MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is Boeing’s new autonomous fighter

Boeing has a new plane that is sure to raise eyebrows around the world. The Boeing Airpower Teaming System is boringly named, but it’s also an autonomous fighter jet that could protect human pilots and assist on missions as early as 2020.

Yup. Robot fighter planes are in flight, and they’re about to come to market.


First, a quick look at the weapon’s missions. It’s supposed to fly in combat, perform early warning missions, and conduct reconnaissance. So, basically, it’s a jack of all trades. According to a Boeing press release, the plane will:

— Provide fighter-like performance, measuring 38 feet long (11.7 metres) and able to fly more than 2,000 nautical miles
— Integrate sensor packages onboard to support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions and electronic warfare
— Use artificial intelligence to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft.

Boeing hasn’t announced the plane’s exact capabilities which, since they want to eventually sell it around the world, is probably a good idea. No one who buys the plane is going to want all their adversaries to already know its limits, even if there is no pilot to kill.

But expect aviation media to keep a firm eye on the plane. One of the biggest selling points of autonomous fighters is that the planes won’t be limited to speeds, turning rates, and altitudes where humans can survive. See, the human meat sack in the middle of the plane is often the most fragile and valuable part of it. So everyone wants to know what the plane can do without a pilot.

“The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will provide a disruptive advantage for allied forces’ manned/unmanned missions,” said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Boeing Autonomous Systems. “With its ability to reconfigure quickly and perform different types of missions in tandem with other aircraft, our newest addition to Boeing’s portfolio will truly be a force multiplier as it protects and projects air power.”

In the ALPHA AI program, developed with a team from University of Cincinnati an artificial intelligence running on a cheap computer defeated skilled fighter pilots in simulations.

(Journal of Defense Management)

While the announcement has made a lot of waves, it’s not a huge surprise for people keeping track. Robots began beating experienced human pilots reliably in simulators a few years ago, and they’ve only gotten better since.

And the Air Force already began packing the computers into older jets to test the concept, leading to a 2017 test where an empty F-16 flew in support of human pilots. The program, Have Raider II, was ran in conjunction with Lockheed Martin and their Skunk Works program, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if Lockheed unveiled its own proposal soon.

There are legal limits on autonomous fighting systems, but the key component is that they ascribe to at least “man-in-the-loop” protocol where a human makes the final decision for any lethal engagement. But Have Raider II and the BATS envision robot fighters flying next to human-crewed planes and under the direction of the human pilots, so both will likely be accepted on the international stage. And, Boeing hasn’t said that BATS will necessarily have lethal weapons.

Weapons like Lockheed Martin’s F-35 are sold across national boundaries to American allies. Boeing has developed an unmanned fighter that it hopes to sell across the world as well.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)

BATS was developed in Australia and, as mentioned above, Boeing hopes the final iterations will have a place in the air forces of U.S. partners around the world. But there is some downside to the new robot paradigm for the U.S. and its allies.

China’s military is improving at a great rate, growing larger and more technologically advanced by the week. One factor that’s holding them back is a shortage of pilots and good candidates for the training. So if China is able to develop a similar breakthrough, they can pump new planes into the air as fast as the factories can crank them out. And they’ve already made Dark Sword, an autonomous stealth drone with some fighter characteristics.

No matter how few pilots they can train.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army and Marines are buying more of these awesome weapons

It can carry six large rockets and hurl them 90 miles against enemy targets, raining death and destruction on America’s enemies that can slaughter entire enemy units in one fierce volley. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System has real teeth, and the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, as well as the Romanian and Polish militaries, are about to get a lot more of them.


(U.S. Army)

Lockheed Martin announced that it’s received a 2 million contract to provide HIMARS launchers, parts, training, and service.

And HIMARS really is highly mobile. Not only can it drive itself onto the battlefield from a base or depot, but it can also ride on planes as small as the C-130, drive off the back, and get right into the fight. The Marine Corps actually practiced using HIMARS in “air raids” where a transport plane delivered a launcher to a forward airbase, and then the crew rapidly prepared and fired the weapon.

