In 2012, Mullah Falzullah, a high-ranking member of the Pakistani Taliban, ordered his thugs to murder Malala Yousafzai, a schoolgirl who had become outspoken in her advocacy for women’s education. Yousafzai survived and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
A pilot was at a ground control station similar to this one when controlling the MQ-9 Reaper that blasted the terrorist responsible for the attack on Malala Yousafzai.
(USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Don Branum)
The exact drone that took the terrorist out wasn’t identified in media reports, but seeing as the MQ-1 Predator was retired in March, 2018, the drone used was likely an MQ-9 Reaper, a larger drone that entered service in 2007. Just as the Predator helped make the world a better place one strike at a time, the Reaper is very capable of doing so as well, famously interrupting an ISIS execution.
The Reaper can carry up to four AGM-114 Hellifre missiles (the Predator was limited to two), and can also be configured to carry GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. It normally flies at about 230 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 1,150 miles.
MQ-9 Reapers have been operating in Afghanistan since 2007.
The Hellfire missile, the preferred weapon in targeting terrorists, has a maximum range of five miles and travels at Mach 1.3. The missile has been in service since 1984 and was primarily intended as a tank-killing weapon for use by the AH-64 Apache helicopter. The missile has since become the basis for the British-designed Brimstone.
The Reaper/Hellfire combo will likely take out a lot more terrorists in the future, in addition to providing precision strike capabilities against other targets.
The upcoming OA-X fly-off features the Textron Scorpion as one of the major contenders. This plane has been the subject of some hype since it first flew in 2013. However, if it wins the OA-X flyoff, it won’t be the first Scorpion to have flown for the United States.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States was looking to acquire interceptors to stop a horde of Soviet bombers. The big problem — the guns were just not packing enough punch. One answer to this was the F-89 Scorpion from Northrop.
The first definitive version of the Scorpion to achieve widespread service, the F-89D, addressed that problem by using air-to-air “Mighty Mouse” rockets. The Scorpions carried 104 of them, and had the option of firing all of them at once, or in up to three salvos. The F-89 Scorpion also had a lethal ground-attack capability, being able to carry 16 five-inch rockets and up to 3,200 pounds of bombs.
But the “Mighty Mouse” rockets proved to be more mouse than mighty, and the Scorpion’s armament was soon the subject of an upgrade. The F-89J was a F-89D modified to carry the AIR-2 Genie rocket — which carried a small nuclear warhead. The plane could also carry four AIM-4 Falcon missiles. The Genie had a warhead equivalent to 250 tons of TNT, and it had a range of six miles and a top speed of Mach 3. Early versions of the AIM-4 had a range of six miles, but later versions could go 7 miles. Most Falcons were heat-seekers, but some were radar-guided missiles.
The F-89 was eventually retired in favor of faster interceptors with more modern radars and missiles, but for most of two decades, it helped guard America’s airspace from Soviet aggression. Below is a video put out by the Air Force’s Air Defense Command about this plane.
Some aircraft carriers are legends – either from long service like that of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) or with an unmatched war record like that of another USS Enterprise (CV 6).
They have either heroic sacrifices, the way USS Yorktown (CV 5) did at Midway, or they simply take a ton of abuse as USS Franklin (CV 13) did.
But some carriers just stink. You wouldn’t wish them on your worst enemy… or maybe you would, simply to make the war easier. There’s arguments on both sides of that. Here are the carriers that would prompt such an internal debate.
6. USS Ranger (CV 4)
When America was down to one carrier in the South Pacific in 1942, re-deploying America’s first purpose-built carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4) was not considered as an option.
That tells you something about the ship. Her combat career was relatively brief, and she eventually was relegated to training duties. Still, she had a decent air group (mostly fighters and dive-bombers), so she is the best of this bad lot.
5. Admiral Kuznetsov Class (Kuznetsov, Liaoning, and unnamed Type 001A)
If you’ve read a lot of WATM, then you know about the Kuznetsov Follies. The crappy engines (the Russians send tugs along with her in case of breakdown), the splash landings, and the fact the Russians ended up using her as a glorified ferry all speak to real problems. In her favor, though, is the presence of 12 long-range anti-ship missiles on the lead ship, and she can fly MiG-29K and Su-33 Flankers off her deck. China’s versions carry J-15 fighters, but not the missiles.
