Everyone has their favorite piece of issued gear. It doesn’t matter why you love it, you just do. And chances are good that you loved it so much, it got “lost” during your last deployment.
Military people are good people, so I don’t like to use the word “theft.” We’ll call it the usual, “Strategic Transfer of Equipment to an Alternate Location.”
7. IR patches
Do you know which country’s troops are the toughest in combat? The United States. Now, do you know which country’s troops would be the most lethal for U.S. troops to fight? The United States.
Those backward flags worn U.S. military uniforms keep blue-on-blue accidents from happening at night. While in the field, they’re worn on the chest or arm. When the wearer transitions to veteran status, it goes on their ball cap.
No matter which brand you prefer, Gerber or Leatherman, this is one of the most useful things troops deploy with. The range of use is astonishing. You can use it for one of its many on-label functions, like a screwdriver. Or maybe you need to bend the lower receiver on a .50-cal back into place. Or maybe you need to pull some shrapnel out of your battle buddy. The multi-tool is what you need.
In your post-military life, your Gerber is likely to end up constructing Ikea furniture.
5. Gen-III cold weather fleece
Everyone knows a fleece jacket is both comfortable as hell while making you look 20 pounds heavier. The Army’s extreme cold weather fleece has the same problem with the added benefit of being a part of a bigger cold weather system that actually works.
The old issued M-65 field jackets were just like coats, in that you wear them, but they were about as protective as flip-flops.
4. Angle-head flashlights
In the event of nuclear war, two things will survive: cockroaches and your old, angle-head flashlight. These old things are beloved by veterans of many eras. Sure, they update the issued lights, they switched to surefire flashlights, and they even updated the angled heads on some models, but there’s a reason these are so iconic.
You may not have a daily use for a signal light, but chances are good this is in your home or car emergency kit — or even your bug-out bag.
3. The KA-BAR
This one only applies to Marines, but the KA-BAR is pretty much the utility knife. For whatever reason they might need a utility knife, Marines will always say their issued KA-BAR is indispensable. And none of them ever want to give it up at the end of the day.
Not every branch refers to the poncho liner as the “woobie,” but everyone can appreciate how useful this blanket is. It now even has a cult following of troops and veterans who turn their woobies into everything from smoking jackets to snuggies.
If you don’t think the Camelback is an amazing advance in issued military equipment, try to remember what it was like to haul around a canteen on your LBV.
You know what else is great about taking a camelback on a deployment? Or hiking, or boating, or literally anywhere else where you need to carry a lot of water? It doesn’t taste like sh*tty canteen water.
Bourbon is a liquor that has a place in your hand all-year round. Whether it’s sipping a mint julep on a hot summer’s day or spiking the egg nog (like George Washington might) to make Christmas with the family that much more fun (or bearable), there is just never a bad time for a bourbon beverage.
Despite being named for a house of French kings, there are myriad reasons why we should take a moment to take stock (literally and figuratively) of America’s distinctive, home-grown, and distilled liquor.
Bourbon’s all-American status goes well beyond the fact that it’s an American-born corn-fed whiskey created by a Baptist minister in Kentucky — although I can’t think of a more American birth for anything.
A 1964 act of Congress made bourbon the official spirit of the United States of America, or as they put it, “America’s Native Spirit.” Which says a lot, both about America and the U.S. Congress… and probably the people who voted for them.
It should be noted that many, many great bourbons are Kentucky-based but it isn’t necessary for a bourbon to be made in Kentucky for it to be considered a bourbon. This is not champagne we’re talking about. The necessary qualifications for a whiskey to be a bourbon are as follows:
It’s made with 51 percent corn.
It must be aged in a new white oak barrel, with the inside charred before adding liquor.
It can’t have any color or flavor additives
Bourbon must be between 80 and 160 proof (40-80 percent alcohol)
There are real reasons why bourbon is a product that could only have been American-made. So, put that vodka-soda down, comrade, and get a bottle of Evan Williams for the coming July 4th holiday. Your friends and family will thank you.
Now if you want to drink bourbon like a sailor, try the classic Whiskey Smash!
1. Those oak barrels are only found in North America.
Bourbon must be aged in a new American White Oak barrel every time. These barrels are never reused by bourbon makers. I think they’re shipped off to Scotland so they can age scotch whisky in them with peat moss and haggis or whatever. No, America’s bourbon only uses them once — by law (no joke) — and they’re mostly found only in America.
