It’s the most famous aircraft in the world, a highly-visible symbol of the United States wherever it travels.
Known as Air Force One, and popularly nicknamed ‘the Flying White House’, this massive jumbo jet, decked out in a special blue, white and silver livery, ferries U.S. presidents, their families, members of the press and various staffers and Secret Service protective agents across the globe on official trips to foreign and domestic destinations.
While Air Force One itself is incredibly famous, it turns out that not a heck of a lot about this unique aircraft seems to be known in public circles. So the next time you find yourself at a party and you feel like impressing a few folks with Air Force One facts they probably didn’t know, today’s your lucky day! Here are 6 things about the President’s personal aircraft that you more than likely didn’t know:
1. “Air Force One” is technically a callsign and not the aircraft’s actual designation.
“Air Force One” is the callsign attached to any USAF aircraft the president is physically present on. The famous Boeing 747 decked out in the presidential scheme is officially designated “VC-25.” The Air Force One callsign originated in 1953 after air traffic controllers mistakenly put an aircraft carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the same airspace as a civilian airliner over New York City, after confusing the presidential transport’s name and code for a commercial flight.
Ever since, every military vehicle carrying America’s head honcho is temporarily relabeled with the name of the service the vehicle belongs to, followed by “One” (e.g. Marine One).
2. Each VC-25 has its own medical suite aboard the aircraft.
You read that correctly; whenever the president is aboard, Air Force One carries a qualified military surgeon/physician along for the ride. A small medical center aboard the aircraft, fully stocked and equipped, can be converted into an operating room should the need arise. While no sitting president has had to avail of the on-board doctor’s abilities and talents, it’s still helpful to always have one nearby, just in case.
3. Both VC-25s are equipped with extensive countermeasures and defensive systems.
On any given day, the threats to the president’s life number in the hundreds, though the Secret Service does everything it can to make sure the risks are largely negligible.
The Air Force also does its part by outfitting each VC-25 with the very best in defensive systems available at the moment. It’s unknown what exactly these systems consist of, but it could be safely assumed that the VC-25 comes standard with missile jammers, flare dispensers and more. On top of that, each Air Force One flight carries a small army of well-armed Secret Service agents and Air Force security specialists to provide security for the President and the aircraft on the ground.
4. It is one of the most expensive aircraft the US Air Force has ever operated.
Not only is the VC-25 one of the largest jets flown by the USAF, it’s also one of the most expensive the service has ever flown in its entire history. At an operating cost of approximately $200,000 per hour, Air Force One flights dwarf the expenses incurred by every other military-crewed and flown aircraft like the E-4B Nightwatch, the C-5 Galaxy and the B-2 Spirit. The security measures, passenger support (for members of the press, Secret Service and White House Staff), and communications systems operations all come together to account for this sky high figure.
5. The President can seamlessly interface with the military and government while airborne.
Each VC-25 possesses a highly integrated communications suite, staffed by a team of Air Force communication systems operators. These CSOs constantly monitor the aircraft’s satellite data-links, intranets and phone lines, ensuring that all incoming and outgoing calls on each flight are secured and highly encrypted.
In the event of national emergencies, the President can interact with military units from the aircraft, or direct the government and stay appraised of the situation at hand, thanks to the communications center and its CSOs.
6. It always parks with its left side facing the crowds gathered to see its arrivals.
Though it seems almost arbitrary, Air Force One does indeed park with its left side facing onlookers crowding behind the security cordon at airports. While the exact reasons for this are unknown, as both sides of the aircraft seem identical, it could be reasonably assumed that this is done for security purposes and practicality.
Positioning the big jet in such a way masks the President’s office from sight on the right side, while it also enables the use of air stairs built into the aircraft on the left side should an external stair unit be unavailable. Air Force One never parks at an airport terminal, nor does it accept a jet bridge connection.
Hardship duty pay is a compensation in addition to base pay and other entitlements for service members stationed in or deployed to locations where the living conditions are significantly below those in the continental United States, the mission lasts longer than a typical deployment or requires specific types of work (i.e. recovering bodies of fallen military members in other countries).
Under specific circumstances, some or all of your hardship duty pay may be tax free. For more information on what is taxable and what isn’t, consult your financial advisor.