4. Kiev class (Kiev, Minsk, Novorossiysk)
The Russian Kiev and her sisters are on here for a crap air wing.
The Yak-38 Forger was one of the worst planes to ever operate from a carrier. The Kiev gets a higher ranking largely because she had a lot of firepower, including eight SS-N-12 Sandbox missiles as well as a lot of SA-N-3 Goblets and point-defense systems, which were arguably more of a threat to the enemy than the planes she carried.
Yeah… that kinda has the whole purpose backwards. Now, a modern version with F-35Bs or even AV-8B+ Harriers and the Aegis system could be interesting.
3. HTMS Chakri Naruebet
The Chakri Naruebet from the Thai navy is on the list not so much for inherent problems, but because of substantial air wing neglect during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (aka Rana IX). Worse, the Thais officially call her an “offshore patrol helicopter carrier.”
They did buy some second-hand AV-8S Matadors from Spain. But most flunked the maintenance, and soon Thailand had one flyable jet. At least the Kievs had heavy firepower to make up for their crap air wing!
That said, his successor, King Vajiralongkorn, was a former fighter pilot, and hopefully will be able to turn things around.
2. Ise Class battleship/carrier hybrid conversions
Okay, in some ways, this is understandable. After the Battle of Midway, Japan needed carriers in the worst possible way. Ise and Hyuga are perfect examples of getting those “carriers” — in the worst possible way.
Initially built as battleships with a top speed of 23 knots, they got turned not into full carriers, which might have been useful. But a half-battleship/half-carrier holding 22 seaplanes (okay about 50 percent more than Hosho) that they could launch and recover wasn’t totally awful.
Remember that’s seaplanes, not Zeroes for fighter cover or strike planes. Granted Japan had the A6M-2 Rufe, a seaplane Zero, but this was a rush job, and it showed. At least they each had eight 14-inch guns.
1. HIJMS Hosho
This was the world’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier. But let’s be honest, the Japanese boat was a dog. It had a top speed of 25 knots, and it carried all of 15 planes. During the Battle of Midway, it had eight biplanes.
By comparison, USS Langley (CV 1), America’s first aircraft carrier, could carry 36 planes. Even with a top speed of 15 knots, she would have been useful escorting convoys in the Atlantic – if America hadn’t turned her into a seaplane tender to satisfy an arms-control treaty Japan violated anyhow.
Are there any bad carriers we missed? Let us know in the comments!
It’s almost time for the Marine Corps’ Blue Dress Uniform to get knocked off their pedestal for the first time since their introduction in the late 19th century. The Army’s recent change to the uniform standard reintroduces the much-beloved WWII “Pinks and Greens” dress uniform. So far, this decision has been met almost-universal praise from the Army and veteran community.
Recent changes have been made to the prototypes. Sgt. Maj. of the Army, Daniel A. Dailey, brought four soldiers to Capitol Hill on Feb. 2 to spotlight the variations of the new dress uniform.
Here’s what you need to know.
Nostalgic color scheme
The uniforms are a callback to the dress uniforms worn by WWII-era soldiers and they’re just beautiful. The first prototypes surfaced at the annual AUSA meeting and were made nearly-official when Sgt. Maj. Dailey wore them to the Army-Navy game.
I’m not saying that we won the Army-Navy game because of how majestic the “Pinks and Greens” are, but if that’s why, I wouldn’t be surprised.
The headgear looks much sharper than the current dress uniform’s beret. The crush cap and garrison cap are a welcome callback to previous generations of soldiers. The crush cap will be authorized for NCOs and officers. The garrison cap will, to put it bluntly, look better on a Private’s head if they don’t know how to properly shape a beret.
The reintroduction of the “Pinks and Greens” headgear will be another nail in the coffin of the standard-issued black beret.
