The Senate Committee on Armed Services seapower subcommittee will hold hearings this spring to reexamine the future of the frigate program.
“The frigate acquisition strategy should be revised to increase requirements to include convoy air defense, greater missile capability and longer endurance,” McCain said at an event outlining the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments’ recent U.S. Navy fleet architecture study, U.S. Naval Institute News reported.
The littoral combat ship program (LCS) is the skeleton for the Navy’s frigate strategy. Currently, the Navy pans to release a request for proposals on the new frigates in March or April.
McCain criticized the LCS program in December for costing $12 billion, but producing 26 ships, which have “demonstrated next-to-no combat capability.”
“When you look at some of the renewed capabilities, naval capabilities, that both the Russians and the Chinese have, it requires more capable weapon systems,” McCain said.
Each LCS costs around $478 million initially. But as repairs cost increase, the total amount for the 26 ships already delivered to the fleet amounts to $12.4 billion, and the Navy wants to buy a total of 40.
Should the Navy continue to purchase the LCS to bring the total number to 40, the cost will be closer $29 billion for ships that have failed to live up to capabilities promised, and continually breakdown.
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The U.S. Army has dropped Smith Wesson from its Modular Handgun System competition, according to a Sept. 23 report Smith Wesson Holding Corporation made to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Smith Wesson, which was partnered with General Dynamics, was one of five gun makers competing to replace the Army’s M9 9mm pistol.
“We and our partner in the pursuit of the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, or MHS, solicitation to replace the M9 standard Army sidearm have been notified by the Department of the Army that our proposal was not selected to advance to the next phase of the competition,” according to the SEC report.
TheFirearmBlog.com was the first to report the news about Smith Wesson.
As far as we know, the Army is still evaluating striker-fired pistols from Glock, Sig Sauer, Beretta and FN Herstal, according to a source familiar with the competition.
It will be interesting to find out why Smith Wesson didn’t make it to the next round of MHS.
“We are assessing our options in response to the notification and remain focused on achieving our long-term strategy of organically and inorganically expanding our product offerings in the consumer market for shooting, hunting, and rugged outdoor enthusiasts,” Smith Wesson officials said in the SEC report.
When American intelligence detected the massive buildup of North Vietnamese troops that preceded the 77-day siege of Khe Sanh in 1968, Gen. William Westmoreland gave the base priority access to all American airpower in theater, leading to Operation Niagara and a “waterfall of bombs.”
Khe Sanh was the westernmost base in a strong of installations along the crucial Route 9 in late 1967. It was in the perfect position to block North Vietnamese Army forces and other fighters moving in from Laos or other NVA areas.
But Westmoreland believed that Khe Sanh was crucial to victory and worth heavy investment despite its relatively small size as home to one Marine regiment and 5,000 support troops. To ensure the Marines could hold out against anything, he ordered improvements to infrastructure on the base and the installation of thousands of remote sensors in the surrounding jungle.
By the first week of January 1968, sensors and reconnaissance data made it clear that the NVA was conducting a massive buildup in the area of the base. All indications were that the North Vietnamese wanted to recreate their success at Diem Bien Phu in 1954 when a prolonged siege led to the withdrawal of French forces.
Artillery rounds were stockpiled at the base and intelligence was collected. The intel cells were able to get a good idea of where Communist forces were concentrating forces, artillery, and command elements. They were also able to track tunneling efforts by the North Vietnamese trying to get close to the base.
And the North Vietnamese were able to get close — in some cases within a few thousand meters.
On Jan. 21, 1968, the North Vietnamese launched a simultaneous attack against Khe Sanh itself and some of the surrounding hills. Their massed forces would eventually number 20,000, more than three times the number of the 6,000 defenders.
The U.S., with a mass of intelligence and stockpiled weapons, went on the offensive against the North Vietnamese. Artillery shells shot out of the base against pre-identified targets, and a waterfall of bombs started pouring from B-52s.
Initially, the bombs were dropped relatively far from the base. The B-52s tried to stay three miles out, but the communists figured out the restrictions and moved their fighters in close, forcing the B-52s to operate closer to the base and making the ground pounders rely more heavily on strike aircraft and the AC-47 gunship.
Of course, not everything went smoothly for the Marines and their support. An enemy artillery strike by the North Vietnamese managed to hit the ammo dump, destroying 90 percent of the stockpiled rounds in a single hit.