When the U.S. Navy needs to patch up Old Ironsides, the USS Constitution, they use white oak from a grove specifically for the ship, called “Constitution Grove,” at a Naval timber reserve at Naval Weapons Support Center in Crane, Indiana.
2. Bourbon fueled the exploration of the United States.
Lewis and Clark didn’t take water with them on the expedition to map the Louisiana Purchase, but you can be damn sure they remembered to bring 120 gallons of bourbon to fuel their two-year trek to the Pacific Ocean.
3. American icons f*cking love bourbon.
What did Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Harry Truman, Walt Whitman, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Jack London, Mark Twain, Anthony Bourdain, and John Wayne have in common? No, they weren’t all taken over by the reptile aliens and replaced: They loved American bourbon.
When Grant’s critics appealed to Lincoln to try and have him fired for his drinking, Lincoln offered to send Grant’s preferred brand to all his other generals — and you can still buy Grant’s favorite bourbon today. President Truman began every day of his life, even as President, with a glass of the hard stuff.
Even Winston Churchill loved American bourbon, which can be partly explained by the fact that the British bulldog’s mother was American born.
4. The young U.S. Army ran on booze, not its stomach.
An army still needs to eat, but how do you pay for the food that fuels that army — or, specifically, the U.S. Army? It was excising taxes on distilled spirits for the fledgling United States that bought the guns and grub that defeated the British and put down rebellions (including the rebellion against the taxes) in the country’s early years. Rum and whiskey can also take some claim for this, but it was bourbon that kept the country together in the war to come.
5. It was the glue that saved the Union.
When the border state of Kentucky remained in the Union, it allowed Abraham Lincoln to use taxes on distilled spirits to pay for much of the Union war effort. The Confederacy prohibited bourbon production because it wanted to use the corn to feed troops and the copper stills to make cannon.
A credible way to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles has been a cornerstone of American defense thinking since the early days of the Cold War. With renewed ballistic missile threats from China and North Korea, the need for a reliable way to intercept incoming ballistic missiles on their way to the US mainland was renewed.
But the most recent test shows more promise for a new interception system than at any time in U.S. military history, with the system successfully intercepting an incoming test ICBM as it was designed to do.
The test missile was an ICBM launched from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, some 4,000 miles away from the United States. The interceptor missiles were launched from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base via an underground missile silo. This test was a “salvo” test, which means multiple missiles were fired at the same incoming missile to increase the chances of destroying it.
“The system worked exactly as it was designed to do,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency. The test result “demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.”
But not everyone agrees.
In this photo provided by the Missile Defense Agency, the lead ground-based Interceptor is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in a “salvo” engagement test of an unarmed missile target Monday, March 25, 2019. In the first test of its kind, the Pentagon on Monday carried out the “salvo” intercept of an unarmed missile soaring over the Pacific, using two interceptor missiles launched from underground silos in southern California.
(Missile Defense Agency)
The Union of Concerned Scientists says the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system that launched the test is more akin to “hitting a bullet with a bullet,” and the system is hugely expensive, ineffective, and offers no proven capability to protect the United States. It goes on to note the GMD in its current state was fielded before any tests were conducted on the system and two-thirds of its intercepts fail. The Union calls the system wasteful and calls on the government to figure out another strategy for missile defense.
The Pentagon will spend .4 billion on missile defense, including the GMD, in the year 2020.
“Success is better than failure, but because of the secrecy I have no idea how high the bar was set,” said Laura Grego of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “How realistic was the test? The Pentagon had a very long way to go to demonstrate the system works in a real-world situation.”
A ballistic missile test-fired from Meck Island in the Kwajalein Atoll.
The United States also uses space-based and sea-based missiles in its missile defense network. These systems were also used to track the successful test intercept.
“This was the first GBI salvo intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target, and it was a critical milestone,” Lt. Gen. Greaves said in a released statement.
Russia’s T-15 Armata infantry fighting vehicle may be grabbing headlines as a possible Bradley-killer due to its use of the Vietnam War-era S-60 anti-aircraft gun, but it is not the first Russian armored vehicle to pack 57mm firepower.
The first was the ZSU-57-2 Sparka. The ZSU stands for “zenitnaya samokhodnaya ustanovka,” which is Russian for “anti-aircraft self-propelled mount.” The nomenclature is quite easy to understand. The number immediately after “ZSU” reflects the size of the guns on the vehicle and the number after that shows how many barrels. So, the ZSU-57-2, for example, is equipped with two 57mm anti-aircraft guns.