Not only does the belt give soldiers a much slimmer appearance, it also distinguishes the Class-A uniform from the business-suit-with-medals look that the Air Force has going on. Even from the back, this belt makes the uniform clearly identifiable as military.
I guess it also gives the “bigger” folks in formation an incentive to shrink their waistline.
For male soldiers, setting up the ribbon racks, awards, badges, and name tapes are simple. Take a ruler and go 1/8th of an inch up from the pocket, make sure they’re not crooked, and you’re done. Female soldiers? Not so easy.
Without the pockets to use as a guideline, female soldiers have to put on the uniform, approximately mark where everything should go according to the name tape (which should be 1″ to 2″ above the top button), take off the uniform, affix decorations, put the uniform back on, realize everything’s slightly off, try again, realize it’s still off, and then give up hope and pray no one notices. Those pocket flaps will make things much simpler for female soldiers setting up their dress uniform.
The current maternity Class-A uniform isn’t being changed by much, except for tweaks to the color scheme and the addition of shoulder epaulets to show the soldier’s rank. Although these are small changes, they go a long way in making the uniform “more military.”
Would you take targeting orders from an autonomous artillery shell? That’s the future the Army imagined in 1979.
A patent filed in that year and awarded in 1981 detailed an artillery round that would be fired towards a target area and then deploy a parachute. Then, it would slowly descend to the battlefield, taking pictures or video and identifying targets below. It would then feed the images and target positions to artillery batteries so the targets could be killed.
That’s right, the artillery shells would’ve been feeding targets to the gun bunnies.
This would’ve reduced the need to put artillery observers into harm’s way when fighting against massed enemies. Instead of sending out a maneuver force or aerial reconnaissance patrol to find the enemy and feed targeting information back, the Army could just fire some rounds out there.
The system did include a “man-in-the-loop” function meaning that, like modern drones, a human would make the final decision on which targets would be killed. A crew chief would sit in a targeting van with a light-sensitive computer display. As the drone’s imagery and proposed targets came up on the screen, this chief could designate new targets or remove target designations as necessary with a light pen.
The patent author specifically noted the importance of the chief completing this task since most computer systems of the day were prone to identifying large rocks and bushes as targets. Also, the remains of a destroyed tank still look very tank-like and could cause the computers on the artillery rounds to keep designating an already dead target.
Modern battlefields contain more collateral damage concerns than many people envisioned during the Cold War, so this man-in-the-loop would also be useful as a final check to make sure a family SUV isn’t targeted.
Once the computer had its final list of targets, more camera rounds would be fired at moving targets. These would contain explosive canisters instead of parachutes and antennas. The rounds would identify their designated targets, predict where the vehicles would be at the end of the rounds’ flight, and then steer themselves to their final impact points.
Fixed targets identified by the system could be engaged by standard artillery rounds. Each round’s impact point would be relayed to the firing artillery battery so that gunners could adjust their firing solutions if they missed.
The patent also mentions the possibility of using a similar technique with helicopters. In that case, missiles would be used instead of artillery rounds and the human in the loop would ride in the helicopter, disapproving or adding targets to the computer from there.
Also, in place of the first missile being used to photograph or film the battlefield, the helicopter could pop up from behind cover to grab the first image.
The Army’s plan to use aerial drones to target artillery lived on, though. Before drones were armed, they would designate targets for artillery or cruise missile strikes, a trick they can still do when necessary. In civil wars like those in Ukraine and Syria, both sides have used drones to spot targets for their artillery batteries.
Nazi Germany may have been one of the most evil regimes in history, but that regime also had some very good equipment. The Tiger tank, the Bf 109 and FW 190 fighters, the U-boat, and the MG42 machine gun were all very good.
Perhaps the most notorious weapon they had was called the “88.” Technically, it was called the 8.8 centimeter Flak 18, 36, 37, or 41, but most folks just described it with the number that referred to the gun’s bore diameter in millimeters. That was a measure of how notorious the gun was.
