Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress

The “Memphis Belle” a B-17F Flying Fortress of the Eighth Air Force would become the most famous of the 12,750 B-17s produced by Boeing during World War II. The plane and her crew would become immortalized, first by the Army who filmed her crew for a documentary prior to a War Bond tour and later by Hollywood who made a fictionalized feature film on the exploits of her crew.

The casualty rates were so high, that the United States put a 25-mission limit on crews. If a crew flew 25 combat missions and survived, they were rotated back to the states. But none of the crews were surviving that long. The Memphis Belle was one of the first to do so.

Background

The air war for the United States in 1942 and early 1943 was a bloody affair. The United States had entered the war just months before, and Britain decided to pressure the German war machine by bombing it around the clock. The British would bomb at night, the Americans by day.

The Allies didn’t yet have fighters that had the range to escort the bombers to their targets and back. The German Luftwaffe was a formidable adversary with very experienced fighter crews. The German anti-aircraft artillery which they called “Flak” was accurate and plentiful.

In the early days of daylight bombing, the Germans exacted a terrible toll on the new American formations. Casualty rates were appalling. It was here that Captain Robert Morgan and his crew would step into the war.

B-17F 10-BO, manufacturer’s serial number 3470, USAAC Serial No. 41-24485, was added to the USAAF inventory on July 15, 1942, and delivered in September 1942 to the 91st Bombardment Group at Dow Field, Bangor, Maine. The aircraft was deployed to Prestwick, Scotland, on September 30, 1942,  and stationed at a temporary base at RAF Kimbolton on October 1, and then finally to her permanent base at RAF Bassingbourn, England, on the 14th of October.

The marking on the sides of the fuselage bore the unit and aircraft identification markings of a B-17 of the 324th Bomb Squadron (Heavy); the squadron code “DF” and individual aircraft letter “A.”Read Next: The Eighth Air Force, “The Mighty Eighth” Was Born on This Day 1942

Morgan decided to name the plane after his sweetheart back home, a woman named Margaret Polk from Memphis, TN. Originally the plane would be named after Morgan’s nickname for Polk, which was “Little One” but after he and co-pilot Jim Vennis saw a film where the main character had a riverboat named the “Memphis Belle”, the name stuck. Morgan brought it up to the crew and they voted for it.

The drawing on the fuselage was from a pinup by artist George Petty that was in Esquire magazine in April of 1941 issue. Corporal Tony Starcer, copied the Petty girl pinup on both sides of the forward fuselage, depicting her bathing suit in blue on the aircraft’s port side and in red on the starboard. The Memphis Belle was born.

Air War Over Europe

Morgan and his crew flew their first mission over Europe on November 7, 1942, at Brest, France. The command of the American Air Forces and the Pentagon set the incentive of 25 missions for crews to reach to be rotated back to the United States. But no one was reaching that threshold. Casualties among the bomber crews in those early dark days were at 80 percent.

In interviews much later, Morgan summed up the horror of the early days of the airwar in describing the awful casualties suffered by American aircrews in the first days of the bombing campaign.

“Eighty-percent losses means you have breakfast with 10 men and dinner with only two of them.”

Memphis Belle had her share of difficult scrapes with German fighter planes and flak and on five different occasions had an engine shot out. Another time, a diving German Focke Wulf  Fw-190 came straight at the plane and riddled the tail with holes setting it on fire. After the fire was out, Morgan climbed back into the tail to survey the damage.

His comments, captured by History.net tell of the difficulty he had in bringing the ship back safely. “It looked like we had no tail at all,” Morgan said. “I got back in the cockpit and flew back to the base in two hours. It was tough flying, and tougher than that to set her down. The elevators were damaged so badly that the controls jammed. Somehow we managed to get down safely.”

The American bomb groups were taking on tough, well-defended targets including the Focke Wulf plant at Bremen, locks and submarine pens at St. Nazaire and Brest, docks, and shipbuilding installations at Wilhelmshaven, railroad yards at Rouen, submarine pens and powerhouses at Lorient and aircraft factories at Antwerp.Read Next: The Australian Army Chief Got it Wrong…Bring Back the Punisher

During her 25 missions, Memphis Belle gunners were credited with shooting down eight German fighters with another five probable kills. They damaged 12 more fighters and dropped over 60 tons of bombs on the German war machine.