The ZSU-57-2 first entered Soviet service in 1958. It was based on the T-54 tank chassis and was intended to help protect Russian ground forces from enemy aircraft. The 57mm guns packed a solid punch, but it wasn’t long before advances in aircraft quickly rendered the ZSU-57-2 obsolete.
The ZSU-57-2 was widely exported to the Soviet Union’s allies and puppet states, showing up everywhere from East Germany to North Korea. The North Vietnamese acquired a number of these vehicles and, just as the United States Army found with the M163 Vulcan Air Defense System and the M45 “Meat Chopper,” the ZSU-57-2 proved to be very devastating against ground targets as well.
The vehicle saw a lot of action in the Arab-Israeli wars and, as a result, a number of those vehicles fell into Israeli hands. The vehicles also saw action in the Sino-Vietnamese conflict of 1979, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Today, it still hangs around and has been consistently upgraded to make it more capable. Kim Jong Un’s regime is perhaps the largest operator today.
As the Marine Corps continues its quest to get more capability from long-range precision fires, it’s asking industry for proposals on a portable system that can fire high-tech attack and reconnaissance drones on the go.
The service released a request for proposals April 23, 2018, describing a futuristic system unlike any of its existing precision-fires programs.
The theoretical weapons system, which the Corps is simply calling Organic Precision Fire, needs to be capable of providing fire support at distances of up to 60 kilometers, or more than 37 miles, according to the RFP document.
This range would exceed that of the M777 155mm howitzer, which can fire Excalibur rounds up to 40 kilometers, or around 25 miles.
(Photo by Gertrud Zach)
The system, which ideally would be light enough for just one Marine to carry, would launch loitering munitions from a canister or tube no larger than 10 inches across and eight feet long. The projectile would be able to loiter for up to two hours, according to the solicitation, while gathering data and acquiring a target
Loitering munitions, known informally as suicide or kamikaze drones, are unmanned aerial vehicles, typically containing warheads, designed to hover or loiter rather than traveling straight to a target. They’re becoming increasingly common on the battlefield.
The California-based company AeroVironment’s Switchblade loitering munition is now in use by the Marine Corps and Army. It is described as small enough to fit inside a Marine’s ALICE pack. The Blackwing UAV, also made by AeroVironment, is tube-launched, but designed to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, rather than to attack.
The Marines want whoever can make the system they seek to give it the ability to communicate securely with a ground control system at a distance of up to 60 kilometers. It should also be advanced enough to perform positive identification on a target, and engage and attack a range of targets including personnel, vehicles and facilities.
Companies have until May 18, 2018, to submit proposals to the Marine Corps on such a system.
Service leaders have publicly said they’re planning to make big investments in the field of long-range precision fires as they prepare for future conflicts.
The commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, told Military.com in December 2017, that the service was making decisions to divest of certain less successful weapons systems in order to shift more resources to developing these capabilities. The service had already done so, he said, with its 120mm towed mortar system, the Expeditionary Fire Support System.
“We made that decision to divest of it, and we’re going to move that money into some other area, probably into the precision fires area,” Walsh told Military.com. “So programs that we see as not as viable, this [program objective memorandum] development that we’re doing right now is to really look at those areas critically and see what can we divest of to free money up to modernize.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Within the last few years, 360-degree cameras have hit the market and they’re changing the way we record our favorite memories. They may also have implications for how our nation fights its enemies.
When it comes to fighting a ground war, having as many sets of surveilling eyes as possible is a good idea — an idea that could save lives.
Although the infantrymen that patrol hostile streets on a daily basis are highly-trained, it’s near impossible to recount every single detail exactly as it happened after the fact.
In the event that something abnormal happens on a trip outside the wire, having footage from a 360-degree camera can provide you with all the analysis you need.
It could help with your disability claim
A lot of sh*t can happen while you’re outside the wire in a short amount of time.
In the event that something bad happens and the platoon doc wasn’t there to witness it, there’s a good chance that it was captured clearly with the 360-degree camera. That dramatic footage will come in handy when you’re battling the VA for compensation.
You could update your terrain maps
One of the most significant issues with serving in a war that takes place in a developing country is that enemies can quickly take down and rebuild their dried-mud structures.