The first 88s were intended as anti-aircraft guns to kill bombers. They were very good at that – as many allied bomber crews found out to their sorrow. But the gun very quickly proved it was more than just an anti-aircraft gun, starting with its “tryout” in the Spanish Civil War. The gun also proved it could kill tanks.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, it could kill tanks from a mile away. When the Germans discovered that, they began to churn out 88mm guns as quickly as they could. As many as 20,700 were built, and they found themselves used on everything from Tiger tanks to naval vessels. Even after the war, the gun hung around, and during the war, it was something that allied forces quickly tried to neutralize. The 88 was even pressed into service with some Seventh Army units due to an ammo shortage.
The gun had a crew of seven, and weighed nine tons. The gun could be fired at targets as far as nine miles away. Very few of these guns are around now, but in World War II, many Allied troops wondered if the Germans would ever run out.
You can see video of one of the few surviving “88s” being fired below.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Army quickly mobilized to engage with Japan in the Pacific Theater. Fortunately for America, we had a few advantages on the ready. Not only did we have the semi-auto M1 Garand to face up against Japan’s bolt-action Arisaka. We also had the M1911 paired against the Japanese Nambu. For the most part, our weapons were far superior to the Japanese – with one major exception. Japan had the Knee Mortar and that was pretty scary.
Don’t let the name mislead you. The knee mortar was really a grenade launcher. Japan called it Type 89, since it was introduced in the 2,589th year of Japan’s existence.
The Knee Mortar makes its appearance
The Knee Mortar was created so Japan’s soldiers stood a chance facing off with the US. Even though their Army included some well-trained infantrymen, the Knee Mortar was definitely their back pocket weapon.
A little history
The short version: Japan had pretty crappy tanks. Their artillery was not much better. When it came down to anti-tank weapons, they didn’t have much there, either. Furthermore, the Imperial Japanese Navy got a lot of the RD priority for new ships and planes. Japan figured – correctly – that their best course of action was to try to ensure naval dominance.
According to a U.S. Army manual, the Type 89 fired a 50mm round and weighed ten pounds. Depending on the round used, it had a maximum range of just under 750 yards. It could fire incendiary rounds, smoke rounds, and high-explosive rounds. Think of it as kind of an M79 grenade launcher on steroids. You didn’t want to fire it from your knee, unless you wanted to be on a medevac flight or ship home. Instead, you braced it on the ground.
Two Marine Corps legends, “Chesty” Puller and Merritt Edson, both came away very impressed by this weapon. Edson, who lead the Marine Raiders on Guadalcanal, noted that a Japanese soldier could carry that weapon and ten rounds with no problem. The weapon was issued in large quantities to Japanese troops and had a high rate of fire. As a result, it was believed to have caused 40 percent of American battle casualties in the Pacific.
Today, the knee mortar is out of service, but the concept is alive in the form of “commando mortars” like the British L9A1, the South African M-4, and the Iranian 37mm “marsh mortar.” In short, grunts have options for lightweight firepower.
Kyle Lamb has lived a life most couldn’t even dream of. He grew up in a small town in South Dakota, but by the age of 24 he had been selected into the most elite special operations unit in the military. He went on to serve in “The Unit” for the next 15 years with deployments to Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq on multiple occasions (among many others).
Since Lamb’s retirement from the U.S. Army, he has authored two books on topics ranging from marksmanship to leadership and founded Viking Tactics, Inc., which specializes in tactical training and equipment. You may have even seen some of his articles in Guns & Ammo magazine or his face on the Outdoor Channel.
Coffee, or Die Magazine recently caught up with the retired sergeant major to talk about everything from combat in Mogadishu to his passion for history. Check it out:
Lamb while serving overseas.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)
You spent the vast majority of your career as a member of the military’s premiere special missions unit. There’s a lot of mystique that (rightfully) surrounds that world, but what is the one thing that would surprise most people about what it’s like to live that life?
Probably how normal those guys are. Not everyone there is like that, but there are a lot of really normal husbands and dads. They go to work in street clothes, then put on their commando costume and go do crazy stuff. Everyone expects those guys to look and act a certain way, but a lot of them aren’t like that at all. Their neighbors don’t even know what they do. It’s just a different world.
Looking back, what was the scariest “oh-shit” moment in your career?