U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, today, in support of theater requirements and Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate Da’esh and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria and the wider international community.
“The B-52 will provide the Coalition continued precision and deliver desired airpower effects,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command and Combined Forces Air Component. “As a multi-role platform, the B-52 offers diverse capabilities including delivery of precision weapons and the flexibility and endurance needed to support the combatant commander’s priorities and strengthen the Coalition team.”
The 19-nation air coalition consists of numerous strike aircraft and the B-52s will bring their unique capability to the fight against Da’esh.
The B-52 is a long-range heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions including strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction, and maritime operations.
Crews will be available to carry out missions in both Iraq and Syria as needed to support Air Tasking Order requirements.
“The B-52 demonstrates our continued resolve to apply persistent pressure on Da’esh and defend the region in any future contingency,”said Brown.
This deployment is the first basing of the B-52s in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in 26 years. The B-52s were based in Saudi Arabia supporting Operation Desert Storm. The B-52s were last flown operationally during Operation Enduring Freedom in May 2006, and during Exercise Eager Lion – a USCENTCOM- led multilateral exercise in Jordan in May 2015.
The coalition conducted more than 33,000 airpower missions in support of OIR. Since the beginning of the operation, the Coalition struck about 459 VBIEDs, 776 mortar systems, 1,933 logistics buildings housing these weapons, 662 weapons caches, and 1,341 staging areas.
Over the last five years, some 4,200 living veterans were declared dead and had their benefits cut off by the Department of Veterans Affairs. After digging through records, Danny Pummill, the acting undersecretary for benefits at the VA, said the mistake was a function of the way record sharing is done between the Social Security Administration and the VA. When the SSA declared someone dead, the VA would immediately kill their benefits.
Florida Congressman David Jolly had a bone to pick with the VA. Responding to his constituents’ complaints about premature death notices, he headed a Congressional inquiry in 2015. When veterans tried to correct the errors in their mortal status, they found themselves in purgatory between the two agencies. In a written statement, Rep. Jolly remarked on the grave consequences of these kinds of mistakes.
“We simply cannot have men and women who have sacrificed for this country see their rightful benefits wrongfully terminated because the VA mistakenly declares them dead,” Jolly wrote. “It has caused needless hardships for thousands of people who had their benefits terminated and their world turned upside down.”
The VA admitted its mistake to the congressman and then revived the affected veterans’ benefits as of May 2016. The VA also overhauled its death notice procedures. Now, a veteran will be notified of his or her death by mail to the last known address. The veteran will have 30 days to prove he or she is not dead. If the VA doesn’t hear from the veteran or their surviving family members, the benefits will be terminated.
It is believed that Napoleon who coined the phrase “An army marches on its stomach.”
The adage was as true then as it was in ancient times, and for the Mongols who traveled thousands of miles to conquer and plunder, eating was a daunting task.
Because of their lineage as nomads and herders, the Mongols perfected how to travel light and still be able to fill their bellies. Sure they lived off their conquered lands, but between engagements they had their own version of berserker Rip-Its.
For Mongols on the move, the food they carried was usually dried. The hordes would carry dehydrated foods like dried meat, dried curd, and 10 pounds of milk dried down to a paste.
Take the dried milk for instance. To make it, the Mongols would evaporate the milk in the sun in which it turned into a chalk-like substance that made it easy to transport. Once mixed with water, the dried milk paste turned into a low-carb fatty and quite possibly the world’s first protein shake that would suppress his appetite.
Another use of the milk was turning it into an alcoholic drink known as ”
kumiss” or “airagh.” This was their preferred drink and was made from mare’s milk. Rubruck mentions that the Mongols made kumiss by using “a great quantity of milk, which is as sweet as cow’s as long as it is fresh, they pour it into a big skin or bottle, and they set to churning it with a stick prepared for that purpose, and which is as big as a man’s head at its lower extremity and hollowed out; and when they have beaten it sharply it begins to boil up like new wine and to sour or ferment.”
But when winter arrived, food became scarce for the horses, so they drank up all the milk themselves. With the lack of dairy, the Mongols sought other foods — ones that at time appeared stomach churning. The diet of a Mongol warrior involved just about everything that walked or crawled.
According to Marco Polo:
They live off meat, milk and game and on Pharaoh’s rats (marmots or jerboa), which are plentiful everywhere in the steppes. They have no objection to eating the flesh of horses and dogs and drinking mare’s milk. In fact they eat flesh of any sort.
