Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service's biggest plane - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

The US Air Force’s newest air refueling aircraft, the KC-46A Pegasus, is undergoing a variety of tests out of Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Starting on April 29, 2019, the KC-46 conducted the first refueling test with a Travis AFB C-5M Super Galaxy. The testing is a part of a larger test program to certify aerial refueling operations between the KC-46 and 22 different receiver aircraft.

Maj. Drew Bateman, 22nd Airlift Squadron chief of standardization and evaluation and a C-5M pilot, flew the Air Force’s largest aircraft for testing on April 29, 2019. He flew it again May 15, 2019.

“The April 29 sortie was the first where the KC-46 and the C-5M made contact,” Bateman said. “That was awesome to be a part of. You have a few pinch me moments in life and this was one of them for me. Not everyone gets to be a part of something like this. We were able to get two aircraft together for the first time.”


“Every test flight begins with a continuity check so the KC-46 crew ensures they can connect and disconnect safely with our aircraft,” Bateman added. “From there, we continue testing a variety of items at multiple speeds and altitudes throughout the sortie.”

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

A Boeing KC-46A.

One capability Bateman and his C-5M crew mates tested with the KC-46 was the ability to connect with both aircraft near max gross weight.

“For these tests, we were required to be over 800,000 pounds with cargo and fuel,” Bateman said. “Our 60th Aerial Port Squadron Airmen developed a load plan. The expediters loaded the cargo onto the airplane, and our maintainers ensured the C-5M was flyable. It’s a huge team effort to ensure we are mission ready. I feel like I have the smallest part of it. I just fly the airplane.”

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

A KC-46A Pegasus during testing with a C-5M Super Galaxy for the first time on April 29, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Christian Turner)

On April 29, 2019, Master Sgt. Willie Morton, 418th Flight Test Squadron flight test boom operator, oversaw operations in the back of the KC-46 during the testing process.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Morton said. “I was a KC-10 Extender boom operator at Travis for about 13 years so going to the KC-46 and being a part of the next step in aerial refueling is pretty awesome. I have the chance to provide input on an aircraft that will be flying missions for many years.”

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

A United States Air Force KC-10 Extender.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)

To complete refueling with the KC-46, boom operators must use a series of cameras that project a 3D image on a screen. These refueling experts then use that image to carefully guide aircraft into position, Morton said.

“We are testing capabilities at low altitudes, high speeds, high altitudes and high speeds, as well as heavy and light gross weights so we know how the aircraft will respond,” he said. “We have to find the optimal speed the C-5M can fly at to support refueling. We are also doing our best to ensure the mechanical compatibility of the KC-46 and C-5M.”

According to Lt. Col. Zack Schaffer, 418th FLTS KC-46 Integrated Test Force director, the testing is a joint effort between the USAF and Boeing.

“The KC-46s being used for this test effort are owned by Boeing and operated by a combined Air Force and contractor crew,” Schaffer said. “All the test planning and execution is being led by the 418th FLTS, part of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards. The flight test program evaluates the mechanical compatibility of the two aircraft at all corners of the boom flight envelope, as well as handling qualities of both the tanker, boom and receiver throughout the required airspeed and altitude envelope at different gross weights and center of gravity combinations.”

The 418th FLTS is also responsible for developmental testing of the C-5M, and is providing a test pilot to support the C-5M side of the certification testing, Schaffer added. The C-5M was crewed primarily by the 22nd AS with augmentation from the 418th.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

A United States Air Force C-5 Galaxy in flight.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Brett Snow)

“Additionally, the military utility, lighting compatibility and fuel transfer functionality is also being evaluated,” Schaffer said. “The testing is expected to take approximately 12 sorties to complete.”

Once the testing is complete, the results will be used to develop the operational clearance necessary to allow KC-46s to refuel the C-5M for missions.

“The C-5M is also one of the receivers required to complete the KC-46 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation program, which is a prerequisite to the KC-46 being declared operationally capable,” Schaffer said. “Completing the testing necessary to expand the operational capabilities of the KC-46 is a critical step in modernizing the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet. The 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis has provided outstanding support to ensure this testing can get the warfighter expanded capabilities as soon as possible.”

Identifying potential problems is also a focus of the testing, Moore added.

“It’s important, if any issues are identified during the testing, to ensure counter measures are created to overcome those issues,” Moore said. “We want to get the best product to the warfighter to extend global reach and mobility.”

Travis is scheduled to receive its first KC-46 in 2023.

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

Humor

4 stereotypes platoon ‘Docs’ get stuck with

Corpsmen and medics have to be the jacks-of-all-trades when they’re taking care of business. Under the watchful eye of their senior medical officers, “docs” have to execute their insane responsibilities at an efficient rate.


They’re asked to perform some impressive, life-saving interventions that would make a third-year medical student cringe.

They also get blamed for a variety of things they have no control over if they’re the lower man or woman on the totem pole.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

It’s funny, considering all the good they’ve done throughout America’s history, that their fellow brothers-in-arms like to f*ck with them every so often by creating and perpetuating stereotypes.

Some of those stereotypes stick and get carried on forever!

Related: Why ‘Devil Doc’ is the unofficial name of elite Navy Corpsmen

So, check out four stereotypes platoon medics get freakin’ stuck with.

4. They joined just to look at other service members’ d*cks.

For the most part, that statement is inaccurate. However, there may have been a few medics, throughout the course history, who probably joined to catch a peek every now and again.

3. Navy Corpsmen are just Marine rejects.

As much as we dislike this one, Corpsman can’t help it if their Marines freakin’ love them and see them as equals. That being said, there are a few “docs” who joined because they couldn’t get into the Corps due to stupid tattoo policies — including yours truly.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
Stupid, right? (Image from U.S. Marine Corps)

2. They love issuing out the “silver bullet.”

Nope! We can’t think of a single human being who explicitly enjoys taking another’s temperature via their butthole. Yuck! But they’ll do it if they have to.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
Terminal Lance #258 (Source: Terminal Lance)

Also Read: 4 most annoying assumptions female veterans absolutely hate

1. The only medical treatment they know is to tell patients to take Motrin, change their socks, and hydrate.

“Docs” can obviously do a lot more than that, but stateside, their hands are tied when it comes to rendering treatment. In combat, however, the rules and regulations dramatically change.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
Yes, the meme makers of the world are so funny, we can’t stop laughing.