I think probably the one that stands out the most was being in Somalia in a big gun fight and thinking, We’re done, we’re not gonna make it out of this. I said a prayer and decided to just do the best I can and not be a coward. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the pucker factor though. I don’t think you ever get to the point where you know how you’re gonna act in that sort of situation.
Once you get to a certain level in your training, and once I became a troop sergeant major, my biggest scare then was when we were getting ready to go out. I didn’t want anything to happen to my guys. Not so concerned about myself — I knew I was with the best group of guys, best medics, best equipment — I just didn’t want anyone to get jacked up on the mission.
Lamb performing shooting drills at a range.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb/Viking Tactics, Inc.)
What was your plan when you retired from the military?
I was scared to death but what helped me was that I had prepared myself pretty well before I got out. I already had 42 weeks of range classes booked before I got out. So I knew the first year I was gonna be working, making decent money, and I just hoped I would survive after that.
Well, the first year was difficult, but not because of work — I mean, I worked my butt off — it was because of separation anxiety and not having a mission. Luckily, I was around a lot of law enforcement and military guys though, which helped.
You seem to be a student of history. With the U.S. on its 17th straight year at war, how do you think this era will be viewed in future history books?
I’m a diehard history reader, studier, listener — whatever I can do. I haven’t always been that way though. I had a guy on my team named Earl Fillmore who died in Somalia. He would ask me questions about the Civil War, and I didn’t know the answers. He would say, “Man, you’re dumb.” So he gave me this book about Nathan Bedford Forrest. I read this book and thought, This is awesome, and it’s a true story.
So that really got me going with all history. I think being military guys, we definitely need to be students of history so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. And if you don’t like to read books, then listen to podcasts or audiobooks.
Lamb while serving overseas.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)
I think the war is one thing, but what we do at home during that war is the important thing. We’ve always had good warriors out doing good things, but now we have good warriors that are a smaller percentage of the population. And we said we’re gonna do this, and we went out and did this stuff for God and country, and I think the people who read history will say we had the greatest army in the world.
Yet we have more problems at home than a lot of other countries. I feel like we are so separated right now. It’s gonna read one of two ways: “Wow, they had the greatest army,” or “They ruined it with social experiments.” Where are we gonna be at? I just don’t know.
Finally, if you’re an American and you don’t feel that America should be No. 1, how can you call yourself an American?
Lamb with an elk he felled on a hunting trip.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)
Was coffee a part of your daily routine while in the military? What’s the craziest place you’ve ever enjoyed a cup?
My love of coffee comes from the Army. That’s when I really got into coffee. When I went to Bosnia, I had some really good coffee there. It was really strong, kind of jacked me up. But it was smooth, had the smell, the aftertaste. When I would deploy, I would take an espresso machine with me, a small basic one and a grinder, too. I would take whole beans with me and grind ’em up. I would brew it, and guys would look at me like a I was a weirdo. But by my fifth trip to Iraq, half my troop was bringing an espresso machine with them.
Everything’s relative though. Normal to me is strange to you. Probably the best places I like it is at a high altitude while hunting elk. Water boils at a lower temperature, which makes a difference with your coffee. I enjoy the coffee with that vantage point, that sun coming up.
You’ve written a few books, including one on leadership. During your tenure, you led specially selected, elite humans performing at the pinnacle of their profession. Do you think your leadership philosophy is better or worse because of that?
Leading smart people is more challenging than leading stupid people. I was leading a lot of intelligent guys who were physically fit; top performers. People like that you can’t just bully them into following you.
Watching how some people lead in the civilian world, I feel bad for them. They try to bully and don’t define their mission. They are so politically correct that they’re ineffective. I want the truth, even if it hurts. Our guys were super honest because we wanted to be the best; we wanted our unit to be the best. If you have thin skin, you’ll get eaten alive. You want performers on the team, not people who believe in status or entitlement.
You need to look at all the people you are working with or for and figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Build on their weaknesses and utilize their strengths. People who aren’t out of control but are pushing the envelope.
Lamb working with a student on a pistol range.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb/Viking Tactics, Inc.)