After their 25th mission, the crew which had been the subject of a war documentary by Hollywood director William Wyler, the crew was rotated home on a 31-city war bond tour. The men were treated as heroes wherever they stopped. Only one female was ever allowed to fly with the Belle. Stuka, a Scottish terrier bought by co-pilot Jim Vennis in England accompanied the crew and was spoiled with the rest of the crew.

One of the stops was in Memphis where Polk was in attendance, although interestingly enough the two never did marry but did remain life-long friends. Morgan put on a stunt at his own hometown of Asheville, NC where he flew the Fortress down the main drag in town and turned it between two large buildings on its side.

General Henry “Hap” Arnold, gave Morgan the choice of any assignment he wanted. He chose to transition to B-29 bombers and bomb the Japanese. He took part in the first raid on Tokyo in November of 1944. After flying 50 missions he was sent home for good. He remained in the Air Force and retired as a Colonel.

Memphis Belle Not the First to Complete 25 Missions

Unlike the feature film that came out in 1990, the Belle was not the first plane to fly 25 missions in Europe. That distinction belonged to Captain Irl Baldwin of the 303rd Bomb Group and the plane “Hell’s Angels” named after a Howard Hughes, Jean Harlow film from back in the day. Baldwin completed his 25 missions a week before Morgan did. Memphis Belle was the first to complete 25 missions and return to the United States. Baldwin and his crew would go on to fly 48 missions before returning to the U.S. for their own bond tour in 1944.

I met Baldwin at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, GA a few years before he passed away. And in talking to him, you got a great sense of how difficult life was for those bomber crews over Europe.

Asked which was worse, the fighters or flak he smiled and answered…”Yes!” He said, “it didn’t matter how large the group was when those German fighters were coming head-on into the group, you’d swear to God every one of them was firing at you.”

He added, “Once they’d open up it looked like they were winking at you and the next thing was those cannon shells ripping past.”

I asked how he managed to survive 48 missions where so many didn’t last long at all.

“Some of it is pure luck,” he said. “There is nothing you can do about flak and those German gunners were good. They’d get your range and it looked like you could walk from burst to burst with touching thin air.”

“But the other thing we learned right away was that we had to be better pilots. The only way we could survive the fighters was fly wingtip to wingtip. That way all of our guns could be trained as one. If the Germans could get in between the bombers of the group, and they were some great pilots, they’d cut you to pieces.”

Baldwin too transitioned to B-29s after his War Bond tour. But he never got the chance to fly in combat over Japan. “Right after I got there, we dropped the bomb,” he said with a shrug. “I got there a few days too late.”

Asked why he’d volunteer after already flying so many combat missions, he shrugged again. “We were at war and I felt I was better suited for it than other guys.”

“Besides,” he added, “ I figured the Germans were the best we’d go against. If they couldn’t get me I didn’t think the Japs could.”

This article was originally published on May 17th, 2020.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

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Russia is designing a transformer to sucker punch the US

After having success with unmarked trailer trucks in Ukraine, Russia is looking to exploit its incognito strategy even further. The Russians have come up with a weapons concept reminiscent of Optimus Prime from Transformers.


It’s designed to surprise the U.S. military by sneaking up under the cover of an inconspicuous semi-trailer truck. When the weapon is close enough to strike, the trailer disconnects from the truck and transforms into a nasty helicopter drone with missiles and a Gatling gun.

In keeping with Hollywood’s depiction of Russian bad guys, the trailer also includes two get-away motorcycles. Seriously, it looks like something you’d expect to see in a ‘Die Hard’ flick.