Can you think of any others? Let us know below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is Russia’s nuclear ‘doomsday’ torpedo the US just can’t stop

Just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with President Donald Trump, Russia’s Ministry of Defense has released a video of one of its most inhumane and fearsome nuclear weapons ever created — and it’s purpose-built to avoid US defenses.

The weapon, a high-speed nuclear-powered torpedo, isn’t like other nuclear weapons. While there’s a risk of radioactivity any time an atom is split, nuclear weapons have typically used nuclear detonations to create heat and pressure, with lingering radioactivity emerging only as a dangerous side effect.


But the new Russian torpedo uses radioactive waste to deter, scare, and potentially punish enemies for decades.

“Nuclear weapons only generate significant amounts of radioactive fallout when they are detonated at, near, or beneath ground level,” Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940,” told Business Insider.

These types of nuclear explosions “suck up dirt, or water, contaminates it with debris from the bomb, and then lofts it into the atmosphere,” leaving deadly radioactive fallout potentially strewn across thousands of miles, Schwartz said. What’s more, the bomb is rumored to have its nuclear core coated in a metal that would make the fall out last for half a century.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

Russia’s nuclear-powered torpedo.

“It’s an insane weapon in the sense that it’s probably as indiscriminate and lethal as you can make a nuclear weapon,” Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told Business Insider.

Russia hasn’t specified how big the nuclear warhead is, but Kristensen said reports indicated it’s “anything from a normal yield to up to 100 megatons,” making it potentially one of the biggest bombs ever built.

Russia has advertised a simple mission for the torpedo: “Going in and blowing up a harbor with the purpose of blanketing a coastal area with radiation to make it uninhabitable” in a “blatant violation on the international laws of war, which require them to avoid collateral damage,” Kristensen said.

What the video shows us

Russia, which first leaked images of the weapon in 2015, released the video of the torpedo, called “Poseidon,” along with several other updates on new weapons programs. Putin announced all of the weapons in a March 1, 2018 speech in which he said they’d been designed to defeat all existing US defenses.

The video of the Poseidon shows its stern suspended in a factory with engineers standing by. Lines across its hull indicate where its various components and chambers separate and indicate a large space for a warhead.

Analysis from H.I. Sutton shows that Russia augmented a test submarine to carry the Poseidon as far back as 2010, indicating a long testing period.

But Russia traffics in military propaganda frequently, and it may be bluffing on how far along its weapons are. The torpedo is shown only in a lab setting, and then the video cuts to a computer-generated simulation. The actual weapon shows its ability to steer in water, and doesn’t even show it can propel itself.

Additionally, the video demonstrates a new, only slightly less dangerous use for the weapon: Targeting US aircraft carriers and their strike groups. As it stands, the US doesn’t have a way to defend against fast-moving torpedoes like the Poseidon.

www.youtube.com

Take a look at the video below to get a look at Russia’s underwater doomsday device:

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

These historical sidearms of the US military perfectly show its evolution

A good sidearm is the ultimate plan B. You don’t want to have to use it, but if you do have to — it better work. They’re kind of the last line of defense for American freedom and they’ve come a long way in 240-plus years.

The sidearm has gone from a smoothbore, muzzle-loaded, single shot to SIG Sauer’s new, modular, 59-round monster which is also customizable for every user. No matter what your opinion of them might be, if they’ve ever kept you in the fight for even a minute longer, then they did their job.

These are most important sidearms the U.S. military has adopted over the last couple hundred years.


Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

1. Harper’s Ferry Model 1805

This was the first pistol ever made by a U.S. national armory. It was a flintlock pistol that lasted well into the Mexican War – but not for any particular reason besides apathy. They were heavy and tended to misfire. The Military Police Corps insignia still bears crossed 1805s to this day.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

I think we missed our chance for the Chuck Norris-Clint Eastwood movie about the 1847 Walker…

2. Colt M1847 Walker

Welcome to the dawn of a new era. This was the first mass-produced revolver and, at an astonishing 15 inches long, it was able to make its way down south in time to win the Mexican War. The “Walker” in its name comes from the Texas Ranger who helped design the .44-caliber weapon (no, it was not Chuck Norris).

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

“Colt: Now explosion free.”

3. Colt M1848 Dragoon

The 1847 held a lot of black powder, so when they exploded (as they sometimes did), it turned people off to the idea of buying another Colt firearm, which was bad for business. The 1848 revolver didn’t require so much powder — for a .44-caliber pistol, anyway. This weapon lived on all the way through the Civil War.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

4. Colt M1860 Army

This is a more powerful, updated version of a similar model Colt made for the U.S. Navy. It was widespread in the American Civil War by anyone who carried a sidearm (and by many who weren’t supposed to).

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

5. Remington New Model

Colt’s weapons production factory burned down in 1864 and the Army was still in the middle of fighting the Civil War, so they had to turn somewhere. Meanwhile, Remington’s sidearms had became more accurate without sacrificing the stopping power needed to tame the American frontier.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

6. Colt M1873 Single Action Army

Remington had a good run, but when it comes time to win the west, you need an American classic. And what could be more classic than a name that’s still known over 100 years later? We’re talking, of course, about the Colt .45. It was the standard-issue sidearm until 1892 and “The Peacemaker” also became synonymous with cowboys. This sidearm was commonly seen well into the 20th Century.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

7. Colt M1892 Double Action Army-Navy

This was Colt’s first double-action sidearm with a swing-out cylinder made for the U.S. military. The caliber was reduced to a .38, which was fine in most cases, but it famously was unable to stop charging Filipino freedom fighters, even with multiple shots, even at close range.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

8. Colt M1911

The legend. This weapon is more than 100 years old and is still used by Army and Navy special operators. They sure don’t make ’em like they used to. Easily one of the most common firearms in the world to this day, this bad boy fought in almost every conflict from World War I to today.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

9. Beretta M9

The Beretta had a troubled history. From the ammunition pressure to slide failure injuries to a lack of confidence in the weapon’s performance and stopping power, the M9 was generally not accepted as one of the premiere firearms in American history. It had the lowest approval rating of any weapon used by troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The M1911 is a tough act to follow.