Many guys who serve in special operations and then go on to live public lives face criticism from their military peers for stepping out of the shadows of the “quiet professional.” Have you faced those criticisms, and if so, how have you dealt with it?
The difference is that I haven’t let any secrets out of the bag. The other difference is that I had my books approved by the unit. Any redactions that they asked for, I did it. I did have one TV show that I did — I never said anything about the unit, but one guy wanted to string me up for that. What that really did for me, at that point in my career as a washed-up military dude doing my thing, is upset me for a while. I was like, Why did I do that? Then I got mad. So, I called up the unit commander and said, “Hey man, what’s going on? This dude’s trying to throw me under the bus.” He said nothing’s wrong, don’t worry about it.
But here’s the deal: Eventually you’re going to get out of the military, and you’re allowed to use the term “Delta.” They tell you that when you get out, but I never used it. I’m glad that happened though because it was a real learning and growing experience. I’m just not gonna sweat it anymore, but I’ll still abide by all the rules. When you get that one dude out of a thousand who attacks you, it just shows he was never your friend to begin with.
Most guys coming out of the military are much better with a rifle than a pistol. If you had to narrow it down, what’s the one thing that will improve a pistol shot more than anything else?
You need to train. There’s not one specific little task that you can perform, it’s a total package. You gotta draw safely, present the weapon, squeeze the trigger straight to the rear, follow through on the shot, and repeat as necessary. One mag, one kill. Get out and train on your own, and once you hit that plateau, go seek professional training from someone who is a better shooter than you. Then take it to the next level. If you were in the military, you might be familiar with weapons or comfortable with them, but you may not be the best shot so get out and train. The pistol is much more difficult to shoot than the rifle for most military people.
The Air Force is buying a new bomber, dubbed the B-21 Raider, which has generated a lot of headlines and is considered one of the biggest priorities for the service. However, another program may be just as important – even if it doesn’t get the press.
According to an interview that TheCipherBrief.com had with retired Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, who was one of the primary planners of the Desert Storm air campaign, that program is the Long-Range Stand-Off weapon, or LRSO. In plain terms, it is a new cruise missile.
While the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile is perhaps the most famous – and perhaps the most widely-used cruise missile since Operation Desert Storm – the Air Force has had a pair of cruise missiles it launched from its bombers for about four decades. They were the AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile and the AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile.
While some might argue that the B-2 and B-21 stealth bombers make cruise missiles unnecessary, Deptula said that was not the case. In fact, they make the stealth bombers more potent.
“The LRSO, when carried by B-21s, will enable simultaneous target attacks against several targets from one aircraft, with multiple cruise missiles making defense against this combination highly problematical,” he said. “This combination strengthens deterrence by presenting an adversary an intractable challenge.”
One of the biggest factors in making that challenge intractable is that the bombers are able to attack from just about any point on the compass. In essence, the cruise missiles would enable a B-21 to hit multiple targets from unexpected directions.
Older bombers like the B-52 and B-1B will also be able to use LRSO as well, with Deptula explaining that they would thus “add mass to an attack” against an adversary. The missile is planned to enter service in 2030 according to FlightGlobal.com, and will feature both nuclear and conventional warheads.
Tensions between the U.S. and Russia are dangerously high. Both sides are complaining that the other has ignored military norms in international airspace and at sea, both have accused the other of violating treaties designed to prevent large-scale war, and both are developing systems to counter the other’s strength.
But, while Russia works on new tanks and bombers and the U.S. tries to get its second fifth-generation fighter fully operational, each side is also looking to a nearly forgotten technology from the Cold War, nuclear-armed trains.
The idea is to construct a train that looks normal to satellite feeds, aerial surveillance and, if possible, observers on the ground, but carries one or more intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads.
The trains, if properly camouflaged, would be nearly impossible to target and could launch their payloads within minutes.
Russia got the missile cars to work first and fielded an operational version in 1991. In the early 1990s, America built prototype rail cars for the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison missile system and tested them, but then the Soviet Union collapsed and the project was cancelled.
