into space. Then I aimed and pulled the trigger, sending the bird reeling over backward in a cloud of feathers and guilt. When it was all over, Jason explained it was normal to feel nauseated:

“It’s okay. You’ll be fine. But I gotta go. My mom’s taking me to see The Little Mermaid.

That would be the last time I let a twelve-year-old whisper “kill it now” in my ear. While I learned that it was an amazing feeling to hold an object that has the ability to sway opinions, after the incident with the swallow, I decided guns weren’t really for me. Though committing arson on my father’s vegetable garden was acceptable, a gun was just taking things too far.

Now face with the firing range test, my search for a weapons instructor finally came to an end the day I met Barry, the assistant manager fo the liquor store where I worked nights. The day I walked in and inquired about a job, he was sitting behind the manager’s desk. I explained that I was looking for employment. He regarded me for a moment, then asked if I’d mind working with a fat pig name Clarence, pointing to the skinny guy behind the register. I said I thought this would be fine. He then led me on a tour through the massive walk-in refrigerator to show me where all the different beers were stacked. He asked me if I had any back problems preventing me from lifting boxes. I said no, then noticed his back brace and realized this was the best possible answer I could have given. Barry nodded his head up and down, seemingly trying to decide if I was going to work out, then wrenched open a bottle of Boone’s wine and washed down a handful of unknown pills. Needless to say, I was intrigued. Then he pulled a .22-caliber, long-barreled pistol out of his pants. It was fitted with some sort of custom-made silencer and he asked me if I’d ever seen such a thing of beauty. I said I hadn’t. Then he aimed it at a can of Milwaukee’s Best and fired, leaving a fountain of amusement in his wake.

I accepted the job on the spot.

It wasn’t until a week into the job that I learned that Barry hadn’t been the assistant manager at all. He was just an unstable employee whom the actual manager was afraid to fire. He called himself the assistant manager, and nobody argued with him. Although, looking back, it should have occurred to me, since Barry had given me a bonus one day for a job well done with a case of Miller Lite. But this guy could handle a weapon, even while hallucinating and mumbling, so who was I to question it?

Initially, I was a little nervous about taking a second job because the supervisors in my squadron tended to frown upon moonlighting, even though many of the enlisted guys I knew did it anyway. I had reached out to may coworker Tony Coloccini, who had confided in me that he also had a second job at a liquor store chain and would put in a good word. A week later, I was standing in this rundown liquor store. Needing money, and not wanting to be seen, this was the perfect job. Barry, the firearms expert, was the gift I was looking for.

Barry would walk up and down the aisles with an aimless purpose to do nothing but strut. Occasionally, he’d say he was going to take inventory or stock the shelves. But there was always some condition that prevented him from doing any actual work. He could never bend over to reach the bottom two shelves because of a bad back, nor could he stand on small ladder, claiming he once fell off one and preferred to avoid them. He couldn’t ever read inventory lists or do the ordering because he always forgot his glasses and, I suspect, couldn’t write.

This always left me wondering what Barry’s function in the store actually was until one night some suspicious-looking guys walked in and were greeted by Barry stroking a .44 magnum long barrel. This is a gun more commonly used to take down a helicopter or a Tyrannosaurus Rex, I imagine. They immediately turned and walked out. In short, the story had never been robbed since Barry started working there two years prior. And in a neighborhood where crime seemed to be the gross domestic product, Barry’s value went a long way.

As a result, the place became kind of a safe hangout for Barry’s friends who all lost their money at the track and would come in and shoot the shit with him for a while. This eventually led to the question of could have a bottle of Thunderbird or Mad Dog 20/20 and pay him back tomorrow. Barry always said yes, and, of course, would always forget that he did. In fact, unsurprisingly, Barry forgot a lot of things. He forgot to shower and shave. He forgot that you couldn’t scratch off twenty-five instant-win lotto tickets and not pay for them. And once he even forgot his gun was loaded and shot out his own windshield, or so Clarence, who had witnessed the incident, told me.

The store closed each night at midnight and by the end of the first month, Barry, Clarence, and I found ourselves on the same schedule. We got to know each other pretty well and enjoyed each other’s company and displayed our newfound friendship by developing a routine after locking up every night that involved petty theft, drinking, and soon enough, firearms practice.

Anyone else, I think, would have been alarmed by the double holster he wore to work every day, accompanied by a different set of pistols. Or, perhaps, the cocktail of pharmaceuticals, vodka, belligerence, and the dash of hallucinations that housed this human being. But one night, as we were leaving, he quick-drawed his pistols and unleashed a few rounds on the speed sign on the side of the road, hitting it perfectly without aiming and I knew I found my instructor.

The first problem with asking Barry about being my sharpshooting mentor was just trying to catch him in a moment when he was actually visiting Earth. I timed my approach carefully, since Barry was known to spend the first part of each night shift with his head down on the manager’s desk, occasionally snapping awake with a look of fear behind his milky eyes. Some nights, because the desk was located behind a small wall, his abrupt and frightening rise from the ninth circle of hell would cause a customer to drop a bottle of alcohol.

“Barry, I was wondering if you could teach me to shoot a gun and possibly–”

“Absolutely. Grab a case of beer and meet me at the trunk of my car.”