They eat dogs, wolves, foxes and horses, and, when in difficulty, they eat human flesh. Thus, when they attacked a particular Chinese city, and their emperor himself conducted the siege, they found after they had besieged it a long while that the Tartars had used up all their supplies and did not have enough for all the men to eat, so they took one of every ten men to eat. They even eat the afterbirth which comes out of a mare with the foal. Furthermore, we saw them eat lice. They would say, ‘Why should I not eat them when they eat my children and drink their blood?’ We actually saw them eat mice.
If rations really got low,
Marco Polo states that on “occasion they will sustain themselves on the blood of their horses, opening a vein and letting the blood jet into their mouths, drinking till they have had enough, and then staunching it.” However, a Mongol warrior knew not to do this or to drink from the horse too long. Horse blood was the last resort.
Mongols lived on what we call today a
paleo diet, but calling it “ketogenic” diet sounds more accurate, as it consists of high-fat, adequate-protein, and low-carbs. Such a diet based on protein leaves one full. Moreover, the Chinese who ruled the Jin Empire in northeastern China noted to their surprise that no puff of smoke came from the Mongol encampment and noticed that the warriors were able to survive off little food and water for long periods.
What the Chinese soon learned is that their soldiers could not go as long as the Mongols due to their dependence on carbs. Without a steady amount of carbs to stay energized, the Mongols could go for a few days before hunger set in since their bodies used the fats and proteins as energy. Overall, the Mongols were not fussy eaters as the accounts show.
The stuff that goes boom on an enemy target is very important. But that is just the payoff at the end of a long and what used to be a dangerous process. You see, the first thing you had to do was find the thing you want to want to make go away. That can be hard in and of itself, but let’s assume that the scouts do their job and find the target.
That is only half the work… you see, once the scouts have FOUND the target, you gotta tell the folks dropping the bombs that location. In the old days, the scouts would try to get back – and sometimes, they didn’t make it. And we all know that dead men tell no tales. Furthermore, there was always a time-lapse aspect. Technology has helped in this regard – first with radios, but in recent years, something newer has emerged.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk can help find targets, but Radiant Mercury allows the information to be passed to shooters very quickly.
According to material obtained from Lockheed at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo at National Harbor, Maryland, that something newer is called Radiant Mercury, and it takes passing information to a new level. The methods range from old-school data using old-school ASCII text files to the latest technology, including Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. This is a huge game-changer.
How so? Because with all the options, the scouting elements, be they special operators or a drone, can send the information securely to the shooters – and do so very quickly. This is known as shortening the kill chain. The only way to make it better is if the scout actually carried the weapons.
A shooter like the F-15E Strike Eagle can act on information passed on to it via Radiant Mercury.
Radiant Mercury is one of those programs that will not make big headlines or draw much attention. Yet being able to pass on information between scouts and shooters is one of the most important things in warfare. With Radiant Mercury, the United States gets an edge in doing that.
Vandenberg Air Force Base said the operational test occurred at 2:10 a.m. PDT.
“The seamless partnership of Team V and our Air Force Global Strike Command mission partners has resulted in another safe Minuteman III operational test launch,” U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Hough, the commander of the 30th Space Wing who made the decision to launch, said in a statement. “This combined team of the 90th Missile Wing, 576th Flight Test Squadron and 30th Space Wing is simply outstanding. Their efforts over the past few months show why they are among the most skilled operators in the Air Force.”
The Air Force released a video of the test launch.
The US launch comes after North Korea launched an improved ballistic missile with intercontinental range late last week — Pyongyang’s second missile launch in less than a month.
Last month, North Korea threatened a nuclear strike against the United States.
“Should the U.S. dare to show even the slightest sign of attempt to remove our supreme leadership, we will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the U.S. with our powerful nuclear hammer, honed and hardened over time,” North Korea’s foreign ministry said. “The likes of [CIA Director Mike] Pompeo will bitterly experience the catastrophic and miserable consequences caused by having dared to shake their little fists at the supreme leadership.”
Known for an ability to keep flying after taking multiple rounds of enemy machine gun fire, land and operate in rugged terrain, destroy groups of enemy fighters with a 30mm cannon and unleash a wide arsenal of attack weapons, the A-10 is described by pilots as a “flying tank” in the sky — able to hover over ground war and provide life-saving close air support in high-threat combat environments.
