As far as useful tools in a jam go, it’s tough to beat the general practicality of a knife. Whether it’s marking a trail, field dressing an animal, or defending yourself, a sharp piece of steel on your hip can solve a number of problems you may face in a survival situation; which is exactly why so many people maintain a good quality knife in their EDC (Everyday Carry) loadout. But what if you find yourself stuck in a long-term survival situation without ready access to a knife?
You could go on without one, or you could make one, using nothing but a few common hand tools and some scrap metal.
I found this scrap carbon steel in a metal recycling bin behind my neighbors shop.
The first thing you need to do is find yourself a suitable piece of metal. While you can usually get a sense of the sort of metal you’re working with with a visual inspection (stainless steel holds a shine while carbon steel will brown or rust, for instance), your top priority is finding a sturdy piece of metal that’s somewhat close to the size and shape of a knife. The closer it starts in size, the easier a day you’ll have. For a good survival knife that fits well in my hand, I usually prefer a piece of metal that’s somewhere between 10 and 12 inches long, less than a half inch thick, and 1.5 to 2 inches wide, but it may take some work to cut your piece into those dimensions.
Low carbon scrap steel is soft and doesn’t make for excellent knives, but in a pinch, even a rusting blade that needs sharpening is better than no blade at all.
There’s no getting around the need to have a hack saw when working with metal. In fact, if the scrap metal you locate is too long, it’s the only tool you can’t do without. Beyond that, all you really need is a metal file or access to plenty of sidewalks or blacktop. Any of the three will do.
Other tools that could help are a C-clamp or vice, sharpie, clips, and sandpaper.
Cut the steel into the general shape of a blade
Use your hacksaw to cut your scrap steel until it meets your general length and width requirements. The harder the steel (based on carbon levels and if it’s been treated) the harder the cutting will be. Be patient and careful not to hurt yourself. If you need tomake this knife, chances are good no ambulances will be coming if you suffer a nasty gash.
If you don’t have a clamp, you can step on the handle and saw near your feet for leverage.
Once you’ve got it cut somewhat to shape, saw off a corner to create what will become the point of the blade. If the steel is too wide to fit into your hand comfortably, you can keep on hacking to narrow down the handle portion as well. This is a lot more work, but can also provide a ridge if you’d like to add a handguard down the road.
The ridge between the handle and blade creates a stop on one side for a handguard when you’re making more elaborate knives.
Grind, grind, grind
If you have a metal file, hold the knife in one hand while carefully using the file to shape the profile of the blade. Be careful, if you have access to a vice, put the blade in it while you work. If not, finding a pair of work gloves can help keep the skin on your fingers.
By using the width of the metal to dictate the size of the blade, you only need to shape one corner.
Once the rough profile of the blade has been shaped, re-orient how you hold the knife to work on the blade’s edge. This will take a long time, and if you’re so inclined, you could spend a whole day or more making one very pretty, even edge. If you’re in a hurry, however, file it down until you have a reasonably fine point and a good sharp edge and leave looking pretty for the guys that aren’t making their own knives out of garbage.
If you don’t have a metal file, you’re not out of luck. Sidewalks and black top are very abrasive surfaces, and you can whittle away at the metal edge of your blade using either with enough patience and care. This is a great way to shave your knuckles, and you will ruin your driveway, but I’ve managed to fashion a workable blade or two using this method.
Making a handle
Depending on the tools you have on hand, there are probably rough metal splinters hanging off the edges of your knife and once your hand gets sweaty (or bloody) keeping a grip will be impossible. Fortunately, there are lots of materials that make for decent handles.
You can put some real time in to weave a leather strap, or just tightly wrap 550 cord around the handle.
Lots of military guys are familiar with making things out of paracord, and knife handles are no exception. Leather belts, rope, and duct tape are all excellent knife handle materials. Wrap the material around the handle of the knife as tightly as you can, overlapping it by however many layers as necessary to make the handle a comfortable girth.
Then get your ass out of dodge with your new prison-shank in hand.
The horrifying events of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster have once again caught the world’s attention thanks to the recent HBO miniseries and subsequent Russian propaganda campaign, but films aren’t the only thing creeping out of what locals call the “exclusion zone” these days.
Now, thanks to one unusual group of scientists and researchers with priorities a guy like me can respect, there’s also Atomik Vodka: an artisanal booze concocted using ingredients harvested from inside the radioactive fallout-ridden territory surrounding Chernobyl.
Hopefully that burning in your throat isn’t cancer.