The missile cars and fuel tanks are to be disguised as refrigeration cars and will be indistinguishable from regular trains if the weapons live up to the hype. Each will be able to deploy with its own security force and missile personnel for up to 28 days without resupply.
But, budget problems that were biting at the Pentagon then have continued to hound it, and mobile launchers are expensive. Plus, most Americans don’t like the idea of nuclear trains running under their feet any more than they like the idea of nuclear trucks driving through their local streets.
The feasibility of Russia’s plans is also suspect. After all, the Russian Defense Ministry is running into worse budget problems than the Pentagon. It’s ability to fund a nuclear-armed train while oil prices are low and its economy is in shambles is questionable at best.
Right now, America’s main counter to Russian nuclear trains, and any other intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, appears to be its missile shields in Europe which could intercept many outbound nuclear missiles.
It doesn’t seem like much. It’s just a spool of metal wiring, dotted with small, sharp, evenly-dispersed bits. If you happened upon some of it strewn across the ground, you could maneuver around the teeth fairly easily and make your way through, unscathed, with ease. It’s more of a flimsy annoyance than a deterrent — but that’s the beauty of it.
Since the turn of the century, troops have implemented it when setting up defensive positions. It’s only ever placed by itself in training situations — since the worst damage it can inflict is a small cut and maybe a tear on one’s uniform — but when it’s used in conjunction with other defensive emplacements, it becomes substantially more difficult to navigate.
Its relatively cheap price tag has made it the perfect option for training scenarios. It’s become so integral to training warfighters that every troop, regardless of branch, occupation, or era, has had to learn to crawl under it at one point or another.
This was also back in the day when C-wire had to be made by hand. Each and every barb was tied on manually. Thank God for mass-production because that must have been one sh*tty detail.
(U.S. National Archives)
Barbed wire was first created in 1876 for ranchers. Ranchers had difficulty keeping their cattle on their land and the big, lumbering cows could just knock over any puny fence. Then, an Illinois cattleman by the name of Joseph Glidden came up with the idea to cut small strips of metal and tie them to his metal fences to poke the cows when they got too close, deterring them from trying to break through barriers.
It worked and, in just four short years, the U.S. military caught on. They started using it as a deterrent to enemy forces and, seeing the success, nearly every other military quickly followed suit. Barbed wire saw use in the Spanish American War, the Second Boer War, and the Russo-Japanese War.
The heyday of barbed wire was the First World War, the first time it was spooled for quick transport and deployment. This spooled barbed wire became known as concertina wire, named after the tiny, accordion-like instrument the spools resembled. The wiring spread across the vast battlefield, nearly engulfing the entire Western Front. It’s been said that there was enough concertina wire used in WWI to encircle the globe forty times.
The prevalence of barbed wire made it impossible for infantrymen or cavalry to cross areas with ease. In fact, one of the earliest selling points for WWI-era tanks was their ability to roll over barbed wire unaffected.
From personal experience, I can tell you that the gloves the Army issues to soldiers are garbage when it comes to protecting your hands as you set it up — just throwing that out there.
(U.S. Army photo by Terrance Bell)
Today, concertina wire is much less of a headache to deploy. It comes pre-packaged and simply opening the packaging unravels it from its spool, like a compressed slinky being set free. A single platoon in today’s military can “bounce out” an entire kilometer of concertina wiring in just a single hour — even faster if they unspool it from the back of a vehicle.
You can deploy it in a single row to cover a long distance or place it next to another to create a wider row. Toss a third strip on top in a sort of pyramid shape, anchor it with a post, and, voila, you’ve created and impromptu barrier that no one is getting through any time soon.
Modern concertina wiring is so effective, in fact, that all it takes is eleven rows of it staked down to stop most vehicles.
It multiplies the difficulty of crossing a defensive position — this is why you’ll so often see it wrapped along the top of a fence line. A normal fence can be easily climbed, but not when there’re little razor blades at the top!
Even alone, it’s great at slowing down enemy movements. Anyone rushing a concertina wire line will have to slow down and watch their step — all while the guards are lining up their shot.