Military Life

5 reasons your troops are more important than promotion

If there’s one complaint common across the military, it’s that commanders too often care more about their careers than the well-being of their troops. It’s problematic when higher-ups are willing to put lower enlisted through hell if it means they look good at the end of the day.


Troops are quick to recognize this behavior but, unfortunately, commanders don’t see it in themselves or they just don’t care. There are plenty of cases, though, in which a leader will stick their neck out for the sake of their subordinates at the risk of their own career — because they understand what it means to be a leader.

This doesn’t mean you should be soft. It means that you should think about being in your troops’ shoes and understand the sheer magnitude of unnecessary bullsh*t they go through.

Here’s why leaders need to care more about their troops and less about their promotion.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

Tough love without the love is tough.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

They’re essentially your children

No one like to feel unwanted — and that’s exactly what it feels like to have a commander who cares more about their career. It just results in unnecessary misery across the board.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

They’ll even charge into battle behind you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ally Beiswanger)

Troops respond to care with motivation

As previously mentioned, troops know when you’re only after a promotion. Once they pick up on it, they’re going to be reluctant to follow you anywhere. When it becomes clear that you do care, it motivates them to want to work for you. When your troops are motivated, they’ll follow you anywhere.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

Respect is a two-way street.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Pete Thibodeau)

You gain more respect

If you rely on your rank to get your respect, you’re going to have a bad time. Your goal as a leader should be to earn the respect of your subordinates by being the commander who gives a sh*t.

Here’s a tip: if a troop comes to you with a problem that doesn’t need to be reported to someone above you, handle it in-house. Your goal should be to do everything you can to avoid having your troops crucified if they don’t deserve it.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

Maybe your sign will look less and less like this over time.

(Terminal Lance)

They’ll follow the rules

This may not always be true but when troops respect you, they’ll go out of their way to make sure you look good because they want you to succeed and climb through the ranks. After all, kids want to impress their parents by doing good things.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

They’ll be happy to do things like this for you, but only after you earn respect…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

They’ll understand when they have to do something stupid

If your troops know you’re the type who won’t ask them to needlessly do stupid tasks, they won’t blame you when you have to. Instead, they’ll blame someone above you for giving you such a task to pass down and understand that you aren’t trying to make their lives miserable.

In fact, they may even start to take initiative for minor tasks so you won’t have to ask them to do it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The little cruiser with a battleship’s guns

It first entered Navy service in February, 1895, with some doubters mocking its excessive armament while Americans hoped that its speed, steel, and guns would allow it to survive while outnumbered if under heavy attack. Instead, the small but mighty USS Olympia slaughtered an enemy fleet, bombarded shores, and escorted convoys during its 27-year career.


Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

The USS Olympia, a fast cruiser with heavy armament.

(U.S. Navy)

In the late 1800s, the U.S. Navy wrestled with what the service should do and what ships it needed for the 1900s. The battle of the Merrimack and Monitor decisively proved that wooden ships were on their way out, but the rise of steel ships showed that the iron vessels made in earnest during and after the Civil War wouldn’t survive either.

Meanwhile, sails were the efficient and cheap method of propelling a ship, but it was clear that steam gave commanders more flexibility and more options in combat.

And the Navy needed ships to secure American shores even as a constrained budgets made ship-building tough. Some presidents were already looking at using the Navy for power projection as well.

So, the Navy had to decide whether it should have lots of cheap ships, lots of coastal defenses, steam or sail power, all while keeping power projection a feasible option.

USS OLYMPIA “The Ship”

www.youtube.com

The Navy figured out a plan address all the changes and requirements: A new fleet of steel vessels that relied on steam power but still had masts for sails for long voyages when the winds were favorable. Because the U.S. couldn’t spend as much on ship hulls as potential European attackers, each ship would be heavily armed and as fast as possible.

This resulted in cruisers that could hopefully run ahead of enemy fleets, pelting the lead of the enemy ship with shot after shot while staying out of range of the rest of the enemy fleet. (Video game players do this today against powerful enemies and call it, “kiting.”)

A jewel of this new fleet was C-6, an armored cruiser scheduled to first float in 1892 and commission a few years later. This ship would become the USS Olympia, named for the capital of America’s newest state at the time, Washington.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

The USS Olympia in front of a column of cruisers circa 1900.

(Francis Christian Muller)

The Olympia fit all the qualifications of the new naval plan. It could steam at over 21 knots while most of its potential enemies topped out at 18. It had four 8-inch guns, two in a single turret forward and two in a turret aft. These big guns were the primary armament, but the ship also had ten 5-inch guns. A few years after launch, it also got Gatling guns and sidearms for potential boarding parties.

Some naval observers around the world critiqued the design, saying that it was either an overarmed cruiser or a too-tiny battleship. But these heavily armed cruisers were designed for their own mission, and they could outrun attackers while picking them off with their larger guns.

The defensive war Olympia was ostensibly designed for never came, though. Instead, it was sent to the Pacific where it became the flagship of Commodore George Dewey before the USS Maine, a larger and even better armed ship, blew up in Havana Harbor. While the explosion was later found to have likely been caused by an ammo handling accident or an overheated bulkhead that touched gunpowder stores, the U.S. blamed it on a Spanish attack at the time.