(Chernobyl Spirit Company)
After studying the amount of radiation that transfers from soil to crops within the Chernobyl exclusion zone, the team from the Chernobyl Spirit Company set about planting their own rye crops in the vast abandoned fields near the city of Pripyat, Ukraine (close to where the Chernobyl plant was located). They then watered their crops with irradiated water sourced from an aquifer that is also within the radiation exclusion zone.
Once the crops were ready for harvest, the team used the rye to make their new vodka, and even doubled down on its radioactive reputation by using pure water sourced from “below the town of Chernobyl about 10 km south of the nuclear power station” to dilute the vodka down to 40% alcohol, according to their website.
Once finished, the vodka is reportedly no more radioactive than the plastic bottle of Military Special we all acted like we weren’t taking swigs out of in the barracks when the First Sergeant came strolling around.
The boar depicted on the label was actually spotted living in the exclusion zone.
(Chernobyl Spirit Company)
“The laboratories of The Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute and the University of Southampton GAU-Radioanalytical could find no trace of Chernobyl radioactivity in ATOMIK grain spirit,” their website claims.
Just to be safe, they also went ahead and sent their new booze to the Southhampton University in the U.K. for further testing. They also confirmed that radiation levels were well below safety limits (as even the Chernobyl Spirit Company acknowledges that tiny levels of radioactivity can be found in many common products).
The novelty of this vodka also comes with some good intentions. Part of the idea behind Atomik Vodka is finding new ways to invigorate the economy in the communities that surround Chernobyl. Of the many concerns facing these communities, radiation isn’t really among them.
The Chernobyl Spirit Company includes this image of a “self settler” in her home in the Chernobyl area on their website explaining their process.
(Chernobyl Spirit Company)
“There are radiation hotspots [in the exclusion zone] but for the most part contamination is lower than you’d find in other parts of the world with relatively high natural background radiation,” Explains James Smith, a University of Portsmouth environmental scientist and founding member of the Chernobyl Spirit Company.
“The problem for most people who live there is they don’t have the proper diet, good health services, jobs or investment.”
Smith and his colleagues don’t imagine that the novelty of their vodka will make them rich. In fact, with plans to produce just 500 bottles per year, Smith says that he’s hoping the company pays well enough to make the business into a healthy “part-time job,” with an emphasis remaining on finding ways to bolster the standard of living for those residing in the region surrounding Chernobyl.
“Because now,” Prof Smith adds, “after 30 years, I think the most important thing in the area is actually economic development, not the radioactivity.”
There are plenty of remarkably cool tanks out there, but this one is something else. The Polish-made PL-01 concept tank made by Obrum looks like a cousin of the F-117 Nighthawk. Not only does it look like the stealth fighter on tank tread, it also adopts its signature technology that can evade radar.
Both are black, covered in radio absorbent material, and sport the same two-dimensional shape. But here is where the tank is different in terms of stealth (via Army Recognition):
The PL-01 is also fitted with external infrared sensors to create an infrared suitable camouflage on the field. The tank can also create effects to its temperature controlled wafers to look like a car or another common object, an effective countermeasure against radar, infrared and visual signature detection equipment.
Beside it’s stealth capabilities, the PL-01 can be armed with a 105mm or 120mm cannon that can fire six rounds per minute (video demonstration at 0:41). It also has a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and a remote control station that can be outfitted with another 7.62mm machine gun or 40mm grenade launcher.
At 21 feet long by 10 feet wide, it’s considered lightweight. But what it lacks in size it makes up in agility and range. It can go as fast as 45 miles per-hour and travel 310 miles on a single tank with a three or four-man crew.
The tank looks like something you would see in a sci-fi movie. However, the PL-01 is expected to start production in 2018 and start exporting by 2022. Check it out:
A female munitions worker explains to HM Queen Elizabeth how fuse caps are made, during a royal visit to the Royal Ordnance factory. (Wikimedia Commons)
Queen Elizabeth II is Britain’s longest reigning monarch. However, she was breaking barriers even before the crown became hers. Elizabeth was also the first female of the Royal family to be an active duty member of the British Armed Forces. This also makes her the last surviving head of state to have served during World War II.
When Elizabeth was born in 1926, she was not destined for the throne. Her father, Albert, was the second son of King George V. It wasn’t until 1936, when Elizabeth was 10, that her world was turned upside down. It was in this year that her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne in the name of love and her father became King George VI. This made 10-year-old Elizabeth the heir presumptive.
It wasn’t until World War II that King George VI found his footing as the leader of Great Britain. During this time, despite the repeated aerial attacks by the Nazi air force, the King refused to leave London. The British government urged the queen to take her daughters to Canada, however. She refused stating, “The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave without the King. And the King will never leave.” Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margaret did end up leaving the city, though, just like thousands of other children who were evacuated at the time. The girls spent much of the war at Windsor Castle in Berkshire.