Here’s how it works:

The trailer pulls up within striking distance of its target.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
YouTube: ArmedForcesUpdate

One soldier in civilian clothes scopes out the area while another soldier stays behind to monitor the transformation.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
YouTube: ArmedForcesUpdate

Most of the transformation is self automated.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
YouTube: ArmedForcesUpdate

A final weapons check is done with an iPad before the nasty payload is deployed.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
YouTube: ArmedForcesUpdate

The drone surprises the target by rising from the tree line.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
YouTube: ArmedForcesUpdate

It is designed to attack targets on land …

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
YouTube: ArmedForcesUpdate

… or at sea.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
YouTube: ArmedForcesUpdate

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXWJrpA8FnE

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this real-life robotic exoskeleton Marines are getting

The U.S. Marines are about to start receiving real robotic exoskeletons for testing, but these exo-suits aren’t headed into combat any time soon. Instead, they’ll be supporting logistical operations like loading and unloading pallets of gear and ammunition in the field.

While that might not sound like the sort of high-speed missions you imagined for the first widely-used military robotic exoskeletons, it’s really the most logical (and feasible) use for this burgeoning technology. America’s Special Operations Command spent years working to develop the TALOS robotic exoskeleton for specialized combat applications, but found the various systems they employed were too finicky for serious combat ops. While exoskeletons can significantly augment a person’s strength, they also consume a huge amount of power, often requiring that they stay tethered to a power cable.


Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress

Mock up of a TALOS suit. (U.S. Army photo by Anthony Taylor, 85th Support Command Public Affairs Office)

TALOS was ultimately canceled last year, but a number of different technologies developed for the forward-thinking system continue to live on in various weapon development programs that fall under SOCOM’s purview. Sarcos Defense’ new suit isn’t derived from the TALOS program, but offers some of the same significant advantages, including the ability to increase the strength and endurance of whoever’s strapped in. Despite the TALOS program’s progress in a number of areas, it was ultimately deemed infeasible for combat.

However, just because robotic exoskeleton technology isn’t quite advanced to the point where it can be used outside the wire quite yet, it could be an extremely useful solution to problems service members still have inside forward operating bases. Unloading literal tons of equipment, ammunition, and supplies that arrive on pallets is one such challenge.

By utilizing the Sarcos Defense Guardian XO Alpha robotic exoskeleton, a single Marine can do the offloading work that would normally require an entire dedicated fire team.

Sarcos Guardian XO Powered Exosuit Demo

www.youtube.com

“As the U.S. Marine Corps focuses on logistics and sustainment modernization as one of their key priorities and looks to reduce the manpower required to conduct expeditionary operations, the Guardian XO is well-suited to fulfill a wide variety of logistics applications to address their needs and requirements.”
–Sarcos Defense
Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress

(Sarcos Defense)

As America’s premier expeditionary force, The Marines have placed a renewed emphasis on Expeditionary Advanced Basing Operations (EABO) in recent years. Put simply, EABO is all about increasing the operational capabilities of Marines working in austere environments that may not be near large military installations. The intent behind incorporating new technology like the Guardian XO Alpha is to bring big installation capabilities to forward operating areas. Whereas large military installations can utilize forklifts to rapidly load or unload supplies, smaller FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) have to rely on manpower to unload supplies when they arrive.

“Instead of a team of four Marines, maybe you only need a Marine with this capability to offload pallets or move or load munitions,” Jim Miller, Sarcos Robotics’ vice president of defense solutions, explained last year.

Sarcos Guardian® XO® Full-Body Powered Exoskeleton: Alpha Unit Preview

www.youtube.com

In the short term, Marines will be assessing this new robotic exoskeleton to see just how useful it might be in a variety of operations, including some the team at Sarcos might not have thought of yet. Of course, another important part of the testing process will be figuring out what this exo-suit can’t do, and that’s where the Marines may really shine. After all, if you want to find out just how hard you can run a piece of gear before it dies, there are few organizations more qualified for such a torture test than the United States Marine Corps.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress

The Guardian XO robot, an exoskeleton suit to help reduce the risk of injuries by improving human strength and endurance, is on display at the 2019 Modern Day Marine Expo on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 18, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yuritzy Gomez)

“The Sarcos Defense team is very pleased that the U.S. Marine Corps will be testing use cases for our Guardian XO Alpha version this year,” said Ben Wolff, CEO, Sarcos Defense.

“Our military branches need to regularly address changing personnel issues and reduce the risk of injury from performing heavy-lifting tasks. We believe that our full-body, powered exoskeletons will be a huge benefit to the Marines as well as the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and USSOCOM, who we are also working with on our exoskeleton technology.”