“It is built to withstand more damage than any other frame that I know of. It’s known for its ruggedness,” A-10 pilot Lt. Col. Ryan Haden, 23rd Fighter Group Deputy, Moody AFB, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The pilot of the A-10 is surrounded by multiple plates of titanium armor, designed to enable the aircraft to withstand small-arms fire and keep flying its attack missions.
“The A-10 is not agile, nimble, fast or quick,” Haden said. “It’s deliberate, measured, hefty, impactful calculated and sound. There’s nothing flimsy or fragile about the way it is constructed or about the way that it flies.”
A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the Warthog, has been in service since the late 1970s and served as a close air support combat aircraft in conflicts such as the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, among others.
Having flown combat missions in the A-10, Haden explained how the aircraft is specially designed to survive enemy ground attacks.
“There are things built in for redundancy. If one hydraulic system fails, another one kicks in,” he said.
If the aircraft loses all of its electronics including its digital displays and targeting systems, the pilot of an A-10 can still fly, drop general purpose bombs and shoot the 30mm cannon, Haden explained.
“So when I lose all the computers and the calculations, the targeting pod and the heads up display, you can still point the aircraft using a degraded system at the target and shoot. We are actually trained for that,” he said.
Unlike other air platforms built for speed, maneuverability, air-to-air dogfighting and air-to-air weapons, the A-10 is specifically engineered around its gun, a 30mm cannon aligned directly beneath the fuselage. The gun is also called a GAU-8/A Gatling gun.
“The 30mm cannon has 7 barrels. They are centered the way the aircraft fires. The firing barrel goes right down the center line. You can point the aircraft and shoot at the ground. It is designed for air to ground attack,” Haden explained.
Armed with 1,150 rounds, the 30mm cannon is able to fire 70-rounds a second.
Haden explained the gun alignment as being straight along the fuselage line without an upward “cant” like many other aircraft have. Also, the windows in the A-10 are also wider to allow pilots a larger field of view with which to see and attack targets.
The engines of the A-10 are mounted high so that the aircraft can land in austere environments such as rugged, dirty or sandy terrain, Haden said. The engines on the A-10 are General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans.
“I’ve seen this airplane land on a desert strip with the main gear buried in a foot of sand. On most planes, this would have ripped the gear up, but the A-10 turned right around and took off,” he added.
There have been many instances where A-10 engines were shot up and the pilots did not know until the returned from a mission, Haden said.
These aerodynamic configurations and engine technology allow the A-10 to fly slower and lower, in closer proximity to ground forces and enemy targets.
“The wings are straight and broadened. The engines are turbofan. They were selected and designed for their efficiency, not because of an enormous thrust. We have a very efficient engine that allows me to loiter with a much more efficient gas-burn rate,” Haden said.
Close Air Support
By virtue of being able to fly at slower speeds of 300, the A-10 can fly beneath the weather at altitudes of 100 feet. This gives pilots and ability to see enemy targets with the naked eye, giving them the ability to drop bombs, fire rockets and open fire with the 30mm cannon in close proximity to friendly forces.
“We shoot really close to people. We do it 50-meters away from people. I can sometimes see hands and people waving. If I get close enough and low enough I can see the difference between good guys and bad guys and shoot,” Haden explained.
The aircraft’s bombs, rockets and cannon attack enemies up close or from miles sway, depending on the target and slant range of the aircraft, Haden added.
“We deliver the munitions by actually going from a base position – then pointing the jet at the ground and then pulling the trigger once we reach the desired range,” he explained.
The A-10 uses both “Lightning” and “Sniper” pods engineered with infrared and electro-optical sensors able to find targets for the pilot.
“The aircraft uses the same targeting pod as F-15E and F-16. However, most of the fighters can’t transition between the two targeting pods and we can, based on our software,” Haden said.
The A-10 carries a full complement of weapons to include Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAM GPS-guided bombs; its arsenal includes GBU 38s, GBU 31s, GBU 54s, Mk 82s, Mk 84s, AGM-65s (Maverick missiles), AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and rockets along with illumination flares, jammer pods and other protective countermeasures. The aircraft can carry 16,000 pounds of mixed ordnance; eight can fly under the wings and three under-fuselage pylon station, Air Force statements said.
A-10 Avionics Technology
Pilots flying attack missions in the aircraft communicate with other aircraft and ground forces using radios and a data-link known at LINK 16. Pilots can also text message with other aircraft and across platforms, Haden added.