HRH Princess Elizabeth (centre) with officers of the ATS Training Centre. (Wikimedia Commons)
As the war continued, Elizabeth, like many other young Britons, yearned to do her part for the cause. Her very protective parents refused to allow her to enlist. Elizabeth was head-strong though, and after a year of debate her parents relented. In early 1945, they gave the then 19-year-old Elizabeth their permission to join the Armed Forces.
In February 1945, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). ATS provided key support during the war. Its members were anti-aircraft gunners, radio operators, mechanics and drivers. Elizabeth attended six weeks of auto mechanic training at Aldershot. During this training she learned how to deconstruct, repair and rebuild engines. By July of that year she had risen in the ranks from Second Subaltern to Junior Commander. For the first time, Elizabeth worked alongside her fellow Brits, and revelled in the freedom of it.
She took her ATS duties very seriously. However, the future queen repairing automobiles proved to be irresistible to the press. Her enlistment made headlines around the world as they applauded her commitment to the war effort. The Associated Press deemed her “Princess Auto Mechanic.” In 1947 Collier’s Magazine wrote, “One of her major joys was to get dirt under her nails and grease stains in her hands, and display these signs of labor to her friends.”
Elizabeth was still serving in the ATS when Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945. She and Margaret famously snuck out of Buckingham Palace to join the celebrations in London. Her military service officially ended when Japan surrendered later that same year.
Later, Elizabeth once again overcame objections from her family when she married Philip Mountbatten, a Greek-born officer in the Royal Navy, in November 1947.
Her father, King George VI, led his country through its darkest hour, but the war coupled with a life-long smoking habit left him in poor health. On February 6, 1952, King George VI died in his sleep after a long-suffering battle with lung cancer. This meant that at 25 years old, Elizabeth became Queen.
Even now in her 90s, Elizabeth maintains a love of automobiles. She can still be found behind the wheel of one of the many cars in the Royal collection. She’s also been known to jump at the chance to diagnose and repair faulty engines, just as she trained to do more than 70 years ago. She also holds on to her pride in the journey that brought her from military mechanic during World War II to the Crown.
The most important difference between 1944 and today would be in the realm of guided munitions. I once heard that a single F-15 packs as much firepower as an entire squadron of WWII era bombers, when you take into account explosive weight and the percentage of ordnance you can get on target (Keep in mind, the F-15 is a Fighter/Bomber, not a dedicated bomber. If we start talking about the B-52, things get even crazier). Additionally, Naval Gun Fire support has come a long way since the 1940’s. US destroyers and cruisers now only come equipped with one or two 5″ main guns. In the 1940’s, 5″ guns were almost considered an afterthought. With improved fuses and nearly automatic rates of fire that can be achieved with today’s weapons, you wouldn’t need the hours and hours of shelling they used during WW2 landings.
As far as the landings go, with today’s amphibious landing tactics and equipment, you wouldn’t NEED to land at Omaha beach at all.
This is an LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushioned). It is just one of the many ways the US Navy and US Marine Corps get troops from ship to shore. The main difference between an LCAC and the landing craft of yore is the fact that the LCAC can access almost any beach in the world, and can travel across dry land. Furthermore, it can achieve incredible rates of speed compared to the Amtracks of WW2 (I think around 70 knots when not weighed down much). Today the US would be able to basically avoid any defensive strongpoints and just stick their landing forces where ever they figured was the least defended.
Helicopters, in widespread use since the Vietnam War, allow entire infantry companies and battalions to be shuffled about at incredible speed compared to the 1940s.
The M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank would probably be as close to invulnerable as anything ever employed in warfare. The only reasonable option for destroying one with 1944 equipment would be swarming it with infantry and trying to get a grenade inside. This technique was costly during WW2. Against an Abrams, with a wingman that can just shower his buddy with HE rounds that do nothing substantial to the armor…
As far as the individual soldier is concerned, the primary difference is the body armor. Ceramic plates and flak jackets have greatly increased the survivability of the infantryman. Back in WW2, your armor was a millimeter of cloth. Today it contains plates that would actually be capable of stopping pretty much any small arms round the Wehrmacht utilized (7.62 AP is the limit, I believe). A quick look at the WW2 Killed/Wounded ratio [1:1.65] versus the Operation Iraqi Freedom Killed/Wounded ratio [1:7.3] shows that even if nothing but the current body armor was added to the equation, it is likely that the US would have reduced the number of soldiers killed on D-Day from 2,500 to probably around 700. On the flip side, the infantry of WW2 would be much faster and more agile, as they weren’t towing around 50+ lbs of gear. So you have a classic heavy infantry vs light infantry situation here.