There are three different types of hardship duty pay: location, mission, and tempo.
1. Hardship duty pay – location, or “HDP-L,” is paid to service members who are outside of the continental United States in countries where the quality of life falls well below the standard of living that most service members who are in the U.S. would normally expect. Service members who also receive Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger pay of $225 per month only rate $100 a month for HDP-L. Find out if your OCONUS station is on the list.
Who: All service members who are executing a permanent change of station (PCS), temporary duty (TDA/TAD/TDY), or deployment to a designated area.
How much: The rate is paid out in increments of $50, $100, and $150 per month, depending on the level of QoL at that location as determined by the Department of Defense.
Hardship duty pay – mission, or HDP-M, is designed for hardship missions.
Who: All service members, officer and enlisted alike.
How much: $150 per month, max.
Hardship duty pay – tempo, or HDP-T, is for service members operating at a higher tempo for longer times, like during extended deployments or when service members are deployed longer than a set number of consecutive days. The Navy sets that number at 220, for example.
Who: All service members, officer and enlisted alike.
The new bomber is a $550 million heavy payload stealth aircraft, capable of carrying thermonuclear weapons and could also be used as an intelligence gatherer, battle manager, and interceptor aircraft.
Even though the USAF tweeted the contest link to the world, it’s only open to members of the US Air Force active duty force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard components, their dependents, members of the US Air Force Civil Service and US Air Force retirees. And of course, the Air Force being the Air Force, it comes with a lot of rules and regulations:
The name must be original and the entry may not contain material that violates or infringes any third party’s rights, including but not limited to privacy, publicity or intellectual property rights, or that constitutes copyright infringement. The entry must not contain or be phonetic similar to any third party product names, brand names or trademarks.
The entry must not contain material that is inappropriate, indecent, obscene, hateful, tortuous, defamatory, slanderous or libelous. The entry must not contain material that promotes bigotry, racism, hatred or harm against any group or individual or promotes discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age. The entry must not contain material that is unlawful, in violation of or contrary to the laws or regulations in any state where entry is created. There is a limit of three names you may enter per person.
This is your chance to be part of history (so long as it fits within Air Force guidelines and standards).
While we love the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger on the A-10 for the BRRRRRT it brings, we also know that it’s not exactly the biggest gun to ever take to the skies. In fact, several planes have packed bigger guns, like the XA-38 Grizzly armed with 75mm firepower or some versions of the B-25 Mitchell, which pack .50-caliber machine guns.
One of the biggest guns to ever be attached to a plane is the 105mm howitzer on the AC-130 Spectre gunship. Yeah, Warthog fans, I’ll say it: the AC-130’s biggest gun makes the GAU-8 look like a cute little pop gun. Here’s the scoop on this cannon that can really make life a living hell for bad guys on the ground.
The AC-130U packs two guns bigger than the A-10’s GAU-8 30mm Gatling gun, including a M102 howitzer!
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)
This gun is officially known as the M102 howitzer. It’s been around since 1964, when it was acquired by the Army for airborne and light infantry units, replacing the World War II-era M101 howitzer. The M102 has a top range of roughly nine and a third miles and can fire ten rounds per minute in a rapid-fire mode before settling down to a tamer three rounds per minute.
While the lightweight M119 has replaced the M102 in many of America’s light units since it entered service in 1989, the M102 is still active aboard the AC-130. The howitzer has been on AC-130s since 1971.
The M102 saw action in the Vietnam War, but has hung long enough to server during Operation Iraqi Freedom!
The M102 has seen action on the ground in Vietnam, Grenada, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. While many of these howitzers will never see active service on the ground again, many have a long life ahead on AC-130 gunships, both the AC-130U and the AC-130J. You can see a video of the M102 being tested in its ground-based mode by the Army in the video below!
No other aircraft or air defense system in the world can touch it.
Stealthy, fast, incomparably lethal, the F-22 Raptor is without a doubt the deadliest and most advanced fighter jet ever built. And the Air Force, after a lengthy congressional-backed review, will not be getting any new Raptors to supplement its undersized fleet.