The cockpit is engineered with what is called the CASS cockpit, for Common Avionics Architecture System, which includes moving digital map displays and various screens showing pertinent information such as altitude, elevation, surrounding terrain and target data.
A-10 pilots also wear a high-tech helmet which enables them to look at targeting video on a helmet display.
“I can project my targeting pod video into my eye so I can see the field of view. If something shoots at me I can target it simply by looking at it,” he explained.
During the early months of combat in Operation Enduring Freedom, in a battle known as “Operation Anaconda,” Haden’s A-10 wound up in a fast-moving, dynamic combat circumstance wherein U.S. military were attacking Taliban fighters in the Afghan mountains.
During the mission in March of 2002, Haden was able to see and destroy Taliban anti-aircraft artillery, guns and troop positions.
“We could see tracer fire going from one side of the valley to the other side of the valley. We were unable to tell which was from good guys and which was from bad guys. Using close air support procedures in conjunction with our sensors on board, we deconstructed the tactical situation and then shot,” he said.
The Future of the A-10
Many lawmakers, observers, veterans, analysts, pilots and members of the military have been following the unfolding developments regarding the Air Force’s plans for the A-10. Citing budgetary reasons, Air Force leaders had said they planned to begin retiring its fleet of A-10s as soon as this year. Some Air Force personnel maintained that other air assets such as the F-16 and emerging F-35 multi-role stealth fighter would be able to fill the mission gap and perform close air support missions once the A-10 retired.
However, a chorus of concern from lawmakers and the A-10s exemplary performance in the ongoing air attacks against ISIS – has lead the Air Force to extend the planned service life of the aircraft well into the 2020s. Despite the claim that other air assets could pick up the close air support mission, advocates for the A-10 consistently state that the platform has an unmatched ability to protect ground troops and perform the close air support mission.
Now, the Air Force has a begun a three-pronged strategy to replace or sustain the A-10 which involves looking at ways to upgrade and preserve the existing aircraft, assessing what platforms might be available on the market today or designing a new close-air-support airplane.
Sending the close-air-support aircraft to the boneyard would save an estimated $4.2 billion over five years alone, Air Force officials previously said.
The overall costs of the program including lifecycle management, sustainment and upkeep had made the A-10 budget targets for the service, however many lawmakers pushed back on the plans.
There have been many advocates for the A-10 among lawmakers who have publically questioned the prior Air Force strategy to retire the aircraft. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. and Sen. John McCain have been among some of the most vocal supporters of the A-10.
On several occasions, Ayotte has challenged the Air Force decision to retire the plane.
“The A-10 has saved many American lives, and Senator Ayotte is concerned that the Air Force might prematurely eliminate the A-10 before there is a replacement aircraft—creating a dangerous close air support capability gap that could put our troops at risk,” an Ayotte official said several months ago.McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed the news that the A-10 might remain longer than the Air Force had planned.
“I welcome reports that the Air Force has decided to keep the A-10 aircraft flying through fiscal year 2017, ensuring our troops have the vital close-air support they need for missions around the world. Today, the A-10 fleet is playing an indispensable role in the fight against ISIL in Iraq and assisting NATO’s efforts to deter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe,” McCain said in a recent statement.
Also, the A-10 has been performing extremely well in ongoing attacks against ISIS, creating an operational demand for the durable aircraft and therefore reportedly informing this Air Force decision.
“With growing global chaos and turmoil on the rise, we simply cannot afford to prematurely retire the best close air support weapon in our arsenal without fielding a proper replacement. When the Obama Administration submits its 2017 budget request in the coming weeks, I hope it will follow through on its plan to keep the A-10 flying so that it can continue to protect American troops, many still serving in harm’s way,” McCain added.
Although the continued existence of the A-10 is assured well into the next decade, the debate about what, if anything, might be able to replace it is quite likely to continue.
The Army has released an image taken by a combat photographer moments before she was killed in an explosion during a 2013 live-fire training exercise in eastern Afghanistan.
Spc. Hilda I. Clayton, a visual information specialist assigned to the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera), was killed while photographing a live-fire training exercise on July 2 in Laghman Province. Four Afghan National Army soldiers were also killed when a mortar tube accidentally exploded.
One of the Afghan soldiers killed was a photojournalist whom Clayton had been training.
The primary mission of Combat Camera soldiers is to accompany soldiers on deployments to document the history of combat operations.