The Mk19 Automatic Grenade launcher. Designed for use against troops in the open, troops in trench-lines, light armored vehicles, urban strongpoints, and light fortifications, this 76.2 lb beast is technically man-portable (by someone’s standard) and is widely employed on mounted assets. Capable of firing 325-375 40mm grenades per minute, there is arguably no more intimidating weapon in the US arsenal that is commonly used in firefights. I have personally been within 25 meters or so of the beaten zone of someone unleashing a long burst of grenades, and it was, shall we say, disconcerting. This is probably the one weapon capable of allowing an individual to singlehandedly end a firefight.
Today many infantry companies will have communication assets down to the fire team level. This allows for much faster response times to dealing with threats or re-organizing after a firefight or simply getting troops to move around where you want them (radios at the platoon level were very rare during World War 2, and what was in play was of limited range and had no encryption capabilities. When I was in a motorized heavy weapons platoon, we had a dozen PRC-119’s, satcom radios, Blue Force Trackers, etc; we probably had comm capabilities that entire divisions during WW2 would have drooled over. And we had 40 dudes).
While the small arms themselves haven’t really come a long way, the accoutrements certainly have. Every infantryman today is probably equipped with, at minimum, a 4x scope, NVG’s, and a laser for use with night vision. One out of every 4 infantrymen will have a grenade launcher. Another one will have a light machine gun. This allows for the ability to achieve combined arms effects using just a single fire team. And the night-fighting capability, with nothing else, would be a game changer.
The one thing we would be at a disadvantage in would be combat experience. The Germans had been fighting for FIVE years by the time the US actually got into France. Of course, this was an issue during the actual D-Day landings, and didn’t hamper things too much, probably because the allies were facing off against the JV squad, so to speak. At the same time, our military back then was well trained for large scale battles, as opposed to how the US military is organized today. Whether or not the current infantryman would fare well is anyone’s guess.
Free Fun Fact:
One thing that hasn’t changed is the M2 .50 Caliber Heavy Machine Gun. Supposedly something like 95% of the M2s in use currently were originally built during World War 2. The ammunition, however, has received quite the upgrade (SLAP, API, Raufuss, all fun stuff)
Another Fun Fact:
The United States uses a military doctrine termed “Rapid Domination” (Shock and Awe for the soundbite term). The Gulf War and the initial invasion of Iraq during OIF are two examples of this doctrine in use. The basic concept involves gaining air superiority, using tactical and strategic bombers to disrupt and destroy enemy command and control, employing a wide range of offensive maneuvers (amphibious landings, paratrooper drops, armored thrusts, infantry assaults on defensive positions) simultaneously in order to paralyze any decision making ability of the opponent. This military doctrine is heavily based on the so-called Blitzkrieg doctrine of Nazi Germany.
It’s now summertime, which means hotter temperatures for physical training, longer days for working parties, and more intense nights for barracks parties. All three of those are a lot easier if you take to your medic/corpsman’s advice and drink some water.
You don’t need to change your socks as often as they claim, but doing so at least once a day is appreciated by everyone around you. If you don’t, well, you’re one nasty SOB. But you’re not here for advice, you’re here for memes.
(Meme via Air Force Nation)
(Meme via Navy Memes)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)
(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)
(Meme via Ranger Up)
Everyone wants to do infantry stuff until it’s time to do infantry stuff.
(Spoiler alert: A lot of infantry stuff sucks if you don’t embrace it.)
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has long had a track record of hitting new lows when it comes to atrocities. Well, they also do stuff to their recruits that even Gunny Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket” wouldn’t do.
According to a report by the London Daily Mail, ISIS recruits at a training camp in Yemen once lined up to be kicked in the groin as part of their training to join the terrorist group. The image was part of a propaganda video put out by the radical Islamic terrorist group, which has been suffering substantial reverses in its original stomping grounds of Iraq and Syria.
As a result, ISIS is setting up its training camps in a safer venue. Yemen, which has been suffering through a civil war between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government since 2014, has fit the bill as that relatively safe area for the terrorist group, despite an air campaign carried out by a Saudi-led coalition.
The terrorist group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, has operated in Yemen as well.
The photograph of the junk-kicks was part of a montage that also showed recruits going through assault courses, doing pull-ups, and taking target practice.
As for why the junk-kicks were included, the Daily Mail claimed that ISIS may have been trying to show how tough their recruits were. But because it was merely a photograph, there was no way to tell if the exercise put any of the prospective terrorists out of commission.
When the U.S. military is looking for a custom bike, they look to DARPA. This time, they needed a stealthy dirt bike that could handle rough terrain… and maybe a few other tasks SEALs and Green Berets might need during an operation.