With the help of a 360-degree camera, if a structure is, in fact, rebuilt after being wiped away via airstrike, the new footage will help you update terrain maps. By simply carrying one of these versatile tools, you’ll record new information without even trying.
It’s called surveillance, people.
We thought so.
The footage could be better than any war trophy
Who here wants to document an awesome firefight where you kick enemies’ asses from all angles?
It can help identify high-value individuals
This may come as a shocker, but when the bad guys interact with allied forces, they typically lie about their identities. Having a 360-degree camera on deck can help analysts identify potential threats, even if the allied troop isn’t looking.
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For the conservative caffeine connoisseur:
~ Small batch, roast-to-order coffee that might as well be shot from guns~
Black Rifle Coffee Company is a deeply veteran-owned, veteran-oriented business.
Military service, American conservatism, and an unapologetic love of liberty make up the philosophical bedrock upon which founder, Evan Hafer, built his in-your-face gourmet coffee upstart.
If you’ve ever taken a virtual stroll through Black Rifle’s youtube marketing videos (frequently featuring co-owner and 2nd Amendment Pom Pom Waver @mat_best_official), then you know that these guys really, really treasure circadian rhythm shattering coffee.
Hafer served as a Green Beret during Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as a stint as a contractor for the CIA in subsequent tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, all while nurturing an abiding fascination with the fine art of roasting coffee. Much as he prized his time as an operator, when it came time to transition, he was ready for the adventure of running a small business exactly according to his rules.
“I transition out…in a way that’s probably unusual to a lot of people, because, I’ll just turn the page on it, meaning, like, I love and respect my time in the military–it’s taught me a lot, but at the same time…it doesn’t hold me back.”
His solution to the problem of leading a new life as an vetrepreneur is to bring with him as much of his past warrior life as is germaine to his new mission. The combat humor, the belief in veteran power, the faith that hard work will pay off in the end…these qualities and more make up the arsenal that Black Rifle Coffee carries on its steady march forward.
Like the best of them, they remember where they came from.
“War is something that, it’s like, it’s always there. I think for most veterans…you don’t ever leave it. You don’t leave it.”
The UK and France scrambled fighter jets to respond to a two Tu-160 Russian nuclear bombers that approached Scotland without responding to air control on Sept. 20, 2018.
The UK Ministry of Defense said the unresponsive planes presented a hazard to other aviation by not communicating.
“Russian bombers probing UK airspace is another reminder of the very serious military challenge that Russia poses us today,” Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement sent to Business Insider. “We will not hesitate to continually defend our skies from acts of aggression.”
Military flight radar trackers spotted an unusually large number of Russian nuclear bombers taking off from bases in the country’s east early on Sept. 20, 2018, and tracked them as they flew above Scandinavia and down into North Sea towards the UK.
The fleet included three Tu-160 supersonic bombers and three Tu-95 propeller driven bombers with refueling tankers along for the long-distance haul. Williamson’s statement says only two Tu-160s were involved in the interception incident.
UK and French jets flew out to greet the bombers. Business Insider observed flight radar trackers as the incident unfolded. Ultimately the Russian bombers turned away and the European jets returned home. The Russian bombers did not enter UK airspace.
Typically the UK scrambles its own fighters to respond to potential breaches of airspace, so the inclusion of French jets may suggest some abnormality in the incident.
Together the six Russian bombers represent a massive array of air power. Both bombers can carry anti-ship and nuclear missiles in large enough numbers to punch a serious hole in UK or European defenses.
Russia regularly uses its bombers to probe the airspace of its neighbors and possibly gauge response time to aide in planning for potential future conflicts.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the opening hours of the next Korean War, the North could kill upwards of 250,000 people using just conventional artillery, to say nothing of nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles, a January 2019 Rand Corporation report found. Those numbers are just from the South Korean capital alone.
And there is little the United States could do about it.
The North’s big gun is essentially a self-propelled coastal defense gun, the Koksan 170 mm, mounted on a tank and firing rocket-propelled shells up to 40 miles in any direction. Since the crews work outside of the weapon and North Korea’s air force could do little to protect them, the North had to devise a means of reloading the guns after firing, when they’re exposed and vulnerable.
An aging Koksan 170mm artillery piece.
Some 10 million people live within firing range of the Korean demilitarized zone, living and working every day with hundreds of guns pointed at their heads. This includes the population of Seoul as well as the tens of thousands of U.S. and South Korean military personnel stationed on the peninsula. Most of them live within the 25-mile range of Communist artillery pointed at the South, but North Korea has some pieces that can fire as far as 125 miles, affecting a further 22 million people. It’s not a good situation for defending South Korea or protecting our forces.