“Clayton’s death symbolizes how female soldiers are increasingly exposed to hazardous situations in training and in combat on par with their male counterparts,” the Army said in a statement.
Clayton’s name has since been added to the Defense Information School Hall of Heroes at Fort Meade. The award for the winner of Combat Camera’s annual competition was also named after her.
“The Spc. Hilda I. Clayton Best Combat Camera (COMCAM) Competition consists of five days of events to test joint service combat camera personnel on their physical and technical skills,” the Army said.
It’s a video game series beloved by troops deployed to recent battlefields and has become as common in squad bays as dip and energy drinks.
And now thanks to efforts by its designer, Activision, the non-profit that bears its name has broken its own record, placing more than 25,000 unemployed, post-9/11 vets in good jobs two years ahead of schedule.
Established in 2009 by Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, the Call of Duty Endowment has pledged more than $18 million to businesses and other service groups to help them place post-9/11 veterans in high-quality careers with a solid understanding of the benefits former servicemembers bring to the table.
The Call of Duty Endowment set a goal of placing 25,000 vets in partner companies by 2018. But after reaching that bar in 2016, the non-profit announced it will double the goal by 2019.
“The Endowment’s efforts have had a direct and positive impact on the lives of so many who have given so much,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard and Co-Founder of the endowment. “With U.S. veteran unemployment rates still well above the national average, we are committed to continuing our efforts and have established a new, ambitious goal to secure employment for 50,000 veterans by 2019.”
According to a statement, the Call of Duty Endowment uses a “performance-driven approach” to vetting potential partners and after earning a grant, the endowment works with grantees and employers to “provide an array of advice and support aimed at maximizing their impact.”
The non-profit says the average cost to put a veteran on the payroll of its company partners is less than $600, compared to $3,000 for government-assisted employment services for vets.
“Finding quality, meaningful employment is essential for a veteran to successfully transition back to civilian life,” said former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James L. Jones, Co-Chairman of the endowment. “The Call of Duty Endowment is truly making a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of military veterans and their families.”
The endowment has already donated $18 million to get vets back to work and boasts an average $50,000 starting salary with 94 percent placed in full-time jobs.
“Twenty-five thousand veterans is equivalent to every individual recruited by the U.S. Navy in 2015, and we’ve achieved this goal by applying common sense business practices to philanthropy,” said Dan Goldenberg, Executive Director of the endowment. “We’re grateful for the support from Activision Blizzard, our partners and the gaming community, and are proud of what our grantees have achieved in such a short period of time.”
We’ve all served with the zealot, the screamer, the wild man, the badass, the strange agent, and other signature personalities, but have we seen them accurately presented in movies? Well, sometimes. And in some cases when Hollywood has tackled military topics they’ve gone beyond simply “getting it right” and moved into the arena where icons are forged. Here are 12 examples of when movie makers got it absolutely right and then some:
1. Jack Nicholson as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in “A Few Good Men”
Col. Jessup is as badass as grunts come . . . right up to the point where he gets his ass handed to him by a weenie JAG officer. With classic lines like “I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don’t think for one second that you can come down here, flash a badge, and make me nervous,” and, of course, “You can’t handle the truth!” Nicholson’s reading of this somewhat psycho colonel is among the best military characters Hollywood ever created.
2. Steve McQueen as Captain Virgil Hilts in “The Great Escape”
Arguably the late Steve McQueen’s best work, Capt Hilts of the Army Air Corps is known around the stalag as the “cooler king” because of all the time he’s logged in solitary confinement following his escape attempts. In the climactic scene he jumps a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle (the only stunt McQueen didn’t perform himself in the film) but gets caught up in a second fence and is recaptured. The final scene shows him being thrown back into the cooler, but his attitude shows that it’s only a matter of time before he tries to escape again (because he’s an American fighting man).
3. Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now!”
In a high-budget blockbuster full of stars like Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, Duvall steals the show with his portrayal of Army helo squadron skipper Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore. As Sheen’s character muses, Kilgore “had that light in his eye . . . you knew he wasn’t going to get so much as a scratch on him in Vietnam.” And Kilgore cements his military movie icon status with lines like “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” and “Charlie don’t surf!” Cue “Ride of the Valkyries” and go win some hearts and minds.
4. R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in “Full Metal Jacket”
Before “Full Metal Jacket” came out in 1987 the pop culture standard for a DI was Sergeant Carter from the TV comedy “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” That changed in a big way with Ermey’s brilliant portrayal of Gunny Hartman, as tough as he is doomed (oops, spoiler alert for any of you maggots who haven’t seen this Stanley Kubrick-directed masterpiece). Hartman remains the cinematic boot camp standard by a mile with lines like “did your parents have any children that lived?” and “choke yourself, Pyle!” Ooh-rah, Devil Dog!
5. Gregory Peck as General Frank Savage in “12 O’ Clock High”
Peck plays General Frank Savage, a B-17 driver who inherits a shitty command in the middle of high-tempo ops. Loses have been high and morale sucks, and Savage’s initial attempts to square the unit away are met with stiff resistance. In time his superior leadership techniques take hold and things improve. Peck does a great job of capturing the nuances surrounding the age-old facts that life is lonely at the top and being in charge is no popularity contest. There’s a reason this movie is shown in military leadership courses.
6. John Wayne as Captain Rockwell “Rock” Torrey in “In Harm’s Way”
Some fans of “The Duke” may argue that “The Green Beret” or “Sands of Iwo Jima” are his signature military roles, but he brings a lot more to the role of Capt. Rock Torrey. “In Harm’s Way” was a groundbreaking (and shocking with subplots that tackle themes like adultery and professional misconduct) film in its day and still holds up in many respects for how it presents the complexities of Navy life during wartime. “In Harm’s Way” allows Wayne to do more than just swagger; he stretches his talents as an actor. And because of that it’s his best military work.
7. George C. Scott as General George S. Patton in “Patton”
Everything the nation knows about General George S. Patton is a function of this movie and George C. Scott’s amazing performance in it. “Patton” presents the general as the flawed genius he was, as brilliant as he was self-destructive and reckless. The opening soliloquy alone is total money: “No damn bastard ever won a war by dying for his country,” he says in front of a giant flag backdrop. “He won it by making the other poor damn bastard die for his country.”
8. Alec Guinness as Lieutenant Colonel Nicolson in “Bridge on the River Kwai”
Before he was in “Star Wars” as Obi-Wan Kenobe urging Luke Skywalker to use the force, Sir Alec Guinness played Lt. Col. Nicolson, the senior ranking officer among prisoners held by some nasty Japanese troops. Guinness’ Nicolson is tough and resourceful and good at messing with his captors, especially when it comes to figuring out ways of keeping the construction of the Bridge on the River Kwai from proceeding. His performance is as good a cinematic example as there is for why the Brits make great allies.
9. Robert De Niro as Staff Sergeant Michael Vronsky in “The Deerhunter”
Staff Sergeant Vronsky is ballsy-as-pozz, especially during the Russian Roulette scenes. And good luck not yelling “hell yeah!” at the screen when he overpowers his VC captors and escapes. De Niro’s performance is moving and feels authentic, and he does the special forces community proud while at the same time showing the sometimes tragic impact of war on a small town.
10. Tom Hanks as Captain John H. Miller in “Saving Private Ryan”
“Saving Private Ryan” did much toward dispelling the myth that World War II was somehow cleaner than the wars that followed, and that cinematic landscape is made all the more real by Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Capt. John Miller, a school teacher-turned-war-weary-warfighter who knows the meaning of duty and leads by example. His on-screen sacrifice is truly felt and is a worthy representation of what earned The Greatest Generation their label.
11. Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper in “Dr. Strangelove”
This Cold War satirical masterpiece about B-52s gone wild by the orders of a lunatic wing commander is made pitch perfect by Sterling Hayden’s performance as General Jack D. Ripper (get it?). From his musings about post-coitus epiphanies (“loss of essence,” as he calls it) to his fears about the commie plot that is fluoridation, Hayden’s Ripper should be funny enough to scare us all that he might actually exist (and have his finger on the button).
12. Jürgen Prochnow as Captain-Lieutenant Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock in “Das Boot”
The U-boat war was a little-explored part of military movies until “Das Boot” was released in 1981. Jürgen Prochnow does an amazing job playing the captain of the submarine toward the end of the war. The crew is beat down and the Nazi rhetoric has long since rung hollow, but there is still a mission to carry out and a war to survive. Lehmann-Willenbrock is as good a leader as military movies have ever created, and his courage, skill, and empathy are timeless. Watch this one and find yourself routing for the other side. (“Das Boot” is best viewed in German with English subtitles, by the way.)