Two potential models were the frontrunners for DARPA’s project. The Silent Hawk, designed by Logos Technology, and the Nightmare, built by LSA Autonomy. They are both hybrids, capable of running on lithium-ion batteries or a variety of fuels, including JP-8, propane,
or even olive oil.
An artist’s rendering of the Silent Hawk.
Both are about as loud as a garbage disposal while running on fuel and about as loud as an indoor conversation when running on batteries.
The differences are where it gets interesting. The Nightmare weighs 400 pounds while Silent Hawk weighs 350. Those extra 50 pounds go toward generating additional horsepower for the Nightmare’s all-wheel drive. Silent Hawk was built with a battery pack that has a higher density and active cooling system to keep lithium-ion batteries from exploding.
The two bikes can also provide power to external devices, including medical equipment, blue force trackers, and communications gear.
Bikes — especially dirt bikes — aren’t new to the military. Veterans and active duty bike enthusiasts have been building their own custom bikes for years. It’s a huge community. One retired Marine Corps First Sergeant even founded a vocational therapy non-profit centered on building custom dirt bikes. It’s called
Seventy-five years ago, tens of thousands of men were churning their way through the hedgerows of Normandy, fighting tooth and nail to liberate French towns and to ensure the security of the tenuous toehold that the Allies had opened against Germany in Operation Overlord on D-Day. This toehold would grow until it was a massive front that made it all the way to Berlin in less than a year.
Now, 75 years later, the U.S. and Allied militaries are celebrating their forebears’ success with a series of events in the U.K. and France. As part of these celebrations, the U.S. Air Force flew two F-15E Strike Eagles with special, heritage paint jobs over the fields and hedgerows of modern day Normandy on June 9, 2019. Here are 13 photos from an Air Force photographer sent to document the event:
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The special Strike Eagles are part of the 48th Fighter Wing and took off from Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath, England, for the flyover. During the D-Day invasion, U.S. Army Air Corps fighters and bombers took off from English air bases to support the landings on the beaches, pushing back the Luftwaffe screens and reducing the number of bombers and dive bombers that troops on the ground would have to endure.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The Army Air Corps’ bombs softened targets and reduced enemy artillery positions and other defenses, but the fight in the hedgerows was still bloody and vicious. And the German coastal artillery had to be eliminated to keep as many pilots in the sky as possible.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
But the pilots who preceded the modern Air Force began the important preparations for D-Day months ahead of time, sending increased bomber formations against Germany, including Berlin, for five months ahead of D-Day. These bomber formations doomed the Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force, in two ways.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
First, there’s the obvious. The bombers destroyed German factories and war machines, annihilating German equipment and crippling the country’s ability to rebuild it. But Germany responded by sending up their fighters to stop the bombers, and that’s where new American fighters came into the fray.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The P-47s with drop tanks led the charge in 1943, but other fighters joined the fray at the end of ’43 and start of ’44. The P-51B, along with other fighters including the British Spitfires and Typhoons, slayed the German fighters that rose to counter the bombers. By June 1944, the Luftwaffe was a shadow of its former self.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
Army Air Corps pilots gave their lives to prepare for June 6, 1944, and other pilots would make the ultimate sacrifice on D-Day and in the weeks and months that followed. But that perseverance and sacrifice paid dividends, allowing for the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945.
As Captain America and Iron Man prepare for their civil war, they probably don’t realize they have competition coming from the U.S. military. The Department of Defense wants troops with super strength, telepathy, and immunity from pain. Here are 8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to create super soldiers:
1. Bulletproof clothes made of carbon chainmail
Researchers tested the potential ballistic protection of graphene by firing tiny bullets of gold at it. They found that the material was stronger, more flexible, and lighter than both the ballistic plates and the kevlar vests troops wear. And, a million layers of the stuff would be only 1 millimeter thick.
MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies is working on an effective manufacturing method for graphene-based chainmail, potentially giving troops better protection from a T-shirt than they currently get from bulky vests.
2. Synthetic blood
Synthetic blood would be much more efficient than natural cells. The most promising technology being investigated is a respirocyte, a theoretical red blood cell made from diamonds that could contain gasses at pressures of nearly 15,000 psi and exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen the same way real blood cells do.
Super soldiers with respirocytes mixed with their natural blood would essentially have trillions of miniature air tanks inside their body, meaning they would never run out of breath and could spend hours underwater without other equipment.