And, finally, concertina wire adds to an intimidation factor. If you’ve worked with the wire up close, you’re probably not very afraid of it — but from afar, those little metal bits can look pretty mean.
To watch a sapper veteran explain concertina wire, check out the video below:
If you’ve seen Top Gun or any footage of an American aircraft carrier doing its thing, you’ve probably seen catapults launch aircraft. These impressive devices can launch a fully-loaded plane, getting it up to speeds as high as 200 knots in a matter of seconds — if everything’s working right.
The same is true for the electromagnetic aircraft launch system, or EMALS, in use on the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).
But how does the Navy make sure everything’s working as intended? How can they verify that any repairs they’ve made have actually fixed the thing? There are 122 millions reasons why you wouldn’t want to test it out on a brand new F-35C Lightning II. So, because USAA doesn’t offer that magnitude of coverage, the US Navy needs a cheap, solid stand-in.
When you fix the catapult, you want to make sure you got it right.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Cole C. Pielop)
According to one Navy release, they use what are called “dead loads” to simulate the weight of planes. These are essentially wheeled sleds made of solid metal that can be launched in relatively shallow water (“relative” to the USS Gerald R. Ford’s maximum draft of 41 feet). That makes recovering the dead loads easy.
Since the dead loads aren’t outfitted with electronics — or even an engine — they are relatively easy to replace. Furthermore, if they are recovered, they can be reused. It’s a very cheap way to make sure that your aircraft launch system is working, be it a traditional catapult or the new EMALS.
When you are trying to launch a 2 million F-35 Lightning from a carrier, you want to make sure the launching system works.
(U. S. Navy photo by Arnel Parker)
To watch the Navy test the EMALS on USS Gerald R. Ford, check out the video below. You even get a view from the perspective of the “dead load,” giving you a taste of the catapult’s power.
Okay, you’ve heard all the complaints about the F-35. It’s super-expensive. It’s got problems getting ready for combat. But in the real world, there’s no other option. And as WATM has already explained, the Marine Corps desperately needs to replace its F/A-18 Hornets.
But suppose, instead of blowing their RD money on the F-35, the Air Force, Navy, and Marines had decided to pull out File A56-7W and instead replicate Airwolf? They’d have gotten a much better deal – and it might even have helped the Army, too.
Airwolf’s specs (click here for another source) reveal this helicopter already took advantage of some stealth technology, had modern ECM systems and sensors, and very heavy armament (four 30mm cannon, two 40mm cannon, and various air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles). All in all, it’s very powerful, even if it was the brainchild of one of the big TV showrunners of the 1980s and 1990s.
So, why does it beat the F-35? Here are some of the reasons.
1. It can operate off any ship
With a top speed of over Mach 2, Airwolf may have the performance of a fighter jet, but it takes off and lands like a helicopter – without the need for the complex mechanisms used on the V-22 Osprey.
Think of it this way; with Airwolf in its hanger deck every surface combatant and amphibious ship could carry what amounts to a Generation 4.5 fighter. Even the Littoral Combat Ships could handle Airwolf, giving them a lot more punch in a fight than they currently have.
2. It would replace more airframes than the F-35 would
The F-35 is replacing the AV-8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and A-10 Thunderbolt II in U.S. service. Airwolf not only would replace all four of those airframes, but it would also replace all of the AH-1 and AH-64 helicopters in Marine Corps and Army service. The promise of the TFX program as originally envisioned in the 1960s could be fulfilled at last!
3. Better performance
According to an Air Force fact sheet, the F-35 has a top speed of Mach 1.6, a ceiling of 50,000 feet, and a range of 1,350 miles without refueling. Airwolf hits a top speed of Mach 2, a ceiling of 100,000 feet, and a range of 1,450 miles.
In other words, Airwolf would have the F-35 beat in some crucial areas. Now, the F-35 might have an advantage in terms of payload (fixed-wing planes usually have that edge), but the fact remains, Airwolf would have been a very viable candidate for that competition – and might have had the edge, given that the Army would have bought airframes to replace the Apache.
Oh, and here’s the Season 1 opener, just for kicks: