To put it bluntly, the M113 armored personnel carrier looks like a big box on tracks. It’s equipped with a primary weapon that’s over 75 years old that isn’t particularly effective against its modern contemporaries. And yet it’s served with the United States Army for nearly sixty years and, even when it’s retired, it’ll stick around for a long time.
When it entered operational service in 1960, it was intended to haul 11 troops into battle. It had a crew of two: A driver and a vehicle commander who handled the vehicle’s primary weapon, the M2 “Ma Deuce” heavy machine gun.
M113s lead the way for troops in South Vietnam.
The M113 saw a lot of action in the Vietnam War, where it proved very versatile. Some versions were equipped with the M61 Vulcan, a 20mm Gatling gun, and were used as effective anti-aircraft vehicles. Others were outfitted with launchers for the BGM-71 TOW missile.
Some M113s were modified to carry mortars, like this one with a M120 120mm mortar.
(U.S. Army photo by SPC Joshua E. Powell)
Other variants quickly emerged, including a command vehicle, a smoke generator, an ambulance, and a cargo carrier. Two mortar carriers, the M106 (which carried a 107mm mortar) and the M125 (packing an 81mm mortar) also served, paving the way for the introduction of the M1064 (equipped with a 120mm mortar). The M113 chassis also carried the MIM-72 Chapparal surface-to-air missile and the MGM-72 Lance ballistic missile.
The M113 could carry 11 troops — two more than the M1126 Stryker.
Versions of this vehicle have served with nations across the world, including Canada, Norway, Egypt, and Italy. Over 80,000 M113s of all variants have been produced, which means it’ll be around for years with one nation or anything long after the U.S. retired it.
Learn more about this senior citizen of armored vehicles in the video below.
‘Tis the season for yuletide carols, family, gifts, entirely too much food, and, of course, some much-needed downtime. Somewhere between “I swear to defend….” and getting that sacred DD-214, many of us developed quite the affinity for film and television.
So, it’s only natural that we spend our downtime getting together on the nostalgia train to binge watch a few of our favorites. Christmas might be over, but there’s still time to enjoy these must-see holiday films. So, grab your spiked eggnog, a warm blanket, and snuggle up for a day’s worth of cinema magic as you pretend the break isn’t rapidly coming to an end.
Tim Allen is comedic greatness in this role.
(Walt Disney Pictures)
‘The Santa Clause’
The greatness of this film lies in two words: Tim Allen. His comedic timing is great here, and it really serves the premise of the movie: a dad kills Santa Claus and is forced to become Santa himself.
I mean, it’s a completely impossible narrative (Santa Claus is immortal, duh), but it’s fun all the way through.
This one is for all the dads
(20th Century Fox)
‘Jingle All The Way’
This one’s another movie about a dad and holiday hijinks. Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the search for a near-impossible-to-find toy in a quest to buy the affections of his son. In a lot of ways, this movie from the ’90’s has proven to be prophetic for its time. Much of the shenanigans that Schwarzenegger’s character experiences have become the standard holiday shopping experience.
No holiday season is complete without Kevin.
(20th Century Fox)
By now, you’ve probably noticed that parental neglect and aloofness is a bit of theme among the items on this list — but Home Alone cranks it up to full blast.
Kevin McCallister, as played by the immortal Macaulay Culkin, became the iconic ’90s smartass that indirectly shaped a generation. In the film, Kevin proves to be more than capable when he defends his family home against would-be invaders using nothing but wit and a closet full of toys.
It’s sheer conjecture, but we’re sure Kevin McCallister grew up and served — that resourcefulness says “veteran.”
Yippee ki yay, MF.
John. Mc. Clane.
Die Hard is definitely the most non-holiday movie on this list but, make no mistake, it is absolutely a holiday flick! It’s got a Christmas tree and a happy, warm and fuzzy ending.
Close enough for me!
It is, literally, a Christmas story.
‘A Christmas Story’
“You’ll shoot your eye out!”
It’s one of the most iconic lines in cinema history, but it’s not even the best in the film. A Christmas Story is brilliantly written, fantastically acted, and features some of the best narration in film.
This one is to be viewed, preferably, on Christmas Day, but as long as there’s snow on the ground, it’s still good.
The sun was fading behind Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains the evening of June 27, 2005, as a team of four U.S. Navy SEALs walked up the ramp and into the back of U.S. Army Captain Matt Brady’s MH-47 Chinook helicopter on Bagram Air Base.
Tasked with inserting the SEAL special reconnaissance (SR) team deep into enemy territory in unforgiving terrain, Brady knew the SEALs — Lieutenant Michael Murphy, Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Axelson — had a difficult mission ahead. Marines in the area knew it was an extremely dangerous place filled with Taliban fighters.
Brady had no way of knowing at the time, but it would be the last time anyone at Bagram would ever see three of those four Americans alive.
The Afghanistan mountains and forest from the valley where soldiers searched for the remains of the three SEALs who were killed in action. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
The Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) is known for having some of the most skilled aviators in the world, who fly the most elite special operators into some of the most austere environments on earth using the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. military inventory. They are famous for the roles they played in both the Battle of Mogadishu and the mission to kill Usama Bin Laden but are revered throughout the special operations community for acts of valor that often never see the light of day due to the classified nature of their work.
As a pilot in the 160th, Brady was the air mission commander for the operation. He and some of his fellow “Night Stalkers” felt the SEALs’ plan was too risky.
The mission was to capture or kill Ahmad Shah, a Taliban commander. The three-phase plan called for inserting a four-man SR team the first night, then inserting the second element of SEALs the following night to establish an isolation zone around Shah. Finally, 150 U.S. Marines would come in to establish blocking positions for the SEALs’ assault on Shah’s compound.
The Night Stalkers’ job was to insert the SEALs on a ridgeline where the terrain left few options for landing zones. The commandos would have to descend from a rope — fast-rope — while the helos hovered high above the trees. That meant if the SEALs got into trouble, extraction would potentially require the use of a hoist to pull the SEALs out, which was a time-consuming and dangerous option.
As he approached the insertion site, Brady could see lights dotting the mountains below through his night-vision goggles.
An MH-47 Chinook with 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and a KC-130J Super Hercules with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 conduct aerial refueling during Exercise Yuma Horizon 19. Photo by Lance Cpl. Seth Rosenberg, courtesy of DVIDS.
“This was a desolate part of the Hindu Kush, and at night, you wouldn’t really expect to see much,” Brady told Coffee or Die. “Not really sure who they were, but there was more activity than I expected.”
As the pilots climbed the last 1,000 feet of elevation, the AC-130 crew providing overwatch on their destination radioed to say they had to leave their position due to a mechanical issue. Brady knew that surveillance aircraft going off station without backup was supposed to result in aborting the mission.
He asked the AC-130 crew for one final report on the four potential landing zones the Night Stalkers had identified for the mission.
“We’ve got two military-aged males, possibly armed, on the northernmost LZ,” the crew reported. “Primary and secondary zones appear to be clear of potential threats.”
Believing the gunship could make it back on station in time for the insertion, Brady made the call to continue the mission.
From left, SGT Carlos Pacheco (3/160 medic, former 3/75), SFC Marcus V. Muralles (Legend – 3/160 medic), MAJ Sam Sauer (3/160 flight surgeon), SFC L.E. Shroades (medic R/160), SGT Dan Bell (E Co/160) during during the timeframe of Operation Red Wings. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
Approaching the insertion point, the pilots flared the Chinook and came into a hover. As the lead aircraft descended, it became clear the LZ was on a steep slope of the mountain, making descent difficult due to the front rotors approaching the mountainside faster than the rear of the aircraft.
“Hold your right and left; hold your front and rear,” came the internal radio traffic from the flight engineer to Brady.
There were 100-foot-tall trees on all sides of the Chinook, and they were so close the pilots had no room to sway as they descended.
“When you hear all four directions, everyone gets pretty tense,” Brady said. “It means you can’t drift any direction without crashing.”
The pilots descended to the point where the Chinook’s front rotor was just a few feet away from the mountainside with tall trees all around the aircraft. The flight crew kicked out the ropes, and the SEALs fast-roped down.
When the crew chief tried to pull the rope up, they found it was entangled below. After several tense moments of struggling to bring in the rope, they decided to cut it loose. The odds of enemy fighters hearing the echo of the dual-rotor helicopter increased every second it remained in a hover. The SEALs did their best to hide the rope and keep their presence on the ridgeline hidden from enemy fighters.
It wasn’t an ideal insertion, but the Night Stalkers had accomplished their mission. They ascended and flew back to Jalalabad to link up with another group of SEALs and standby as a quick reaction force (QRF) in case the SR team was compromised.
At Jalalabad, Brady was approached by SEAL Commander Erik Kristensen in the command operations center. Kristensen confronted him about the decision to cut the rope at the LZ and asked if the Night Stalkers would go back and retrieve it.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from 1-228th Aviation Regiment conducting hoist operations. Photo by Spc. Steven K. Young, courtesy of DVIDS.
“We would have to drop a man down with a hoist in that hole of an LZ,” Brady explained. “Hoisting a man at that altitude on that kind of terrain at night is a dangerous operation. Once on the ground, they’d have to pick up the rope, hook it to themselves, and get hoisted back up. Hovering for that long over the same spot would burn the LZ and likely alert the enemy to the SR team’s presence.”
Kristensen agreed with Brady’s evaluation, and after the SR team radioed that they would be laying down for the day in their hide site, Brady and Kristensen called it a night.
Walking toward the flight line, the SEAL commander quipped, “What made you want to fly such ugly helicopters?”
“They’re not much to look at, but they get the job done,” Brady fired back. “Kind of like SEALs.”
They shared a laugh as they loaded up for the flight back to Bagram.
At the Bagram operations center, Major Stephen Reich approached Brady urgently, asking why he didn’t follow abort criteria and fly back with the SR team after the AC-130 had to leave the airspace.
Brady said he estimated the AC-130 would only be off station briefly and that the crew had reported no hostile activity on the LZ. He told Reich pushing the mission back would allow Shah to continue his terrorist activities, likely leading to the death of locals and U.S. military in the area.
“Good,” Brady recalled Reich saying. “I’m glad you’re a thinking air mission commander and not simply one that takes a black-and-white view of the situation.”
With that, they retired to their rooms to rest for phase two of the operation the following night.
Some of the Night Stalkers hanging out in the B huts they slept in, enjoying much needed down time. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
As the Night Stalkers slept, the SR team was discovered by a numerically superior force of enemy fighters. They engaged in a fierce firefight, and at some point the task force lost contact with them.
Brady’s maintenance officer woke him and said the SR team was in trouble and the Night Stalkers had orders to spin up and pull the team out.
“That’s not possible,” Brady replied, confused at how quickly the SEALs had become compromised. “They’ve got their own quick reaction force. We’re completely separate commands. It doesn’t make sense.”
But he knew and lived by the Night Stalkers’ promise to every customer: “If we put you in, we’ll stop at nothing to get you out — even if it’s technically someone else’s job.”
Brady rushed to the operations center where Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chris Eicher was telling the task force commander that they should wait until dark before sending the QRF because going in during daylight would subject them to more danger. The 160th had only lost helicopters during daylight missions at that point — they’re called Night Stalkers for a reason.
The commander explained that the ground force commander had already rejected that plan and didn’t want to wait any longer.
Brady ran over to where his platoon sergeant, Sergeant First Class Mike Russell, was sleeping and updated him on what had unfolded.
“Are you serious?” Russell replied.
Russell went to work right away getting the crews together to prep the aircraft for the mission.
Three of the 160th’s MH-47D Chinooks on the flight line in Bagram, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
Back in the operations center, leaders were busy trying to figure out the SEALs’ last known location and calculating how many soldiers each helicopter could fly with. They finalized plans and sent the Night Stalkers on their way.
As Brady approached the Chinook he’d be flying, he noticed the tail number: 1-4-6. The bird’s call sign was Turbine 33. Kristensen and his SEALs were waiting on the ramp, standing in a circle.
“Our plan of action is for you to get us to the high ground as close to the troops in contact as you can, and we’re going to fight our way downhill,” Brady recalled Kristensen saying.
Since the SEALs weren’t sure where exactly the compromised team was located, Kristensen believed inserting at a position of tactical advantage was the best option.
“Drop us on the high ground, and we’ll make our way to our swim buddies,” Kristensen told Brady.
Navy SEALs operating in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. From left to right, sonar technician (surface) Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, California; Senior Chief information systems technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, New Hampshire; quartermaster Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Florida; hospital corpsman Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; machinists mate Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nevada; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, New York With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wing. Photo courtesy of DVIDS.
As Brady climbed into Turbine 33 and started strapping in, Reich tapped his shoulder and asked what the plan was. Reich, who had been designated mission commander for phase two of the operation, felt the QRF was his responsibility.
“We argued for what seemed like 10 minutes but was actually about 30 seconds,” Brady recalled.
But Reich cut the debate short. “I don’t really care, Matt,” he told Brady, “just get your stuff and get off the airplane. This is my mission.”
Brady said he pleaded with Reich to at least let him come with and act as an extra gun and set of eyes.
“Nope, I want you to take my spot as the operations officer and monitor from here,” Reich replied.
Disappointed, Brady followed the order and got off the aircraft. As he watched the two Chinooks taxiing onto the runway, he locked eyes with Russell, his platoon sergeant.
“He had a look of competence and professionalism — like he was ready to live out the Night Stalker creed,” Brady said.
He walked back to the operations center to monitor the situation and provide support from Bagram.
Matt Rogie, left, and Matt Brady having jovial conversation in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
The two Chinooks — Turbine 33 and Turbine 34 — were packed with 16 SEALs each, plus the Night Stalker pilots and crewman. Flying toward Jalalabad en route to the last known position of the SEALs, they received word from Bagram on the number of men they could have on board each aircraft and still fly at the extreme elevation. They would have to offload eight SEALs from each helicopter before continuing.
“A lot of guys really wanted to stay on the mission,” recalled Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tim Graham, one of the pilots on Turbine 34.
The plan was for the SEALs to fast-rope onto the ridgeline above the original LZ. The Night Stalkers would then circle back and pick up the remaining SEALs who offloaded at Jalalabad.
During the flight, the Night Stalkers passed two Apache gunships whose pilots asked if they wanted to slow down so they could provide surveillance and support for the operation. Not wanting to burn valuable time waiting on approval from the task force commander for the audible, the Night Stalkers continued on without the Apaches.
Tim Graham standing by in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
Arriving at the insertion point on the ridgeline, Turbine 33 descended into a hover. Graham watched from Turbine 34 as Turbine 33’s ramp lowered and the crewman walked onto it to observe the landing zone below. Graham’s aircraft pulled off to the right to circle around and insert their payload of SEALs after Turbine 33 moved off to allow their entrance.
That’s when Staff Sergeant Steven Smith, the flight engineer in the rear of Turbine 34, saw a smoke trail emerge from the tree line directly toward Turbine 33. The projectile flew through the open ramp of the Chinook and exploded inside. Turbine 33’s nose dipped down, and the aircraft slid to the left, appearing to almost recover. Then the helo’s blades started hitting each other, and the aircraft rolled to the right before inverting as it descended to the mountainous terrain below.
Smith and the others in Turbine 34 watched helplessly as the Chinook full of their fellow aviators — their friends — crashed into the mountain and erupted in a ball of flames.
“Al and Kip were on the ramp when the RPG impacted,” Smith, who witnessed the horrific event, recalled. “They rode it all the way in that way.”
Soldiers sit on the rear deck of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter while flying over southern Afghanistan Oct. 19, 2010. Photo by Cpl. Robert Thaler, courtesy of DVIDS.
Graham and his co-pilot whipped their Chinook around to look for survivors. As they were turning around, Graham saw five Black hawks performing a star-cluster evasion. Turbine 34 started taking heavy gunfire from unseen fighters below. They broke off and flew out of reach of the enemy fire.
Graham reported the situation back to Bagram. Receiving the transmission, Brady couldn’t believe it. He would have been on that bird were it not for the last minute change. He asked Graham to repeat, unable to register what he had just heard.
One of Brady’s soldiers in the operations center was asking him a question, but Brady was momentarily frozen with shock. Then the realization hit: He was now in charge.
Brady told his operations NCO to give him a minute to gather more information to get the next plan of action in place. He walked out of the operations center and found Eicher.
“Chris, Turbine 33 has just been shot down,” he told Eicher, who earned the nickname “Iceman” for his always cool demeanor.
Eicher looked at Brady and said, “Nah, they probably put down for maintenance.”
Brady persisted with the details. He and Eicher hurried back to the operations center.
The two Apaches had arrived on station, drawing heavy gunfire, but nonetheless giving Turbine 34’s crew back in the operations center a good look at the crash site.
“It didn’t look like there was any way anybody could have survived,” Graham said. “You hope they could. It just didn’t look good.”
The crash site of Turbine 33. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
They ascended back into orbit and remained there for an hour until the task force commander ordered them back to Jalalabad. Not wanting to leave their brothers, the SEAL team commander hatched a plan with the Night Stalkers to insert higher up on the ridgeline and fight their way down to the crash site so Turbine 34 could fly back to Jalalabad, pick up as many SEALs as he could, and fly back to reinforce the eight SEALs. The task force commander denied the request and ordered Turbine 34 back to Jalalabad. Frustrated and angry, Graham followed the order.
Smith said everyone on the Chinook was angry. One of the SEALs even drew his pistol and attempted unsuccessfully to force the Chinook to land so they could try to save their friends.
Graham made a stop at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) just outside of Jalalabad. After landing, Graham saw the same five Black Hawks that had peeled off earlier parked on the runway. He didn’t think much of it at the time, but many years later he found out a new platoon leader came into their company within the 160th and was responsible for those Black Hawks.
Each of the five Black Hawks was loaded with Marines and had flown out thinking they were the QRF for the SR team. When Turbine 33 was shot down, they received orders to fly back along with Turbine 34 and the Apache gunships until the next phase of the mission was developed.
Flight line view of U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. Photo by Mark C. Olsen, courtesy of DVIDS.
After refueling, he continued on to Jalalabad and off-loaded.
“When I met him there on the ground in Jalalabad, Graham was fairly shaken to say the least,” Brady recalled.
The task force commander debriefed the men and then focused on planning their next steps.
Smith said he saw a line of armored vehicles full of troops.
“I could see a lot of vehicles with troops armed to the damn teeth,” Smith recalled. “They rolled out with a convoy and with some vengeance, and they fought their way up that mountainside, all the way up to the crash site.”
The remaining Night Stalkers prepared for a rescue operation. Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and other Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) personnel loaded onto five Chinooks. All the men were anxious, angry, and ready to retrieve their brothers in arms.
The Chinooks took off toward the mountains once again, but as they climbed in elevation, severe weather rolled in. Thunder boomed as lightning struck all around them.
“So the enemy is one factor, but the terrain and weather are now a huge factor, and they’re starting to overtake the enemy in terms of danger to the force,” Brady said.
He said visibility got so bad that he couldn’t see the heat glow of the engines from the Chinook in front of him. The order was given to again abort the mission and return to base. It was a gut-wrenching decision for everyone on the mission, as they knew the original SEALs on the SR team were fighting for their lives and one of their own aircraft and crew was burning on the side of a mountain.
Back at Jalalabad, the commanders decided they had no choice but to wait for better weather and try again the next night.
Troops searching for the KIA and survivors. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
As the storm raged, the members of the task force — haunted with thoughts of their brothers on the mountain — tried to sleep.
As the next night approached, the task force went to work, planning another insertion onto the deadly ridgeline. The Night Stalkers again loaded their Chinooks with Rangers and SEALs and took off toward the mountains.
Arriving on site, the task force members fast-roped in. The extreme height of the trees made the full length of rope — approximately 90 feet — necessary. Many of the men suffered scorched hands from gripping the rope through gloves for such a long descent.
Once on the ground, they started their search for casualties, potential survivors, and sensitive equipment.
As the Night Stalkers flew back to Bagram, the JSOC ground force that had convoyed to the crash radioed to the task force that they had secured the site. There were no survivors.
The JSOC troops, along with their newly arrived reinforcements, went to work recovering those killed in action as well as sensitive equipment that could not fall into enemy hands. They then used explosives to clear out a large enough area for Chinooks to land when they came back.
Explosives were used to chop down trees due to width of the trees being too big for chainsaws. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Matt Rogie arrived in Bagram just before the Night Stalkers came back after dropping off the recovery force. Assigned to replace Eicher as senior flight lead, he was trying to learn as much as he could before hopping into an aircraft and joining the mission.
Rogie met Eicher on the flight line when he landed after returning from the mission.
“I’m glad you’re here because I am spent,” Eicher told him.
The Night Stalkers flew back to their newly forged landing zone the following night. The weather was turning bad again as they offloaded Marines to assist with security.
“I could see the grass being blown by the rotor wash and all the remains bags being lined up in a row — 16 of them,” Rogie recalled. “There was still some smoldering from the crash site, and I could see the glow from the heat through my night vision.”
Some of the fallen members of Turbine 33 prior to being flown out. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
One by one, the Rangers and SEALs loaded the fallen onto the Chinooks and headed back to Bagram with their brothers. The flight back was pure silence. The loss weighed heavy on the men.
As the Night Stalkers approached Bagram they could see what looked like everyone on base standing outside, showing their respect for the fallen.
“When we landed, we just saw a row of Night Stalkers and Rangers and SEALs for as far as I could see, lined up and ready to help transport the remains off and take them to the mortuary affairs section,” Brady recalled.
When the ramp lowered, the Night Stalkers on the Chinooks stood tall and proud for their fallen brethren as task force members boarded and began solemnly moving each remains bag to the mortuary affairs building.
“All of us were pretty broken up at that point,” Rogie said.
Pastors from the task force lead the caskets onto the C-17. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
The C-17 sat on the runway with the ramp down, waiting to receive the 16 interment cases containing the fallen warriors. Brady stood next to a SEAL commander — both had to take command of their respective units when Reich and Kristensen were killed on Turbine 33. Their war-weary faces were chiseled stone as they watched the task force solemnly load 16 flag-draped internment cases into the C-17.
Brady said it seemed like the whole base turned out to give the fallen a proper sendoff. As the cases were being loaded, a SEAL ran up to the new SEAL commander and placed a written note in his hand. The note said that Marcus Luttrell was alive at a nearby village. The SEAL commander broke down and cried at the desperately needed positive news.
The fallen Night Stalkers of the 160th SOAR included:
Staff Sergeant Shamus O. Goare
Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature
Sergeant Kip A. Jacoby
Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles
Major Stephen C. Reich
Sergeant First Class Michael L. Russell
Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach
Master Sergeant James W. Ponder III
Soldiers and Sailors from the Task Force saying their final goodbyes. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
The members of the task force said their final goodbyes. The C-17 closed its ramp and taxied down the runway and took flight. The fallen warriors were now on their way home.
The lone C-17 aircraft lumbered through the sky after departing Germany, a necessary stop on the way back to the United States. The back of the aircraft contained the flag-draped coffins of 16 great Americans: the fallen Night Stalkers and SEALs from Turbine 33.
Children of varying ages ran around the coffins, playing and yelling, not yet old enough to understand the sacrifices these warriors made. A Taliban high-value target (HVT) sat tucked into the corner away from them all, guarded by other soldiers.
Three war-weary escorts — one of them a SEAL and the other two Night Stalkers Daniel Bell and Chris Eicher — sat off to the sides, grimly staring off into space. They were exhausted and angry with the mistake the U.S. Air Force had made when they allowed Space-A seating to be filled on this leg of the flight home.
The men of the task force saying their final goodbyes to the fallen before they are flown home to their final resting place. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
The rescue operation, known as Operation Red Wings II, continued for weeks. Almost every variety of special operations troops in the U.S. military inventory participated in a coordinated effort through some of Afghanistan’s most dangerous and austere terrain during the search for their brothers — both alive and fallen.
Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was the only survivor from the initial four-man SEAL reconnaissance element.
For the Night Stalkers of the famed 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the war on terror continued.
Results are what make a weapons system great, not just technology.
In the case of fighter aircraft, it’s all about the kills, and with that as the main selection criteria, here’s WATM’s list of the 18 greatest fighters of all time:
1. Fokker Triplane
The iconic aircraft behind the World War I success of Manfred von Richthofen’s Flying Circus was actually designed after a Sopwith Triplane crashed behind German lines in 1917. The Fokker Triplane was relatively slow and hard to see out of, but it possessed an impressive turn rate that “The Red Baron” leveraged towards his war total of 80 confirmed kills.
2. Sopwith Camel
The Sopwith Camel had a more powerful engine and more firepower than the German fighters it went up against, and although the big engine made it hard to handle, in the hands of an experienced pilot the fighter was very lethal. The Sopwith Camel accounted for 1,294 air-to-air kills, the most of any model during World War I.
3. Mitsubishi Zero
At the outset of World War II in the Pacific, the Zero owned the skies, including those over Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Zero was primarily carrier-based, highly maneuverable, and could fly long range. Because of this the Japanese enjoyed a 12-to-1 kill ratio over the allies during the first few years of the war.
Often incorrectly called the “Me 109,” the Bf-109 remains the most produced fighter aircraft in history and was one of the Luftwaffe’s air-to-air workhorses. The Bf 109 was flown by the three top-scoring German fighter aces of World War II, who claimed 928 victories among them. Through constant design improvements and development by German engineers, the Bf 109 remained lethal in the face of allied technical advances throughout the war.
5. Focke-Wulf Fw-190
The Fw-190 was generally considered superior to the Bf-109 because of it’s bigger engine (a BMW inline 12) and greater firepower. Some of the Luftwaffe ‘ s most successful fighter aces flew the Fw 190, including Otto Kittel with 267 victories, Walter Nowotny with 258, and Erich Rudorffer with 222.
6. P-51 Mustang
The P-51 Mustang was a solution to the clear need for an effective bomber escort starting in 1943. General James Doolittle told the fighters in early 1944 to stop flying in formation with the bombers and instead attack the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found. The Mustang groups were sent in well before the bombers in a “fighter sweep” as a form of air supremacy action, intercepting German fighters while they were forming up. As a result, the Luftwaffe lost 17 percent of its fighter pilots in just over a week, and the Allies were able to establish air superiority. (Wikipedia)
7. P-38 Lightning
In spite of the fact that the twin-boom design limited roll rate performance, the P-38 tallied impressive kill numbers in the Pacific and the China-Burma-India areas when piloted by America’s top aces like Richard Bong (40 victories) and Thomas McGuire (38 victories).
8. P-47 Thunderbolt
In Europe during the critical first three months of 1944 when the German aircraft industry and Berlin were heavily attacked, the P-47 shot down more German fighters than the P-51 (570 out of 873), and shot down approximately 900 of the 1,983 claimed during the first six months of 1944. In Europe, Thunderbolts flew more sorties (423,435) than P-51s, P-38s and P-40s combined. Indeed, it was the P-47 which broke the back of the Luftwaffe on the Western Front in the critical period of January–May 1944. (Wikipedia)
The Spitfire achieved legendary status during the Battle of Britain by racking up the highest victory-to-loss ratio among British aircraft. Spitfires were flown by British aces Johnnie Johnson (34 kills), Douglas Bader (20 kills), and Bob Tuck (27 kills). The Spitfire was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft and was the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war. (Wikipedia)
10. F4F Wildcat
The first of the Grumman “Cat” series, the carrier-based F4F was slower, shorter ranged, and less maneuverable than the Japanese Zero. However it’s ruggedness and the development of group tactics like the “Thatch Weave” allowed the Wildcat to ultimately prevail, tallying a nearly 7-to-1 kill ratio over the course of the war.
11. F6F Hellcat
The F6F was designed to improve on the Wildcat’s ability to counter the Mitsubishi A6M Zero and help secure air superiority over the Pacific Theater. Hellcats were credited with 5,223 kills, more than any other Allied naval aircraft.
12. F-4U Corsair
Know to the Japanese as “whistling death,” Corsairs claimed 2,140 air combat victories and an overall kill ratio of over 11-to-1. Legendary F4U pilots include Marines Joe Foss, Marion Carl, and Pappy Boyington.
With the Chinese entry into the Korean War, the MiG-15 began to appear in the skies over Korea. Quickly proving superior to straight-wing American jets such as the F-80 and F-84 Thunderjet, the MiG-15 temporarily gave the Chinese the advantage in the air and ultimately forced United Nations forces to halt daylight bombing until the F-86 arrived to level the air combat playing field.
14. F-86 Sabre
The F-86 was the U.S. answer to the MiG-15 that had dominated the skies over Korea in the early part of that conflict. Engagements in MiG Alley between the two aircraft were numerous, and that period is considered by many as the glory days of air-to-air warfare between jet aircraft. F-86s ended the war with a 10-to-1 kill ratio over the MiG-15s they faced.
15. F-4 Phantom
The F-4 was the fighter and attack workhorse for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps for several decades and Phantom crews were the last to attain “ace” status in the 20th Century. The most noteworthy event happened on May 10, 1972, when Lieutenant Randy “Duke” Cunningham and Lieutenant (junior grade) William P. Driscoll shot down three MiG-17s to become the first American flying aces of the war.
One of the most widely used fighter aircraft in history, MiG-21s tallied impressive kill numbers during the Vietnam War, the Iran-Iraq War, and the India-Pakistan and Egypt-Israeli conflicts.
17. F-14 Tomcat
The Tomcat didn’t make this list because of it’s long service as the U.S. Navy’s front-line carrier-based fighter (in spite of the fact that “Top Gun” remains the greatest military movie of all time), but because the Iranian Air Force had more than 160 kills with it during the Iran-Iraq War.
18. F-15 Eagle
Eagles made dogfighting history during Operation Desert Storm, primarily because of their superior weapons suite, including state-of-the-art (at the time) identification capability. F-15s had 34 confirmed kills of Iraqi aircraft during the 1991 Gulf War.
Awh yeah! It’s Army-Navy Game time, folks! You’d think troops would hate the game, but we f*cking love it! Any other day of the year and you’d be hard-pressed to find a single troop who’d actively give a damn about a bunch of academy soon-to-be butter bars who finally show up for some sports PT. But nope! It’s about branch pride this weekend!
Even the Marines full-heartedly accept they’re apart of the Navy for one afternoon. That entirely depends on if they win, of course. Vegas odds put the Midshipmen at a slightly better chance of winning after the Army went on that five-game losing streak, but they’ve come back from worse odds.
If Navy does win, they get the Commander-in-Chief Trophy back at Annapolis. If Army wins, they retain the trophy because the wins are spread out like it’s a “Rock, Paper, Scissors” style match-up since Army already lost to Air Force… Wait a second…
That was almost six weeks ago? Huh. Even when the Army is having a sh*tty year, we all kind of forget about the Air Force Academy… Anyways, here are some memes.
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via On The Minute Memes)
(Meme via Call for Fire)
(Meme via Team Non-Rec)
(Meme via Not CID)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
For everyone crying out “but what about your pro-mask seals?” I’d like to politely ask you when was the last time you saw anyone actually carry a pro-mask with them out on patrol in an accessible position and not in the bottom of a ruck (or in the vehicle) for any reason other than the TOCroach LT randomly tagging along.
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via @CollegeGameDay Twitter)
Go Army, Beat Navy!
It’s technically a photo from last year but since it’s still relevant and I’ve held onto it since then, so it makes it in. Bite me.
When people think hovercraft, the Landing Craft Air Cushion (also known as the LCAC) comes to mind. Understandably so — that hovercraft has been a vital piece of gear for the Navy and Marine Corps when it comes to projecting power ashore. But these are not the first hovercraft to be used in service. In fact, hovercraft saw action with both the Navy and Army during the Vietnam War.
In 1966, the Navy acquired four Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles, or PACVs (pronounced “Pack-Vees”), for test purposes and deployed them to Vietnam. The hovercraft quickly proved very potent, delivering a lot of firepower and speed and reaching areas inaccessible to traditional tracked or wheeled vehicles.
Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles packed a lot of firepower and were fast — but they never got past an operational test.
A PACV was equipped with a turret that held one or two M2 .50-caliber machine guns mounted on top of the cabin, which held a crew of four. There were also two M60 general-purpose machine guns, one mounted to port and the other to starboard. Additionally, there were two remote-controlled emplacements for either M60s or Mk 19 automatic grenade launchers.
The hovercraft could reach a top speed of 35 knots and had a maximum range of 165 nautical miles. But as maintenance and training proved problematic, especially given the trans-Pacific supply lines, the Navy decided to pull the plug. The Army, however, remained interested. The hovercraft operated primarily from a land base, but could also be deployed from amphibious ships (like today’s LCACs).
PACVs worked with the Navy’s Light Attack Helicopter Squadron Three (HAL-3), providing a fast response to enemy activity.
The Army acquired three Air-Cushion Vehicles, which operated within the 9th Infantry Division. Two were configured for attack missions and both were destroyed in 1970. The other, which was tooled as a transport, was shipped back to the United States.
Learn more about these early hovercraft that did some damage in Vietnam in the video below.
Deep underwater, on submarines equipped with nuclear missiles, British crews are constantly prepared to fire their weapons, and potentially play a part in bringing about the end of the world.
Sailors on the four Vanguard-class submarines which patrol the waters and hold the UK’s nuclear deterrent operate under strict protocol for working out when to act and what to do — part of which is said to include listening to BBC radio.
According to a prominent British historian, the broadcast of BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme is one of the official measures the Royal Navy uses to prove that the United Kingdom still exists. “Today” has been broadcast at around breakfast time since 1958 and is the highest-profile news programme in British media.
Lord Peter Hennessy, a history professor who joined the UK’s House of Lords in 2010, said that if it can’t be heard for three days in a row, then it could signify Britain’s demise, and trigger their doomsday protocol.
According to Politico, Hennessy says: “The failure to pick up the BBC Today program for a few days is regarded as the ultimate test.”
If no sign comes through, the commander and deputy will open letters that contain instructions from the prime minister and execute their final wishes.
These letters, each known as a “Letter of Last Resort’ are secret instructions, written when a prime minister enters the office and sealed until an apocalypse. They tell the UK’s submarine commanders what to do with the country’s nuclear weapons if the country has been destroyed.
HMS Victorious photographed in the Clyde estuary
(LA(phot) Mez Merrill/MOD photo)
Writing these letters is one of the first tasks undertaken by any new prime minister. They are locked inside a safe inside another safe, and placed in the control rooms of the nation’s four nuclear submarines, Politico reports. The safes will only be accessible to the sub’s commander and deputy.
Matthew Seligman, Professor of Naval History at Brunel University,told BBC Newsbeat that there are “only so many options available.”
“Do nothing, launch a retaliatory strike, offer yourself to an ally like the USA, or use your own judgment.
“Essentially, are you going to use the missiles or not?”
The UK has four submarines that are capable of carrying the country’s Trident nuclear missiles. At least one of these has been on patrol at all times since 1969, the government says.
There are 40 nuclear warheads and a maximum of eight missiles on each submarine.
Only the prime minister can authorize the launch of the country’s nuclear weapons.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As anti-ISIS forces retake Mosul and march on Raqqa, more and more of the terror group’s mystique is falling away. It’s hard to be the international bogeyman when your forces are suffering defeats across your caliphate.
But one of ISIS’s most prominent battlefield weapons is still deadly frightening, the armored vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. While VBIEDs were already common in Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS upped the ante by creating especially effective armored versions and then employing them like artillery — softening their enemy’s lines and breaking up attacks.
For the Iraqi Army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and other anti-ISIS forces, understanding these weapons is a matter of life or death. But typically, the weapons are destroyed before they can be captured, either because the soldiers hit it with a rocket, tank, or artillery round, or because the operator triggers his explosive cargo.
This makes it relatively rare that a suicide vehicle is captured intact. But there have been a few, and Sky News got the chance to tour one of these captured vehicles during the Iraqi military’s initial punch into Mosul.
The vehicle, captured by Kurdish Peshmerga, had been heavily modified with the removal of any unnecessary weight, the addition of thick, heavy armor, and the installation of a massive amount of explosives.
See the full tour of the vehicle in the video below:
China is dropping heavy hints that it could restrict exports of rare-earth metals to the US as part of the trade war through highly staged photo ops and heavy hints in state media.
If such a ban happened, it could seriously harm the American tech, defense, and manufacturing industries. Eighty percent of US imports of rare-earth metals come from China, according to the US Geological Survey.
Stocks in rare-earth companies have skyrocketed since China first hinted that it might weaponize rare earth in the trade war, when President Xi Jinping made a highly publicized visit to a rare-earth factory.
This has most likely driven up the price of the materials, which could in turn drive up the consumer prices of those goods.
Here’s what rare earths are and the US products that would be affected by a Chinese ban.
Rare earths, clockwise from top center, praseodymium, cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, samarium and gadolinium.
(U.S. Department of Agriculture photo by Peggy Greb)
What are rare-earth metals?
“Rare-earth metals” is a collective term for 17 metals in the periodic table of elements, which appear in low concentrations in the ground.
Rare earths are considered “rare” because it’s hard to find them in sufficient concentrations to exploit economically. They also require a lot of energy to extract and process for further use.
The elements are lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, scandium, and yttrium.
They have a variety of physical and chemical properties and are put to different uses. Lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, and samarium are classed as “light rare-earth elements,” while the others are classed as “heavy rare-earth elements.”
They have grown in importance in recent years because of their use in high-tech manufacturing. Here are some everyday products that depend on rare-earth metals.
iPhones, Teslas, and flat-screen TVs
Yttrium, europium, and terbium are used in LED screens, which you can find on most smartphones, tablets, laptops, and flat-screen TVs. Their red-green-blue phosphors help power the display screen, according to a 2014 US Geological Survey fact sheet.
Those elements are also used in iPhone batteries and help make the phone vibrate when you get a text, Business Insider’s Jeremy Berke reported.
Apple said in 2017 that it would “one day” stop using rare earths to make its phones and pivot to recycled materials instead, though that idea has yet to become a reality.
Lanthanum is also used in as many as half of all digital and cellphone camera lenses, the USGS said.
Samsung’s giant flat-screen TV, named “The Wall.”
The electric-vehicle industry also depends on lanthanum alloys to make its rechargeable, batteries, with some makers needing as much as 10 to 15 kilograms, or 22 to 33 pounds, a car, the USGS reported.
Neodymium-based permanent magnets are also used to make electric-vehicle motors, The Verge reported, citing Frances Wall, a professor of applied mineralogy at Britain’s University of Exeter.
Tesla has also relied on rare-earth permanent magnets from the Chinese producer Beijing Zhong Ke San Huan Hi-Tech Co. since 2016, according to The Wall Street Journal. It’s not clear whether Tesla uses other magnet suppliers too.
As global demand for electric vehicles continues to climb, so too will that for rare earths, Ryan Castilloux, the managing director of the rare-earth consultancy Adamas Intelligence, told Business Insider.
Permanent magnets produced from rare earths are also used to make computer hard disks, and CD-ROM and DVD disk drives, the USGS noted. The magnets help stabilize the disk when it spins.
Restricting magnet-related rare earths to the US would hurt “a lot of industries and cause a lot of economic pain,” Castilloux said.
A Tomahawk cruise missile launching from the stern vertical launch system of the USS Shiloh to attack selected air-defense targets south of the 33rd parallel in Iraq on on Sept. 3, 1996, as part of Operation Desert Strike.
(US Department of Defense)
Drones, missiles, and satellites
The Department of Defense uses rare earths for jet-engine coatings, missile-guidance systems, missile-defense systems, satellites, and communications systems, the US Government Accountability Office said in a 2016 report.
The Pentagon’s demand for the minerals makes up 1% of total US demand. “Reliable access to the necessary material, regardless of the overall level of defense demand, is a bedrock requirement for DoD,” the office said.
The Defense Department on May 29, 2019, said it was seeking new federal funds to support US production of rare-earth metals to reduce its reliance on China, according to Reuters.
Commercial defense companies, like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and BAE, also rely on rare earths to make their missile-guidance systems and sensors.
Fighter jets also heavily rely on rare-earth metals. Each F-35 jet requires 920 pounds of material made from rare earths, Air Force Magazine reported, citing the Defense Department.
F-22 tail fins and rudders — which steer the planes — are powered by motors made by permanent magnets derived from rare earths, Air Force Magazine said.
Yttrium and terbium are used to make laser targeting, armored fighting vehicles, Predator drones, and Tomahawk cruise missiles, Bloomberg reported, citing the Benchmark Mineral Intelligence managing director Simon Moores.
The government and private companies have since 2010 built up stockpiles of rare earths and components that use them, Reuters reported, citing the former Pentagon supply-chain official Eugene Gholz. It’s not clear how long these stockpiles would last if a shortage hit.
An explosion caused by a Tomahawk missile, made by Raytheon.
(Department of Defense)
Manufacturers of offshore wind turbines rely on magnets made from elements like neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, or terbium, according to the Renewables Consulting Group. Makers include Siemens and MHI Vestas Offshore Wind, the consultancy said.
Using rare-earth magnets makes the wind turbines more reliable, the consultancy said, because such components are more resilient than alternatives made with conventional materials.
Using rare-earth metals as catalysts in the process leads to higher yields and purer end products, RETA said.
They also play a role in the chemistry of catalytic converters, which reduce harmful car emissions by speeding up breakdown of exhaust fumes.
The Global Times, China’s state-run tabloid news outlet, cited a rare-earth analyst named Wu Chenhui who called a Chinese ban on the elements a “smart hit” against the US.
The prospect was raised after the US this month proposed tariffs on 0 billion worth of Chinese goods and blacklisted the telecom giant Huawei from working with US companies.
Many rare-earth experts doubt that China would follow through with a ban, though, because it wouldn’t be in China’s interest for the US and other countries to start looking elsewhere for rare-earth imports.
But “even if it doesn’t go ahead, it’s a wake-up call,” Castilloux of Adamas said of Chinese restrictions. “It’s causing the US and other countries to take a more serious look into their supply chains.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces has built up a solid supply of memes. Eventually, the Space Corps will become the sixth branch. So, why not help the Space Corps get started with a few memes of their own? After all, the branch itself has become one giant meme…
…come on, “Space Force?”
You know they’ll be salty all over when the Space Corps gets in, too.
(via Claw of Knowledge)
The desire to know more intensifies…
I don’t even want to imagine the hell that will be zero-gravity latrine cleaning…
In 2011, the Carolina Panthers were up 14-0 against the Houston Texans. With time running out in the first half, Carolina ran a trick play that saw quarterback Cam Newton secretly slip the ball between the legs of tight end Richie Brockel after quickly taking the snap. Brockel ran the ball in for another touchdown and the Panthers would win the game, 28-13.
After the game, reporters wanted to know where head coach Ron Rivera drew inspiration for the play. The answer was the movie, Little Giants.
The play even has a name – “The Annexation of Puerto Rico” – and it was devised by the tiny computer nerd, “Nubie,” who explained it to John Madden as a slow fake play with the quarterback running to one side of the field and a tailback picking up the ball and swinging around the opposite way.
“The Annexation of Puerto Rico” from the 1994 movie “Little Giants”
The play in Little Giants sounds a lot like the legendary trick play, the fumblerooski, where the hidden ball is purposely set down by the QB who then distracts the opposing team by running with the “ball” or “handing it off” to another player. Then, another player, usually a player no one would suspect, like a lineman, picks it up, and runs it home.
It might literally be the oldest trick in the book, which is what might have attracted Ron Rivera to the “Annexation of Puerto Rico” in the first place.