DARPA’s Persistence in Combat initiative aims to help soldiers bounce back almost immediately from wounds. Pain immunizations would work for 30 days and eliminate the inflammation that causes lasting agony after an injury. So, soldiers could feel the initial burst of anguish from a bullet strike, but the pain would fade in seconds. The soldiers could treat themselves and keep fighting until medically evacuated.
Part of DARPA’s “Brain Machine Interface” project is the development of better computer chips that can directly connect to a human brain via implants. In addition to allowing soldiers to control robotics with thought alone, this would allow squads to communicate via telepathy.
While the Harvard researchers working on it prefer the term “soft exoskeleton,” the DARPA-funded robotic suit is essentially a series of fabric muscles worn under the clothes that assist the wearer in each step or movement. This reduces fatigue and increases strength without requiring the huge amounts of power that bulkier, rigid exoskeletons need.
8. Gecko-like climbing gloves and shoes
Geckos use tiny hairs on their feet to grab onto surfaces on the molecular level. While the “Z-Man” project wouldn’t necessarily give humans the ability to crawl along a ceiling like a gecko, special climbing gloves and shoes would allow soldiers to easily climb sheer rock faces or up skyscrapers without any other equipment, drastically easing an assault on the high ground and effectively turning them into super soldiers.
The Navy has had a change of heart about the new expeditionary floating base sailing to the Fifth Fleet. The vessel USNS Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller (T ESB 3) will become USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), becoming a commissioned warship.
No matter the designation, in essence, the Kevin Costner box-office bomb “Waterworld” — where people were living on supertankers because ocean levels rose and covered almost all the land — partially become reality.
The Puller is a 78,000-ton vessel capable of operating up to four Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters. It has a crew of 145 and will be commanded by a Navy captain. It can also accommodate up to 298 additional personnel. Unlike the Exxon Valdez from “Waterworld,” the Puller is propelled by diesel-electric engines that give her a top speed of 15 knots.
It’s part of an ongoing program within the Navy and Marine Corps to create offshore bases for troops to execute raids and amphibious operations where countries are reluctant to base U.S. troops. Think of them as floating versions of the Chinese artificial islands cropping up in the South China Sea.
According to a report by USNI News, the decision to make the Puller a commissioned warship is due to requirements of the law of armed conflict. The current afloat base in the region, the Austin-class amphibious ship USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15, ex-LPD 15), is a commissioned warship that has supported mine countermeasures and special operations forces.
“Without going into specific details on missions USS Ponce carried out, warship status for ESB will greatly enhance the combatant commander’s flexibility in using the ship to respond to emergent situations,” Navy Lt. Seth Clarke told USNI News. “Without this status, there would be significant limitations on ESB’s ability to support airborne mine countermeasure and special operations missions.”
The Lewis B. Puller will operate alongside the Ponce for a while, until Ponce returns to Norfolk for a 2018 decommissioning. While some assets will be transferred during that time, one item that won’t be is the prototype Laser Weapon System on board the Ponce.
Natick – the home of the researchers who created the things you love most, like woobies, OCPs, and the chili mac MRE – came up with another creation designed to make your life in the desert a little easier. It just so happens it would make your life on the beach a lot better too: the combat cooler.
The reason for the creation of the combat cooler was not just a way for troops to have rockin’ sand and sun parties in the middle of the desert. There was actually a mission-necessary function for it. The Joint Program Office for Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles needed a way to protect soldiers when hit by IEDs or other explosives during an ambush. It seems the bottles they carried (along with the containers for other beverages) can become dangerous projectiles in such an explosion.
So the Pentagon asked the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center if they could develop a way to mitigate that threat while making the water easy to reach and cold enough that soldiers would want to drink it. The result was the Insulated Container for Bottled Water, or ICB.
Natick’s idea also had to include a way to keep MREs from becoming the same deadly projectiles. So along with insulation to keep the inside cold, they used a zipper system to keep the bottles in at one level. But knowing that zippers will fail, they also used a webbing system to encase the bag, which also reinforces the opening, which is done through a zipper. Now your combat cooler can carry/withstand 6,000 pounds.
And even when your zipper fails, there is still a way to close the cooler.
The largest tacticooler (my title, not theirs) can carry up to 36 bottles of water or 28 MREs, that will withstand drops, fire, vibrations, and even the harshest climates. So even operating in a 120-degree combat environment, soldiers could still count on a nice cool drink when they get back to the MRAP.
Today, with its prevalence in pop culture and its sequel waiting in the wings, it’s difficult to imagine that Top Gun was anything but a surefire hit. But, in the time leading up its 1986 release, Top Gun‘s production had its share of problems and setbacks. In fact, plenty of people doubted that the idea of fighter jets would even work as a movie.