Once the crew is ready to fire, they can send six guided rockets 40 miles away with the standard configuration, but an extended range version can top 90 miles. Each rocket carries a 200-pound warhead and is designed to take out a point target or send massive amounts of shrapnel across a large area, shredding enemy personnel.

(U.S. Army)

Alternatively, they can carry a single Army Tactical Missile System. This bad boy can fly over 180 miles and packs a 500-pound warhead. The missile made its combat debut in Desert Storm. The U.S. won that one. We’re not saying that it happened because of the ATACMS, but the math adds up.

With increased HIMARS capability in NATO, it would be much more complicated for Russia to invade. And if it did another destabilizing mission like it’s still doing in the Donbas region of Ukraine, HIMARS would still be pretty useful. Those Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine have proven pretty reliant on Russian artillery, and the extra range and precision of HIMARS would allow them to hit back with pinpoint accuracy while out of Russian range.

Too bad for Ukraine that it’s not part of this contract.

Lockheed will deliver the weapons by 2022.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force has selected bases for its future stealth bomber

On Nov. 16, 2018, the Air Force announced the first two bases that will host its new, highly advanced bomber for testing and maintenance.

The service said in a release that Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma would coordinate maintenance and sustainment for the B-21 Raider and that Edwards Air Force Base in California had been picked to lead testing and evaluation of the next generation long-range strike bomber.

Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and Hill Air Force Base in Utah will support Tinker with maintaining and, when necessary, overhauling and upgrading the new bomber, the Air Force said.


Personnel at those bases will be equipped to rebuild the aircraft’s parts, assemblies, or subassemblies as well as to test and reclaim equipment as necessary for depot activations.

The first B-21 is expected to be delivered in the mid-2020s.

A B-2A stealth bomber at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma during a visit on April 11, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)

The release noted the “deep and accomplished history” of the Air Logistics Complex of the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker and said officials believe the base has the knowledge and expertise to support the new bomber.

“With a talented workforce and decades of experience in aircraft maintenance, Tinker AFB is the right place for this critical mission,” Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson said.

Edwards Air Force Base is also home to the Air Force Test Center, which leads the service’s testing and evaluation efforts.

“From flight testing the X-15 to the F-117, Edwards AFB in the Mohave Desert [sic] has been at the forefront of keeping our Air Force on the cutting edge,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said. “Now testing the B-21 Raider will begin another historic chapter in the base’s history.”

Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, head of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards, said in 2018 that the B-21 would be tested at the base. Few details about the B-21’s development have been released, and previous reports suggested it could be tested at the Air Force’s secretive Area 51 facility.

A B-1B Lancer bomber awaits maintenance at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Jan. 27, 2017

(US Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)

The B-21 acquisition cycle is currently in the engineering and manufacturing-development phase, the Air Force said. The Raider’s design and development headquarters is at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Melbourne, Florida.

The Air Force expects to buy about 100 of the new bomber, with each cost over 0 million, according to Air Force Times.

The Air Force said in May 2018 that once the new bombers begin arriving they will head to three bases in the US — Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

The service said those bases were “reasonable alternatives” for the new bomber, although it will likely not make a final basing decision until 2019.

The B-21 is to replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers at those bases, but the Air Force doesn’t plan to retire the existing bombers until there are enough B-21s to replace them.

Using existing bomber bases would reduce operational impact, lower overhead, and minimize costs, the Air Force said in May. “Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21,” Wilson said at the time.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what the Army’s nasty ’emergency chocolate bars’ tasted like

Who doesn’t love a bit of candy to lighten the mood? Today, troops opening up an MRE might find a bag of Skittles or some sweets in there to help boost morale a little bit. This isn’t anything new; troops have had some kind of candy in rations since WWII.

While the soldiers who were preparing to jump into the fight on D-Day likely had a few of their favorite chocolate bars on them, they had another specialty chocolate bar, one made exclusively made for the troops. It was called the U.S. Army Field Ration D and it tasted about as appetizing as the name suggests — a little bit better than a boiled potato.