“Conservative predictions of a likely attack scenario anticipate an initial artillery barrage focused on military targets, which would result in significant casualties,” said U.S. Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, head of U.S. Forces Korea. “A larger attack targeting civilians would yield several thousand casualties with the potential to affect millions… within the first 24 hours.”
North Korea has thousands of artillery pieces that could fire tens of thousands of rounds during a 10-minute barrage. The big Koksan 170 carries 12 rounds of its own before it has to go re-arm itself. Since any ammunition depots would be as vulnerable to enemy aircraft as the artillery themselves, North Korea has constructed thousands of reinforced underground bunkers near the DMZ to hold ammo and house the guns.
As a result, in an opening salvo, North Korean artillery are likely to use what military planners call a “shoot n’ scoot” tactic. The guns will come out of the bunkers to fire off their rounds and then go right back into hiding to reload and prepare for another volley in rapid succession. This will make it difficult for allied airpower to track and kill the weapons.
The best scenario for Seoul is that the Koksan 170 requires a specialized round to hit Seoul, one the North may have in limited quantities. Even if they do fire at a high rate, it’s likely the barrels of the weapons will heat up to a degree that the ideal rate of fire U.S. military planners plan against won’t be the actual rate used in combat. Another potential advantage for the UN forces is the area covered by the guns. If North Korea wants to destroy Seoul in the first few minutes of a war, all of its weapons would need to be trained on Seoul, work perfectly, and have the maximum rate of fire for a skilled crew – while UN planes and artillery are shooting back.
Technology wasn’t actually the method by which the military tried to create an army of super soldiers. It wasn’t a special armor or a Captain America-like serum either. No, like most harebrained schemes of the Cold War, the military tried to create a kind of “warrior monk soldier” with paranormal abilities that would take on the defense of the United States when technology could not.
The Army and the CIA, it turns out, could spend money on anything.
The Marines got the Warrior Monk anyway.
The First Earth Battalion was more than just a bunch of men staring at goats. The idea was derived from the human potential movement, a counterculture phenomenon of the 1960s which believed humans were not using their full mental and physical capacity in their lives and could thus be and do more when properly trained or motivated. After the end of the Vietnam War, the Army was ready to review how it fought wars and try an approach less focused on filling body bags.
When the Army sent word that it was seeking new ways of fighting and training its soldiers, it was bombarded with suggestions that seemed bogus but had some merit, like sleep learning and mental rehearsal. It was also offered some of the less down-to-earth ideas in American culture. It attempted to create an Army focused on unleashing the human potential locked within the bodies of its soldiers, unused.
Admit right now that unleashing an army of Tony Robbinses would be terrifying for the enemy.
So the U.S. military was divided over how to proceed. One side wanted to invest in developing weapons, technology, armor, and ways to train its soldiers. You know, Army stuff. The other side wanted to train soldiers to master extra-sensory perception, leaving their body at will to fight on the astral plane, levitation, psychic healing techniques, and the ability to walk through walls – they were asking for a “super soldier.”
Forget that there was no scientific evidence that this stuff actually worked. Or that the Army didn’t really ask if there was concrete evidence. And forget that the Army had no real plans to integrate these super soldiers into its order of battle against the Soviet Union when and if they did work. All they cared about were reports that the Soviets were seeking the same technology and powers, and the Americans wanted it too.
In Marvel Comics, the Soviet superhero is the “Red Guardian” and I really need him to fight the First Earth Battalion now, thanks.
To settle the matter, the Army researched a report on all things parapsychology, from remote viewing to psychokinesis. This comprehensive study took two years and was released at a whopping 425,000 pages by the National Research Council. Their findings? Spoiler Alert: the evidence in favor of nearly all of these techniques and powers were “scientifically unsupported.”
What they did find to work were things like mental rehearsals before physically performing a task. Still, the 0,000 allocated toward the potential research in 1981 was never spent and was still unspent seven years later.
Many troops enlist with hopes of finding something bigger than themselves. After their contract is up, it’s not uncommon for the battle-hardened grunt to feel lost in a world now unfamiliar. All the while, they’re told that there’s nothing out there for them but flipping burgers or greeting customers at some supermarket.