In response to the Maine’s destruction, Dewey and his squadron were sent to Manila Bay to attack the Spanish fleet there. The hope was that the ships, protected by steel and heavily armed, could rush past the guns of the Spanish coastal defenses and engage the Spanish fleet with the large guns.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

The USS Olympia leads the attack against the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila.

(Murat Halstead, 1898)

Dewey sent his fleet towards the bay in two columns steaming behind the USS Olympia. Dewey was holding his fire until sunlight and reconnaissance revealed the enemy fleet, even though this allowed shore gunners to try to spot and hit the American ships in the darkness. A sudden fire on the revenue cutter exposed it, and a cruiser and the cutter were forced to return fire.

But the rest of the fleet held its fire until Dewey saw the fleet, crept in range, and got the angles right. Spanish rounds were raining against the steel hulls of the American ships, and gunners crouched behind the paltry armor and prayed for safety until Dewey, on the Olympia, calmly told the ship’s captain, “You may fire when ready, Mr. Gridley.”

The American fleet opened up and slaughtered the decrepit Spanish fleet, sinking all vessels and capturing the port in mere hours. America now owned the capital of the Philippines and would get the islands in the peace treaty that came later. Nine Americans had been wounded while the fleet had killed 161 Spanish fighters and wounded 210.

The Olympia and Dewey became famous, and the ship went on to serve in World War I as a convoy escort. And, in 1918, Olympia bombarded the shore during an amphibious assault at Murmansk in the Russian Civil War.

But the era of the Dreadnought had come, and in the years following World War I, it became clear that the Olympia was no longer enough ship to compete with enemy combatants. And America, flush with prestige after World War I and possessing overseas colonies from the Spanish-American War, had the money to build a larger, more powerful fleet.

In 1922, Olympia was decommissioned, and the hull was slated for the scrap heap, but activists pushed for the ship to be turned into a museum. It took decades of wrangling before Philadelphia donors got the money to return Olympia to the 1898 configuration and moored the ship in the city’s waterfront in 1958.

Since then, the ship has hosted visitors who wanted to walk the weathered boards of its deck or see the steam engines that made its speed possible. The Flagship Olympia Foundation is trying to raise the money necessary to dry dock and overhaul the ship. It’s already been on the water since 1892, and could have decades more in it after repairs.

Articles

This is what happens when an Army Ranger goes through Navy SEAL training

When Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released in March of 2016, the thought of two colossal superheroes clashing on the big screen brought out huge box office numbers for its opening weekend. But despite the initial hype, the pedestrian offering saw a huge drop-off in enthusiasm the following week, as poor word-of-mouth reviews plagued it: the final product, as usual, not living up to expectations


Batman versus Superman, on its face, seems such an intriguing construct though. We are unabashedly drawn to comparisons like Willie v The Mick, the US Government v John Gotti, et al, and iPhone v Android.

But what if we were to compare two REAL superhero castings? Let’s say, the US Army’s Rangers and the US Navy’s SEALS. And just for sh*ts and giggles, what if we compared their individual crucibles — their selection processes — and attempted to discern which was the harbinger for guaranteed future toughness or success? Let’s attempt to glean which selection program applied the most pain to its candidates. Is graduating from Ranger School a more daunting task than making it through the Navy’s difficult Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training? And is earning a Ranger tab easier or more difficult than being awarded a SEAL Trident?

And, which course actually results in more drop on requests–a fancy term for quitting? And how can we compare completion rates?

 

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
Ranger training. Photo courtesy of US Army.

The comparative analysis is difficult. To my knowledge, I haven’t heard of any former Rangers or SEALS transferring service branches and then embarking on the pursuit of their new branch’s most elite distinction. Maybe there does exist the unique American stud — or committed glutton for punishment — who chose this path of dual misery, and accomplishment. But I haven’t come across any stories chronicling some. With this in mind, I am going to share my reflections on some unique experiences I was privileged to have been afforded during my thirty-three years of government service.

That professional service began when I graduated from West Point in 1987 and was branched as an officer into the Infantry. During the course of my four-year military career, I attended Army Ranger school and graduated with class 4-88. I turned 23 while incarcerated in the mountain phase, endlessly trekking up and down the formidable peaks of the Tennessee Valley Divide. While I wasn’t the class Honor Graduate, I did fairly well throughout the demanding course of instruction and was lucky enough to graduate with my tab, on time, and without being recycled to repeat a phase.

I served during the Cold War Era and the American military buildup precipitated by President Reagan’s stare-down of the Soviets. The 10th Mountain Division had just been reconstituted in 1985, following its long dormancy beginning when WWII ended. Officers and non-coms were selected for the unit’s rebirth only if they possessed the coveted tab. Division brass was intent on modeling the 10th after the Ranger battalions. My assignment to the 10th was contingent on my graduation from Ranger School. Failure to graduate meant a reassignment to the 197th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized), and the embarrassing stigmatization that would assuredly follow that failure.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
Photo courtesy of US Army

From those fledgling days of (re)existence, the 10th Mountain Division has now distinguished itself as a solid and repeatedly deployed war-fighting machine in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it’s mid-1980’s formation with Ranger leadership was critical to its early success and reestablished prestige as a unit. So, in mid-March of 1988, I arrived at 2-14 Infantry battalion headquarters in my starched BDU’s with freshly attached Ranger tab.

The tab carries with it a certain distinction. And that respect for its woven black and gold threads stems from the hardship endured to earn it — the US military being one of the last bastions of meritocracy in this new 21st century era of everyone-gets-a-trophy.

Historically, the failure rate at the US Army Ranger School fluctuates between 50% – 65%. A portion of those failures, DORs, are self-inflicted. There doesn’t appear to be available statistical data that highlights just how many of those failures are related to DORs.