Still better than the Veggie MRE.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt)

The Field Ration D, or “D-Bar,” was the brain child of Col. Paul Logan and the Hershey Chocolate Corporation. The idea was to stuff enough calories, vitamins, and nutrients inside of an easy-to-carry chocolate bar so that troops always had an emergency field ration if they needed it. It weighed 4 oz., packed 600 calories, and was mixed with raw oat flour to ensure that it wouldn’t melt easily.

The packaging of Field Ration D was made with aluminum wrapper, cardboard dipped in wax, and cellophane. There was no way that bugs, weather, or gas could reach the bar and contaminate it. There was also a safety measure put in place by Col. Logan to ensure troops didn’t just eat their emergency ration for a sweet fix — he reportedly asked Hershey to not focus on the taste.

The D-Bar was so full of cacao fat and oat flour that it could survive any condition, but it also made the bar extremely bitter. Since it was made to endure nearly any conditions, it was solid as a rock. Not exactly appetizing.

To make matters worse, if any troop didn’t read the tiny warning to eat the bar slowly, over a thirty minute time period, their bowels would suffer. This unfortunate side-effect earned it the nickname, “Hitler’s secret weapon.”

Word of how awful the D-Bar was (and its unofficial moniker) made it back to Hershey. They offered another chocolate bar instead — the Tropical Bar. Apparently, this was even worse and earned the name “Dysentery Bar,” because troops who already had dysentery were the only ones who could tolerate it.

In the end, the top brass at the Pentagon lavished Hershey with numerous awards for their “help” in WWII while the troops exchanged the D-Bars and Tropical Bars to unsuspecting civilians for better food.

To watch the bravest man on YouTube actually eat one of these, check out the video below by Steve1989 at MRE Info.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs drank from a fountain in France

Civilians and members of other military branches might have been surprised to see Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drinking from a fountain during World War I commemoration ceremonies in France. Well, it wasn’t just a case of Marines being Marines at any rank — that fountain is a part one of the Corps’ most time-honored traditions.


Veterans Day 2018 was the centennial anniversary of the end of World War I. The day before it was the Marine Corps’ 243rd birthday, that’s when Dunford and retired-Marine-turned-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walked the grounds of the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, where nearly 3,000 U.S. troops are buried – many of those interred there are Marines killed at the WWI Battle of Belleau Wood.

You might have heard of it — the Germans sure did.

Marine Corps lore says the brutal fighting against the Germans at Belleau Wood is where the Marines earned the nickname “Devil Dogs” from the German enemy, who sent wave after wave of infantry attacks into the dense wood in an attempt to take it from the U.S. Marines, to no avail, of course.

German high command, flush with a full 50 fresh divisions from the east after the capitulation of the Soviet Union, planned to overwhelm the Entente powers on the Western Front. They wanted to end the war before the United States could bring the full power of its men and materiel to bear. By May, 1918, it was too late. The Germans were facing American units in combat already. By June, 1918, five German infantry divisions faced off against the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Brigade and the Marines’ 4th Marine Brigade.

The Marines stopped the German advance and forced them back into the Woods. To follow them meant facing thousands of entrenched and hidden veteran German troops. The battle lasted a full month and was defined by bloody slaughter, using everything from poison gas to hand-to-hand combat and featured some of the Corps most legendary names, like Capt. Lloyd Williams, Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daley, and future Commandant of the Marine Corps, John Lejeune.

Lance Cpl. Seth H. Capps, a member of the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, drinks out of Devil Dog Fountain following the 93rd anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood May 30, 2010.

(Photo By Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

As one might imagine, winning a battle that couldn’t be won against all odds is going to be remembered as one of the most heroic feats in Marine Corps history. France later renamed the forest Bois de la Brigade de Marine and, according to lore, the name the Germans gave the Marines – Teufel Hunden or “Devil Dogs” – is how bulldogs became the Corps mascot.

For Marines, a visit to the battlefield and the cemetery is a pilgrimage, a rite of passage. This trip includes a visit to the nearby village of Belleau and its bulldog fountain, continuously spitting water from its mouth. Marines like Dunford and Gen. Robert Neller all the way down to the lowest Lance Corporal will drink from the fountain to remember the Battle of Belleau Wood and the Marines who never left.

Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert B. Neller, gets water from the Devil Dog fountain after the American Memorial Day ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Memorial Cemetery, Belleau Wood, France, May 29, 2016. Each Memorial Day weekend, U.S. Marines, French service members, family members, and locals gather to honor the memory of the Marines killed during the battle of Belleau Wood.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Gabriela Garcia)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pirates attack and rob Italian ship in the Gulf of Mexico

A pirate attack on an Italian ship in the Gulf of Mexico that left two sailors wounded isn’t the first such incident, and with Mexico struggling to address rising insecurity, it’s not likely to be the last.

About eight armed pirates arrived in two small ships and boarded the vessel, an Italian-flagged supply ship named Remas, in the evening on Nov. 11, 2019, and robbed the crew, according to reports about the incident.

The ship was being operated by the Italian firm Micoperi, which services offshore oil platforms. The incident took place about 12 miles off the coast of Ciudad del Carmen in the state of Campeche in southeast Mexico.


The Mexican navy said Nov. 12, 2019, that two of the roughly 35 people on board were wounded — one shot in the leg and another struck in the head.

The navy said it sent a fast boat to the site of the attack late on Nov. 11, 2019. The sailors were taken to a private clinic for treatment, according to local media.

Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico.

(Photo by Jonathan Alegria)

The incident is only the latest attack on oil infrastructure and extraction operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

“They’re starting to attack ships that are transporting petroleum for Pemex” and providing other services, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration. “Now I presume this is going to be the wave of the future. They are going to be attacking more and more tankers.”

Thieves, sometimes disguised as fishermen, typically arrive in small boats with powerful outboard motors, quickly boarding platforms or other ships to take valuables from crew and other equipment, which is often resold ashore.

Mexico’s state oil firm, known as Pemex, has acknowledged the threat, and together with the navy has said it would increase security efforts. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in March 2019 that the navy would establish a permanent operation at the port of Dos Bocas, Tabasco, his home state, to confront the pirates.

Nevertheless, there have been reports of hundreds of robberies of this kind.

Pemex documents obtained by the newspaper Milenio showed that 197 such robberies took place in 2018, the most out of the past three years and a 310% increase over the 48 attacks in 2016. Those robberies cost the firm at least .5 million between 2016 and 2018, according to the documents.

The waters at the southern end of the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Campeche and neighboring Tabasco state — where Pemex operates more than 100 platforms — are the most affected.

‘Wave of the future’

The rise in theft from fuel platforms in the Gulf mirrors the increase in fuel theft from pipelines and Pemex facilities on the ground. The number of unauthorized taps discovered on fuel lines nearly quintupled between 2011 and 2016.

The theft has cost the Mexican government billions of dollars and is sometimes deadly for the thieves and others at the scene.

Drill vessel prepares for drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico, July 9, 2010.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tiffany Carvalho)

Cracking down on fuel theft was one of Lopez Obrador’s first security initiatives after taking office in December 2018. The president declared victory in spring 2019, saying his administration had reduced fuel theft by 95% and defeated theives.

That response included deploying troops and federal police to pipelines and other high-theft areas, but that alienated some communities, and security forces have struggled to strike a balance between providing security and allowing the industry to operate. In some areas, violence has risen even as fuel theft declined.

“The military is providing more security to the pipelines, but it will be difficult to provide security to vessels shipping petroleum,” Vigil said, noting that government still needs to respond to violence rising throughout Mexico and that the military doesn’t have the training or resources to effectively pursue pirates in the Gulf. “I have to assume it’s going to become more and more dangerous for Pemex transports [and] transport ships.”

Fuel theft on land is not always the work of organized crime. At times, local residents have tapped pipelines to access fuel for their own use or for resale. Stealing fuel and other hardware at sea is harder but still lucrative, meaning it’s likely to continue and grow as an area of interest for cartels and other criminal groups.

“Not everybody uses drugs, but everybody uses gas,” Vigil said. “It is evolving. It’s going to be the wave of the future. There’s so much money involved”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the US and North Korea teamed up to fight Somali pirates

The list of Americans who receive favorable coverage in North Korea’s state media is a very, very short one. President Trump made waves with KCNA’s review of his performance at the 2018 Singapore Summit. But more than a decade before that, the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS James E. Williams received even higher praise.