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army bars soldiers from using TikTok on government phones

The US Army has barred its soldiers from using TikTok following mounting fears from US lawmakers that the Chinese tech company could pose a national security threat.

Military.com was the first to report the new policy decision, which is a reversal of the Army’s earlier stance on the popular short-form video app.


A spokeswoman told Military.com that the US Army had come to consider TikTok a “cyberthreat” and that “we do not allow it on government phones.” The US Navy took a similar decision to bar the app from government phones last month.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress

(U.S. Navy Photo by Gary Nichols)

TikTok is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, and its links to Beijing have prompted intense scrutiny from US politicians as the app’s popularity has skyrocketed. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York successfully requested an Army investigation into the app’s handling of user data in November, and numerous reports have emerged of the platform censoring content it thinks could anger the Chinese government.

TikTok has strenuously denied any allegations of Chinese state influence, and in its first transparency report claimed that China had made zero censorship requests in the first half of 2019.

Numerous reports have surfaced that the company is exploring strategies for distancing itself from its Chinese roots, including a US rebrand, building a headquarters outside China, and selling off a majority stake in its business.

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

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Former Navy SEAL explains how civilians are evacuated from places like Afghanistan

In an August 19th news conference to address the events unfolding in the wake of U.S. troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby and U.S. Army Major General Hank Taylor referred on multiple occasions to the ongoing U.S. military operations in theatre as a “non-combatant evacuation operation.” This might sound like a bit of bureaucratic Pentagon-speak, or simply government jargon, but the term actually refers to an established military doctrine, and a systematic government (usually military) operation to evacuate Americans.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
South Vietnamese refugees aboard a U.S. Navy vessel after being evacuated as part of Operation Frequent Wind in April of 1975 (DoD photo)

Related: Up to 8,000 US troops back to Kabul as Taliban closes in

Typically shortened to NEO within the U.S. military, non-combatant evacuation operations are emergency military actions executed specifically outside of the continental United States (OCONUS), when crisis conditions in a particular country threaten American personnel located there. Those conditions thus necessitate that the American government mandates — or authorizes — the immediate evacuation of civilian and/or non-essential official U.S. government personnel from that country. In other words, it is what is happening in Afghanistan right now, as the U.S. military tries to get all Americans (and many Afghan non-combatants) out of Afghanistan. 

In a situation requiring a NEO, the U.S. government recognizes that conditions present an unacceptable threat to Americans in a particular country, and the U.S. government tells those Americans (via the State Department) that they must leave, or should leave (a voluntary evacuation) immediately. After announcing this order, the U.S. military in whichever theatre of operations the country is located, tasks appropriate units to execute the NEO.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
A Marine assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) escorts a Department of State employee to be processed for evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaiah Campbell)

Related: Exclusive: Spec Ops Vets on why we must save Afghan Interpreters

An example of a “typical” NEO (in reality, they are hardly typical, or common) — apart from the current situation in Afghanistan — would be political instability and a resulting crisis in a country in Africa. I am using this example because I was a member, for a time, of a designated NEO force for Africa while I was stationed in Europe shortly after 9/11. This was before the establishment of Africa Command, so European Command (USEUCOM) was tasked with executing any NEO that might occur in Africa. Our designated force consisted of a deployed Navy SEAL Platoon (my platoon), a deployed Marine Corps Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST) company, various air and navy assets, as required, and then contingency military forces based in EUCOM, as events might necessitate.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
Family members disembark from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Oct. 30, 2015, after a mock evacuation flight during noncombatant evacuation operation training exercise at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul (U.S. Army)

If Morocco, for example, politically imploded back in 2001, and all of the thousands of Americans located there — civilian, military, and official — were ordered to depart, some would make it out on commercial flights, some would no doubt choose to hunker down (whether the evacuation was voluntary or not), and the rest would likely attempt to find refuge at the U.S. Embassy or some other location deemed secure (an American consulate, for example, or a friendly, third-country embassy). The U.S. military (EUCOM) would then coordinate with U.S. Embassy personnel in Rabat, Morocco, to effect the evacuation via military assets of those remaining personnel.