1. People didn’t want to be part of Top Gun
After producer Jerry Bruckheimer saw a picture of an F-14 in a magazine, he came up with the idea of a fighter jet movie that would be like “Star Wars on earth.” After their successes with Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop, Bruckheimer and his production partner, Don Simpson, went around pitching the idea to Hollywood studios. Though they were rejected by studio after studio, Paramount Pictures eventually picked up the movie and cautiously agreed to fund it.
The next challenge was getting actors onboard. At that time, a young Tom Cruise was known only for his role in Risky Business. Bruckheimer and Simpson were adamant that he be cast as their lead actor and sent him script after script to get him to sign on.
Cruise rejected every offer made to him, so Bruckheimer pulled out all the stops.
He called up Navy Admiral Peter Garrow and asked him to send Cruise up in a fighter jet to convince him to join the film. The Admiral arranged for Cruise to ride along in a Blue Angels A-4 Skyhawk and be put through his paces. After a wild ride (during which he reportedly threw up on everything), Cruise stumbled from the jet to the nearest payphone and called Bruckheimer to take the part. The only non-negotiable part in his contract was that he had to fly in an F-14 Tomcat.
Pete and Charlotte sing with the Bradshaws, Nick, Carole, and their son. Weird hearing their real names, isn’t it? (Credit Paramount Pictures)
With no real script and unable to send every potential actor up in a fighter jet, it was difficult for the producers to cast the rest of the movie. The part of Charlie was originally pitched to Ally Sheedy of Brat Pack fame, but she turned it down reportedly saying, “No one would want to see Tom Cruise flying around in an airplane.” Fresh off of filming Witness, Kelly McGillis only signed on because she didn’t expect the film to be the blockbuster hit that it would become. Val Kilmer was actually forced into the role of Iceman due to a contractual obligation with the studio. The rest of the cast like Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan and Anthony Edwards were still years away from becoming household names for their roles in The Shawshank Redemption, When Harry Met Sally and ER, respectively.
2. Danger Zone was attempted by Toto and REO Speedwagon
Bruckheimer and Simpson implemented the same formula that worked for them with Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop and put together a top-notch soundtrack for Top Gun. Soundtrack producer Giorgio Moroder originally had Toto record the song, “Danger Zone,” but Bruckheimer disliked it and the recording was scrapped. The song was then offered to REO Speedwagon who wanted to be part of the film, but insisted that the song be their own. They recorded an original song and submitted it to the producers, but it was never used.
Kenny Loggins and his collaborators were hot off of their successes with Caddyshack and Footloose and decided to write the song “Playing with the Boys” for the volleyball scene. Assuming that other bands would be vying for the opening song, they figured that this scene would have less competition. While recording “Playing with the Boys,” Loggins was asked by Moroder to give “Danger Zone” a shot. “I walked in and I sang ‘Danger Zone’ and messed with it a little bit, you know, and had a good time with it,” Loggins recalled. The rest is history. “I wasn’t supposed to be the guy to sing it. I just lucked into it.”
Moroder had more luck pitching “Take My Breath Away” to Berlin lead-singer Terry Nunn. After hearing the song and watching the love-making scene that it would be set to, Nunn was on board. Less enthused was her bandmate, John Crawford, who didn’t want to perform a song written by someone else. Their band manager, Perry Watts-Russell, also had his doubts and said that he would shave his head if the song became a number one hit. Of course, Berlin recorded the song and it did reach number one. While Watts-Russell kept his word and shaved his head, Crawford was less pleased with the song’s performance as it meant that Berlin had to play it at every live performance following Top Gun‘s release.
3. There was a constant struggle between the producers, the director, Paramount and the Navy
Director Tony Scott was unpopular in Hollywood after his box office flop The Hunger, and clashed constantly with Paramount Pictures over the creative direction of the film. In fact, Scott was fired and rehired by studio execs three times over the course of Top Gun.
While filming aboard the USSEnterprise on a foggy Sunday morning, Scott lost the ideal lighting for his shot when the carrier altered its course. He implored that the captain return to his previous course so that they could film the scene. When the captain refused, Scott asked, “What does it cost for this aircraft carrier to run per minute?” The captain gave him a figure and Scott retrieved his checkbook from his bunk and wrote the captain a check for ,000. The captain returned the ship to its previous course and Scott was able to get his shot. He later bounced the check.
The opening scene gives me goosebumps every time (Credit Paramount Pictures)
Rear Admiral (ret.) Pete “Viper” Pettigrew, whose callsign was loaned to Tom Skerrit’s character, was hired as the film’s technical advisor for a sum of ,000 and served as a liaison with the Navy. Per his contract, he had a brief cameo in the film as Charlie’s boss, the “older guy” in the bar that she sits down with after Maverick’s rendition of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Pettigrew’s job was to keep the film grounded in reality, though his protests to the film’s eccentricities were always overridden by Bruckheimer and Simpson.