For the Carolina Panthers, they couldn’t purposely forward fumble the ball, that’s illegal in the NFL. And they still had to fool the Texans defenders. So Cam Newton takes the quick snap and most of the Carolina players continue the play as if it’s moving to the right, while others make key blocks to keep the way clear for Brockel.
Who says real life is nothing like the movies?
Actor Ed O’Neill played Kevin O’Shea, the coach of the Little Giants’ number one enemy: the Cowboys. During an interview with NFL analyst Rich Eisen, Eisen told O’Neill the play had actually been used by an NFL team. O’Neill is an avid football fan and former NFL player who was a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers before being cut by the team in 1969.
He had no idea. His response (with a smile): “You gotta be kidding me.”
The United States military gets around. There are the countries with which it’s gone to war – Iraq, Germany, and Japan. There are countries it helps protect – Turkey, Poland, and Bahrain. And there are countries most people don’t even know that America sends troops to, like Thailand, Pakistan, and Antarctica.
There are so many countries.
In fact, there are only three countries in the world America hasn’t invaded or have never seen a U.S. military presence: Andorra, Bhutan, and Liechtenstein.
Americans have been invading other countries since before America was a thing, as early as 1741, when the North American battleground for the War of Austrian Succession was called King George’s War – one of the French and Indian Wars.
That’s a lot of wars.
According to Kelly and Laycock’s book, the United States has invaded or fought in 84 of the 193 countries recognized by the United Nations and has been militarily involved with 191 of 193 – a staggering 98 percent.
The authors pose mixed, apolitical ideas. Without America’s worldwide military involvement, the U.S. would be smaller with less clout, and Mexico would be bigger, with more clout. American invasions checked the spread of totalitarianism in the 20th Century, and without such opposition, the spread could have been much worse.
Finally, despite the image of an “imperial” United States, *only* America can meet some of the transnational challenges faced by the world in the 21st Century.
Andorra has no standing army. Instead, they have a militia ready to take arms if necessary. Since they are landlocked, they have no navy. Still, they were the longest combatant of World War I, technically remaining at war with Germany until 1958.
Bhutan is also landlocked between two countries. Unlike Andorra, the countries surrounding Bhutan would probably roll over the tiny country in the event of a war. Bhutan’s 16,000-strong army is trained by the Indian army, and the country has no navy or air force.
The Nepali Hindus – called Lotshampa –refugees in Beldangi Camp. (used by permission)
Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy with some Buddism sprinkled in – which meant the expulsion of 1/5th of its population of ethnic Nepali Hindus who would not conform.
This little principality is locked between Austria and Switzerland. At just 62 square miles, one of the reasons America has never been here is that they might have trouble finding it on a map, just like two U.S. Marines famously did. They missed Liechtenstein and hit Germany instead.
Critics of the F-35 have jumped on the fact that it has suffered a host of problems during the developmental test process while Air Force leadership has remained bullish on the jet’s transformational potential. This isn’t the first time this dynamic has come into play while fielding an airplane.
Here are ten planes that had rough starts, but eventually became mainstays.
1. F4U Corsair
The “Ensign Eliminator” was a high performer, but the complexity of the plane lead to a lot of fatal accidents. In fact, at one point, the Navy was willing to let the Marine Corps use the plane from land bases during World War II, sticking with the F6F Hellcat (not a bad bird, either). The plane kicked butt, to put it mildly. Eventually, the Navy began to fly Corsairs off carriers near the end of World War II, when it needed high performance to take down kamikazes. The plane then proved to be a good ground-attack bird, particularly during the Korean War.
2. P-51 Mustang
The first version of the P-51, the P-51A, was saddled with the Allison engine. That gave it problems at higher altitudes. Still, some recognized that the P-51 had potential, and decided to try the Rolls Royce Merlin. We all know how that worked out.
3. P-38 Lightning
Hard to believe that a plane designed by the legendary Kelly Johnson of Lockheed “Skunk Works” fame would have problems. But the plane used by Tom Lanphier to take out Isoroku Yamamoto had trouble – lots of trouble. Early versions of the Lightning were crippled by issues with compressibility. One such incident over a wheat field near Rostock nearly spelled the end for the legendary Robin Olds. Eventually, new dive flaps fixed the compressibility problems, and the P-38 went on to a glorious career – with Yamamoto as the most famous “kill” among many.
4. F-111 Aardvark
The “Vark” had long range, high speed, and a heavy payload. It also had teething problems that earned it the wrath from William Proxmire, who called it a “Flying Edsel.” Well, the kinks got worked out – and the plane became a reliable all-weather attack bird – and during Desert Storm, F-111E and F-111F planes flew hundreds of sorties, with no losses.
5. B-1B Lancer
It had a reputation as a “hangar queen” in the 1980s, and it had problems with the ALQ-161 jammers. Just procuring the plane was a huge fight in Congress. But in the 1990s, the B-1B came into its own as a conventional bomber.
6. C-17 Globemaster
This plane had huge issues during RD. It nearly ended up canceled after only a few dozen airframes were built. However, the plane soon proved it was more than capable of replacing the C-141, and now is not only in service with the Air Force, but with NATO, the Royal Air Force, and a number of other countries around the world.
7. C-5 Galaxy
This plane had its problems, too. Cracks in the wings and cost overruns put this plane in jeopardy and lead to load limits. Those have been fixed, though, and the C-5 is getting a round of modernization that will keep in service for decades to come.
8. V-22 Osprey
This plane was in the aviation equivalent of “development hell.” Many times, pundits, politicians, and even Dick Cheney wanted to cancel it. But the Osprey survived, became a game-changer, and now is the backbone of Marine Expeditionary Units.
9. F/A-18 Hornet
This plane had its problems, notably short range (which was somewhat overblown – in the fighter role, it actually had longer range than the F-4 Phantom), and the ever-familiar cost over-runs. But the Navy and Marine Corps stuck with the Hornet and that plane became the backbone of carrier air wings in the 1990s and early 2000s.
10. F-16 Fighting Falcon
The Air Force brass initially didn’t want it. The engine would cut out in the middle of flight, forcing pilots to make deadstick landings. But the F-16’s problems were resolved, and the plane has a long service record with the United States Air Force, the Iron Eagle movie franchise, and many export buyers.
So, when people want to chop a defense program over some teething problems, just remember that even the successful planes once had those problems, too.