My SEAL platoon and the FAST company would have arrived at the embassy, secured it, and held it until all Americans were evacuated. U.S. military aircraft, ground convoys, naval assets, and/or any other useful mobility platform would have been utilized for the evacuation. 

NEO is an inherently fast-changing and flexibility-demanding operation, and we trained for it extensively while stationed in Europe. We were on standby for quick response, as a NEO always demands rapid execution to have the greatest chance of success. Once completed, and all Americans are accounted for, senior American military and political leaders would then have decided if the NEO force would remain to hold the embassy/U.S. government facility, or exfiltrate the country and effectively terminate America’s official presence there.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the 10th Mountain Division stand security at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15 (Photo by Sgt. Isaiah CampbellU.S. Central Command Public Affairs)

We are still in the execution phase of the current Afghanistan NEO, as the U.S. military works to evacuate Americans and designated Afghans from the country. As is every NEO — by definition — the current operation in Kabul is fluid, challenging, and likely prone to escalate in risk at a moment’s notice. The American forces deployed as the NEO force there face a challenging task and no one should doubt that they will execute it to the best of their ability, in a manner they have likely trained for prior to this deployment. We should all wish them Godspeed in completing their mission.

This article by Frumentarius was originally published by Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx News on Facebook.

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Why Russia has three nuclear footballs – and who can use them

The United States closest geopolitical rival is Russia, but when it comes to the way their militaries operate, that’s where the two countries’ similarities end. Nowhere is this more apparent than in their command and control structures for launching nuclear weapons.

It’s a well-known fact that the President of the United States has a military officer who follows his every move while carrying the nuclear “football.” This is essentially a suitcase filled with everything necessary for the president to authorize and launch a nuclear strike while he’s not in a designated command and control area, such as the White House. 

In the United States, one person, the President of the United States, has sole authority to launch a nuclear strike, either an offensive strike or in retaliation. In the Russian Federation, the president’s power is checked by the military when it comes to a nuclear launch. 

The Russian Federation’s military has three of these nuclear footballs, which follow around three very important Russian defense officials. This system is known as a “triple key” system. The first football follows the President of Russia, who is currently Vladimir Putin. The Russian president’s football doesn’t contain an actual nuclear key, but instead a system of launch codes. 

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
“Who’s got the nukes? Oh, not you? BOOM. Annexed” (Russian Presidential Press and Information Office)

But Vladimir Putin can’t initiate a nuclear strike by himself, on his own authority. It’s probably the one thing he can’t do in Russia. Instead, in a time of need, the president’s codes must be sent to the Russian Defense Minister, currently Russian army Gen. Sergey Shoygu, who has held the position since 2012. 

Once the Minister of Defense receives an order and launch codes from the president, he sends his codes and the president’s codes to the Chief of the General Staff, currently Gen. Valery Gerasimov. Once the Chief of the General Staff has all three sets of codes, then he can make the launch orders to the missile crews.

It’s estimated that the entire process, once initiated, should take about 20 minutes. This process was considered a highly-guarded state secret in the days of the Soviet Union, and a lot of misinformation still exists surrounding it. The three-step process is generally known to be true. 

One unconfirmed rumor states that the defense minister and the Chief of the General Staff must transmit their codes separately to limit unauthorized access from renegade military personnel. Another rumor says that the Chief of the General Staff actually has the president’s codes as well. This structure, it’s believed, prevents a power grab from the defense minister’s office, nipping any conspiracy against the president in the bud. 

There is also no system of transferring launch authority in place in case one of these three men suddenly becomes unable to perform their duties. The first and only time a Russian leader has ever publicly legalized a line of succession in case he was unable to act came from Boris Yeltsin shortly after the end of the Soviet Union. 

After the 1993 coup against Yeltsin, the Russian constitution codified the presidential line of succession, putting the president’s power in the hands of the Russian Prime Minister. But it does not list the line of succession if the prime minister were to be disabled or killed. 

Russia’s system of positive control of its nuclear launch capabilities is one that it came by through a number of trials and errors. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet commander in Cuba had the authority to launch a nuclear strike without Moscow’s permission, for example. Nothing was guaranteed. 

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress

These days, that power rests firmly in hands of three longtime officeholders, with a rudimentary system of checks and balances to keep one from overriding the others. Probably for the best.

Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This rocket was the 82nd Airborne’s compact tactical nuke

Perhaps the most famous Little John in history was Robin Hood’s sidekick. You know, the guy responsible for driving the Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John crazy. But the United States Army had a “Little John” of their own that was designed to give airborne units, like the 82nd and the 101st, one heck of a punch.


During the 1950s, the Army had used the Pentomic structure for a number of its infantry divisions — a structure designed to fight in nuclear war. A problem remained within light units, however: They needed nuclear firepower to hold off hordes of Soviet tanks, but the nukes of the time were bulky things.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division load a MGR-3 “Little John” rocket on to a CH-47 Chinook. (U.S. Army photo)

By 1959, though, the answer had emerged: the M51, which the Army called “Little John.” It wasn’t based on the Robin Hood legend, though. The name was chosen since the Army had a self-propelled nuclear rocket launcher called the Honest John, and the Little John, as you might guess, was a smaller rocket system.

The Little John was eventually re-designated MGR-3. It had a range of about 11 miles and was unguided. Well, when a missile is packing a W45 thermonuclear warhead with a yield of 10 kilotons (a kiloton is equal to the explosive force of 1,000 tons of TNT) and has a speed of Mach 1.5, you don’t really need guidance to take out a target.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
The MGR-3 Little John was intended to be a lightweight nuke for airborne units.

The MGR-3 stuck around for about a decade, but in 1969, they were quickly retired. The rockets had successfully held the line, but when an even smaller, lighter tactical nuclear weapon was developed — one that could fit inside the shell fired by a typical 155mm howitzer — Little John became redundant. That replacement was the W48 warhead.

See how the Army described the Little John as it entered service in the video below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BogJVtEJ8Xk
(Jeff Quitney | Youtube)
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Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and called it a piece of garbage

Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and dubbed it the “Mattel 16” because it felt more like a toy than a battle rifle.


“We called it the Mattel 16 because it was made of plastic,” said Marine veteran Jim Wodecki in the video below. “At that time it was a piece of garbage.”

It weighed about half as much as the AK-47 Kalashnikov and fired a smaller bullet – the 5.56 mm round. In short, the troops didn’t have faith in the rifle’s stopping power.

Related: This is what happens when the rules of engagement are loosened

Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.

“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”

The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.

“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.

Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the Small Arms Review.

Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.

This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:

LightningWar1941/YouTube
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the US doesn’t export the F-22

Lockheed Martin, the leading manufacturer of stealth aircraft in the world, proposed a new hybrid between the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning on April 22, 2018, for Japan to purchase, and it could easily outclass the US Air Force.

Japan has, for decades, wanted in on the US Air Force’s F-22, a long-range, high-capacity stealth fighter that perfectly suits its defense needs, except for one problem — the US won’t sell it.


While completing the F-22, the US ruled out its sale to allies as the technology involved in the plane was too advanced for export. But this decision took place 11 years ago in 2007.

Today, the US is in the process of selling Japan the F-35 multi-role strike aircraft, but according to Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, the plane’s design makes it less than ideal for Tokyo.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
An F-35 Lightning II
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)

“The F-35 is primarily a strike aircraft, intended to hit well defended targets on the ground, and is limited in air-to-air combat because of its size, its single engine, and way it was designed,” Bronk said.

But because Russian and Chinese jets constantly pester Japan’s airspace, Tokyo wants a more air-dominance focused jet.

The F-22 can cruise at 60,000 feet going about 1.5 times the speed of sound without igniting the afterburners, meaning it can maintain its stealth while covering incredible distances in short times. The F-35 is a capable fighter, but can’t touch those numbers.

“Along with a bigger missile load out, it’s a much much more capable for air superiority tasks,” Bronk said of the F-22. “The strike role that Japan really really cares about is not really the one that the F-35 is designed for.”

He added that Japan would love a jet that can fire anti-ship missiles, but that the F-35 is just too small to hold them inside its stealthy weapons bays.

Beast of both worlds

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
(U.S. Air Force photo)

President Donald Trump has moved to loosen up restrictions on foreign military sales, and could potentially revisit the decade-old ruling on selling the F-22, as the sensitive technology it uses has aged and become less cutting-edge, but that same advancement in technology has likely doomed the F-22’s restart.