I can only assume that in the event that the local police force, the National Guard, and the entire US Army found themselves overmatched, Barry was their red phone emergency call. to find that Barry possessed a lot of weapons was not a surprise. To find that each of his weapons came with its own quick-release latch, strapped into the truck of his car, was. Barry, who stood at about five feet, two inches, drove a 1973 four-door Lincoln Continental. I t had a trunk big enough to carry a pond stocked with trout.

What should have worried me most was that somewhere over the course of his life, he came to the conclusion that it was a good idea to haul around enough ammunition to take out Shreveport, just in case he had to. Also worrisome was the stun gun he had as a “back up” in case all else failed. But honestly, what concerned me most was not passing the firing range test.

“What is that?” I asked, pointing at a weapon only Arnold Schwarzenegger could handle.

“Needed something for a crowd. Made it myself. Fully automatic.”

“Oh.”

We stared by setting up in front of what appeared to be a fenced-off electrical power station. It was located a short distance behind the liquor store and far away from the road. I inquired it if seemed troubling that, essentially, we were shooting at a potential eleven o’clock news story, but Barry explained that it was metal and would not explode, so no need to worry.

“No one’s gonna lose power,” he added.

“I meant the ricocheting bullets.”

“What about them?”

“Won’t they ricochet into us?”

“Unlikely. Now, do you want my help or not?”

Before we began, I tried to explain that there were no moving targets on the firing range, to which Barry explained that I was a woman. I said it wasn’t necessary, but that maybe we should start with something easy like a Coke can. But Barry insisted these were the basics and handed me a contraption that resembled a howitzer. Then he switched it to automatic and yelled, “Pull!”

Clarence lobbed a bottle of Bartles & Jaymes strawberry wine cooler into the sky. The weapon was so heavy that aiming it wasn’t really an option. I just sort of heaved it up, like throwing a heavy rock, and squeezed the trigger as best I could. The recoil forced me to the ground like a cannon blast. All the while, as I kept my finger on the trigger, I could have sworn I heard the faint but distinct sound of my mother crying.

It’s safe to assume that the Air Force was the right branch for me. Placing a wrench or a screwdriver in my hands at least ensures that any pain inflicted will be minimal and blunt and kept within the radius of me. Putting a loaded weapon in my hand is like strapping sharp knives to a small boy and sending him off to play tackle football with the other kids.

As expected, I missed everything, except for the power grid, a line of cypress trees, a storage shed, and the planet below our feet, which really took a kick in the balls that night. Also in the line of fire was human safety.

“F*ck this,” Clarence said, “I’m out of here.”

“Calm down,” Barry yelled. “Just stand behind him.”

“But that’s where the shed was!”

This is how it happens, I thought. This is how morons die. You always read in the paper, or hear on the news, about a couple of friends from a basement in Colorado Springs, just hanging out with a bottle of Jameson when one best friend shoots the other. There’s never any great detail about the incident. One buddy “accidentally” shoots the other. But the news anchor always includes that one fatal clue: “He thought the safety was on,” “He didn’t know it was loaded,” “He didn’t think that doing shots from the barrel was that big of a deal.” As a viewer, you sit eating your bowl of cornflakes at one o’clock in the morning, thinking to yourself, f*cking morons, and then turn the channel back to TMZ to find out what the latest Disney starlet thinks of terrorists.

But there we were, throwing a few back, shooting wildly at fast-moving wine coolers with automatic weapons and talking about how awesome it would be if Lynyrd Skynyrd could come back from the dead and play one more time. We deserved nothing more than a really stupendous obituary in which the editor would mercifully, thinking about our families, substitute the word “manslaughter” for “accidental.” The caption under the picture in the newspaper would read: “One man arrested after shooting his two best friends.” Then I realized the scariest part was that Barry and Clarence would be forever connected to me as “best friends.”

“You know what. I’ve got to get going,” I announced suddenly.

“What? But you haven’t even tried the sniper rifle yet.”

As I drove away from the scene of tomorrow’s headline, I watched Clarence crack open a bottle of something, then rummage through Barry’s trunk, reappear with the stun gun and chase him around the car, laughing.

The following week, I took the firing range test. I was really sweating hard, as this retest was a make-or-break moment – a few misplaced shot was all the difference between being able to stay in the Air Force and pay my bills and a less-than-honorable discharge, leading to financial ruin and divorce. I hit a few dirt mounds but managed to place a few on the paper target. Upon finishing, I approached the sergeant in charge of the scoring. I handed him the paper enemy that had clearly gotten away with only a few scratches.

“Huh,” he said, looking at the target. “Not great,” he observed.

“Yeah.”

I began to panic a little there. I saw my life as it truly was: a meager existence in a sham marriage, depressed and held down at twenty-one years of age by my own rash stupidity. I would have to call my parents and see if they were cool with the Stranger and I living in my old bedroom. I would have to get a minimum-wage job to pay off a mountain of debt. I began hyperventilating, seeing this whole terrible near-future play out when I suddenly heard the sergeant ask me:

“What’s your job again?”

“Crew chief.”

He rolled his eyes, and in a gesture of exasperation, made a check mark next to my name.

“F*ck it. You passed. See you next year.”

––––––––––

“Told in a collection of vignettes, Operation Cure Boredom is a coming of age story in camouflage. From dodging alligators, to surfing the inside of a plane at 30,000 feet, to being taken hostage by a Frenchwoman, and sex education in church, this absurdist portrait of life in the military is both an iconic look at listlessness in wartime, and the whirlwind journey of a young man getting the adventure he didn’t know he needed.” – Amazon

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