Then, there’s the world of law enforcement. The police force is, and always will be, trying to scoop up as many of these former-military badasses as possible. In terms of transitions, going from the armed forces into law enforcement isn’t that much of a stretch: you’ll face similar hours, do similar tasks, and be surrounded by similar camaraderie all in attempts to promote greater good.
With the utmost respect to law enforcement officers, however, many infantrymen aren’t interested in waiting at the local doughnut shop until it’s time to write parking tickets and toss the same village drunk into the lockup — again. They want something bigger, something badass, something that rewards their ability to kick in doors. This is where the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team comes in.
For many, the only real change between the infantry and SWAT is the uniform. Here’s why:
You’ll even do the exact same training. Being an infantryman just gets you ready for the same ol’ ride.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower)
The job description is nearly identical
Heavy ballistic armor? Check. Assigned weapon? Check. Breaking down doors to catch bad guys? Oh, yeah — check.
The SWAT team’s objective is to keep the peace at a level higher than is expected of the average cop. While every police officer should be trained and ready to fight at a moment’s notice should the situation arise, the SWAT team provides that extra oomph needed in intense situations, like bank robberies, hostage negotiations, and high-level drug cartel activities.
Instead of infiltrating a compound in Kandahar to catch an HVT bomb maker, SWAT officers are infiltrate compounds back home to catch drug kingpins.
Did I mention that you’ll spend a lot of time training at the range?
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower)
The requirements are basically the same
Potential applicants must be physically fit, hard working, excellent shots, mentally and emotionally strong, decisive under stress, and able to communicate under hazardous conditions.
The help-wanted ad reads almost exactly like a description of a post-deployment infantryman.
The only thing holding an infantryman back from immediately joining the SWAT team is that, typically, membership requires three years of prior experience in law enforcement. I can’t speak for every police department, but that requirement can be lessened for exceptionally badass applicants.
You really will be training… a lot. Which shouldn’t be too far off from infantry life.
(Photo by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt)
The structure almost mirrors the military
Between SWAT teams and military life, the chain of command is identical and the organizational structure is the same.
Being selected for SWAT isn’t easy. Potential recruits go through a grueling process and only the best of the best can make it through to the end. But if you do, you’re basically in the military again.
You’ve still got a battle buddy (you’ll call them “partner” instead), you still work in four-man teams (squads) and there’ll be, on average, 15 teams per district. Since high-stakes situations aren’t happening every day, you’re going to be training and continually honing your skills with your team.
Officers got each other’s back, literally and figuratively.
(Photo by Sgt. John Crosby)
The brotherhood is just as tight
If there’s one thing that damn-near every veteran misses about the military, it’s the camaraderie. Knowing that the people to your left and right would die for you without a second thought is hard to come by at some desk job.
SWAT is not a place to go if you’re looking to make a name for yourself at the expense of others. Real SWAT teams live as a unit, work as a team, and train until everyone becomes as close as family.
This level of trust in another human can only be formed in groups like the military and SWAT.
Military service is very common among law enforcement officers — especially in SWAT. You’ll fit right in.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower)
The good you do is in your community
As a SWAT officer, you’re not deploying for 12 months at a time and leaving your family behind. You’re still going to come home and sleep in your own bed most nights.
Now, don’t get that twisted: There will be bad nights. There will be moments that go horribly wrong. There will be missions that require you to be gone for extended periods of time. SWAT officers, like infantrymen, are over-worked and under-appreciated.
But doing the difficult thing to promote the greater good is exactly what you’re signing up for — again.
While it may sound cliché, it’s a common motto within the tanker community. For more than 60 years of continuous service, the KC-135 Stratotanker has been the core aerial refueling capability for U.S. operations around the world.
The KC-135 provides the Air Force with its primary mission of global reach, but it also supports the Navy, Marine Corps and allied nations in assisting training, combat and humanitarian engagements.
The aircraft is also capable of transporting litters and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.
A Cold War-era image of B-52D refueling from a KC-135A.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The stratotanker was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker, replacing the KC-97 Stratofreighter. It was originally designed and tasked to support strategic bombers, but has been heavily used in all major conflicts since its development, extending the range and endurance of U.S. tactical fighters and bombers.
The KC-135 is a mid-air refueling aircraft with a telescoping “flying boom” tube located on the rear of the plane. A boom operator lays prone and guides the boom insert into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft. With a single boom, aircraft refuel one at a time.