The Raptor, built by Lockheed Martin, was originally created as a follow-on to the F-15 Eagle, the previous mainstay of the Air Force’s fighter fleet. Taking in the strengths of the Eagle and improving vastly with new capabilities such as thrust vectoring for supermaneuverability built into a platform optimized for stealth, the Raptor was everything fighter pilots hoped for and dreamed of.
It would be able to fly the air superiority mission like no other, while also being able to carry out air-to-ground strikes with ease.
Initially, the Air Force planned on buying over 750 units to replace its massive Eagle fleet. Over time, that number was drawn down significantly, thanks to evolving missions and changing threat scenarios. By 2009, Congress voted to cap the Raptor’s overall production run at 187, severely below the minimum figure of 381 units the Air Force projected it would need to fulfill the air superiority mission.
According to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the sheer costs alone makes restarting the Raptor production line, defunct since 2012, completely unfeasible. Revamping manufacturing spaces in addition to rebuilding and redesigning jigs and the tooling necessary to build further Raptors would cost anywhere between $7 to $10 billion, and that’s only the tally on the infrastructure required. Estimates on each Raptor’s flyaway price rang up a whopping $200 million per unit cost, a $60 million jump over the aircraft’s unit cost when its production run ended. The study on bringing the F-22 line back to life was ordered by Congress in April 2016.
Though not wholly unexpected, the recommendation to not pursue a restart of the Raptor line will reduce the Air Force’s options in retaining dominance in its air superiority mission. Earlier this year, the service let on that the F-15C/D Eagle will more than likely face an early demise by the mid-2020s, thanks to an expensive fuselage refurbishment deemed impractical by its brass.
Eagles have long served the Air Force as its dedicated air supremacy fighter, excelling in the mission in the 1990s where it first tasted combat in the Persian Gulf, and later in the Balkans. The Eagle fleet was originally to be overhauled and kept in service until the early 2040s, when it would be replaced by a new 6th generation fighter.
Instead, the Air Force will move on with its plan to refurbish and extend the lives of its F-16 Fighting Falcons, multirole fighters which can also fly the air superiority mission with a considerable degree of success. Critics, however, argue that the F-16 is unequal to the aircraft it seeks to supplant. Smaller, shorter-range, and limited in terms of the amount of munitions it is able to carry, the Fighting Falcon has still served the Air Force and Air National Guard faithfully since the late 1970s and beyond.
A possible byproduct of this news could be the Air Force’s push to develop its 6th generation fighter on an accelerated timeline, bringing it into service earlier than expected. This would minimize the reliance the service would have to place on its aging F-16s, while bringing online a fighter built to work in tandem with incoming next-generation assets like the F-35 Lightning II. This would also potentially reduce the burden placed on the F-22 to shoulder more of the Eagle’s prior workload once it is retired, keeping the small Raptor fleet viable and in service longer.
This is not an idle thought. On March 26, 2010, the Pohang-class corvette ROKS Cheonan was torpedoed and sunk by a North Korean mini-sub firing a 21-inch torpedo. So, the concern is what one of these subs could do to a carrier.
Let’s look at what these subs are. The North Koreans have two front-line classes of mini-sub, according to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World. The Yono — the type of sub believed to have fired the torpedo that sank the Cheonan — is about 110 tons and carries two 21-inch torpedoes. The Sang-O is 295 tons and also has a pair of 21-inch torpedo tubes.
North Korea also has Romeo-class submarines, which have eight 21-inch torpedo tubes (six forward, two aft), with a total of 14 torpedoes. North Korea also has some mini-subs built to a Yugoslavian design with two 16-inch torpedoes, but those are believed to be in reserve.
That said, American aircraft carriers are very tough vessels. In World War II, the carriers USS Yorktown (CV 5) and USS Hornet (CV 8) took a lot of abuse before they sank. The carrier USS Franklin (CV 13) had one of the great survival stories of the war, despite horrific damage.
But today’s carrier are much larger.
In fact, the Russians designed the Oscar-class guided-missile submarine to kill America’s Nimitz-class carriers – and those have 24 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” missiles, plus four 21-inch torpedo tubes and four 25.6-inch tubes meant to fire torpedoes with either massive conventional warheads or even nuclear ones.
This points to a North Korean sub being unable to sink a Nimitz-class carrier on its own.
But two torpedoes will still force a carrier to spend a long time in the body shop. And the escorts are more vulnerable as well.
A U.S. carrier could take a couple of hits and in a worst case scenario, she’d have to fly her air wing to shore bases.
While the military part of a soldier’s life may end, the drive to continue to serve does not. For many veterans, like the both of us, reintegration back into the civilian world was predicated on finding ways to continue to serve our communities through work or volunteerism, or both.
Yet, reintegration can be hard, especially when a veteran is unable to take care of their health – particularly their oral health. The appearance of one’s mouth and teeth can affect a lot of things, including their self-esteem, view on life, and ability to interview for a job. In fact, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), one in four adults with poor oral health avoid smiling and feel embarrassed, which can be exacerbated for a veteran since, at times, they feel separated from civilian society.
What’s worse: of the 21 million-plus veterans across the United States today, fewer than 10 million are enrolled in U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health benefits, and more than 1.2 million lack health insurance altogether. The disparity is even more pronounced when it comes to dental care since veterans do not receive dental benefits through the VA unless they are classified as 100 percent disabled, have a service-connected dental condition, or have a service-oriented medical condition that is affected by their mouth.
Without these benefits, there are a lot of barriers for veterans, for instance, the cost and lack of insurance to the distance and accessibility of a dentist. The ADA found that only 37 percent of American adults actually visited the dentist within the last year, and veterans are, more often than not, part of the 63 percent who did not. Unfortunately, this lack of dental care can influence a veteran’s employment opportunities, their overall body’s health, and their confidence.
Recognizing the importance of oral health for our nation’s veterans, and to combat the barriers to care, Aspen Dental is partnering with Got Your 6, the military term for “I’ve got your back,” a highly influential campaign that empowers veterans to help strengthen communities nationwide. Together, we are continuing the third annual Healthy Mouth Movement, a community giving initiative launched by Aspen Dental Management, Inc. and the dental practices it supports to deliver free dental care and oral health education to people in need across the United States.
As part of this effort, veterans across the nation will receive free dental care at nearly 400 participating Aspen Dental practices on Saturday, June 25, as part of Aspen’s national Day of Service. Dentists and teams will volunteer their time and talents that day with the goal of treating 6,000 veterans, focusing on treating the most urgent need of each veteran – including fillings, extractions, and basic denture repair – to help free them of dental pain.
In addition to the efforts of local volunteers on June 25, the Healthy Mouth Movement is also reaching veterans through its MouthMobile, a 42-foot mobile dentist office on wheels that drives directly into the communities where veterans need oral health care the most to provide free care. In its third year, the MouthMobile is stopping at 32 locations in 26 states from February through November.
Through the Healthy Mouth Movement, we have had the pleasure of meeting and hearing the stories from the men and women who have served our country and to get to know the issues they experience in getting health care. It has become an honor to lend a hand and help make a major difference in the lives of so many of our fellow veterans. By getting those veterans in need back on their feet, we are empowering them to pay it forward through their own service to their communities.
Let’s empower our veterans to not only get the care they need but feel like they can still make a difference on and off the battlefield by smiling a little bigger. For more about Aspen’s Day of Service or to schedule a free appointment for a veteran, visit www.healthymouthmovement.com.
Dr. Jere Gillan is an Air Force veteran and Aspen Dental practice owner in Orlando, Fla., and Bill Rausch is an Iraq War veteran and the Executive Director of Got Your 6.
And while you might think it was cause to spool up the THAAD and drop that plane in its tracks, believe it or not, they were allowed to by a 25-year-old treaty based on an idea that was nearly four decades old at the time.
The Treaty on Open Skies was first proposed by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955. Cold War paranoia meant it went nowhere for 37 years. After the coup that proved the end of the Soviet Union, the treaty was eventually signed by President George H. W. Bush and ratified in 1992. But it didn’t enter into force until 2002.
The treaty allows the U.S. and Russia — as well as a number of other NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries — to make surveillance flights over each other’s territory.