So, after ETSing from the Army on February 1, 1991, I packed up my quarters at Ft. Drum, NY, loaded my then-wife, newborn son, and two rescue dogs into my ’88 Chevy Blazer, and headed south to the FBI Academy at Quantico, VA, where I began the 20-week course to become an FBI Special Agent. In June of same year, I posted to the FBI’s New York City Office’s Brooklyn-Queens Metropolitan Resident Agency, and began a proud 25-year career as a Fed.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright

Along the way, I was selected for the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, where I served as a counter-terrorist operator on Echo Assault Team from 1997 – 2001.

And in the Fall of 1998, while serving as one of Echo Team’s divers, and recently returned from deployments to Africa (US Embassy bombings) and North Carolina’s Nantahala Forest (search for ’96 Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph), I was suddenly tapped to deploy to Coronado, California, with three of my fellow HRT diver teammates, for a once in a lifetime experience.

I was an “old man,” all of 33 years. And though I was in peak physical condition, having spent almost a year and a half lifting, and running, and training at a HIGH level … I was in for a rude awakening.

It was September of 1998, and Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I checked into the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and were officially informed we’d be joining BUD/S class 220. We had just offloaded our rental cars and strode across the sand dunes separating the BUD/S compound from the Pacific Ocean. Worst thing we could have done was to time our arrival with the conduct of Hell Week for BUD/S class 221. Long before casual observers had been treated to Discovery Channel documentaries on the course of instruction to become a SEAL, the four of us took in the spectacle.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle-Lymas

Exhausted youngsters — many between 18 – 20 years old — slogging along at the water’s edge, ferrying inflatable RHIBs, lifting massive logs over their heads, performing a staggering amount of “corrective actions” — flutter kicks, crunches, push-ups, and bear crawls. All accompanied by the monotonous, annoying, and ever-present Instructor “motivationals” echoed through a hand-held loud-hailer.

After we’d ingested all the observed pain and misery we could and signed in at NWSC, my HRT colleagues and I made our way over to the Second Phase HQ, a low-profile, nondescript group of single-story military buildings, and introduced ourselves to the cadre.

“All good,” the congenial class proctor stated. Get over to the BOQ on Mainside. Drop your gear off, change into UDT shorts and your yellow HRT PT shirts, and we’ll meet you at the pool for your qualifying PT test — 500 meter swim, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and mile and a half run in Bates brand combat boots. We even rolled our wool socks down over our boots exactly the way the SEALs did.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell

When in Rome…

And so it began. After easily completing the fit test required of all BUD/S aspirants, we joined class 220 as they began the initial stages of Phase Two. The classroom portions on Dive Physics weren’t too daunting — the four of us had the benefit of college degrees — but the daily regimen of early morning PT was an eye-opener. Yes, the four of us were quite fit. But we were also in our thirties, and didn’t take part in the same skill-specific training one receives in the BUD/S preparatory course the Navy offered its young sailors interested in becoming frogmen. And we didn’t have the benefit of true youth. If we were professional athletes, we’d be desperately trying to find an organization to sign us, so we could come off the bench, with a head coach “managing our minutes.”

We also didn’t have the benefit of having taken part in the first phase of BUD/S; that unforgiving crucible that weeds out the weak and strengthens the committed. The relationship between the USN and HRT was a long and durable one. Many of the early generation FBI-HRT operators had been SEALs (as well as former Rangers, Green Berets, and Marines). Compared to the military’s special operations units, HRT was an infant, having come on line in 1983, as a civilian counter-terrorist option for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The ’72 debacle in Munich was a not-so-distant memory. And US law precluded the military from acting as law enforcement inside the United States.

So, here’s the thing: While I was certainly younger and my body more resilient as a 23-year-old when I completed Ranger School, ten years later, when I attended the Dive Phase of BUD/S — open circuit (SCUBA) and closed circuit (LAR-V rebreather) — with my HRT colleagues, I was certainly more experienced, savvy, and skillful at my craft. But that didn’t aid in the recovery time my body desperately needed between evolutions at BUD/S. Every night, the four of us limped back to our BOQ and attempted to “heal” before the fun began again the next morning, bright and early.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell

On the ground (or in the sand), we were the BUD/S students equals. We four were strong runners and could complete the grinders of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, flutter kicks, and crunches as well as any of the kids in 220. On the beach, during timed four mile runs, we were more than their equals, often having to hold back so as not to bring the SEAL Instructors’ wrath down upon our classmates, as in:

“Hey, you pathetic pieces of human filth and fecal matter, why are you letting these old-ass FBI-HRT guys beat you on a timed run? You’ll all be ‘paying the man’ if you allow this to happen again!”

Yes, the typical SEAL Instructor was wicked smart and imbued with a great sense of wit and timing.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle-Lymas

We reined in our run times, not wanting to cause any more pain to the young men who so graciously accepted us into their fraternity — despite the fact we hadn’t shared the excruciating pain of First Phase and Hell Week with them.

One of the most special gifts I’ve ever received in the course of my life was to be afforded a Hell Week t-shirt from BUD/S class 220. This class-specific attire made us feel a part — if only for a moment — of their exclusive club. It was truly an honor and I cherish the now tattered shirt emblazoned with the class motto that borrowed from William Ernest Henley’s short and powerful Victorian poem Invictus:

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

During the course of our “internment” at BUD/S, we also participated in the required weekly SEAL Obstacle Course completion. It was an ass-kicker. And again, as I reminisced about my days at Ranger School and tangling with the infamous Darby Queen Obstacle Course, I have to give this round to the SEALs, as well. In the summer of 1998, we HRT guys were fit, relatively young, nimble, agile, and strong. We had all the necessary tools required to excel at the SEAL Obstacle Course. But it was still a daunting task to make the required times. We did so, narrowly, and aided by the Instructor allowance for us to use a rope traversing technique that wasn’t available to the BUD/S students in Second Phase. [Full disclosure: we were also permitted to discreetly utilize calculators for the long division and multiplication required in the classroom on the dive physics exams]

Well, as proficient as we HRT guys found ourselves in PT, on the sand dunes and while partaking in the dreaded “soft sand runs,” we quickly ascertained that the water, however, was a different story altogether. Here’s where those same young kids flat-out kicked our assess. On the weekly open-water two-mile swims, Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I were “competent.” We were all notably strong swimmers who had been hand selected by HRT Dive Team cadre to “represent” at BUD/S.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd class Megan Anuci

While we consistently barely made the required times, we were often the last, or next to last teams to come in.