The mid-air refueling capability changed the landscape of air dominance during the Vietnam War and enabled tactical fighter-bombers of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to stay on the front lines for hours rather than minutes due to their limited fuel reserves and high fuel consumption.
For bombers, all targets were now within reach without the need of hopping from base to base until striking their targets. No longer are lives at stake to build airstrips to support bombing campaigns, as they were in WWII.
Development and design
The Boeing Company’s model 367-80 jet transport, commonly called the “Dash-80,” was the basic design for the commercial 707 passenger plane as well as the KC-135A Stratotanker.
In 1954, the Air Force purchased the first 29 of its future 803 aerial refueling tanker fleet. The first aircraft flew in August 1956, and the initial production Stratotanker was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, California, in June 1957. The last KC-135 was delivered to the Air Force in 1965.
The aircraft’s KC identifier stands for (K) tanker (C) transport.
The aircraft is powered by four turbofan engines mounted on 35-degree swept wings, has a flight speed of more than 500 mph and a flight range of nearly 1,500 miles when loaded with 150,000 lbs. of fuel.
The KC-135 has been modified and retrofitted through the years with each update providing stronger engines, fuel management and avionics systems. The recent Block 45 update added a new glass cockpit digital display, radio altimeter, digital autopilot, digital flight director and computer updates.
Of the original KC-135As, more than 417 were modified with new CFM-56 engines.
The re-engined tanker, designated either the KC-135R or KC-135T, can offload 50 percent more fuel, is 25 percent more fuel efficient, costs 25 percent less to operate and is 96 percent quieter than the KC-135A.
In 1981 the KC-10 Extender was introduced to supplement the KC-135. The KC-10 doubles the fuel carrying capacity of the KC-135, which is critical in supporting mobility operations of large cargo aircraft like the C-5 Galaxy and the C-17 Globemaster III.
Airmen of the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron perform lifesaving procedures to a patient in a KC-135 Stratotanker, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, March 26, 2015. Aircrew and a KC-135 from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, spent multiple days at Ramstein performing aerial refueling missions, which also gave AES Airmen the opportunity to train on their mission inside a different airframe.
(Photo by Damon Kasberg)
Through the years, the KC-135 has been altered to do other jobs ranging from flying command post missions to reconnaissance. RC-135s are used for special reconnaissance and Air Force Materiel Command’s NKC-135As are flown in test programs. Air Combat Command operates the OC-135 as an observation platform in compliance with the Open Skies Treaty.
The KC-135R and KC-135T aircraft continue to undergo life-cycle upgrades to expand their capabilities and improve reliability. Among these are improved communications, navigation and surveillance equipment to meet future civil air traffic control needs.
There have been 11 variants or models through the years of the C-135 family.
The aircraft carries a basic crew of three, a pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some missions require the addition of a navigator.
An A-10C Thunderbolt II receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Afghanistan Oct. 2, 2013. The A-10 is deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., to the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The KC-135 is assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron.
(Photo by Stephany Richards)
Nearly all internal fuel can be pumped through the flying boom. A special shuttlecock-shaped drogue attached to and trailing behind the flying boom may be used to refuel aircraft fitted with probes. Some aircraft have been configured with the multipoint refueling system, which consists of special pods mounted on the wingtips. These KC-135s are capable of refueling two receiver aircraft at the same time.
In 2007 the Air Force announced plans for the KC-X tanker replacement program for the KC-135. In 2011, the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus was selected as the winner of the program.
The first 18 combat-ready Pegasus tankers are expected for delivery by 2019.
The KC-135 E and R models are expected to continue service until 2040 when they will be nearly 80 years old.
A KC-135 Stratotanker flies through storm clouds on its way to refuel a C-17 Globemaster III off Florida’s east coast, July 12, 2012. The KC-135 was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker and replaced the KC-97L Stratofreighter.
(Photo by Jeremy Lock)
Operation and deployment
Air Mobility Command manages the current inventory of 396 Stratotankers, of which the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard fly 243 aircraft in support of AMC’s mission.
While AMC gained the control of the aerial refueling mission, a small number of KC-135s were also assigned directly to U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Pacific Air Forces and the Air Education and Training Command.
All Air Force Reserve Command KC-135s and most of the Air National Guard KC-135 fleet are operationally controlled by AMC, while Alaska Air National Guard and Hawaii Air National Guard KC-135s are operationally controlled by PACAF.
Did you know?