According to a letter to the Senate included with the treaty, this is to “promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.” Certain planes are equipped with four types of sensors, optical panoramic and framing cameras, video cameras with real-time display, infra-red line-scanning devices, and sideways-looking synthetic aperture radar. These suites are used to monitor military forces, and are certified by observers.
Which aircraft is used can vary. The United States uses the OC-135B Open Skies aircraft for this mission. Canada uses a modified C-130. Russia has a version of the Tu-154 airliner. The United Kingdom has used a mix of planes.
The exact number of flights a country may have varies, but the United States and Russia each get 42 such flights a year.
They can fly any sort of flight plan – as long as they give 72 hours notice prior to the arrival. The flight must be completed in 96 hours from the time that the plane arrives. The plane on the Open Skies mission also must embark observers from the host nation on board.
So that’s why a lot of people in the Virginia, Maryland, and DC area got a good look at a Russian Tu-154 — and may still see more if Putin wants another closer look.
There’s no shortage of heroic war stories — truth or fiction — with heavy amounts of glory and honor in them, which can cause young adults to crave certain adventures. Although serving in the infantry does bring a level of individual satisfaction, many facts tend to get left out regarding what it’s really like to be a ground pounder.
So before you run to your local recruiting office to sign on the dotted line and become a hero or whatever, here are a few things you might need to know:
1. It’s a dangerous job
Movies do a great job depicting how dangerous war can be as directors add in cinematic kills and awesome camera work.
In real life, there’s no pulse-pounding theme music or slow motion effects — the sh*t is real.
Once you make a friend in the infantry, you always have that special bond no matter what.
Hopefully, you’re the “Maverick” in the relationship. (Image via Giphy)
3. It can be really, really boring
You’ve probably heard the phrase “hurry up and wait.” In a grunt unit, everything takes more time than it should and you’re going to have plenty of down time. So make sure you have games downloaded on your smartphone to play and help you stay awake while you wait for the higher-ups to “pass the word.”
It’s called a “working party.” This sounds way more fun than it actually is. Instead of plenty of beer and drunken coeds, you’ll be outside in the heat “police calling” cigarette butts or mopping your boss’s office.
If this looks fun, being a boot in the infantry may be your calling(Image via Giphy)
Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.
“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”
The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.
“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.
Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the
Small Arms Review.
Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.
This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:
Luke T. asks: How many times can you shoot a bulletproof vest before it stops working?
To begin with, it should probably be noted that the name “bulletproof vest” is a misnomer with “bullet resistant vest” being more apt. Or to quote John Geshay, marketing director for body armor company Safariland, “…nothing can be bulletproof, not even a manhole cover. In an extremely small percentage of cases, a round can even go through a vest that it is rated to stop. The round itself could have an extra serration on it or something.”
Furthermore, body armor designed to protect the wearer from high caliber guns can still be penetrated or compromised by smaller caliber bullets. For example, armor designed to stop a round from a .44 Magnum (the kind of round Dirty Harry claims can blow a man’s head clean off) could theoretically be pierced by a 9mm round if the latter is fired with a high enough muzzle velocity, with distance to the target also playing a role. Or as Police Magazine notes, “There’s a tendency among gun enthusiasts to dismiss the lethal potential of certain calibers of handguns. Don’t believe it. A small round traveling at high speed can punch through body armor.”
Similarly, in part because shot from shotgun shells have highly varying velocities, shotguns are deemed very dangerous even to otherwise extremely robust body armor. That’s not to mention, of course, that even should the vest do its job, the spread out nature of the shot gives a higher probability of unprotected areas being hit as well.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Angel D. Travis)
With that preamble out of the way, let’s discuss the differing levels of protection offered by various types of body armor and how many times they can be shot before they stop offering an acceptable level of defense. In the United States most all body armor is ranked according to standards set by the National Institute of Justice, or the NIJ, with their ratings pretty much considered the gold standard the world over in regards to levels of ballistic protection offered by a given piece of armor.