In 2007, a North Korean cargo ship name Dai Hong Dan was attacked by Somali pirates 70 miles northeast of Mogadishu. The pirates disguised themselves a guard force and overtook the crew to take control of the ship. They set a ransom demand of $15,000. The penalty for non-payment was killing the sailors — that would not happen.

The crew was stashed away in the engine room and in steerage as the pirates gave their demands. The crew managed to send an SOS to the Piracy Reporting Centre of the International Maritime Organization. The IMB sent the report to the James E. Williams, which dispatched a helicopter to check on reports of the ship’s hijacking. Meanwhile, the crew used the emergency steerage engine and a lifeboat compass to point the ship out to sea.


Boarding team members from guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams board North Korean cargo vessel Dai Hong Dan to provide medical assistance.
(U.S. Navy)

As the helicopter approached and ordered the pirates to surrender, the crew fought back against their captors, overpowering them after 20 hours of fighting. The Dai Hong Dan’s crew stormed the bridge as U.S. Navy sailors boarded the ship to help the wounded. One of the pirates was killed and six North Korean sailors were wounded in the struggle. Doctors aboard the James E. Williams treated the injured North Koreans.

The Dai Hong Dan was carrying sugar from India to Mogadishu, a cargo which it had already dropped off. The pirates turned out to be the same dock workers responsible for the ship’s safe passage in and out of the port facilities of Mogadishu. The captured pirates were held aboard the North Korean ship, presumably to face justice in the DPRK.

The forecast calls for a 100 percent chance of death.
(KCNA)

North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA, gave the United States rare praise in its coverage of the incident, saying:

“We feel grateful to the United States for its assistance given to our crewmen. This case serves as a symbol of the DPRK-U.S. cooperation in the struggle against terrorism. We will continue to render international cooperation in the fight against terrorism in the future, too.”
MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. strikes Taliban after Afghan security personnel killed in attacks

The United States has conducted a “defensive” air strike against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province after a checkpoint manned by Afghan forces was attacked.


“The US conducted an airstrike on March 4 against Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand, who were actively attacking an #ANDSF checkpoint. This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack,” U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Sonny Leggett said in a tweet.

The strike came just hours after Taliban militants killed at least 20 Afghan security officers in a string of attacks and on the heels of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “very good” chat with the Taliban’s political chief.

The wave of violence is threatening to unravel a February 29 agreement signed in Doha between the United States and the Taliban that would allow allied forces to leave Afghanistan within 14 months in return for various security commitments from the extremist group and a pledge to hold talks with the Afghan government — which the Taliban has so far refused to do.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has warned he was not committed to a key clause in the deal involving the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

The Taliban said it would not take part in intra-Afghan talks until that provision was met.

And on March 2, the militant group ordered its fighters to resume operations against Afghan forces, saying that a weeklong partial truce between the Taliban, U.S., and Afghan forces that preceded the Doha agreement was “over.”

“Taliban fighters attacked at least three army outposts in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz last night, killing at least 10 soldiers and four police,” said Safiullah Amiri, a member of the provincial council.

upload.wikimedia.org

Another attack killed six soldiers in the same northern region, Amiri added.

Washington has said it would defend Afghan forces if they came under Taliban attack.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Monty Python’s Black Knight was based on a real fighter

Once in a lifetime, there comes a motion picture which changes the whole history of motion pictures. A picture so stunning in its effect, so vast in its impact, that it profoundly affects the lives of all who see it. One such film is, yes, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And while I lifted that copy (which was originally intended to be tongue-in-cheek) straight from the trailer, the film’s legacy has proven the trailer correct.


Even those who don’t think they’ve heard some of the most memorable lines from the movie likely have, whether they smell of elderberries or they’ve heard of the knights who say “ni.” Perhaps the most memorable scene, however, is the one where Arthur is forced to fight the Black Knight guarding a small footbridge, one who refuses to accept defeat.

The story that exposes all of the historical narratives and false legends about the chivalry and bravery of Medieval knights through vicious mockery turned history on its head even further in the encounter with the Black Knight. On the Wired podcast “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” Monty Python member John Cleese spoke about the inspiration for the Black Knight scene in a memory of his time at school, where he was taught by a two-time World War veteran.