He argued against the locker room argument between Maverick and Iceman and the shower scene, saying that pilots just get changed after a hop and go to the bar. However, paying id=”listicle-2646420686″ million to have Cruise in the film, the producers insisted that Cruise show as much skin as possible to appeal to a female audience. As the script took shape, the Navy raised concerns regarding the increased focus on the relationships between the characters over the fighter jets and aerial combat. “Right now, I’m just trying to keep it from turning into a musical,” Pettigrew responded.
Though it played a major role in production, the Navy authorized only two missile shots to be filmed for the movie due to the cost of the weapon system. The shots were filmed from several angles to make the most of them. Additional missile shots were filmed using models of the planes and missiles. However, the company that produced and fired the model missiles did such a good job that the Navy launched an investigation to determine if additional missiles were fired beyond the two that were previously authorized.
One of the two authorized missile shots (Credit Paramount Pictures)
4. More trouble off-screen
Bruckheimer and Simpson worked well together because they complemented each other. While Simpson was bold and brash, Bruckheimer was calm and collected. However, Simpson’s alleged love of fast cars, women, hookers and drugs were reportedly negatively impacting his job as a producer. Having already been to rehab at least twice before, he checked himself in again midway through production. Little had changed by the time he checked out though. After renting a car, he sped down to the production office, crashed the car in the parking lot, barged into a meeting and declared, “We’re not shooting that f***ing scene!” He then proceeded to fire people and start rewrites to the script. Simpson’s self-destructive lifestyle came to a head when he overdosed in 1996.
Though Cruise and McGillis had to maintain a sexual tension and chemistry on set, McGillis had fallen for another actor during the filming of Top Gun. “We were walking across the street and she actually fell down, and I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen,” Barry Tubb remembered of McGillis. “She fell down on her face in the middle of the street and she had my heart.” Tubb played a supporting role in the film as Wolfman.
Tubb and McGillis’ relationship off-screen threatened to weaken Charlie and Maverick’s relationship on-screen. To create more tension and add more lead-up to their eventual chase and kiss on W. Laurel Street, McGillis and Cruise were brought back to film one more scene months after production had wrapped.
In the elevator scene that follows the dinner at Charlie’s Oceanside house, Maverick’s hair is wet and slicked back while Charlie’s is hidden under a hat. Both actors had different hairstyles by that time which needed to be masked in order to preserve the continuity of the film. The scene succeeded though in adding more tension and lead-up to the relationship.
5. A tragedy occurred
Top Gun‘s production also saw a real-life death. While capturing footage for Maverick and Goose’s flat spin, stunt actor Art Scholl lost control of his Pitts S-2 camera plane. Filming about five miles off the coast of Carlsbad, California, Scholl radioed to his ground spotter, “I have a problem – I have a serious problem.” He was unable to recover from the spin and crashed into the ocean. The aircraft and his body were never recovered. As a tribute, Top Gun was dedicated to Scholl.
Scholl and his dog, Aileron (Credit Smithsonian Institution)
6. Bruckheimer and Scott thought the movie was a flop
Having wrapped production, an advance screening of Top Gun was scheduled for January 29, 1986, in Houston, Texas. With the rather lukewarm release of Iron Eagle two weeks before, receiving mixed reviews and grossing just million more at the box office than its budget, Top Gun‘s future as the second fighter jet movie of the year seemed unsure.
The advance screening was also clouded by the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster just the day before. “We’re in that theater, and I tell you, it was like a funeral,” Bruckheimer recalled. “I watched the movie with this audience and nobody reacted. I mean, they didn’t laugh, they didn’t applaud, it was nothing.” As a result of this screening, Bruckheimer thought that the movie would be a disaster upon its full release.
Director Tony Scott felt similarly following the Houston screening. “It was the worst experience of my life,” Scott said. “I can’t remember even hearing the audience.” Thinking he had failed directing another movie, Scott left the screening and went to a bar to get drunk.
However, contradicting the lack-luster advance screening, Top Gun was well-received by the rest of the cast and crew when it was screened for them. During that screening, Kenny Loggins was thoroughly impressed with what they had created. “I just held my wife’s hand and went ‘Holy s**t’,” he recalled.
Of course, Bruckheimer and Scott’s fears were misplaced and the film’s release in the summer of 1986 was perfect; Ronald Reagan was in the White House, the military was cool again and the country was going through a patriotic renaissance. Since its blockbuster release, Top Gun has gone on to become one of the most successful and iconic films of all time.