As for those ratings, the NIJ assigns a generalised level rating between 1 and 4 to all kinds of armor. In the most basic sense, the higher the level of the armor, the more protection it provides. For example, a rating of anywhere from Level 1 through 3a will stop bullets fired from the majority of handguns. For comfort’s sake, body armor at these levels are usually made from some sort of soft fiber material, such as Kevlar, though at the higher levels may use additional materials. On the extreme end, level 4 armor is the only kind capable of potentially stopping armor piercing rounds, and is usually made of some hard material, sometimes with a soft material like Kevlar reinforcing it.
On that note, although all kinds of armor are held to the same standards by the NIJ, a distinction is drawn between “hard” and “soft” types. For anyone unfamiliar with the terms, “soft” body armor is usually created by weaving ultra-strong fibres together in a web-like pattern, with the armor stopping bullets much in the same way a net slows and stops some object like a baseball, distributing the force over a larger area in the process.
“Hard” body armor on the other hand is usually created by inserting solid plates of either ceramic or special plastic into a vest or other housing.
Although hard armor generally provides more protection than soft armor, it has its own shortcomings that need to be considered. For example, ceramic armor plates are often only designed to protect the area around the heart and lungs owing to the drawback of hindered maneuverability if covering over other areas, as well as the fact that they are relatively heavy, with a 10 by 12 inch plate typically weighing about 7 or 8 pounds. So a combined front and back plate weight of roughly 15 pounds or 7 kilograms even when just protecting the heart and lung area.
This all finally brings us around to how many bullets a piece of body armor can absorb before it is rendered useless. Well, as you might imagine given how many different types of body armor there are out there, this depends. For example, on the extreme end we found some manufacturers who claimed their Level III body armors were capable of taking literally hundreds of rounds before failing.
United States Navy sailors wearing Modular Tactical Vests.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth W. Robinson)
As for some general examples, we’ll start with soft armor. The moment these are hit by a bullet, the fibers around the area of impact are compromised and lose some of their ability to absorb and dissipate the energy of a bullet. Thus, if another shot were to hit reasonably close to where the first hit, the bullet has a good chance of penetrating, even if the vest would have normally been able to handle it fine. Thus, while it is possible they can take multiple hits in some cases, and even be rated for such, depending on the caliber of bullet, way the armor was made, etc. it’s generally deemed unsafe to rely on this.
Moving on to ceramic plate armor, in most cases these plates are designed to shatter when hit by a bullet, dissipating the force of the impact via breaking up the bullet so that the smaller pieces can be absorbed by some backing material like Kevlar or some form of polymer or sometimes both. However, a side effect of this is that a large portion of the plate is then completely useless against a second shot similar to our previous example with soft armor. That said, there are types of ceramic armor that are designed to take multiple rounds, just, again, relying on this is generally considered unwise in most cases. And certainly with armor piercing rounds and level IV ceramic armor, the NIJ only requires it to work for one shot to receive that rating, though manufacturers do their own testing and we did find examples of companies that claimed to exceed that with their level IV ceramic armor, even with armor piercing rounds.
This brings us to polyethylene armor plating. In this case the impact of the bullet actually melts the plate which then re-hardens, trapping the bullet within it. Due to this, polyethylene armor can survive being shot numerous times without losing its ballistic integrity and we found examples of manufacturers that claimed their polyethylene armor could take hundreds of rounds before failing. Polyethylene plates also have the advantage of being roughly half the weight of ceramic for the same level of protection.
Metropolitan Police officers supervising World Cup, 2006.
Hybrid body armor is also quite common at the higher levels, meaning your mileage may vary from a given piece of body armor to another, with the NIJ’s ratings giving a decent overview of what it’s capable of and often the manufacturer’s testing giving even more insight onto how many rounds of a given type of bullet the vest can take before failure.
All this said, again, while a given piece of body armor may pass the tests and even be claimed by the manufacturer to protect against much more, most manufacturers recommend replacing body armor even after a single shot. And, beyond that, even in some cases if you just drop your armor on the floor. This is because although body armor is designed to stop bullets, some types are surprisingly fragile. For example, ceramic plates can easily crack if dropped, sometimes in ways that aren’t visible to the naked eye.