“There was a lovely guy named ‘Jumper’ Gee who died at the age of 101, and who managed to fight in both World Wars—I never came across anyone else who did that. He was a good teacher of English and I liked him enormously, and he would go off on these wonderful excursions where they were nothing to do with the subject he was teaching, and he told this story about a wrestling match that had taken place in ancient Rome. … There was a particularly tough contest in progress, and one of the wrestlers, his arm broke—the difficulty of the embrace was so great that his arm broke under the pressure—and he submitted because of the appalling pain he was in. And the referee sort of disentangled them and said to the other guy, ‘You won,’ and the other guy was rather unresponsive, and the referee realized the other guy was dead. And this was an example to ‘Jumper’ Gee of the fact that if you didn’t give up you couldn’t lose, and I always thought this was a very dodgy conclusion…”

Pictured: The Eleans crowned and proclaimed victor the corpse of Arrhachion.

The story “Jumper” was trying to relate is that of Arrachion of Phigalia, an athlete in ancient Greece who was skilled at the pankration event. Pankration was an event similar to today’s Ultimate Fighting Championship, where the winner must force his opponent to submit, through some kind of brute force. Arrachion was fighting for the championship. One ancient historian described the hold that not only killed Arrachion but caused his opponent to submit to the then-deceased Arrachion’s own hold.

It seems Arrachion’s opponent choked the life from the great wrestler as Arrachion wrapped part of his body around his opponent’s foot. Arrachion yanked the man’s ankle from his leg as the undefeated wrestler died in his opponent’s chokehold, and his opponent was forced to tap out from the pain. Arrachion, now dead, remained undefeated.

He got a statue for his efforts, the stupid bastard.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Say goodbye to the EA-6B Prowler with these fun facts

In March 2019, the Marine Corps stood down its last squadron of EA-6B Prowlers. This stand down marked the end of the Prowler’s active service in the U.S. military. The tactical electronic warfare jamming bird first started its career in 1971, making it one of the oldest airframes still flying. Well, until Mar. 8th. 2019, it will be.

It will be replaced by the advanced capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, just like the F-35 replaced the F/A-18 Hornet and the AV-8B Harrier.


#BabyPictures

It fought everyone from Ho Chi Minh to ISIS

First introduced to southeast Asia in 1972, the Prowler has been there with the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps through thick and thin, deploying more than 70 times and flying more than 260,000 hours.

Its victories were flawless

Not one Prowler has ever been lost to enemy action. Many have tried; North Vietnam, Libya, Iraq (a few times!), Iran, the Taliban, Panama, no one has been able to take down any of the 170 Prowlers built to defend America. Unfortunately, 50 of those were lost due to accidents and mishaps.

An EA-6B Prowler at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.

Its job was to jam enemy radar

But what to do when there’s no enemy radar to jam? It still blocks radio signals and weapon targeting systems. The Prowler was a perfect addition to the Global War on Terror, as it also could block cell signals and garage door openers, keeping troops on the ground safe from many remotely-triggered improvised explosive devices.

It’s the longest serving tactical jet

F-16? Never met her. The service life of the Prowler beats that of even the F-16, making it the longest-serving tactical fighter jet in the history of the U.S. military.

For now.

The Prowler helped ice Bin Laden

Sure, the SEALs had a specially-built top-secret helicopter to help them sneak into Pakistan. But it was an EA-6B Prowler that made sure the area around Osama bin Laden’s compound was free and clear of any pesky radar or electronic signals that might give the operation away.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out United’s new ‘Star Wars’-themed Boeing 737 plane

Luke Skywalker may have claimed the Millennium Falcon was a “piece of junk” when he first saw it (even though it could, you know, make point-five past lightspeed) — but he probably wouldn’t be saying that about United Airlines’ shiny new Boeing 737-800.

To celebrate the December 2019 theatrical release of “The Rise of Skywalker,” billed as the last film in the nine-film Skywalker saga, the airline has launched a special “Star Wars”-themed plane — and though it can’t travel at lightspeed, it does look pretty spiffy, or at least nothing at all like the heavily modified ship of a certain scruffy-looking nerf herder (sorry, Han Solo).