Bronk said the costs of restarting F-22 production were “not trivial,” and even if Japan offered to pay, “a lot of the electronic components, computer chips and things, are not built anymore.” The F-22 had a decades-long development that started off with 1980s-era technology.

“If you were going to put the F-22 into production now, it’s hard to justify doing without updating the electronics,” Bronk said. Once the electronics become updated, and take up less space and throw off the balance of the jet, the flight software would need an update. Once the flight software starts getting updated, “it starts to look like a new fighter program,” Bronk said.

This would create a serious headache for the US Air Force

In the end, Lockheed’s proposal looks like an F-22 airframe jammed with F-35 era technology, essentially stripping the best part of each jet and combining them in a plane that would outclass either.

“If it can stomach the costs, then not only would Japan have a fantastic fighter on its hands, but perhaps problematically it would be more capable than anything the US Air Force is flying,” Bronk explained.

In the end, the US Air Force would end up in a very difficult position — having to live with Japan getting a better fighter, or spending money earmarked for F-35s, which the US sees as the future of its force, on another aircraft it didn’t come up with.

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

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Russia’s nuclear torpedo arsenal is designed to inflict maximum pain

Hypersonic missiles being developed by the Russian ministry of defense are getting most of the attention in international news media these days. This could be for a number of reasons, the first being that the United States is woefully behind in the hypersonic missile gap. The second reason might be that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced it in a grandiose speech, effectively thumbing his nose at anyone who thinks the Russian military’s best days are behind them. 

The third and most likely reason, however, is that it is all a sleight of hand trick. Russia is trying to keep the world’s attention focused on a missile whose technology is nearly untrackable and has almost no defense. Instead, we should be focused on the country’s nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed torpedo, one designed to destroy entire harbors. 

Think about it: How would the world ever know if a Russian hypersonic missile really existed or not? How would the world ever really know what the Russian technology was capable of doing? The point is that the U.S. and other powers are so focused on hypersonic technology that we seem to forget Russia’s deadly Poseidon torpedo. 

The Poseidon was first introduced to the Russian Navy in 2015 when Putin himself leaked the “top secret” torpedo’s existence during a live speech on television, as he was denouncing American military projects. The next year, a Russian nuclear submarine successfully tested one of the new torpedoes in the Arctic Ocean.

Officially called the Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6, the torpedo is actually more of a water-borne titanium drone, powered by a nuclear reactor and capable of carrying a nuclear payload. It came about as a means of getting around American nuclear and ballistic missile defense shields. 

At about 80 feet long, the nuclear reactor gives the weapon an operational range of more than 6,200 miles. This means a Poseidon torpedo fired from St. Petersburg, Russia could sail all the way to New York to deliver a nuclear blast on Manhattan. 

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
NukeMap model of Poseidon explosion near New York City.

The worst part is its rubber noise insulation and potential depth of more than 3,000 feet means it could make the trip completely undetected. It features underwater stealth technology, its nuclear reactor is low-weight and compact to reduce noise, and it’s intended to travel at a slow speed for the bulk of its journey, only picking up speed when hitting its intended target.

Even if a major city port wasn’t a potential target for this Russian doomsday weapon, the speed and depth at which it travels would make even aircraft carrier battle groups a tempting target. It could potentially destroy an entire group, with the only warning being the mushroom cloud that follows.

Any nuclear blast caused by a Poseidon torpedo won’t be the only cause for destruction, either. The fallout created by the multi-megaton cobalt nuclear bomb would create fallout that could devastate the entire U.S. Eastern seaboard. 

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
Poseidon torpedo aboard the Akademik Aleksandrov (Wikimedia Commons)

The only good luck the U.S. has in stopping the use of a Poseidon torpedo is that Russia only has two boats capable of carrying and firing the weapon. Each of the two submarines are capable of carrying up to six of the weapons, but if the U.S. can target and destroy those boats, there’s a chance of mitigating the threat. 

Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

The orca, also called the killer whale, is a large deadly marine mammal that hunts for prey. Whales can hold their breath underwater for over an hour – and since killer whales can swim as fast as 30 knots, they can go a long way in a stealthy fashion before they turn up somewhere, catching their prey by surprise.