Moving on to soft body armor, stretching or deforming the fibers in some way, again in ways that are sometimes not obvious to the naked eye, also can compromise their integrity. Some manufacturers even advise replacing Kevlar-based body armor if you just get it wet as this potentially weakens the fibers. On that note, because daily, otherwise innocuous, activities can sometimes compromise body armor, the standard in the body armor industry (set by the NIJ) is also to replace a given vest a maximum of every 5 years, even if it’s never been hit by a bullet.
For the fashionably minded individual who might need some protection from getting shot, it turns out bulletproof suits are not just a thing in the movies, but a real product that makes military and police body armor look like something made from an era when hitching up your covered wagon to go to the market was a thing. Perhaps the most famous manufacturer of these is the Colombian company Miguel Caballero, founded in 1992 by, you guessed it, a guy named Miguel Caballero. What exact materials he uses to make his line of bullet proof clothing isn’t clear, though he states it’s a “hybrid between nylon and polyester”. The advantage of his material is it is significantly lighter and thinner than Kevlar at equivalent protection levels. And, indeed, if you go check our their website, their undershirt body armor looks pretty much like any other undershirt unless you look really closely. As for price tag, this isn’t listed on the website, but it would appear a basic suit top made by the company will run you upwards of about ,000-,000, though you can get other product, such as an undershirt for less, apparently starting at around ,000. Funny enough, one of Caballero’s favorite ways to advertise is in fact to put the clothing on someone and then personally shoot them, leading to the company’s slogan, “I was shot by Miguel Caballero” with apparently a few hundred people shot by the man himself to date. They even have a youtube channel where you can go and see him shoot his wife in the stomach. Not just stopping bullets, some of Caballero’s product are also rated to stop knives, be fireproof, waterproof, etc. Essentially, think the type of snazzy and robust clothing seen in most spy movies and that’s pretty accurate in this case.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The wind blows viciously as it sweeps across the open waters, but the sound of gum being popped out of the pack is a familiar feeling that Senior Chief Quartermaster Steve Schweizer will never forget, even after retirement. It’s something that he takes on every mission, a lucky charm that he’ll leave behind when he walks out of the Assault Craft Unit Four (ACU-4) facility for the very last time.
“I won’t fly without it,” said Schweizer. “I’ve actually been on the ramp getting ready to go and I was feeling my pockets and thought ‘oh it’s not there, no I have to run back inside I know it’s in my desk.’ I’ll look at the water, look at the weather, and I’ll just kind of almost go into a quiet place, like just relax. I know that as soon as that mission starts, it’s ‘go go go’, it’s stress, it’s just operational, operational, operational.”
Schweizer first thought of joining the Navy after being unsure what he wanted to do in life.
“I took half a semester of college and realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” said Schweizer. “I had an uncle in the Navy who I didn’t talk to very much, but I told him I decided to join the military and he told me how much fun he had in the Navy so I figured I may have made the right decision.”
Schweizer first joined the LCAC program in 2004 and enjoys what he does.
“I’ve been here for fifteen years and I love what I do,” said Schweizer. “I love flying the crafts, I love teaching people how to fly the crafts, and I like our mission.”
Schweizer began running as a hobby before his 2014 deployment, describing it as an escape and a stress reliever.
“I just put my music on, go for a run, and I just tune everything out,” said Schweizer. “It’s just my relax time, my alone time. It’s definitely one of those things where it’s like if you think of work all the time, if you think of the stress of your job all the time, it’s going to get to you, so it’s my outlet.”
The program has a very high attrition rate and has a difficult training pipeline.
“This is a 90×50 foot hovercraft, it weighs about 200 thousand pounds,” said Schweizer. “You’re controlling it with three different controls. Your feet are doing one job and both hands are doing separate jobs. It takes a lot of coordination and it’s not easy.”
Training in the simulator and manning the live craft are completely different, and requires a lot of attention.
“You always have that heightened sense of awareness,” said Schweizer. “Anticipation of what the craft is going to do and how to counteract it. Never take anything for granted.”
On a small craft that is only manned by five personnel, personnel develop a closer relationship with crew members quicker, Schweizer explained.
“They develop that bond because you know that person has your back, or you know that person is looking out for you,” said Schweizer. “I know my crew, I know their families, I know what they like to do in their spare time, they know that if they’re ever in trouble they know they’ll call me first, or they’ll call one of their crew members first.”