But we were in no condition to compete with the damn dolphins that BUD/S students typically morphed into by Second Phase. The water became our Waterloo of sorts.

But it was pool competition, or pool comp in SEAL shorthand, that really cemented for me what the BUD/S experience was about, and just why SEALs are a cut above all others in the Special Operations community.

And, yes, we four HRT guys participated in pool comp.

And, again, it was another eye-opener.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Antonio Turretto Ramos

SEAL Instructors had their own comically dreadful names for the knots they would tie in your hoses underwater. As a BUD/S student, your job was to diligently cycle through a sequence of trouble-shooting procedures to untangle the mess of knotted hoses and restore your air supply…while on a breath-hold. And you had to do so without exhibiting any signs of panic. We were treated to the Matlock and the Babilock — two impossibly difficult and deviously conceived knots named after two particular SEALs on the cadre. Failure to extricate your gear from the wicked devices of the seasoned knot-tying instructors OR failure to work through the prescribed sequence for trouble-shooting your crippled gear led to a failure. Two failures in the same event and you earned a rollback — just like the nefarious recycle at Ranger School — to the next class, if you were lucky not to be dropped from the course.

There’s a reason that, as Rob O’Neill, former SEAL Team Six counter-terror operator — the man who killed Bin Laden — stated to Howard Stern recently, on his eponymous Sirius radio program, that some 85% of BUD/S attendees don’t graduate.

BUD/S is tough — even the teensy-weensy taste of it that I experienced. It’s REALLY tough. And it sucks.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jumar T. Balacy

Ranger School was “uncomfortable” and difficult for all the reasons that include sleep deprivation, starvation, and relentless physical overexertion. It was a grind. And reports from recent graduates confirm it’s STILL a grind.

At BUD/S, however, they fed you lots of chow, and in Second Phase, getting eight solid hours of sleep was never an issue. But just as in Ranger School, you had to perform, to make sound decisions, to accomplish critical military tasks and objectives when your body was futilely attempting to heal, and always with the overzealous instructors omnipresent in your ear…

…but you did it at depth.

Whether at the bottom of the 15-foot pool, on the Coronado Bay side, or in the unforgiving waters of the Pacific Ocean, performing at depth takes special operations training to another level entirely. We were forced to conduct doff and don procedures, and buddy-breathing exercises — you know, like sharing the same oxygen supply at depth and while performing tasks like an equipment exchange. There were insanely long breath-holds, while enduring the Instructor-assaults associated with the dreaded pool comp. Then there was the archaic (by design) and cumbersome Jacques Cousteau era twin 80’s tanks and leaky two-hose regulators which made for a purposeful panic-induced set of pass/fail evolutions. Yes, I believe the experiences to be the closest thing to waterboarding — sanctioned “almost-drowning” — that there is. And it’s legal!

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dominique M. Canales

Learning to dive with the Dräger (or Draeger) closed circuit rebreather gear — the LAR-V — was the purpose behind sending HRT divers to BUD/S. So, no, in a civilian law enforcement capacity, there’s no need to learn the craft of placing limpet mines on enemy ship hulls. However, learning the advanced system of transit-diving that allows an operator to approach a target underwater, bereft of telltale bubbles is a key skillset for HRT to have at its disposal. That was the purpose behind the relationship we had with the Navy and is how we ended up enrolled in the Second Phase of BUD/S.

The advanced dive skills we learned were necessary. The voluntary participation in PT and mild hazing — being dropped for push-ups or forced to become “wet and sandy” — the “sugar cookie” punishment — was part of earning our stripes and being accepted as outsiders within the close-knit SEAL and BUD/S community.

Make no mistake about it — we weren’t to become SEALs and weren’t subjected to a fraction of what the Navy candidates endured, but we certainly gained a modicum of appreciation for the process.

And again, as difficult as Ranger School was to complete, the 8 weeks I spent at BUD/S proved that there’s a clear distinction between difficult and difficult-at-depth.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Henderson

Apologies, fellow Rangers, but this round goes to the Navy’s SEALs. I’ve been up close and personal with both Selection processes. 81 torturous days at Ranger School did not compare to the tiny portion of the year of misery available to BUD/S candidates that I experienced.

Rangers, can I get a Hooah!

And SEALs, while we’re at it, how about a Hooyah!

And let’s forever remember that we’re ALL part of the same team!

God bless the United States of America and God bless and protect our brave Special Operators who continue to confidently stride into places full of wrath and tears, and do so bravely, selflessly and willingly.

Thank you.

Originally published July 2017.

MIGHTY MOVIES

After 11 years, Marvel releases new alternate post-credits scene for ‘Iron Man’

Back in 2008, Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury emerged from the shadows to talk to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) about “the Avengers initiative.” Now, 11 years and more than 20 films later, Marvel has released an alternate version of that famous post-credits scene, and it’s pretty surprising. Not only is the scene a bit longer than the 2008 release, but it also somehow teases both Spider-Man and the X-Men, even though neither was anywhere close to the MCU at that point in time.

On Sept. 14, 2019, at the Saturn Awards, Marvel boss Kevin Feige screened an alternate version of the famous Nick Fury post-credits scene. You can watch it right here.


In the scene, Nick Fury complains about “assorted mutants” and “radioactive bug bites” obvious references to both Spider-Man and the X-Men. At the time, in 2008, Iron Man was distributed by Paramount Pictures, and the umbrella term of “Marvel Studios” and the idea of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still fairly new. Obviously, the rights issues to the X-Men were still owned by Fox at that point, and Spider-Man was still with Sony. Still, it seems like this scene cleverly got around those issues by not outright naming Spider-Man or the X-Men, specifically. (Though, it’s conceivable that the term “mutants” was maybe too far, in terms of legality at the time.)