The plane made its first flight earlier this month, from Houston to Orlando, Florida. Though there were plenty of evil First Order stormtroopers on hand, thankfully no one was taken away for questioning by Kylo Ren.

Here’s what the plane is like inside.


The “Dark Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

The “Light Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Exterior detail on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Exterior details on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Headrests with the symbol of the Resistance on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Headrests with the logo of the First Order on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Amenity kits on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

First Order stormtroopers aboard United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

A First Order stormtrooper confronting a passenger, presumably asking to see some identification.

(United)

First Order stormtroopers in the terminal.

(United)

First Order stormtroopers at the airport in Orlando, Florida.

(United)

The droid BB-8 at the maiden launch of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

The United Airlines “Star Wars”-themed plane as seen on Flight Aware.

(United)

United Airlines’ “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Rear detailing on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

The tail of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY MOVIES

Here are some ‘Star Wars’ fan theories about Rey’s red lightsaber

The newest teaser for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” contains a climactic moment that has fans buzzing: Rey wielding a double-bladed red lightsaber.

Disney debuted the new look at the upcoming movie, which hits theaters in December 2019, over the weekend at its biannual fan event D23 Expo. Now that the teaser is available on YouTube, fans are going wild with theories about Rey’s possible turn to the dark side.

The Force-sensitive heroine has historically used a single-bladed blue lightsaber, which formerly belonged to Anakin and Luke Skywalker.


The “Star Wars” franchise has always taken lightsaber ownership very seriously, so it makes sense that fans are analyzing Rey’s new weapon.

Rey is portrayed by Daisy Ridley.

(Star Wars/YouTube)


“We take to heart the lesson that Obi-Wan tried to impart to Anakin: ‘This weapon is your life.’ We’re not ones to lose track of lightsabers,” Lucasfilm Story Group executive Pablo Hidalgo told Vanity Fair in 2017.

The movies have hinted at Rey’s connection to the dark side before

In many ways, Rey is drawn as a parallel to Kylo Ren, a powerful servant of the dark side.

It’s still unclear, however, whether their similarities are because Rey is drawn towards the dark side or because of Kylo’s remaining connection to the light side. It could also be rooted in a secret familial relationship, since Kylo Ren was born Ben Solo, the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa — and eventual student of Luke Skywalker.

Writer Sarah Sahim also noticed that Rey’s weapon on the poster for “The Force Awakens” is literally drawn parallel to Kylo’s red lightsaber, creating a clear resemblance to the double-bladed red lightsaber.

The red lightsaber could mean that Rey will turn to the dark side — and fans are kind of into it

Subtle details from the teaser have led some fans to believe Rey will actually embrace the dark side in “The Rise of Skywalker.”

Rey’s theme music is played in a deeper, darker key, for instance. The footage is narrated by Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader’s breathing can be heard in the background just moments before “dark Rey” appears.

Even though a turn to the dark side would be detrimental to her heroic arc, many “Star Wars” fans were captivated by the image of “dark Rey.”

Some believe the moment in the teaser is a “Force vision”

Responding to a fan on Twitter, Nerdist writer Lindsey Romain said it’s “definitely a possibility” that Rey’s red lightsaber moment is “a vision of what she could become” — though she wrote for Nerdist that she believes a real dark turn for Rey is more compelling.

Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson is more convinced of the vision theory. Replying to Romain on Twitter, she attached a photo of Luke’s Force vision from the Dagobah cave, where he sees his own face wearing Darth Vader’s beheaded helmet.

The image of “dark Rey” could be a warning, showing the young hero what she could become and has to avoid.

The “dark Rey” image could also be Force vision for Kylo. It’s possible that Kylo secretly fears that the dark side will win, or the image is being used by Palpatine to manipulate him — in Romain’s words, “to taunt the poor boy about what could have been.”

Another theory is that Rey, or a Rey clone, will be possessed by Emperor Palpatine or another Sith lord

We already know that Palpatine will play a major role in the upcoming film. In addition to narrating the trailer, he’s shown as a massive and menacing presence on the newly released poster.