The Stratotanker is constructed with almost 500,000 rivets. The installed cost of these rivets range from 14 cents to id=”listicle-2595814234″.50 each.
The KC-135 as 23 windows, nearly all of which are heated electrically or with hot air to prevent fogging.
The tanker has a cargo area easily capable of holding a bowling alley, with enough room left over for a gallery of spectators. The cargo area is almost 11 feet wide, 86 feet long and 7 feet high: the equivalent of 220 automobile trunks.
The KC-135 transfers enough fuel through the refueling boom in one minute to operate the average family car for more than one year.
It can transfer more fuel in 8 minutes than a gas station could pump in 24 hours.
A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress leads a formation of aircraft including two Polish air force F-16 Fighting Falcons, four U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, two German Eurofighter Typhoons and four Swedish Gripens over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2016. The formation was captured from a KC-135 from the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana as part of exercise BALTOPS 2016.
(Photo by Erin Babis)
KC-135 Stratotanker fact sheet:
Primary function: Aerial refueling and airlift
Builder: The Boeing Company
Power plant: CFM International CFM-56 turbofan engines
Thrust: 21,634 pounds of thrust in each engine
Wingspan: 130 feet, 10 inches (39.88 meters)
Length: 136 feet, 3 inches (41.53 meters)
Height: 41 feet, 8 inches (12.7 meters)
Speed: 530 mph at 30,000 feet (9,144)
Range: 1,500 miles (2,419 kilometers) with 150,000 pounds (68, 039 kilograms) of transfer fuel; ferry mission, up to 11,015 miles (17,766 kilometers)
Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
Maximum takeoff weight: 322,500 pounds (146, 285 kilograms)
Maximum Transfer Fuel Load: 200,000 pounds (90,719 kilograms)
Maximum Cargo Capability: 83,000 pounds (37,648 kilograms), 37 passengers
Crew: 3 (pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some KC-135 missions require the addition of a navigator. The Air Force has a limited number of navigator suites that can be installed for unique missions.)
Aeromedical Evacuation Crew: A basic crew of five (two flight nurses and three medical technicians) is added for aeromedical evacuation missions. Medical crew may be altered as required by the needs of patients.
Initial operating capability: 1956
Unit cost: .6 million
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Arguments about weapons systems tend to be circular and hard to win. The discussion about close air support, the retirement of the aging A-10 Thunderbolt II and the entry of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter along with the relevance of the recent Light Attack Experiment continue to swirl. But one thing that cannot be argued is the lethality and spectacle of the A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger 30mm, seven-barrel Gatling-type cannon.
This video was released on Jan. 24, 2018 from the U.S. Air Force Central Command Public Affairs office. It is credited to the 94th Airlift Wing which, oddly enough, is primarily an airlift wing. The Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) gave no reason why this video was released through an airlift wing, but it is likely due to logistics.
The video, shot from an unknown camera platform, shows an Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II conducting a strike on a Taliban vehicle fleeing the scene of an attack in Kandahar province on Jan. 24, 2018. The insurgents in the vehicle were armed with a DShK 12.7 mm heavy machine gun, which had been used moments earlier during the attack on Afghans.
The video is relevant to the close air support discussion for a number of reasons. Firstly, it showcases the accuracy of the GAU-8 weapons system, at least in this single instance. You can see that two 30mm rounds penetrate the hood of the vehicle, then one penetrates the roof of the driver’s compartment and a fourth round goes through the roof of the passenger area of the vehicle. Considering the speed of the vehicle and that the A-10 was, of course, moving also, this is a noteworthy degree of accuracy.
Needless to say more than rounds left the cannon, and there appears to be two separate firing passes shown in the video.
The video also suggests an interesting scenario where, if the A-10 attacked from above 5,000 feet or even much higher (especially if required to remain outside the envelope of anti-aircraft systems like MANPADS), this imagery may have been collected from another aircraft, not the A-10 conducting the strike. A likely candidate would be a remotely piloted aircraft providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and then maybe even target designation for the attacking aircraft. While we do not know if this was the case with this video, it is a common enough practice to suggest in this instance.
While it’s unlikely proponents on either side of the “Save the A-10” movement will be swayed by videos like this one, and these videos date back to the A-10s first operational deployment of the A-10 in 1991, they remain compelling. During its first operational deployment in the Gulf War the A-10 was credited with destroying approximately 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 non-armored military vehicles and 1,200 artillery pieces according to a 1993 report.