The interesting thing is, that now, of course, Spider-Man has been a part of the MCU, and the X-Men are set to be incorporated into the new Marvel canon at some point in the future. But now, it’s almost like Marvel Studios is retroactively saying that the X-Men were always a part of these movies because, in a sense, Tony Stark and Nick Fury already had a conversation about them. We just didn’t see that conversation the first time around.

At this time, there’s been no official announcement about reboot X-Men films in the MCU. But, that could change any day now.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain has upgraded their Typhoons with awesome missiles

The Royal Air Force’s Typhoon jets have been successfully upgraded with enhanced sensors, better software, and the ability to use a new missile according to releases from military contractors and the Royal Air Force. The upgrades have taken three years and cost approximately $200 million, but the upgraded planes have already proven themselves in combat in Iraq and Syria.


All You Need To Know About The Typhoon Upgrade | Forces TV

www.youtube.com

The biggest change to the Typhoon was its integration with the Brimstone 2 missile. The Brimstone is an air-launched, anti-tank missile similar to the American Hellfire. It’s been developed specifically for its ability to hit fast-moving objects in cluttered environments, something that has been invaluable as it has already been deployed against ISIS and other militant groups in Iraq and Syria.

But the plane upgrades have also made other missiles work better. Software changes made the jet work better with the Storm Shadow, Paveway IV, Meteor, and ASRAAM. The Storm Shadow and Paveway IV are air-to-ground missiles while the Meteor and ASRAAM are air-to-air missiles.

Because the Typhoons were needed for missions in the Middle East and the Baltics, Typhoons that were upgraded were quickly pressed into operational missions. So the government and the contractors worked together to train pilots up in classrooms and simulators before units even received the new planes.

That’s what allowed British pilots in Typhoons to drop Brimstone 2s on targets in Syria and Iraq just a few months after their planes were upgraded, and it’s what allowed their counterparts in the Baltics to use these planes for patrols.

The completion of the upgrades, known as Project Centurion, was timely as the British Tornado is officially retiring. Typhoons will fly with British F-35s in a pairing of 4th and 5th-generation fighters, similar to America’s F-35s flying with F-18s and F-16s.

Britain’s future fighter, already in the early stages of development, will be the Tempest.

MIGHTY SPORTS

How this one-handed Seahawk proves anything is possible

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin was born with amniotic band syndrome, a fetal congenital disorder that affected his left hand in utero. By age four, he was in so much pain he wanted to cut the appendage off himself. He did have the hand amputated – but still grew up doing everything a young boy from Florida would do, including playing football.

But Griffin didn’t just play football, he excelled at it. He and his brother played football together their whole lives, including at the University of Central Florida, where Shaquem was named 2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and the 2018 Peach Bowl MVP. The league watched as the talented one-handed linebacker went up for the 2018 NFL Draft – and was picked up in the third round.

One-handed athletes everywhere rejoiced.


It’s not a PR stunt. The one-handed Griffin is a talented back, and his missing hand doesn’t cause him to miss a beat. In the NFL combine, he performed 20 reps on the bench press wearing a prosthesis and ran the fastest 40-yard dash for a linebacker since the NFL started tracking the numbers.

When the Seahawks drafted him, he signed a four-year deal worth .8 million.

The spotlight on Griffin was almost unbearable but, luckily for him, his brother Shaquill is still playing right along with him, playing cornerback for Seattle. While the team itself may not have the record they hoped for, the two brothers are having quite a season themselves, and Shaquem is an inspiration for everyone who might have been told they couldn’t do the same.

The six-foot, 227-pound rookie linebacker is now a shining example for not only children with a similar issue, but anyone missing an appendage or anyone in a circumstance that might otherwise keep them from competing at the highest levels.

The boy in the video is 11-year-old Daniel Carrillo, a California boy who was born without his right hand, a result of the same affliction Shaquem Griffin had when was born. He cried tears of joy as he opened his gift in time for the Seahawks play the 49ers on Dec. 2, 2018. Carillo is a junior Spartan, and wants to play high school football to be a Spartan. He wants to then go on to Michigan State – the Spartans – to play. He has NFL dreams, of first being a player and then a coach. Now he knows it’s possible.

Carillo knows he’s going to the 49ers-Seahawks game. What he doesn’t know is that he’s going to meet Shaquem Griffin – on the field.

Who says athletes can’t be heroes anymore?

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ex-slave who disguised herself as a man to enlist

Members of the Armed Forces will be familiar with the term “contraband.” In basic training, it was civilian clothing. On deployment, it was alcohol. For the Union soldiers that occupied Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1861, contraband referred to the slaves they captured. These captured slaves were pressed into service as cooks, laundresses or nurses to support the Union war effort. Among these captured slaves was 17-year-old Cathay Williams, who worked as a cook and washerwoman and eventually, as a soldier.


In September 1844, Williams was born in Independence, Missouri, to a free man and an enslaved woman. This made her legal status that of a slave. She worked as a house slave on the Johnson Plantation outside of Jefferson City, Missouri.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

Painting of Cathay Williams by Williams Jennings (U.S. Army Profiles of Bravery)

After she was pressed into service, Williams served under General Philip Sheridan and accompanied the infantry on campaigns around the country, including the Red River Campaign, the Battle of Pea Ridge, and the Shenandoah Valley Raids in Virginia. Her extensive travels during the war influenced her decision to enlist afterwards.

On November 15, 1866, Williams enlisted in the 38th Infantry Regiment (“Rock of the Marne”). Because women were prohibited from military service, Williams disguised herself as a man and enlisted under the name “William Cathay”. At the time, the Army did not perform full medical examinations on enlistees, so Williams was able to maintain her cover. Only two people in the regiment, a cousin, and a friend, knew Williams’ true identity. “They never blowed on me,” Williams said. “They were partly the cause of me joining the Army. The other reason was I wanted to make my own living and not be dependent on relations or friends.”