In one sense, it is appropriate to name the Navy’s plan for a new long-range extra-large unmanned underwater vehicle (XLUUV) after the orca. After all, it is intended to stay underwater for a long period of time and cover a fair bit of distance.


However, information obtained at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo at National Harbor, Maryland indicates that this Orca is more like a utility player on a major-league baseball team’s bench than a cold-blooded killer.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress

The Marlin unmanned underwater vehicle is ten feet long, has 18 hours of endurance, and can go at a top speed of four knots.

(Photo by Lockheed)

The Orca is intended to handle a variety of “multiple critical missions,” while leveraging existing technology. It will provide range and persistence, while operating autonomously. Lockheed’s website notes that among the missions it could carry out are intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (in essence, acting as a scout in areas a full-sized submarine cannot go, and which you don’t care if it doesn’t come back), mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare training (when you don’t have a sub around), and “indication and warning notification” (in essence, acting as an underwater picket that you don’t care about not picking up).

The Orca will also be a modular system, so that future missions can be added to the platform. This means we will likely see the system around for a long time. The impression shows that it bears a strong resemblance to a Mk 48 torpedo. This would allow it to be launched from the torpedo tubes of American subs.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress

Orca could fill the gap caused by the early retirement of some Los Angeles-class submarines like USS Baltimore (SSN 704).

(U.S. Navy photo)

The Navy considers Orca to be a “Joint Emerging Operational Need.” It’s not hard to understand why. Thirty years ago, the Navy had 100 attack submarines. In September 2016, that number had fallen to 52. Many subs that were considered top of the line in the 1980s, like early Los Angeles-class attack subs, were retired instead of being re-fitted.

Thus, the Orca may help fill the gap to an extent. But maybe it would be better to get more subs, as well.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Air Force is going to replace JSTARS

The Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, better known as JSTARS, is a unique United States Air Force aircraft. What the E-3 Sentry does for aerial combat, the JSTARS does for ground warfare, providing all-weather surveillance and critical intelligence to troops in the fight. But the Air Force has now scrapped a planned replacement for the E-8 — what’s up with that?


In the wake of the cancellation of the JSTARS recapitalization program, the Air Force is planning to shift towards modifying both the Sentry as well as unmanned aerial vehicles to provide an interim replacement until a “system of systems” can take over.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
MQ-9 Reapers could receive a new radar to help replace JSTARS capabilities. (USAF photo)

Last year, the Air Force was seeking to replace the E-8 because the airframes that were equipped with the AN/APY-7 radar — the heart of the system, essentially — were second-hand Boeing 707 airliners. At the 2017 AirSpaceCyber, Lockheed’s proposed JSTARS replacement was part of a demonstration for a new mission planning system known as multi-domain command and control or, simply, MDC2. Unfortunately, as the Air Force’s needs have developed, something as large and centralized as the current JSTARS, and its slated replacement, is seen as archaic.

Now, the plan to replace the E-8s, which are slated to retire in the mid-2020s, has found its way back to square one — well, almost. Northrop Grumman’s new Ground Moving Target Indicator radar. Its modular architecture, like that of the AN/SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar, should allow the company to use the technology on other offerings, ensuring that not all of its research and development go to waste.

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress
RQ-4 Global Hawks could also be equipped with newer Ground Moving Target Indicator radars. (USAF photo)

The Air Force also is planning to upgrade seven of its E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft with new communications gear instead of retiring them. Some MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles could also receive a new radar as well. At the same time, three E-8s that have become hangar queens will be retired.

Intel

This video perfectly shows what happens when you shop for tactical gear

It’s that time of the year again. Holiday leave, time with the family, no shaving and presents!


Whether you’re shopping for a buddy or self-gifting, finding the perfect piece of kit for your rifle is tough. You could ask your friends, visit online forums or ask Jean-Pierre.

Related: Watch this man teach you now to reload in the worst possible way

Jean-Pierre knows the struggle. Gear is expensive and the possibilities are seemingly endless. But don’t stress, just sing along with him and stick to a vision.

Watch:

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