Palpatine could somehow possess Rey and force her towards the dark side.

Alan Johnson, the Director of Influencer Relations at WB Games, believes that “dark Rey” is one of many Rey clones.

“I still think Rey is a clone and the Sith version from the new ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ trailer is a clone that has been activated and possessed by Emperor Palpatine,” he wrote on Twitter. “The vision she had in ‘The Last Jedi’ screamed ‘clone’ to me at the time.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

All Green Berets are inspiring. Here are 5 of the best

It’s the mission of all branches of the U.S. military to protect all citizens, defend liberty and uphold the Constitution. Being a good citizen entails giving back to each branch in every way we can.

The Green Berets, founded in 1952 by John F. Kennedy, are celebrating their 68th birthday today. Take a moment to honor some special members of the “warrior-diplomat” ranks as they continue to protect and honor our country.


Matthew Williams

Look to the heroic acts of Sergeant Matthew Williams, who took heroic action to save the lives of his fellow soldiers in the Battle of Shok Valley, which took place in Afghanistan in 2008.

According to other Berets who had been in Williams’ regimen, Williams helped to evacuate two soldiers who had been shot from the battle. Williams saved the soldiers’ lives and endured minimal casualties.

Williams had been deployed multiple times, serving in Afghanistan and in other areas of need. Trump upgraded Williams’ Silver Star, which he earned in 2008, to a Medal of Honor on October 3, 2019.

Regarding Williams’ actions, Trump noted that, “Matt’s incredible heroism helped ensure that not a single American soldier died in the battle of Shok Valley.” Further, he noted that,””Matt is without question and without reservation one of the bravest soldiers and people I have ever met. He’s a brave guy. And he’s a great guy.”

Williams added, “”I hope I can wear the Medal with honor and distinction and represent something that’s much bigger than myself, which is what it means to be on a team of brothers, and what it means to be an elite Special Forces soldier.”

Ronald J. Shurer

Additionally, another Special Forces Soldier who fought in the same battle was also awarded a Medal of Honor: Ronald J. Shurer. Shurer, a medic, ran through open fire to aid a soldier who had shrapnel stuck in his neck. In total, Shurer aided four wounded soldiers despite suffering gunshot wounds himself.

The deep moral dedication needed to selflessly aid others in the face of a surprise attack by 200 soldiers is astounding and something to be proud of.

Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace

The valor of the Green Berets stretches back to their inception. Humbert Roque Versace (nicknamed “Rocky” by his colleagues) joined the Armed Forces in Norfolk in 1937, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bush for his heroic actions as a prisoner of War in Vietnam.

In addition to his prestigious Medal of Honor, Versace was honored in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes by Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki.

Melvin Morris

Like Versace, a number of Green Berets have been awarded a Medal of Honor for heroic action in Vietnam. However, soldier Melvin Morris was awarded a MOH not for heroic action as a prisoner of war, but for retrieving the body of a fallen sergeant after pushing back enemy lines single handedly with a bag of grenades. The Beret even was able to free his battalion from the enemy forces that oppressed it in this crusade.

That’s badass.

Morris was shot three times in the endeavor but survived after being rushed to medical care. He was awarded a MOH by President Obama in 2014 and was later indicted into the Hall of Heroes.

Kyle Daniels

The Green Berets are not only heroes – they are also innovators. 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels was tired of seeing the American Flag burned in times of trial, such as the ones we’re in now, and invented a flag that physically won’t burn. The Firebrand Flag Company now proudly boasts fireproof flags, a symbol of the America we know and love. Fire and oppression won’t bring us down.

Each member of the U.S. Armed Forces, before being indicted to the military, pledges to:

“Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [that I will] bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and [that I will] obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”

President Kennedy established the Green Berets with the promise that the elite unit of the military would be, “A symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” The Green Berets are not just capable of their mission, they are excellent in upholding their duty to our country.

Honor any Green Berets you may know, today and any other day. It’s all too easy to forget that the life of an American soldier is dedicated to the well-being of our country, something which, in good conscience, should not be forgotten and honored in every way possible.