Williams was able to keep her secret despite a case of smallpox shortly after her enlistment. After her hospitalization, Williams was able to rejoin her unit at Fort Bayard in the New Mexico territory, helping to secure the construction of the transcontinental railroads. However, a case of neuralgia (intermittent nerve pain) sent her to the post surgeon who uncovered Williams’ secret and reported her to the post commander. On October 14, 1868, she received an honorable discharge with the legacy of being the first and only female Buffalo Soldier.

Williams went on to work as a cook, laundress, and part-time nurse in New Mexico and Colorado. Years later, her declining health led to a hospitalization from 1890 to 1891. In June 1891, Williams applied for a military disability pension. A doctor concluded that she did not qualify, and the Pension Bureau cited the fact that her Army service was not legal. It is estimated that Williams died between 1892 and 1900. Her final resting place is also unknown.

American women have disguised themselves as men in order to serve since the Revolutionary War. Williams, however, was the first known African-American to do so. She is also the only known woman to disguise herself as a man during the Indian Wars. Her fierce independence and determination to serve are hallmarks of the American spirit that she, and so many others before and after her, have sought to defend.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

Bronze bust of Cathay Williams at the Richard Allen Cultural Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (Buffalo Soldier Monument Committee)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Commandant says he won’t force out Marines as the service shrinks

Tank Marines and other leathernecks in specialties that won’t play a role in the service’s future will get the option of transferring to another branch or military occupational specialty, the Corps’ top general said this week.

Commandant Gen. David Berger spoke to reporters Wednesday about the long-awaited force-redesign plans. One of the biggest changes to the future Marine Corps of 2030 will be its size. The total number of personnel will drop by 16,000 over the next 10 years to a 170,000-person force.


Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

That includes ditching its tank battalions, law-enforcement units and bridging companies. The Marine Corps will also drop its total number of infantry battalions and cut several aviation squadrons as it shifts its focus toward countering China in the Asia-Pacific region.

Marines won’t face the same hardships some endured during the post-war drawdown though, when thousands were cut from the ranks. This change, Berger said, “is intentionally drawn out over time so we can make the right decisions.”

“No one’s getting a pink slip saying time to go home,” the commandant said. “… We’re not forcing anybody out.”

The Marine Corps will rely on attrition to shed personnel from the ranks, Berger added.

“In other words, people [will be] out as they normally would,” he said. “We might recruit less … but there’s no intent at this point to issue a whole bunch of go-home cards for Marines.”

The Marine Corps got rid of about 20,000 people over four years starting in 2012. It involved putting sometimes-painful involuntary separation plans in place that cut short some people’s hopes of making the Marine Corps their career.

Berger said Marines affected by the changes in the force redesign will “have some choice” in what happens next. That will depend on where they are in their careers though, he said.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

“They can choose another military specialty to go into; they can, in some instances, make a transfer to another service,” Berger said.

Some may be eligible to move into career fields that don’t exist yet.

“We are fielding new capabilities that we don’t have right now, so we will need Marines in specialties that we either don’t have at all or we don’t have nearly in the numbers that we’re going to need,” the commandant said.

The Marine Corps plans to spend money it will save on having fewer personnel and ditching some aging equipment on new capabilities. The service will invest in equipment for long-range precision fires, new air-defense systems and unmanned aircraft, among other things.

The Marine Corps carried out a series of war games that showed areas where it can cut some existing capabilities, a 15-page memo on the force design states.

When it comes to tanks, the Marine Corps found “sufficient evidence to conclude that this capability, despite its long and honorable history in the wars of the past, is operationally unsuitable for our highest-priority challenge,” the report adds.

“Heavy ground armor capability will continue to be provided by the U.S. Army.”

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

Articles

This ‘Whale’ saved 700 planes during the Vietnam War

When armchair historians discuss naval aviation during the Vietnam War, the focus usually turns to the F-4 Phantom. That’s the multi-service plane flown by the Navy’s only aces of the war — Randall “Duke” Cunningham and Willie Driscoll.


And of course there’s the A-6 Intruder, made famous in the novel and movie “Flight of the Intruder.”

One plane, though, probably deserves more attention than it’s earned.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
The RA-3B Skywarrior decked out in camouflage and displaying its various reconnaissance package options. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

That plane is the A-3 Skywarrior – often called the “Whale” due to its size. It certainly was big – more than 76 feet long, and with a 72-foot wingspan and a maximum takeoff weight of 82,000 pounds.

The A-3 had a range of 2,100 miles and could carry 12,800 pounds of payload.

While the Skywarrior did some bombing missions early on, it shined in the electronic warfare and tanker missions. The Navy turned 85 planes into KA-3B tankers, and 34 were also given jamming pods to become the EKA-3B.

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane
The KA-3B could carry a lot of av gas. (Photo from Wikimedia)

These planes not only could pass a lot of gas to the planes in a carrier’s air wing, they helped to jam enemy radars, blinding them to an incoming attack until it was too late.

Other Skywarrior variants included the RA-3B reconnaissance plane, the ERA-3B electronic aggressor platform, and the EA-3B electronic intelligence version.

As a tanker, the KA-3B and EKA-3B didn’t just enable planes to strike deeper into North Vietnam. These tankers also gave planes gas to get back home – in some cases after suffering serious damage. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that as many as 700 Navy and Marine Corps planes may have been saved by the Whale’s tanker capabilities.

That statistic might be the most important. When an EB-66E bomber was shot down during the Easter Offensive of 1972, it resulted in a massive rescue effort to retrieve the lone survivor, Lieutenant Colonel Iceal “Gene” Hambleton, that resulted in the loss of five aircraft, with 11 Americans killed in action and two more captured.

The last A-3 variants, EA-3Bs, managed to see action during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 with VQ-2 before they were retired. E-3 airframes, though, flew in private service as RD for avionics until 2011.

Not bad for a plane that first flew in 1952!